Thursday, May 15, 2008

Coach vs GM vs Owner vs Coach: Tough to balance

Pat Yasinskas over on has a good column today about the fragile relationship between a team's coach and its GM. And, to some extent, the relationship between the GM and owner, and owner and coach.

Yakinskas quotes one NFL owner as saying:

"You can have the best, most qualified people in the world, but it doesn't always matter. You're dealing with exceptionally competitive people, or else they wouldn't be where they're at. That makes me worry about their egos. Hell, I worry almost as much about the egos of their wives because they worry about who's making more money. It's a very tough relationship to keep healthy for a long period of time.''

Feuds between coaches and GMs are well documented. As a Chargers fan,
I read a lot about the Smith-Schottenheimer showdown in San Diego. [It wasn't the first time a Chargers' coach and GM had gotten into it.]

On the owner vs. coach side, Don Nelson and Mark Cuban come to mind.

Of course, Jerry Sloan's tenure in Utah shows that it's possible -- even at the highest levels of sports -- for a coach and owner to get along, even over two decades.

What causes the disputes? First, as the owner above outlines, there are strong personalities involved. Second, the people (coaches, owners, GMs) have typically had a lot of success in their careers. They know what it takes to win/succeed. Third, in many cases, they have the same goals, but different ideas and strategies for achieving those goals.

I've been lucky to work with a number of terrific GMs over the years. Pete Babcock was in ATL when I was an assistant for the Hawks. We still talk or email about once a week. Ditto for John Gabriel, the GM in ORL when I was on staff with Chuck and, later, Doc. I also talk regularly with Garry St. Jean, my GM in Golden State. They're friends who I often turn to for advice and to bounce ideas off of.

Jerry West, our GM in MEM, was one of the most knowledgeable basketball people I've ever had the pleasure to be around. His competitiveness was unbelievable. He really believed in the importance of mental focus in the pre-game routine. He's a great mentor who has been incredibly supportive.