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Esports coaches – X’s and O’s.

By Aaron Callaghan


As the NBA 2K League draws closer and we weave our way through the NBA 2K18 gameplay minefield, the much anticipated release of information regarding the League’s structure, gameplay and all the finer details that the community and league hopefuls are pining over (read: Show me the money!), the subject of coaches in esports has become a hot topic of discussion on 2K Twitter. Without knowing the budgets each franchise has elected to spend and gauging only from the League’s press release stating each team’s initial investment of $750, 000 over three years, the limiting factor stopping teams from hiring a coach could be budget constraints.

Anthony Muraco (@AnthonyMuraco), the Dallas Mavericks Esports Manager, posed the question as a Twitter poll, "Should the 2K League have coaches?" and at it’s close has received 1760 votes and some stirring back and forth commentary from members of the 2K community with 58 percent voting 'YES' and 24 percent registering a 'NO' vote.



Traditional basketball coaching, with the exception of American Football, is perhaps the most nuanced of all sporting coaching endeavours, not only does a coach impart their vision for how the team should play stylistically, the basketball coach also somewhat controls the pace of the game, the plays occurring on the court and obviously which players the coach puts into the game dictates what match ups occur on the court. In terms of execution, the last two minutes of an NBA basketball game is as much about the head coach as it is the star players.A great NBA 2K coach should be the same. The esports coach is coaching an athlete of a different capacity and should treat them as such, paying close attention to player development, health and welfare, lead the team in scrimmages and fitness training and in conjunction with the team develop a game plan to win basketball games. Finally ensuring that the team executes that gameplan in game to secure the win. 

Being a great player is not necessarily the magic elixir to be being a great coach and there are countless examples in professional sports, the same logic can be applied to NBA 2K. The ability to look at NBA 2K logically and critically in order to break down the game of Pro-Am into how one wins and loses games. A solid basketball IQ is imperative, coupled with the ability to scratch below the surface and break down the X’s and O’s. A large percentage of Pro-Am teams start each and every play with a high or side screen roll or pop and we already see tiny glimpses of the motion offence with the baseline backdoor cut for a slasher. The evolution of 2K Pro-Am and Park gameplay will come from the innovation of offences born of the 2K League.


Looking to established esports such as DotA, LoL, CS:GO and Call Of Duty, we can see coaches are widely and effectively used, however there can be some ill effects of coaches exerting their influence over the team, The Green Release Basketball Blog recently spoke to prominent Call Of Duty Caster Chance the Caster (@chancecasts) regarding coaches in esports, specifically Call Of Duty .

“In the past coaches were glorified hype men, It was next to no coaching with plenty of trash talk”.

This led to caches in Call Of Duty tournaments being banned on stage and moved to a more analyst role within the team, working behind the scenes on strategy and scouting. Chance went on to say in the Call Of Duty world, “the professional players figure it out the fastest”, meaning the actual coaches could be lagging behind the latest gameplay mechanics and exploits.

I asked Adam Rubin (@adamrubinnba), the Detroit Pistons manager for esports, for his take on coaches specifically within the 2K League, “A coaches job is of course to put in place a game plan and strategy based off of the opponents they are facing but it is also important to implement a plan to compliment his 5 players skill sets”, Adam believes that the esports coaches role extends beyond just the strategy side of coaching to the execution of the in game play, “Outside of managing the game plan, a coaches job is also to keep his or her team level headed and focused”.

A concern raised by Chance the Caster and echoed by Adam Rubin was the depth of coaching talent in esports, not specifically just NBA 2K. Chance said “There will be very few people qualified to do a decent coaching job and the players will be better off making decisions for themselves.”


  •  Leader and frontline manager.
  • Determine and supervise schedule, scrimmages, physical fitness etc
  • Work with the team to set the play style.
  • Develop game play X’s and O’s.
  • Communicator to management.
  • Subjective voice in gaming house – Mediator.
  • Review and Analyse. Make adjustments.


  • Budget constraints and salary required to secure a great coach.
  • May hinder gameplay/team chemistry by trying to change too much.
  • Shallow talent pool to select from.
  • There’s only 5 players, team captain could in theory be a player-coach.


The search to find an esports coach who has a high basketball IQ combined with excellent NBA 2K knowledge is not an envious task, especially with the vacuum of talent created by the 2K League draft removing so much the established 2K community talent. The Green Release NBA 2K Blog thinks a fledgling NBA 2K League franchise manager could be better served by searching the basketball community first, finding someone who plays 2K with solid basketball, fitness, nutrition and player development knowledge. Learn the 2K X’s and O’s on the fly.