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"It only goes so far that you’re Avery Johnson or Larry Bird or Pat Riley" - Avery Johnson on what makes a good coach

Having heard Johnson’s insights, we now know the job of NBA coaches isn’t as easy as it sounds
Avery Johnson as New Jersey Nets head coach in 2011

Avery Johnson

Coaching a basketball team is not a job for everybody. In fact, being an exceptional NBA player doesn’t even guarantee that you would make a good coach. Former San Antonio Spurs point guard Avery Johnson was well aware of it when he decided to pursue a coaching career, so he ensured that his repertoire ticked all the boxes.

Avery breaks it down

For those who missed it, Johnson worked as an NBA coach for seven seasons. And it’s worth noting that in his first full season as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks in 2005, “The Little General” won the Coach of the Year award after catapulting the Mavs to the NBA Finals.

All told, it’s safe to say Johnson certainly knew the Xs and Os in coaching, especially in the most competitive basketball league in the world. So, what does it take to become a good coach in the NBA? Hear it from the man himself.

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“There are certain things you have to master and be really good at. They just have to be gifted in these areas. You’ve got to be competent. These guys know when you’re competent or not. It only goes so far that you’re Avery Johnson or Larry Bird or Pat Riley. Secondly, you’ve got to be able to communicate. You can have a picture in your mind on how to score but if you can’t communicate it, if you can’t teach it, what good is it? You’ve got to be brutally honest and be a man of strong character and then you’ve got to have class. They’ve got to respect you,” Johnson told Beliefnet in 2011.

It’s not what you think

While Johnson’s accolades speak for themselves and he seemed very knowledgeable of coaching principles, it’s still quite baffling that “The Little General” reached the heights in his line of work without being seasoned first.

According to Johnson, it was a God-given skill, but at the same time, he also took a few pages from the books of his mentors Gregg Popovich and Don Nelson.

“It’s been in me since the beginning,” Johnson revealed. “I was telling my college coach what to do and he trusted me. When I got into the NBA, I started having conversations with coaches. [Gregg] Popp brought a lot out in me. Coach [Don] Nelson gave me an incredible opportunity to spend some time with him and he molded me but at the same time allowed me to be myself.”

Whenever an NBA team fails, the coach, more often than not, is the first person to get fired. Having heard Johnson’s insights, we now know their job isn’t as easy as it sounds.

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