Coaching, Kevin Pritchard says, is not as easy as it looks.
"Oh I've made a lot of mistakes," says Pritchard, a 33-year-old former Kansas University, NBA and European League point guard who is wrapping up his first season in coaching with the ABA2000's Kansas City Knights.
"I called coach Williams one day and said, 'Coach, geez I don't know if I'm making mistakes,''' said Pritchard, who played two years for Larry Brown and two for Roy Williams at Kansas. "Coach said, 'The day you don't make any mistakes is a special day. Every coach makes mistakes,''' added Pritchard, who has led the Knights to a 22-16 record entering postseason play. "The important thing is learning from them."
Pritchard has learned his lessons well.
He's a strong candidate for ABA2000 coach of the year honors in his first venture in coaching. He has led the Knights to the third-best record in the league despite losing six players to the NBA and two to Europe this season.
"We've had some challenges," Pritchard said. "I've always wanted to help develop players to get to the NBA. We've worked extremely hard. The key is having great guys on the team. Guys like Ryan (Robertson), Rex (Walters) and Jasson Sasser ... they only care about winning."
Pritchard has leaned on two individuals who have won a lot of games Brown and Williams.
"Coach Williams and coach Brown have been very helpful to me this year. Without those two, it would have been much much more dificult. I've always had a sounding board with those two," Pritchard said.
"One advantage I have is I came from two systems and two coaches that are very good. I could draw from their practices and experiences I had as a point guard. I talked to coach Williams quite a bit early on. He allowed me to come to his coaches conference every morning."
Pritchard, wife Shea and their two children K.J. and Kendall live in Lawrence a stone's throw from Williams' office at KU.
"Recently I've talked to coach Brown quite a bit," Pritchard said of the Sixers' coach. "I told coach Brown there have been a couple times I wish I'd been out there playing. I could have more control. Coach Brown said, 'It's never as good as it seems and never as bad as it seems.'''
Pritchard said coaching is more than Xs and Os.
"One thing you have to do all the time is teach," Pritchard said. "With some people there are more effective ways of communicating than others. Being a coach is being part psychologist, trainer, attorney. I enjoy it all."
Ex-Jayhawk Robertson gives Pritchard high marks.
"I think if you ask any player in the league, 'Which team would you like to play for?' They would say, 'Kansas City,''' Robertson said. "A major reason is Kevin Pritchard. I think he's done a fantastic job. His strong suit is being able to understand how a guy feels on an individual basis. He's a former player and knows what it's like to have a bad game. He is a players' coach.
"He does have a lot of characteristics of coach Williams. Yet he speaks highly of coach Brown also, and regularly tells stories about coach Brown. Our organization tries to do it the right and correct way to be honest the Kansas way."
Pritchard would like to conclude his first season with a championship.
The Knights will play Los Angeles in a Western Division semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kemper Arena with the winner advancing to Friday's 7:15 p.m. division final. The league championship game is 12:35 p.m. a week from Saturday at Kemper.
"It's the goal we talked about at the beginning of the year, winning the ABA title," Pritchard said. "It's been a challenging year, but we still have that goal."
He doesn't know if he'll be back next season. Nobody knows if the league will survive without a TV contract. Attendance figures have not been impressive.
Pritchard does know he'd like to remain in coaching.
"I enjoy the camaraderie of being around a team and organization that has strived to do things right," Pritchard said. "I certainly do like the pros, but would never say I wouldn't consider coaching (at college level). I love basketball. I know I want to be around the game."