Thursday, April 4, 2013

Basketball Coaches Then and Now

By now you've probably heard about the despicable behavior of the Rutgers basketball coach who was fired yesterday. He should have been fired in December when his antics were known to Rutgers officials, but he wasn't.

In fact, he wasn't terminated until videos of his coaching 'tactics' were released by ESPN. See Rutgers Leaders Are Faulted on Abusive Coach.

But there was a time when coaches didn't act that way. I know that based on personal experience.

Thinking about what happened at Rutgers may cause us to pause and reflect on what's changed in our 'leadership's' definition of what has become acceptable behavior during the past half century. And the 'leadership' behavioral problem doesn't only exist with respect to how basketball coaches treat their players.

Maybe there's a broader societal lesson about leadership to be learned here, but let's leave that to be sorted out at another time.

Notable & Quotable provides this brief and timely anecdotal lesson in leadership and free choice as it reveals an exchange between legendary UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden and his legendary player and free spirit Bill Walton:

""From "Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections," published in 1997 by Hall of Fame UCLA basketball coach John Wooden:

There was a rule against facial hair for players on UCLA basketball teams. One day Bill Walton came to practice after a ten-day break wearing a beard. I asked him, "Bill, have you forgotten something?"

He replied, "Coach, if you mean the beard, I think I should be allowed to wear it. It's my right."

I asked, "Do you believe in that strongly?" He answered, "Yes I do, coach. Very much."

I looked at him and said politely, "Bill, I have a great respect for individuals who stand up for those things in which they believe. I really do. And the team is going to miss you."

Bill went to the locker room and shaved the beard off before practice began. There were no hard feelings. I wasn't angry and he wasn't mad. He understood the choice was between his own desires and the good of the team, and Bill was a team player.

I think if I had given in to him I would have lost control not only of Bill but of his teammates."

Summing Up

Maybe the 'good old days' really were that good.

Coach Wooden certainly knew how to act, and he won lots of championships acting that way.

And his players both respected and revered him as well.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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