Think about it. You're sitting in front of your television set to watch a football or basketball game--college, professional, even high school--and the analysts begin to size up the opponents, the players to watch. Then it happens. Inevitably, unavoidably, in an obligatory manner, someone brings up the coaches.
"They are well-coached," he says.
When was the last time you heard a coach or TV or radio analyst or sportswriter refer to a team as being poorly coached? I can't remember. If you had, the criticism would have made headlines like Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder and Al Campanis. Every team is well-coached, right?
It doesn't take an expert to recognize a team that isn't well-coached. What are the telltale signs? Lack of discipline and fundamentals, excessive penalties, when teams have talent but don't make necessary adjustments to achieve success.
"It isn't possible to be an elite program in college and be poorly coached unless you are a great recruiter and your talent overcomes everything else," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who has been observing high school and college football for 30 years.
The problem is almost every TV and radio analyst is associated with college coaches. They interview them to obtain information. If they are too negative in their evaluations or criticism, they risk losing their access to the coaches and the players.
"I hear it off the record all the time in high school and college," Lemming said. "A college coach will say a high school prospect isn't coached well, that they can team him proper fundamentals that he is lacking when they get him on campus. But they never will go on the record with a comment like that or they would never be welcome at that high school again. It's all part of doing business."
Perhaps the most publicized case of "Is his team well-coached or poorly coached?" involved former King basketball coach Landon Cox. Most critics argued that Cox was a poor coach who simply tossed the basketballs on the floor and let his enormously talented players--Efrem Winters, Marcus Liberty, Jamie Brandon, Rashard Griffith, Leon Smith--overwhelm their opponents.
I begged to differ. Yes, Cox has great talent, more than anyone else in the 1980s and early 1990s. His record proves it. He reached the 500-victory milestone more quickly than any other coach and he produced three state championship teams and one national championship team in a period of eight years.
But examine the circumstances. In an environment of broken homes and gang- and drug-infested neighborhoods, Cox was able to keep his teams together, resurrected the lives of Reggie Woodward and Johnny Selvie and dozens of others, and sent many of them to college. Without him, they never would have left the inner city. Cox had his issues but dedicating himself to his players wasn't one of them.
On top of that, suburban coaches whom I respect were always complimentary of Cox's coaching methods after observing his teams in state-tournament competition. They had direction and they had purpose. With so much individual talent on those teams (particularly 1986, 1990 and 1993), you still got a sense that he was emphasizing and teamwork and the players were buying into the system.