September 28, 2017 • From the BenchWinning Hoops

Good coaches ask great questions

by Marty Gaughan, contributing writer

The idea for this article comes from the book, “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions” by John Maxwell. It’s a wonderful book and I would strongly advise you to both read and take notes from it. It’s full of information that I feel is extremely beneficial for all coaches in helping them formulate ideas on how to improve as a coach.

At this time of the year, I know many coaches are telling their players that the offseason is when you improve. Working hard in the weight room, on ball handling skills, taking thousands of shots and becoming a better athlete. This is advice given by coaches everywhere.

The offseason also is the time for you to become a better coach. This is a time for self-evaluation and reflection on the accomplishments and failures of the previous season. Maybe you examine ways to run more efficient practices, or better utilize your staff. Or you look at how you approach pregame, halftime and timeouts. The evaluation process should take place with a series of questions — the better the questions, the better the answers.

I have formulated some questions that can help all coaches. The most important thing for everyone is to be honest with their answers. The implication of your responses will be the genesis of your road to improving as a coach.

Here are several key areas that coaches are responsible for throughout the season. With each, I have provided some of the most important questions that I would ask of myself and our program.


  • How organized are my practices?
  • How much time is spent on skill development?
  • How well do I utilize my staff?
  • Do we concentrate enough on time/score situations?
  • Are practices competitive enough?
  • Do we utilize all players during practices?
  • How much time do I spend organizing my practices?
  • Do I end practices on a positive note?
  • Do I utilize the clock at practices?
  • Do I add variety into my practices?

Game organization

  • How well do we scout opponents?
  • Do we create quality game plans?
  • Is the game plan effectively communicated to players?
  • What do we want to accomplish during pregame talks?
  • Do we need to improve our pregame preparation?
  • How well do we organize our timeouts?
  • How is our bench organization?
  • How well do we organize our halftime procedures and adjustments?
  • Does a coach talk to a player as they are taken out of a game?
  • Do we track possessions and other key stats?
  • Do we focus enough on the opponent’s strategy?
  • Do coaches watch for substitutions?
  • How efficient are the walk-throughs?
  • Does the bench and players know how many timeouts we have?
  • Can we execute a play without calling a timeout?

Player management

  • Do players feel challenged?
  • Do players feel they are cared for?
  • Do you administer an offseason program for players?
  • Do players have the ability to use the gym for workouts?
  • Do players feel that they are part of a special program?
  • Do the players have responsibilities?
  • Are players asked to be great student-athletes?
  • Are players asked to be better people?
  • Do I help players to reach the next level?
  • Am I providing players a great experience?
  • Do I stay in contact with players after graduation?
  • Am I the type of coach I would want my kids to play for?

Program marketing

  • Is our program properly marketed to the school/community?
  • Does our program have a social media presence?
  • Does our program get scores and stats into newspapers?
  • Are we marketing the program to feeder schools?
  • How would I describe our program to an outsider?

These topics and questions are only suggestions of what coaches should consider when trying to make improvements within their programs. Regardless of your approach and what you ask, it’s paramount that coaches sit down and self-evaluate. The quality of your questions will bring about the information needed to bring your program to the next level.

Marty Gaughan coached high school basketball for 25 years and is a member of the Winning Hoops Editorial Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at @beabettercoach.