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NBA star: Because of American coaches, Chris Wilcox “can barely dribble or shoot after all these years”

An anonymous NBA star, writing for ESPN, used Chris Wilcox as his example of American coaches failing their players when it comes to skill development:

A guy like the Pistons’ Chris Wilcox — who can barely dribble or shoot after all these years — simply wouldn’t slip through the cracks over there. Had he grown up in Europe, Wilcox, with his size and athleticism, would be a serious force. Players are beginning to realize that if they go overseas, even for a season, they’ll come back with more skills, and that translates into greater success and better contracts back here.

I think there’s a difference between the training European and American players receive growing up, but I’m not convinced someone like Wilcox, at his age, could play overseas for year and have his game transformed by foreign coaches.

Wilcox’s physical tools have kept him in the NBA for a long time, and they’ll keep him in the league for a while longer.  To his credit, Wilcox has worked hard in the gym to build his strength and agility.

That said, I agree with the anonymous player. If Wilcox had more refined skills to go with his athleticism, we wouldn’t be talking about a role player. We’d be talking about an All-Star.


  • May 24, 20119:28 am
    by sop


    This is ridiculous. It’s the players responsibility put the work in to develop their individual game, especially when the player is old enough coming into the league to figure that out, as Wilcox was. It comes down to work ethic and obviously Wilcox doesn’t have it. If he had it he wouldn’t be such a poor rebounder. Don’t try to blame the coaches.  Its like students blaming a teacher because they didn’t do their homework.

    • May 24, 20119:35 am
      by sop


      Euro coaches can coach because they don’t have to worry about the American players respect. They hold the cards. The US player who go to Euro have to do exactly what the coaches say in order to play. Not so in the NBA where IT’S A PLAYER’S LEAGUE. Everyone knows that. You try to run the show here and you get a Kuester revolt.

      • May 24, 20113:46 pm
        by Andrea


        Hello? He’s talking about U.S. coaches in youth basketball, not in the NBA..

    • May 24, 20119:36 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      The player who wrote that I think was referring all the way down to the youth levels of basketball. It’s something that I’ve heard pretty frequently. In Europe, from a young age, players are taught to do everything. Basically, they don’t divide people up positionally at the youth level and say, “OK, you’re a big man, so don’t worry about learning to dribble or shoot.” That’s why there are so many versatile Euro bigs (Darko notwithstanding) who come into the league.

      American young players, if the are big early in their lives, are very commonly parked under the basket and kept there. I was tall for my age and put at center when I was playing in fourth grade when I started playing organized ball. I pretty much stayed there until I started trying out for the varsity team in high school only to discover that not many 6-foot-2 centers make it in this world.

      Now, Wilcox’s work ethic can certainly be questioned. Other than getting physically stronger, he hasn’t improved his skillset much since entering the league. But the point that skill development is more ingrained institutionally in European basketball than American basketball is still a fair one.

      • May 24, 201112:45 pm
        by Chris



        I was the same as you growing up.  I hit a huge growth spurt when I started playing basketball and then not much afterward.  Still, the post game is a lost art for sure.  It’s hard to get kids today to understand the moves they should use in the post and the mentality they had to have.  As bad as it might sound Michael Jordan (and Kobe) in the post has kids thinking they just need a turn around fadeaway and that is it.  They (the kids) don’t realize that the reason Jordan did that was because he was going to be doubleteamed by someone significantly larger than him (usually a center, who probably had an attitude like Liambeer).  The finer parts of the game down there, like Olajuwan had (hell even Shaq was pretty good at passing out of the post), are being lost. 

        I’ve assisted in coaching at a high school level and getting players to understand why you want the ball in the post was sometimes an exercise in frustration.  It’s hard for them to realize that even if they don’t have the ball down there, just passing into the post makes everything easier because you have to respect someone defensively if they have the ball 3 ft from the basket.  That means wing shots and dive cuts to the basket are more open

        That being said does anyone thing modern day flex or princeston style offences are causing bigger players to become more perimeter minded?

        • May 24, 20112:48 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          I agree that post play is a lost art. I actually think that treating all young players the same in youth basketball is the key though. Teach them every position, expect that they can all learn to handle the ball, shoot, rebound, box out, etc., and then work on the nuance of footwork/post play as they get older and bigger.

          I think AAU ball is part of the devolution of post play. I’m not an AAU basher by any stretch. There are some good and bad AAU programs out there. But it’s run and gun basketball, which isn’t conducive to halfcourt or big man play. So the athletic bigs adapt and become more perimeter oriented in the summers and the non-athletic bigs are glued to AAU benches and don’t get the development they need in non-high school season.

  • May 24, 201110:04 am
    by neutes


    Wilcox has made a career off of movement without the ball, being tall, and being athletic. He doesn’t have a mid range jumper. He’s not going to pick and pop. He can’t dribble. And there are plenty of players like him. I agree though that he should have taken the time to develop those skills.
    I’m more concerned about stretch 4′s and finesse big men. I want more tough hard nose big men with baseline jumpers and hook shots. I want fundamental big man moves. Up and unders. Pump fakes. I’ve seen enough of big men shooting 3′s and facing up from 20 feet out. Get in the paint. Wilcox doesn’t need the skills the player suggested. He needs big man skills. Ewing, Olajuwan, Robinson skills. Where are those big men these days?

