Currently, a total of 36 coaches in KBL and WKBL assist the coach of each team. Among them, there is a former star player, while there is also a coach who did not receive much attention as a player. In this corner, I would like to introduce those who were not flashy players but succeeded as professional team coaches. 안전놀이터 The first protagonist is Goyang Carrot Coach Son Chang-hwan. Coach Son Chang-hwan left his short career as a player and gained experience as a frontman and power analysis for Anyang SBS (now Anyang KGC). After becoming a coach of KGC, he won two championships with coach Kim Seung-gi. We heard the story of coach Sohn Chang-hwan, who took on a new challenge at Carrot this season.
※This article was published in the February issue of Jump Ball, a basketball magazine.
Q. How did you start playing basketball?
When I was in my second year of middle school, I got a scouting offer from the basketball team at Gyeseong Middle School. In fact, he tried to play baseball when he was in elementary school, but the family situation became difficult, so he gave up his dream. So he didn’t want to miss it this time. I love basketball so much that I played it a lot on the street. When I actually played it, it was completely different from the basketball I enjoyed. I worked really hard to catch up with the other players. I trained at dawn and stayed at night to practice the rest with like-minded friends.
Q. You played as a power forward despite being rather short (192 cm). What kind of player were you during your school days?
To be honest, I can’t say what I did well. I didn’t know anything else, but I had the heart that I couldn’t lose to anyone. It’s a boring story, but when I entered a game and matched up with a certain player, I played with the mindset of ‘kill him, and I’ll die with him’ (laughs). It wasn’t that I didn’t have a shot, so I was given a lot of shooting roles. After entering Gyeseong High School, I think I gained attention while winning the championship.
Q. Was there any difficulty in wanting to quit basketball?
At that time, everyone must have run away at least once (laughs). When I was a freshman at Konkuk University, there was a time when I didn’t eat breakfast provided by the school with Masan High School coach Lee Yeongjun. But it was caught by the director. The coach said, ‘If athletes don’t want to eat breakfast, go home’. So I packed up and came home. When I got home, I got a call to come back. I went back to school and ran over 50 laps on the 400m track. It’s the rainy season, so it rains a lot, but then I wanted to quit (laughs).
Q. In the 1999 rookie draft, you were nominated by SBS with the 6th pick in the 2nd round.
In fact, there were rumors that they would pick me up from another team other than SBS. I didn’t expect a high ranking, but I didn’t think that I wouldn’t be nominated. In my senior year at Konkuk University, I injured my neck and was hospitalized for about a month before participating in the draft, so I couldn’t show it properly. At the time, there were a lot of rumors that SBS coach Jeong-soo Kang and coach Il Jang were vicious, so the first thing I thought was ‘It’s a big deal’. Fortunately, however, as soon as I joined the team, new head coach Kim In-gun took over, and the team atmosphere changed a lot.
Q. Wasn’t it regrettable that you couldn’t play much on the pro stage because you were pushed by the main players?
At that time, I only had hope. I went through individual training like a madman by myself. But no one gave me a direction. There was nothing I could do except running, strength training, and shooting practice by myself. I wasn’t a shooter, but the direction was completely wrong. No one taught me how to survive. I think it can be said that the experience at that time gave me a change in my thinking in my current coaching life.
Q. You suffered from a knee injury for a long time.
Because I worked hard in individual training, the team recognized me. In the 2001 off-season, he stood out in practice games. I also got a lot of playing time. But maybe my greed was too much, and my knees were overloaded. I injured the biggest ligament in my knee. Before I was injured, I thought, ‘I’m done now’, but I think I lost my will while rehabilitating.
Q. You retired after the 2002-2003 season. Was there a reason you decided to retire at an early age?
After recovering from a knee injury, the coach changed again. Director Jung Deok-hwa came. I worked hard to catch the coach’s eye, and I was used in the off-season practice game. However, once the season started, the key players who had been rehabilitated took their place again. As the season progressed, I decided to retire. ‘It’s not just about working hard. I thought to myself, ‘Let’s put this effort into something else. So I told the team that I would retire even though my contract period was still up.
“KBL’s first power analysis? I had no choice but to start.”
Now, every team has a power analysis, but it wasn’t in the past. It was because the coaching staff even worked with him to analyze power. Coach Son Chang-hwan is KBL’s first power analysis. After retiring from active duty, he turned to SBS front desk, and in 2005 moved to the newly created Power Analysis. Since then, he has accumulated 10 years of experience and laid the foundation for a leader.
Q. After retirement, you started your second life as a SBS front desk. How was the process?
Originally, I was going to retire and go study abroad. At that time, SBS coach Lee Sang-beom said, “If you want to study abroad, you need to know how to do something like Excel. It will take time, but since he has one year left on his contract, try working at the front desk at the club.” I wasn’t going to do it at first, but he went home and talked about it, and everyone said it seemed okay. So I decided to do it. At first, I was in charge of the youth basketball class, but as time passed, they gave me work in public relations and marketing. A year passed like that, but I settled down because it suited my aptitude better than I thought.
