In ’73, the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors signed a 37-year-old Wilt Chamberlain to a player-coach deal, despite him still having a one-year option with the Lakers. Such violation brought Wilt a lawsuit, preventing him from playing for the Conquistadors, allowing him to solely focus on one thing – being the team’s coach.
But Wilt was never all-in into being the coach. Instead, he would leave the coaching duties to his assistant Stan Albeck, who recalled about Chamberlain having “a great feel for pro basketball.” However, the day-to-day grind bored him, and he didn’t have enough patience to put up with it. So after a one-year “run” in San Diego, due to the ABA having financial problems, Wilt decided to say goodbye to the world of professional basketball.
Despite being a competent coach, Chamberlain was too indifferent and more occupied with other stuff than actually investing his time and effort into all that it takes to be a great transmitter of basketball knowledge. It’s the lifestyle shift Wilt wasn’t willing to make, as he saw it more as a restriction than something he would actually enjoy doing. That, among some other things, is also why Chamberlain never became a coach in the NBA. And by other things, I mean players having too much power.
That’s not my bag. It’s too much like being in a box and not being able to go anywhere because the players today are so powerful; they sign these contracts for seven, eight, nine, 10 years, and you have to put up with them because they’re there.Wilt Chamberlain, Stern Show
Just to put things into perspective, this is an interview from ’97. It’s safe to say that player empowerment-wise, Wilt’s decision wouldn’t have been any different in today’s day and age. Despite four-year contracts being the norm, and five-year ones being the luxury, the lack of control coaches have in the NBA today would’ve solidified Chamberlain’s decision not to get involved with it again.
It’s the LeBron James effect of giving power to players, and not the owners. And that’s fine. But somewhere along the way, coaches have become collateral victims of the power shift the NBA is under. And while guys who dedicated their whole lives to the X’s & O’s will put up with it, former players who show interest in coaching won’t. That’s why more power to the players, but not at the expense of coaches. It creates a repulsive effect, especially for the guys who were once members of NBA brotherhood.
It deprived us of seeing Wilt as the NBA coach. It shouldn’t happen with any other all-time great.