Beyond The Whistle 002: Persistence On The Coaching Career Path with Coach Kevin Sutton

The coaching career path is often thought of as linear. You start out in one role, you move into another, and each serves as a stepping stone to the next, more advanced position. But Coach Kevin Sutton’s career path has not followed a linear path at all. I want to start the Beyond the Whistle podcast by having a conversation with Kevin about the way his career has unfolded and how it did so. His experience is full of life lessons and approaches to coaching that anyone interested in starting or advancing in a coaching career can learn from. I invite you to come meet my long-time friend, University of Pittsburgh Assistant Coach Kevin Sutton, on this episode.

What it takes to successfully join a coaching staff that’s already established.

Kevin Sutton has joined existing coaching staffs a handful of times as he’s journeyed the coaching career path. Those on the coaching staff already have a chemistry and team dynamic that the new coach has to learn, fit into, and enhance through his/her contributions. Kevin has done that beautifully every time he’s made that sort of move and on this episode of the podcast, I asked Kevin to explain how he was able to accomplish that. As always, Kevin was very generous to unpack the dynamics of what it’s like to step into that sort of situation and what he has learned that makes the transition smooth for everyone involved.

What’s the best approach for a college coach to evaluate high school players?

There are many approaches to evaluating high school talent as a college basketball coach. And there are many missteps that can be made in the process that put a college in a bad place, simply because the recruiters evaluated the players based on limited or incomplete information. Coach Kevin Sutton says that it’s vital for college coaches to not only observe high school players in game situations but also in practice. In this conversation, Kevin explains what he looks for in each setting, why he’s evaluating the things he does, and the benefits that come from doing so. If you’re interested in what it takes to successfully evaluate high school talent for a college basketball team (or any sport for that matter) Kevin’s recruiting advice is like gold.

How can you evaluate new opportunities you encounter on the coaching career path?

Coach Sutton has changed positions many times in his career as a basketball coach – and he’s done so very successfully, seemingly making just the right moves at the right time. In this conversation I did my best to get inside Kevin’s mind, to understand his thought process on how to evaluate new career opportunities. If you want to know the key things a successful coach has considered with every career move, you’re going to need to listen to this episode. I promise it’s worth the time.

Coach Kevin Sutton: “The assistant coach’s primary role is to make the head coach successful.”

Every coach is climbing the ladder, walking his/her own coaching career path. But those who are self-serving and only interested in their own advancement are missing what it means to be part of a team. They’re missing the opportunity to make themselves indispensable to their head coach in a way that will wind up advancing their own career in the end. Coach Sutton shares why it’s vitally important for every assistant coach to do the most they can to bring about the success of their head coach. It’s an insight that’s powerfully important for anyone climbing the coaching career ladder. Make sure you hear what Kevin’s got to say.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:29] My introduction to this episode and my guest, Kevin Sutton.
  • [3:48] How college coaching careers do NOT always follow a linear path.
  • [7:30] The first 90 days joining a new coaching staff.
  • [10:48] Building a basketball program at the high school level.
  • [13:09] The things Kevin learned at the high school level that have helped at the college level.
  • [14:10] What Kevin looks for when evaluating high school basketball talent.
  • [17:43] Why evaluating players during practice is important.
  • [19:43] How Kevin evaluates new career opportunities.
  • [21:40] The assistant coach’s primary responsibility to the head coach.
  • [23:10] People, events, and environments: three impacts on success.
  • [27:10] Books Kevin recommends.
  • [29:30] How you can connect with Kevin.

Resources & People Mentioned

  • – Kevin’s blog
  • Kevin on Facebook
  • Kevin on Twitter
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