What do you picture when you think of a coach? You likely picture one of the greats, John Wooden, Tom Landry, Joe Torre, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, the list goes on. What made them great? Winning championships?

Probably not.

There is more to coaching than the sport itself. A coach is an influencer, a sculptor of people.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently explained that the NBA’s D-league is a better place for post high school stars to spend a year, opposed to the the NCAA.

That statement is an egregious insult to coaching.

This isn’t the first time Cuban has made a controversial statement, so let’s take it with a grain of salt. However, it is worth diving deeper into what coaching is about.

In a recent interview on Mike and Mike in the Morning, Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo said in response to Cuban’s comments, “If it gained a hair in their mind for helping them become NBA ready, what does it do to help them become human being ready?”

What do professional leagues do to help an athlete become a “human being” really? What Izzo is describing, is preparing student athletes for the “real world”. There are some professional organizations that make a concerted effort to develop players, but developing an adult is more difficult than developing a college athlete or younger.

Under Izzo, Michigan State has had 13 players selected in the NBA Draft, including 12 since 2000, six of whom were first rounders, and only one of which was a, “one and done”.

One person since 2000, whom he did not have more than a year with. Good coaches develop players to become “human being” ready. Great coaches turn kids into adults.

“I think…guys are so much more ready when they go (to the NBA)…You’re maturing. Give a kid a chance to grow as a person and as a player” Tom Izzo, referring to developing players in college.

Cuban is arguing that one year in college is not valuable for the players that he believes will be “one and done”. In a recent USA Today article, Cuban said there’s no reason for a player to attend college as a freshman “because he’s not going to class, he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball.”

Can the D League provide the life skills needed to succeed, if an athletes career fizzles out? Being a student athlete is not the traditional college experience. In fact, a student athlete has to learn how to balance time more effectively than most students. A student athlete needs to speak to large public audiences and be respectful. There is a coaching staff behind every student athlete that sets the tone. That staff can actively participate in the development of a player. Many collegiate programs do a very good job at this. Can this be done in the D League? Will the D League provide the life skills needed to succeed in the real world?

From the youth leagues to the NCAA, the importance of a coach influencing players to become the best person and athlete possible is paramount. Taking time to reflect on their skill, academics, or personal life, is what coaching is all about. Robbing an athlete of that opportunity to participate in a program that supports this philosophy is a disservice to the athlete and an insult to coaching.

What do you think? Does Mark Cuban have a valid point? Leave a comment and share your opinion.