Luck and landing a college coaching job

Seventeen years after I first was hired as an assistant college basketball coach, I was hired as a part-time head coach at the junior college level. I would like to think that I have earned the opportunity with my work and persistence, but the actual process of landing the job was good fortune and luck. Because many people ask how to get such and such job, here is my story (following my story of how I was hired to coach in Europe).

Last summer, I moved to Florida because of my significant other’s job. It was August, and I attempted to find a high school coaching job. I inquired at three to four schools and received one interview for a girls’ varsity high school coaching job and one for a junior varsity boys head coaching job. I interviewed for the girls’ job first and was hired.

On our first day, two players showed up. I called the other high school, and the boys’ junior varsity job was available. I interviewed and was offered the job. As I thought about it, the athletic director at the other school promised me that there would be a full team at practice on the following Monday, and if there wasn’t, he offered me the boys soccer job.

On Monday, there were three girls. I went to meet the boys coach at the other school, as I had interviewed with the athletic director. He was late.

I turned down the boys job and returned to the girls job. We started the following Monday with three players. The athletic director promised that we would have a team and that he would help me after the season. I liked him. As the season began, he encouraged me to find a private school job for next season.

We ended with 11 players. I liked the girls, but most were beginners. At this point, it was not the challenge that I wanted. Ten years ago, I may have embraced the opportunity to build a program, but the grind of commuting 30-45 minutes through traffic from my house to the school for a 90-minute practice that was sparsely attended wore me down.

I started to look for jobs as soon as the season ended. I inquired about another girls high school varsity job about 15 minutes closer to my house, but they hired someone before the athletic director responded. I inquired at another high school where my AAU team practices, but the athletic director never responded.

At the same time that I inquired about these open jobs, I was trying to find a junior college for a former player from Europe. Through these emails and calls, I heard that a local junior college coach had accepted a different junior college job about three hours away. I emailed the junior college athletic director immediately. I may have inquired about the vacancy before the players knew that their coach was leaving.

After emailing the athletic director, I checked his bio. He had been a baseball coach. The athletic director at my high school had been a baseball coach. I texted my high school athletic director and asked if he knew the junior college athletic director. He did. He called and recommended me.

The athletic director, after receiving my email, googled me. One of the first hits on google  is the video of me doing the clinic for Basketball Manitoba.

He liked the clinic. In a sense, that was like an administrator watching a coach run a practice prior to hiring him or her (which often is not done, although I cannot understand why not).

When my high school athletic director recommended me, that probably sealed the deal. After 17 years, I finally had a personal connection to someone in charge of the hiring. I had a reference that the administrator could trust, not just a name on the other end of he phone.

That is basically how it happened. My high school team did not win a game. My hire had nothing to do with on-court success or big name recommendations. Instead, it was a combination of my willingness to coach a team that was set up to lose, choosing to stick with that commitment despite a better offer, the personal relationship between the athletic directors, a YouTube video, and international connections for recruiting purposes.

When I took the high school job, there was no way to anticipate that it would lead to a college job. My hope was to start a feeder program and grow the Playmakers League. Instead, through a combination of timing and luck, I landed the elusive head coaching job at the college level.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice

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