  • May 24, 201112:08 pm
    by brgulker


    Count me among the skeptical here. I don’t question the overall premise that Europe has a better system for developing young players.
    I question the claims as it relates to specific players (especially when the claim leaves out that player’s history … does anyone here actually know who coached Wilcox as a youth? I don’t.).
    Players are either driven to improve, or they’re not. For those who are, coaching at an early age can be very beneficial, because a coach can show you what your weaknesses are and how to work on them. But for an unmotivated youth, it doesn’t matter who the coach is; some people just won’t put in the time it takes to develop those skills.
    Further, are we just going to grant that Wilcox can’t shoot or dribble? From watching him play, obviously he’s not the best player in the league at either of those things, but surely he’s capable of doing both things in limited quantities.

  • May 24, 20111:25 pm
    by Murph


    If it weren’t for poor American coaches, Chris Wilcox would be an All Star???  Come on.

    He did have a decent year for a terrible Seattle team once, I guess, but he’s always been injury prone.

    • May 24, 20112:50 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Dan didn’t say Wilcox would be an All-Star if not for poor coaching. He said, “If Wilcox had more refined skills to go with his athleticism, we wouldn’t be talking about a role player. We’d be talking about an All-Star.”

      Wilcox didn’t develop a skillset for many reasons I’m sure, chief among them he probably just didn’t put in the individual time necessary to work on those things, as other commenters have pointed out. But no one wrote that coaching prevented him from being an All-Star.

      • May 24, 20113:53 pm
        by Murph


        The headline was: “NBA Star: Because of American coashes Chris Wilcox “can barely dribble or shoot after all these years”

        Then Feldman went on to write: “I agree with the anonymous player. If Wilcox had more refined skills to go with his athleticism, we wouldn’t be talking about a role player. We’d be talking about an All-Star.”

        Whatever. Anyway, I’m glad you’re backpeddling on Feldman’s behalf, because to think Wilcox wasn’t an All Star because of bad American coaching is ridiculous.

  • May 24, 20112:05 pm
    by Murph


    And if these European coaches are so good, why aren’t they coaching in the NBA, making big money?  The whole premise is a little silly.

    • May 24, 20112:51 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      There are only 30 NBA teams. Do you not think that people earn very good livings in pro ball overseas? It’s not NBA level pay, but the top players and coaches in Europe make a signficant amount of money.

      • May 24, 20113:17 pm
        by sop


        Isn’t it kind of funny though that the two top rated Euro Draft prospects can’t shoot? Vesely and Valanciunas are drawing huge praise for their tough “American” style of play.

      • May 24, 20114:08 pm
        by Murph


        I have no idea what European coaches make, but I doubt it’s as much as $3.4 million a year, which is what InsideHoops estimates is the average NBA coaching salary. 

        Anyway, here’s a list of the top 25 paid coaches in the world from 2009, and wouldn’t you know it, not one of them is a European basketball coach.  There are a lot of NBA coaches on the list, however.

        (Man…it looks like the real money is in coaching soccer.  The top three highest paid coaches in the world are soccer coaches.)


  • May 24, 20116:38 pm
    by Kim Jong Skillz


    on the flip side of the coin, why is that euro big men cant play back to the basket basketball? why are they usually soft? why are big men running to the 3 point line to stretch the floor & learning fadeaways midway to the 3 point line?
    regardless if you “think” the euro system is better or worse, the euro game is NOT the best style of basketball internationally. ya euros might all be able to shoot and handle the ball but who can drive & take the rock to the hole? the nba is THE best basketball league in the world, period. no ifs ands or buts. and if you want to play in the nba & succeed you most likely will need an “old school hard nosed” big man.
    big men who are POST players DOMINATE the nba game. the only big man in the last decade that i can even think of that dominates not from the post would be rasheed wallace (if he decided he was the best player on the court).

  • May 24, 20116:40 pm
    by detroitpcb


    because of the way the game is played in Europe, few European players had low post, back to the basket skills – but almost all of them could face up and shoot. Dribbling was not a strong point for a lot of the European big men either and, at least when i was playing over there, not many teams ran that much either. They played excellent half court though, and all of the bigs could shoot.

    Wilcox should have got himself a shooting coach and spent and entire off season or two working on his shot. Catch and shoot. One dribble and shoot (to either side) and two dribbles and shoot to his strong side. If he had done that, and learned basic footwork on defense, he could have been a real serious player. But he has the worst fundementals i have ever seen and it is hard to blame that on his college coach if it was Gary Williams at Maryland. No clue who his high school coach was but a lot of high school coaches lack the ability to teach big men.

  • May 24, 201110:33 pm
    by TDP


    Another reason to hate Gary Williams…

  • Sep 12, 20115:48 pm
    by Bill K


    Maybe just maybe will be interesting to follow Lakers assistant coach-advisor Ettore Messina as well as Pep Claros who will coach Halifax rainmen in Canada new pro-league to check their results

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