Don’t be a slave to the win/loss column
Here are the winning percentages of four coaches from their jobs right before UCLA. Can you guess which coach is which? (Answers are at the bottom of the slide)
The coaches are: John Wooden, Jim Harrick, Ben Howland, Steve Alford
The most important way of determine whether or not a coach will be good is identifying how good their process will be, which cannot be discerned by looking at wins and losses.
For instance, Pete Carroll was not a particularly popular head coaching hire at the time by USC. It was understandable, honestly. To that point he had a mediocre career in the NFL as a head coach, going 33-31.
The story is after Carroll was fired from the Patriots, he read John Woodens book, and was inspired to rethink his coaching philosophy. He came up with the idea that competition was going to be at the core of his coaching philosophy and designed his entire program about it. Later he presented his ideas in his interview with AD Mike Garrett, and was ultimately given the job.
Carroll later won the Pac-10 7 times in 9 years, at UCLA’s expense.
The moral of the story is that you cannot make coaching judgements based on wikipedia stat sheets. Looking at wins and losses alone will lead you to poor conclusions.
I also want to say that there’s different coaching philosophies that work. The cultures of the Miami Heat and Seattle Seahawks might be about as different as night and day. There isn’t one coaching style that’s cut above the rest, but all successful styles have good processes.
Remember the question above? Here’s the answers.
A. .749 – Steve Alford
B .746 – John Wooden
C .690 – Ben Howland
D .632 – Jim Harrick
Of the four, Harrick and Wooden are the two coaches to have won a championship at UCLA. Notably, Steve Alford had the highest win percentage at his job prior to becoming head coach at UCLA, yet is the most (and perhaps only one) maligned of the four for his coaching ability.
If winning games as a coach didn’t matter, we wouldn’t hire coaches for millions of dollars. However, it’s just simply not the end all be all measuring stick for the quality of a coach.