Elite Eight Books Basketball Coaches Should Read Before Practice Starts

The best coaches continue to learn. Certified strength coaches and personal trainers must complete a certain number of continuing education units to maintain their certifications, but basketball coaches have no such requirements. However, the best coaches want to get better, to add a new perspective each season, to learn about the profession and their passion. To get better, basketball coaches should read books written by history’s best coaches and analysts.

The following eight books are ones I would read first; this is by no means the end of the list, as there are dozens of other great books. However, if pressed for only eight, this is my list, in order, of the best books basketball coaches should read before practice starts.

1. Coaching the Mental Game by H.A. Dorfman
Fantastic book about how to teach and communicate more effectively. Coaching boils down to communication and Dorfman’s book is the best I have read on the subject.

2. Stuff! Good Players Should Know by Dick DeVenzio
If good players need to know it, and you want to have good players, you probably need to teach these things. Many concepts seem simple or may be intuitive to some, but most players need guidance and instruction and this book explains concepts that some fail to grasp or have difficulty putting into words.

3. Basketball FundaMENTALS by Jay Mikes
Great book on teaching and learning as it applies to basketball. A mental approach to teaching basketball skills which will make your communication and instruction more thorough and precise.

4. They Call Me Coach by John Wooden
Filled with small gems like “Be Quick; But Don’t Hurry” from the Wizard of Westwood. Explains the concepts Wooden emphasized while winning his nine NCAA championships.

5. Positive Coaching by Jim Thompson
I was skeptical, as I envisioned a book that turned coaching into cheerleading, but the book is well-thought-out and covers many subjects beyond the X’s and O’s; the areas that comprise most of coaching and which have the most lasting impact on the coach, players and parents.

6. Why We Win by Billy Packer
Interviews with several coaches about their philosophies and the way the managed their programs. Not all of the interviews are great, and not all pertain to basketball, but interviews with John Wooden, Bobby Knight, Pat Summit, Mike Krzyzewski, Lenny Wilkens and Dean Smith are included.

7. Training Soccer Champions by Anson Dorrance
The first eleven chapters relate to coaching, not coaching soccer. For any male coach of female athletes, Dorrance is the model, as he is one of, if no the most successful coaches in any sport in American sports history. His philosophies on training, training female players, coaching, communicating and setting expectations are easily read, understood and applied to any sport.

8. Play Practice by Alan Lauder
Book details a different approach to training young athletes, dividing sports training into three areas: tactical, technical and conditioning and offering ideas on how to teach technical skills in limited time. A great book for youth coaches to use to organize their training schedules and change their emphasis to aid their players’ development.

None of the books detail drills or set plays. That is the easy part of coaching and, in many ways, the insignificant aspect. The great coaches understand motivation, communication and relationships; they gain their players’ trust and therefore the player believes in the coach regardless of what the coach teaches. These coaches could run almost anything and still be successful because the players believe and work hard. With great communication, trust, and relationships, a coach can teach almost anything to any player; with out the relationships and trust, the best X’s and O’s fall on deaf ears.

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