Monday, June 30, 2008

Why coaches must coach

Coaches have to coach. It's what they're built for. It's what they do. I grew up with a coach and have seen it first hand. When they're away from it, something important is missing.

Away from basketball for more than a year now, I recently had the privilege of coaching a group of high school players at an all-star game. I enjoyed that as much as coaching any NBA player.

As far as coaches go, I'm not alone in my love for coaching.

Take Mike Hargrove, who stepped down as manager of the Seattle Mariners last July. He's turned up coaching a semi-pro team in Kansas. Hargrove and his wife live in a friend's basement. He's not being paid by the team -- the Liberal Bee Jays.

After Hargrove's 11-year playing career ended in 1985, he went on to manage the Indians, Orioles, and Mariners.

So why is the 58-year-old Hargrove, a Big League manager, coaching in the semi-pros? Here's his answer:

"I realized that I missed the game. I realized I still wanted to do this. I hate the word 'passion.' I really cringe every time I hear that word. I think passion's one of those words that everybody thinks everybody wants to hear. If you use the word 'passion' in your talk about your job, everybody kind of feels that's the validating point that you do care about what you're doing and you're enthusiastic about what you're doing. I hadn't lost my enthusiasm for the job. I hadn't lost my love for the game. I really hadn't lost my passion for what I was doing."

How about Nolan Richardson, who spent 17 years at the University of Arkansas before the school bought out his contract? It was a messy end to a wonderful relationship.

But Richardson couldn't sit at home. Though he was in his 60s, he had to keep coaching. Despite a resume that includes an NCAA title, NIT championship, and junior college title, Coach Richardson had no offers to coach.

So last year, he went south of the border to coach -- in Mexico. He did it for free. In 2005, he coached Panama to its first berth in the World Championships in almost 20 years.

What drives him?

"Mexico, it's not the dreamland of basketball. So that's a challenge for me and that's all it is. I always liked to challenge what they say I can't do. Because all my life I've been an underdog at everything, even when we were champions we were underdogs. I think that's the biggest thing about me coaching, I love the challenge and I love teaching and I love to be different."