Q. You are in charge of power analysis for the first time at KBL. How did you do it?
After three years at the front desk, the manager changed in 2005. The captain asked the question, “For other sports, there is a power analysis when preparing for an event like the Olympics, but why is there no basketball?” At that time, the coaches and coaches even did a power analysis. It was a bone-chilling question, but I couldn’t answer anything. After that, the captain created a position called power analysis. Then again, director Lee Sang-beom recommended me (laughs). Actually, I refused several times saying I didn’t like it, but one day my desk was moved. So I had no choice but to start. Later, I was dispatched to SBS News Tech, and I heard rumors that other teams are also making power analysis. After me, power analysis has been created one after another, starting with Park Do-kyung, who is now at LG.
Q. What kind of work does power analysis mainly do?
We need to deliver accurate information about the opposing team to the manager, coaches and players as quickly as possible. This is the first and most important task. In it, players and tactics are divided in detail. I collected shit and even researched the atmosphere behind the team.
Q. Do you think the way you look at basketball will change if you do power analysis for a long time?
that’s right. Even in the second year of power analysis, you will have a huge coast. But in the third or fourth year, if you become conceited, you will become blind. I think that’s the difference. Those who always struggle to learn will know it all someday. Conversely, if you loosen up, you will fall into another path.
Q. You also worked together as a scout for foreign players. Were there any foreign players you were famous for in the past?
Juan Patillo, who played for KGC in the 2012-2013 season. At the time, coach Lee Sang-beom selected Garrett Stutz as the 10th pick in the first round. He originally said he was going to pick another fighter with the 1st pick in the 2nd round. At that time, I said that I had to be selected as a party. I even said that if I failed, I would write my resignation. That’s why I nominated Patillo. It was sluggish at the Taiwan Jones Cup in the offseason, but hit the jackpot at the start of the season. You probably know everything even if I don’t tell you (laughs).
Q. When did you start dreaming of becoming a leader?
Many of most basketball players have dreams of becoming a coach. I was one of those people. I did not prepare step by step while analyzing my strength to become a coach. I think I was just thinking.
“If the player finds a good direction through conversation,”
coach Son Chang-hwan, who was the head of the power analysis team, was suddenly promoted to KGC coach ahead of the 2015-2016 season and began his leadership career. A prepared coach, he assisted coach Kim Seung-gi with coach Son Gyu-wan, and tasted the joy of winning the 2016-2017 season combined championship and the 2020-2021 season playoff victory. This season, he moved to Carrot, a new team, and is trying to instill winning DNA into players.
Q. In 2015, coach Jeon Chang-jin’s match-fixing incident broke out, and he suddenly became a KGC coach.
Due to coach Jeon Chang-jin’s match-fixing incident, I had to play the season as acting coach Kim Seung-gi. At that time, the team offered me a coaching offer. In fact, at the time, I was quietly preparing to go to a small university and open a department of power analysis. So, at first, I refused to do it. But the secretary-general persistently persuaded me, and in the end I accepted to become a coach.
Q. I think you went through trial and error at first.
I tried to create a path as a player through conversation rather than a coercive atmosphere, but that was not the answer. There are definitely players who need coercion. Even if you become a bad person to those players, you have to do that. There are players who pretend to be lazy or lie. I trusted all the players, but there were times when I felt betrayed. I’m not saying my beliefs are wrong, but I’ve come to realize that there are errors.
Q. 2016-2017. How did it feel to win two championships as a coach in the 2020-2021 season?
To be honest, I don’t remember much about that time. I think she was just dazed. I remember the situation of that match, but I don’t remember it after it ended. Did you take pictures or drink alcohol? I think it was because I was so focused on the game that I lost my mind after it was over. I felt excited and so good after a few days.
Q. The team moved to Carrot ahead of this season. It must not have been easy to leave Anyang. What was the situation like?
The contract period is over. And director Kim Seung-gi strongly wanted me. I also wanted to take on a new challenge. However, as salmon have a homecoming instinct, I want to go back to Anyang someday. I don’t know what will happen to me, but I want to lay an egg and die. I have younger siblings in Anyang that I cherish, and there are things I have promised. Anyang is like a second home to me. I think it’s natural for people to go back to their hometowns.
Q. When I heard from the players, Coach Sohn Kyu-Wan said that he was a father and Coach Sohn Chang-Hwan was a mother.
Rather than being a mother-like style, I make a lot of effort to find a good direction through conversations with the players. If it goes well, the player did well, and if it doesn’t, I’m lacking. Even if I can’t help much, I can go further, but I’m going to try not to eat the mind that it’s over.
Q. What is Coach Sohn Chang-hwan’s unique leadership philosophy?
I don’t think a skill that doesn’t support physical strength isn’t a skill. That stamina and technique must be done by the player himself. If there is no will, the manager and coach are of no use. I have the idea that a leader is what makes a player bring out their will.
Q. You seem to have shown that you can succeed as a coach even if you don’t get a lot of attention as a player.
I was lucky. I think I’m burying myself under director Kim Seung-gi. One thing is for sure, no matter what you do, you have to be crazy. When you play, you play crazy, and when you work, you work crazy. If you’re going to do something, you have to do it properly, and if you’re not going to do it, I think it’s right not to do it.
Q. Lastly, what are your future goals?
I think I’m doing well overall in the administrative part. I am also confident in my operation. So, if I get a chance someday, I have a dream of working for a basketball team or working at KBL. I’m still weak, but I’m still studying. I hope there will be an opportunity to show my strengths.