As the NCAA Tournaments move on to the Sweet Sixteen, most of what we’ll hear will be about the teams that have survived, but you can learn a lot about coaches and their programs by listening in on their press conferences after they lose. The NCAA links press conferences, game highlights, and special features on their March Madness Video Hub for the men, while press conferences for the women can be found at NCAA Women’s Basketball Press Conferences. While most of the coaches are polished in their remarks, occasionally the curtain is lifted and you see more!
BASKETBALL – How do teams handle losing in the NCAA Tournament?
As I watched the press conferences after teams were eliminated, a typical pattern emerged. In their opening remarks, most of the coaches credit their opponent and then praise their team’s effort during the season, using a pretty standard script. That’s followed by a short period of questions for a player or two – these can be fascinating to watch. The athletes leave the podium and the head coach then fields more direct questions about the game. Their answers give a brief glimpse at their in-game thoughts and observations, but most of the coaches are pretty polished and guarded in their responses as they steer clear of saying anything controversial. Since it’s very difficult to process a sudden end to the season, it’s amazing to watch their composure.
I heard comments about parity in the game, the implementation of the Flagrant One foul, and conference realignment, but was most interested to see how many coaches truly take the responsibility for their team’s loss. Not many do. There are a lot of explanations, rationalizations, and suggestions, but most of the coaches fall back on “it just wasn’t our night.” One coach who did step up was Butler’s Brad Stevens, who I wrote about in a previous post, In Game Clinics. When the Bulldogs couldn’t score a basket with 2.4 seconds remaining in their loss to Marquette, Stevens took responsibility by saying “I need to do a better job of simplifying it for them out of a timeout . . . that one will eat at me for a while.”
Believe me, I feel for these coaches and have had similar experiences. Many are taking time now to assess exactly what happened in their loss and rarely jump in quickly to take the fall for their team. Stevens, however, did.
This past week, ESPN aired an extended conversation between two Hall of Fame Coaches, Bob Knight and Geno Auriemma. There’s a lot of good information to consider, but pay close attention to the 3:00 mark when they discuss “Coaches lose more games than they win games.”
Both coaches agree that a coach needs to take responsibility for the losses and as Brad Stevens suggests, use that loss to get better as a coach and help your team get better in the future.
LIFE – Who takes the fall for your mistakes?
I’ve mentioned before John Miller’s terrific book QBQ, in which he discusses personal accountability. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas echos the idea of accountability in his new book Toughness. Today’s society seems to be forgetting the idea of accountability. Most of us are quick to explain away our mistakes, blame others, and make excuses. I see it as I deal with college students and their study habits. Many are quick to find fault with an instructor or to question the need to even take a particular course. They’ll go to great lengths to shift the focus off their own effort. What about you? Do you take the fall for your own mistakes? How often do you blame other people or blame your circumstances? As Bobby and Geno suggest, take ownership for what you can control!
FAITH – Jesus has already taken the fall!
As we move on to the Sweet Sixteen this week, we also have the opportunity to reflect upon the most amazing fall of all. God chose His only son, Jesus, to take the burden for all of our losses, disappointments, and mistakes. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, this is a week to consider what happens at the end of this life. Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus took our place on a Roman cross. Maybe you’ve seen the images in a movie like Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ or you’ve wondered why churches make such a big deal of it. I’m not sure how any of us cannot be moved to consider the significance and I pray that you will reflect on the incredible sacrifice Jesus has made. Michael W. Smith’s popular version of the song Above All sums it quite well:
Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me