Coaching at an iconic program is much more than just X's and O's
DETROIT -- For
Lavin, a Harrick assistant from 1991-96, always chuckled. He didn't truly understand what Harrick meant until he lay on the tray, facing the business end of the scalpel.
"There were many days down the line once I became the head coach that I had a greater appreciation for that quote," said Lavin, who succeeded Harrick and shepherded one of college basketball's name-brand programs from 1996-2003.
To be the keeper of the flame at an iconic program, a coach must do more than draw up plays and recruit. He must be a spokesman, a diplomat and a fundraiser. He must always show proper respect to the legends who built the program. He also must comport himself in a manner acceptable to the donors and administrators who keep the program humming. Most importantly, he must win.
If new Kentucky coach
Like most successful keepers of the flame, Williams is an accomplished schmoozer and a born storyteller. He won't hesitate to self-deprecate. That trait, Lavin said, is critical to staying sane under the pressure to live up to the standards of a Smith, a Rupp or a
That's why, after Williams was hired,
"By any measure
That sky might not have stayed blue had Williams not won a national title in 2005 and reached the Final Four in each of the past two seasons.
At Notre Dame, football coach
"When you win nine or 10, the naysayers don't jump out at you," Weis said. "When all of sudden you win three, all bets are off."
Weis admits he didn't handle his off-field duties as well as he should have. On
"I don't think you're ever done evolving in that role," Weis said. "When you first come into any job, especially coming from an assistant to a head coach, there's a level of transition, but you do wear an awful lot of hats here. It's a never-ending process. The one thing I've been able to do better as the years have gone on is to continue to evolve with the job."
Because Weis went to Notre Dame, he had some idea what would be expected. He already had an appreciation for the school's traditions. Still, no amount of proximity to the job can prepare a coach for the ascension to the big chair. Lavin provided the best analogy. "It's like being in a flight simulator," he said, "as opposed to being up in a jet."
Some coaches seem better suited for the role. Lavin, the son of a teacher and a history buff, cherished the opportunity to pick the brain of UCLA legend
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Michigan football coach
Like Pitino or Calipari, Rodriguez doesn't lack for confidence. Like them, he oozes charm when he's in front of a camera. Whereas former Kentucky coach Gillispie always looked uncomfortable in the spotlight, Rodriguez embraces it. That's probably why Rodriguez barely has noticed the contrast in off-field duties between West Virginia and Michigan. In fact, he volunteered to speak to booster clubs even though his contract didn't require it.
"In the top 40 or 50 Division I-A programs, you have a lot on your plate," Rodriguez said. "That's part of the job. At some places, you have to do more fundraisers than others. At some places, you have to do more fundraisers than others. Some places, there's more off-the-field obligations than others. Here, it's a nice balance. I enjoy it. I want to go out and meet our people. I want to go out and see the people who support our program. It's not all bad."
Still, Rodriguez knows any goodwill built at a speaking engagement will evaporate if he doesn't improve on last season's record. That's why he can't worry too much about his other obligations lest he forget his primary one. "As a coach, you have to balance," he said. "You have to make sure you can put your time in with your team."
Coaches who can achieve that balance get statues carved and buildings named in their honor. Those who can't usually get shown the door. Lavin, who fell into the latter category, said a coach at such a program would do well to keep handy a copy of
Sounds like perfect advice for a coach carrying the weight of history while fighting the pressure of the present. Of course, such a coach might also do well to heed the advice of Oakland Raiders owner
Just win, baby.