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Hamilton exit illustrates tough jump for coaches


Leonard Hamilton's resignation as the Washington Wizards' head coach after only one season is hardly shocking. Once again, my theory is proven about how difficult it is for college coaches to make the transition to the NBA.

Leonard Hamilton
Leonard Hamilton is out as coach of the Wizards, but he revitalized the Miami Hurricanes' program before going to D.C.
There is a big difference between coaching at the college and NBA levels. College coaches are used to having total control and infusing practice sessions with intensity and emotion. To be successful at the NBA level, the coach must be a former player or someone who has been involved in the game and can relate to the modern-day athlete.

Many college coaches have a phenomenal ability to break down the X's and O's and to motivate and communicate. But many times, their strengths are negated in the NBA.

For example, the greatest strengths of Rick Pitino and John Calipari, who have made the transition back to the college game, are their ability to fire up players, to get people playing with an unbelievable passion, to teach the game and to have lengthy practices where they can dissect the game like a science.

During the 82-game NBA season, however, coaches have to pace themselves, and the practices -- where coaches such as Pitino and Calipari excel -- are not conducted at the same intensity level.

Before Hamilton, Pitino and Calipari, others who tried the move to the NBA included Jerry Tarkanian, P.J. Carlesimo and me. But I'm not saying college coaches cannot succeed in the NBA. In fairness to many college coaches, they usually take over bad pro teams, baby. And looking at the Wizards' roster, Hamilton didn't have much of a shot to turn the team around.

In fairness to many college coaches, they usually take over bad pro teams, baby.
When a coach is accustomed to winning and then loses more NBA games in a week than he lost during an entire college season, that's tough to take. Psychologically, the players start to lose belief in the coach. Unfairly, they start to cry, "He's a college coach, man, he's a college coach." The players look for excuses and alibis, making life tough for the coach.

Before coaching the Wizards, Hamilton did a brilliant job at Miami (Fla.), resurrecting a program that was in a state of disrepair. He should become a hot property again on the college level because he had success at Miami and at Oklahoma State before the arrival of Eddie Sutton.

There is no question that Mike Krzyzewski has done it the right way, declining any NBA offers. Tom Izzo is doing the same thing at Michigan State. They have found perfect homes on the college sidelines. And hopefully, other college coaches will start to realize how good their situations really are.

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