Recently I was talking with a coaching friend of mine Herb Welling and we were discussing Jeff Van Gundy’s belief of how to evaluate players. We call it the negative S’s. Van Gundy, former Knicks Head Coach and current ABC broadcaster, says there are three negatives to look for in players and teams when evaluating them: “Soft, Selfish and Stupid.”


Herb and I agree that Van Gundy is 100% correct in his evaluation beliefs. Whether you use this evaluation formula for short term as in scouting or holding tryouts OR long term as in evaluating your players and your team as a whole, this can definitely be a good barometer for a coach to use.


Van Gundy believes that you can work with a player that has one of these deficiencies, but it is impossible for a player to excel that has two or more of the negative S’s. He also believes a team that constantly displays one of these negatives is doomed for mediocrity. A team that displays two or more is doomed for disaster.


Herb informed me that he has developed the Positive S’s which a coach wants to look for when evaluating players and teams. Welling’s Positive S’s are: “Skilled, Smart and Strong.”


When I look at great players, they usually are always skilled, have great smarts for the game and are usually strong mentally and physically. If you have all three components you will be VERY good on the hardwood. Possessing two should make you a competitor and one MAY get you some playing time.


Every year that I coached I wanted my teams to be skilled, smart and strong. I never put these ideas on paper like Herb has, but in the back of my mind I knew success was built on skilled, smart and strong players.


My goal for this March Madness series is to share my 30 years in the game with the help of my many coaching friends like Herb.


I believe one aspect of basketball that has changed over the past three decades is the idea of sharing basketball knowledge from coach to coach. Even though we have more basketball knowledge at our finger tips thanks to YouTube and the internet, many coaches today don’t talk philosophies to each other like they did back in the 80’s which I believe is unfortunate.


There are no new ideas in the game of basketball. The best basketball minds are constantly borrowing (notice I didn’t say stealing) ideas from their counterparts.