More than an analyst

Former commentators insist ESPN helped them grow as coaches.

Coaching basketball and commentating on it are two very different things.

Jimmy Dykes knows this. As an assistant coach in the 1980s and '90s, Dykes lived a life much different than the one who enjoyed during the last two decades working his way up the ladder at ESPN.

But Dykes insists there are strong similarities between coaches and analysts. An analyst has to understand what is coming in order to educate the viewer at home.

"I had to always be out in front of the game," Dykes said. "I had to call timeouts and show a team's weakness. All those things I did as a coach I just brought with me into broadcasting.

"As an analyst you have to be a teacher and you have to be able to communicate in a short amount of time in a way everybody can understand it. That should be what a coach does."

Hubert Davis believes there is a lot of truth to that. Similar to Dykes, Davis - a former NBA player - recently entered the coaching profession after a stint as an ESPN analyst. And like Dykes, Davis put in coach-like preparation for his broadcasts.

"Every time I did a game, whether it was in the studio or at the game, I put together a scouting report for both teams," Davis said. "I approached it as a coach from both sides because that's what the viewer wants. They want somebody who has played the game of basketball who can communicate it and break it down for them, and help them understand what they're seeing. The only way you can do that is from a coaching standpoint."

Davis is now an assistant coach at North Carolina, his alma mater. He and Dykes are part of a growing trend of analysts returning to the game, somewhat flipping the script from the days of a former player or coach settling for a lifelong role as commentator.

Davis, who had never coached prior to 2012, said his time as an analyst actually helped his transition into the coaching profession.

"I scouted players and knew teams' offenses and set plays out of timeouts, and last-second shots," Davis said. "Being able to do that translates very well to coaching.

"For me it would have been very difficult, otherwise. I think ESPN really prepared me a lot in terms of being around the game. It helped me because it got me back into the college game, which I had been removed from for 12 years. It got me around different programs. Being at North Carolina, I believe the way we do things is the best way, but being at ESPN really got me to see and realize that there are other great programs that do things just as well. To be at a Michigan State, Duke or Louisville practice, or an Arizona shoot-around - just being able to see how other coaches run their programs has really helped me be a coach here at Carolina."

And Davis believes it will help Dykes, too. Arkansas' new head coach has two cell phones with him at most times. One is issued to him by the university and one he kept from his time at ESPN.

"I have a ton of resources from across the country on the men's and the women's side," Dykes said. "Those people are a huge help to me right now." Dykes communicates well with other coaches because of his enthusiasm for the game and people. Davis said he smiled when he heard Dykes had been hired because of that zeal.

"He knows basketball and he loves basketball," Davis said. "He has a passion for it. That's the only way you can do the job is to have a passion and a love for teaching kids. That makes a better basketball player, but also gives you chance to help them grow up. That's something Jimmy is about and that's why I think he'll be great at Arkansas."

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