Monday, August 25, 2008

Coaches and the need to be liked

This week's issue of SI has an interesting article about Bengals coach Marvin Lewis "taking a stand" and becoming "rougher and tougher" this season.

After giving "leeway to guys in certain areas" the last few years, Lewis hit rock-bottom after his team lost to a 3-10 San Francisco team last December.

It was then that Lewis decided to get "back to being the guy I was in Baltimore and when I got started here — when no one liked me" and holding his players and coaches accountable.

His players have noticed a difference. Said one veteran receiver:

"He is different this year. In the past he would say certain things, and a lot of times you didn't know if the consequences he talked about were going to happen. I think now you're getting the sense that if he says this is going to happen, it's going to happen."

As Andy Hill wrote in his book with John Wooden, "a great leader can't worry about being well liked." As Coach Wooden points out, players aren't "going to like you when you make decisions that affect them."

Wrote Hill:

"Coach Wooden understood all too well that his job depended on the team's performance, not on how much the guys on the team liked him. Coach could be very tough on players, particularly those he felt needed to be pushed. It was only inevitable that Coach had some players who were not fond of him. Hoping that everyone is happy all the time is not a realistic outlook. It will never happen, no matter what you do. A strong leader understands that this is something he has to accept."

From the SI article, it sounds like Coach Lewis has accepted it.