Have you ever stopped to fully consider “why is Rick Pitino so damn good?”
Or Calipari? Or Izzo? Or Boeheim, or K?
Of course, one must have excellent basketball knowledge, a teacher’s gift to make players better under your coaching, and the steely nerves to make the right moves when a game is on the line, the crowd is at full roar, and your team is on the verge of disintegration.
But plain basketball knowledge will only get you so far in the world where the next three weeks and 6 games will define coaching legacies.
You also have to be an exceptionally nimble personality, who can both connect with a 17 year old kid from the baddest part of “the hood” and then turn around and gladhand a millionaire booster who you need to keep writing those checks to the university under the implicit approval of what you are doing with the program.
You have to have a thick skin, and one that repels the greasiness of the entire enterprise. To be able to know that you must sell “gentle lies” to recruits about playing time, NBA potential, you name it – otherwise your counterpart coach downstate will happily do it himself.
Then once this kid – multiplied 12x over, recruiting class after class after class – gets on campus, it’ll be your job to help navigate him through the tempting waters of parties, women, fame, booze, drugs and more. He’ll also need to “buy in” to the team concept, and work hard to get better along the way.
The local media will have trolls and enemies who never liked you from the start. Or even if you are a legend already – like those above – some in the media will still want to see you taken down a peg. You must deal with them. Intimidate them at times, if you must, schmooze them at others.
But be careful, one wrong statement, one joke gone sideways, one fued that explodes on camera can be enough to damage reputation forever. Or if the win total isn’t robust enough, help grease the skids to your dismissal.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not writing a pity piece for these insanely well compensated men. As the saying goes: “This is the life they’ve chosen.”
I just find the job uttterly fascinating, if not at times repulsive on some levels.
We root for the name on the FRONT of the jersey in collge, and our allegiance to the ol’ Alma Mater (be it genuine, or subway version) always endures well beyond 4-year players, or even successful coaches.
You want to be good in college basketball? Great?
Then you better find a guy who fill all of these chameleon roles, while navigating the often arbitrary nonsense of the NCAA rulebook. A guy who is reasonably ethical, and speaks well at a banquet, but will also slash the tires on a rival over a recruit if needed.
And once you’ve got this guy and he’s winning, get ready to open your wallet wide.