While many are finding this year’s version of March Madness to be a tad dull (see Where’s the Drama? from SI.com’s Pete Thamel), the NCAA tournament still holds its place as the most entertaining three-week drama in sports. We may not always have the Cinderella upsets (and as Thamel explains, the traditional concept of Cinderella may be a thing of the past) or the buzzer beaters, but we certainly have intriguing match-ups, inspiring coaches, and heart-warming player stories. And while the drama unfolds, we also have the underappreciated regular occurrence of the coaching carousel. Many fans will keep track of it, especially if their teams have finished playing, but few will truly consider the ramifications for many hard-working family providers.
BASKETBALL – The Carousel
Tom Crean is understandably receiving the most attention after being let go at Indiana this week. While completely expected, Crean’s dismissal has been the focus of those watching the carousel. Having worked at Marquette when Crean landed his first head coaching spot, I saw the passion and dedication he applied to his profession. While I often thought he was a little too driven and had some quirky expectations, I learned a great deal from watching him up close. And as I watched his progress at Indiana over the years, I also noticed a man who seemed to be getting a better hold of his priorities, including a much more eager expression of his faith (see Tom Crean off the court: Quiet, random acts of kindness), only to see the door slam on his progress. Since it’s a different level when you see the contracts and buyouts involved, most of us have trouble relating to Crean’s experience because he’s already been paid more money than the rest of us will see in our lifetime. (For an explanation of how it all went down read IU Fires Tom Crean and Tom Crean opens up on Indiana basketball firing, coaching …) And while Kentucky’s John Calipari explains some of the “suffering” that will occur:
. . . most of us will have trouble relating. What we don’t hear about are the support players involved – the assistant coaches and younger staffers who clip film and are doing all they can to move up in the profession or about the spouses and families who will experience uncertain times in the months and, possibly, years ahead. Calipari has been there as a head coach, but it’s compounded exponentially for assistants or coaches at lower levels, the ones just making enough to support their families or contribute to a spouse’s income. I’ve been there and the hits taken are extremely difficult. For many of us, it’s not as rosy as it is for Crean.
LIFE – Job Loss
For most of us, job loss is much more traumatic. NBA and college veteran assistant coach Brendan Suhr, known as a mentor to coaches at CoachingULive and as a key cog on Detroit Pistons’ head coach Chuck Daley’s staff, has experienced job changes and job loss – in fact, his head coach at LSU this year, Johnny Jones, was let go just like Crean. Suddenly, a man nearing the end of his coaching career is without a job.
That’s why I appreciate so much this article from the Charlotte Hornets Director of Scouting Scott Howard that he wrote for George Raveling’s Coaching For Success. While Howard doesn’t have the same concerns for a family, he has seen his share of job losses and job changes and provides great insights for anyone who has lost a job, whether it’s in coaching or any other profession, and needs to go through a new search. Read his complete explanations at Lessons I’ve Learned From Getting Fired and listen to his conversation with Brendan Suhr. Here are his main points to remember:
- WELCOME TO THE CLUB
- IT HURTS
- DON’T BE SHOCKED
- BE GRACIOUS AND TAKE IT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL, BUT DON’T LET THEM BEAT YOU UP!
- OWN UP TO YOUR MISTAKES
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF PHYSICALLY
- DON’T WASTE TIME TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED
- YOU DON’T HAVE AS MANY FRIENDS AS YOU THINK YOU DO
- YOU CAN’T EXPECT YOUR FRIENDS TO HIRE YOU FOR YOUR NEXT JOB
- IT’S A DEMEANING EXPERIENCE
- DON’T SIT AND WAIT FOR THE PHONE TO RING – IT WON’T RING AS MUCH AS YOU HOPE
- YOU WILL HEAR A LOT OF “NO’s”
- IT WILL ALWAYS WORK FOR THE BEST
When my head coach was fired at WIsconsin in 1994 and when I left Division I ten years ago, I wish I would have had these suggestions. I made some critical mistakes, specifically numbers 5, 7, and 10. I beat myself up quite a bit and vowed to make changes. But even if I never coached again, which at one point I had decided I would do, those experiences led to a more significant realization. These experiences shaped me and developed me, but in no way do they define me. It’s natural to lose some confidence or to question how you’ve done things or what improvements you can make, but each of us have much greater value to our families and to the people we encounter.
FAITH – Go Deep
The other terrific opportunity we have as Christians when we experience something as difficult as a job loss is to crank up our prayer life. I don’t mean just asking for a job or a better job. I mean to focus our attention on God. I love the Message’s version of what Jesus says in Matthew 6:34:
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
But prayer can be tricky. You don’t always get exactly what you pray for, and if you do, it’s often not how or when you expect. But we are called to pray even when prayer didn’t keep us out of the trouble we are currently in. In fact we probably prayed to keep our job! Why would prayer do any good then? All I know is that God calls us to pray.
One of my go-to guys in the Bible is Habakkuk who was questioning why God had not protected his people. He thought God wasn’t being fair. God didn’t answer Habakkuk with a clear answer. Instead, he simply told Habakkuk, “the righteous will live by his faith” (2:4). In other words, we are to trust God no matter what is going on. Even if it seems like God dropped his end of the bargain.
Truth is, the Holy Spirit steps in whenever we pray, and in His time God responds to the cries of his people and will use the ugliness we encounter to weave the tapestry of life. It took job transitions for me to understand that. So as we get wrapped in the excitement of the games this weekend, consider the other side of March Madness as well. How will handle similar circumstances?