The Jock

by Tom Weppel
After a great Super Bowl, we now move into February. We’re two weeks away from the Daytona 500, and the start of MLB Spring Training. The PGA Tour is already in full swing, although many haven’t been aware of the goings-on. And of course, we know that the NBA, NHL, and college basketball seasons are all mostly halfway done with the regular seasons.
As usual, there are all kinds of issues and happenings that highlight the sports world. In the past month or so, we’ve heard about all kinds of coaching changes, on a number of levels. We’ve seen firings and resignations, both in the NBA and in college basketball. In those cases, you saw head coaches start out the season with their team, only to be gone during the regular season. On a professional level, the pressure on the coach to produce is high. He must get as much out of his players as possible, all with the intent on winning. IF that doesn’t happen, then fan attendance goes down, and the team doesn’t make s much money as needed.
But there are so many factors involved in the chemistry of winning in sports. In the NBA, it can be anything from a team not having the right personnel that is good enough to win the games when needed. Is that the fault of head coaches? To me, it isn’t, and that doesn’t justify firing.
But if the players on the court are indeed good enough to win, then you can certainly fault the head coach for not doing the right things to have those players playing their best. In that case, the coach may need to be replaced.
Almost all NBA teams have General Managers to put together the players necessary to compete. But that is not the case at all in the NCAA. In college basketball, the Head Coach goes out and does the recruiting to cultivate the players to come play at the school. In that case, when a team isn’t playing well, then you almost have to place the blame squarely on the Head Coach.
The question, though, then becomes when to get rid of the guy. Doing it in the middle of the regular season is almost a moot point. Most college teams aren’t all of the sudden going to turn around and start winning, all because a Head Coach is canned.
Recently, you saw that occur at the University of Georgia, and the University of Alabama. I can almost guarantee you those two schools aren’t going to get much better with a new coach in place. That said, those changes are almost unjustified. Its not as if a school can immediately change out players thru trades or signings.
In the NBA, though, things can indeed change. A new Head Coach can come in and infuse a different attitude and style to the team that was previously lacking. Perhaps using different personnel in different situations can turn things around. Maybe a different offense or defensive strategy can work, too.
But that’s not always the case. Since the start of the season, you’ve seen coaching changes in Memphis and Washington. Obviously, team Management felt the need to make changes immediately for the benefit of the franchise. However, since the coaching change, not much has happened with either squad. And so its fair to say the lack of success wasn’t the former Head Coaches fault!
On the other side, a new Head Coach can come in after a season and turn things around to generate a totally different environment, whether its through trades, or a new system which he thinks can make a huge difference. You’ve seen that already in the NBA with teams like Charlotte, with Larry Brown, and the Knicks, with Mike D’Antoni.
I guess my point is this….when its all said and done, a Head Coach firing can be a totally arbitrary situation that is never totally justified. When a team plays bad, and you hear all the moron fans creaming and yelling at the coaches, don’t ever believe the are the geniuses. You can say the same about the Owners and GM’s, and AD’s who are the ones making the decisions on who should run the show.