Sacramento Kings head coach Keith Smart took some time recently to talk with Hoopsworld’s Lang Greene, delving into a variety of topics that consisted of DeMarcus Cousins, Aaron Brooks and rookie Thomas Robinson.
While not the most flawless with a clipboard nor his X’s and O’s, Smart’s ability to connect with players is one of the better in the NBA as shown by his harnessing of the sometimes temperamental Cousins. It’s a vastly underrated skill that doesn’t get enough credit in today’s world of immediate results and demanded wins:
"“My whole focus was to get him to understand that mentally he has to make a jump, just as well as his game,” Smart told HOOPSWORLD. “We know his game is going to come along because as you play more you mature more, but we want his mind to grow more to be able to handle all of the circumstances around him – not just his points. As the leader of a team, or the top player on your team offensively or defensively, you have to absorb more than the normal guy. But you’ll also get rewarded for it too when things go very well for you.”"
I’ve long felt that connecting with your players, in any sport, is just as necessary as any other trait of coaching – sometimes more. Having players that want to play for you, that believe in you, that feel you have their back, will ultimately get the most out of everybody involved. The on court, basketball 101 aspect of the game can be handled by the assistant coaching staff, but a head coach needs to become one with the talent.
Smart also blushed about Thomas Robinson’s game in the piece, commenting on how Robinson will be in the Kings’ plans from day one – so he needs to be ready to be thrown into the fire:
"“A guy who is pretty much pro ready,” Smart said of Robinson. “What I mean by that is he can play the game from a physical standpoint first. Now skill wise, little tendencies [he’s] going to have to learn how to play in the NBA. But as far as from a competitive standpoint, that’s there already. That’s a positive for us going into the season to have a guy who just has to learn the NBA. Right now we have a player that we know coming into camp he’s going to do one thing well already and that’s compete."
You can read all of Greene’s excellent piece by clicking here.