Do Great Coaches Have to Be Great Players?

The Journey – Do Great Coaches Have to Be Great Players? By Evan Kee

This article was originally featured on Coach Evan Kee’s website,

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This past weekend, I saw a debate on twitter regarding the validity of coaches who didn’t play basketball at a high level. For whatever reason, some people feel that you are unable to teach certain skills, or be successful in basketball, without having been a great player. From personal experience and from what I have observed over the years, I can say that is the furthest thing from the truth. In Division 1 college basketball, there are several successful, mid to high major coaches, who never played at the college level (Tom Crean, Frank Martin, Buzz Williams, Rick Majerus, Scott Drew, Mick Cronin, and Bruce Weber). Another successful coach, Roy Williams, only played JV basketball at the University of North Carolina. With the amount of wins that this group has collected, I don’t think anybody would doubt their ability to teach the game.  If you understand the game and are eager to learn, you can figure out ways to teach.

 Playing at a high level does have some advantages in the coaching world. Former players can gain instant credibility from players, based on success that they had in their playing career. They can also better understand certain challenges that student-athletes may face. For those of us who didn’t play, working as a student-manager provides a great amount of experience. As a student manager, you get a head start in the coaching profession. You get the opportunity to work with the coaching staff, build relationships, and improve your knowledge of the game. You also do a lot of the “dirty work”, which is important to understanding all of the behind-the-scenes tasks that must be completed when running a program.The biggest advantage that comes out of being a student-manager, is that you get to analyze aspects of the program from both a coaching and player perspective. When I was a student-manager at Hampton, I had close relationships to both the players and coaches. Because of this, I was able to analyze meetings, practices, film sessions, and games from both point of views. Many players who are looking to get into coaching, spend the majority of their time thinking solely as a player, and because of this, they are sometimes behind the curve.

 Some head coaches and athletic directors will only hire coaches who have a strong playing background. Because of that, we do face some additional challenges. But, the unconventional path that I have taken has helped me develop a blue-collar attitude, and humbles me to perform any task that needs to get done. I believe that this is my biggest strength as a coach, and is a personality trait that has helped me move up in the business. At the end of the day, players want to play for a passionate coach, who is going to work hard to help them reach their potential on and off the court. As long as you’re a student of the game, and work hard to teach, your players will develop.


Coach Evan Kee – Keuka College

Evan Kee joined the Keuka College Men’s Basketball coaching staff as an assistant coach in the fall of 2015.

He spent the last two seasons at Elmira College. At Elmira, he served as the assistant men’s basketball coach, and head JV basketball coach. During his two years, he helped guide the varsity to their two strongest seasons in over a decade. He coached two All-Conference players, Neil Randolph and Chris Cassidy.

Coach Kee is a 2012 graduate of Hampton University where he voluntarily served as the men’s basketball team manager for three season. During his senior year at Hampton, Kee served as a Student Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Christopher Newport University (CNU). During his time at Christopher Newport University, Kee was an integral part of the coaching staff that led the team to the USA South Conference Regular Season and Tournament Championship, a top 25 national ranking, and a bid to the NCAA Division III basketball tournament. Kee was a part of the CNU coaching staff that featured the 2011-2012 USA South Coach of the Year, John Krikorian. Kee was instrumental in the player development of the 2011-2012 USA South Player of the Year, Conley Taylor, and the USA South Rookie of the Year, Mike Cherry.

After graduating from Hampton University, Kee served as the Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Marymount University. During his time at Marymount, Kee was responsible for recruiting, conducting player development drills, coordinating the film exchange program, directing a daycamp, creating team/player highlight videos, and providing academic and counseling support to players. At Marymount, Kee helped the team improve their overall record from the previous two seasons.

Kee has a wealth of basketball camp experience. He has spent summers working with the Hoop Group, Coach Wooten’s Basketball Camp, and ScoutsFocus. Kee is a 2008 graduate of perennial power-house, DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Coach Kee graduated from Hampton University in 2012 with his degree in Sports Management. While coaching at Elmira, he completed his Masters degree in General Education.

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