Do NCAA Basketball Coaches Hinder Future NBA Players?

Watching the NBA…

Vs. Watching College…

Now before I go on a rant here, I just want to say that I love watching college basketball and the players/coaches that make it to D1 schools are phenomenally talented. I know this opinion is unpopular, but it’s just how I feel.

The Gap

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever noticed the difference in play style between the NBA and the NCAA? Okay, that’s probably a no-brainer. But why do we commonly see NBA’s stars routinely making highlight reels while the NCAA’s All-Americans are stuck puppy-guarding the ball with their backs? 

Just watch any college basketball game with a 4 star recruit on their roster and compare the way they play to when they were in high-school. With the exception of freak athletes like Zion Williamson or Marvin Bagley, you will probably see completely different versions of those players from when they played for their public schools. 

Why is this?

My answer. Coaching.

In college basketball, coaches are the supreme overlords of their teams. They don’t care if you were the top scorer on your AAU team or the fastest kid at your school. The only thing they care about is winning ball games… but only if it comes along with your complete subordination.

Obviously this isn’t true of all college coaches, but in my experience, it is a trend that is very common in NCAA athletics.

In the video below, Jalen Rose talks about the time Kobe Bryant scored 81 on him and how the coaching of Sam Mitchell may have cost them the game.

The Truth

During my college years, I had the privilege of playing one year of JUCO ball for my local college until I tore my ACL. During that time, I got to observe my fellow teammates and watch how their game completely changed from practice to games. And it wasn’t the good kind either.

You see, all of my teammates were amazing players in practice and pickup games. They were all 40% 3-point shooters and at least 20 ppg. scorers. But when it came to the games when our coach was in control, their styles completely changed.

Our best ball-handlers would have 7 or 8 turnovers per game and their shooting percentages would plummet down to terrifying percentages. Only one player on our team that year shot above 40%. Everyone else was down in the low 20’s. 

You could call it nerves or pressure, but what I saw was players who were afraid to screw up for fear of getting benched. And I can understand this.

No one enjoys being yelled at for making a mistake or being glued to the bench for causing a turnover. Sometimes guys need some firm reprimanding, but not for common mistakes like making a bad pass.

Players always need to be given the freedom to be themselves and learn from their own mistakes. If you take away a player’s identity as an athlete, you are always left with a sub-par performance.

The NBA Shift

The traits that I listed up above are all things that you rarely see in today’s NBA. Occasionally you will have players that just drop off the map or turn out to be busts. But its rarely due to the over controlling nature of their coaches.

Once players reach the NBA level, they are technically considered men in the eyes of the public. And as such coaches begin to treat them like men and give them the liberty to create on the fly.

This is what makes the NBA so entertaining. No one ever watches their favorite team just to see them all cooperate. They watch their favorite team to see the best of the best wow them with their skills and astound them with their improvision.

This is all I want from college basketball. I want to see the stars who were studs in high school fully display their talents on the world stage. I want to watch them create rivalries with one another and not be hindered by their coaches for trying to prove that they’re the best. Is this too much to ask?


Now before I get torn to shreds in the comments section, let me just say that I completely understand that college teams are more focused on building their institution’s success rather than individual players. Players cycle in and out of their program on a yearly basis and their ability to keep top recruits from going pro after one year is very limited. 

But all I’m asking is for college coaches to give their players a little more freedom to show us what they can do. I think that if coaches let their players express themselves on the court, we would have more quality players turning into stars once they hit the NBA.


Andrew Stoinski

If you want to learn more about the man behind the basket, check out my about page in the main menu.
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