Coaching Loyalty: The Saga of Jason Kidd & Lawrence Frank

kidd-frankHave you kept up with the soap opera called the Brooklyn Nets?  Here’s what had to say as they predicted that the Nets would finish first in the Atlantic Division this year:

The Nets took out a second mortgage in order to build the most audacious rotation in the NBA. The team now boasts at least two future Hall of Famers in Garnett and Paul Pierce, three more All-Stars in the starting lineup and former All-Star Andrei Kirilenko and former Sixth Man Award winner Jason Terry off the bench. . . But the arrival of Garnett and the hiring of fellow future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd promises to caffeinate the entire organization. Kidd’s inexperience will be offset by the meticulous preparation of lead assistant Lawrence Frank, who will help make sense of the substitution patterns that will be crucial to the Nets’ success this year.

While the Nets have won three in a row, they now stand at 8-14, but most importantly, Frank has been demoted off the bench and relegated to writing game reports  This is a bizarre and extreme circumstance, or is it?  Let’s consider the role loyalty plays in coaching, but also as we navigate the struggles of life in this world.

BASKETBALL – Get on the same page!

It’s to be expected, right?  A playing legend with no coaching experience is hired as an NBA head coach and he turns to his former head coach to be the lead assistant on his staff.  It makes sense doesn’t it?  The experienced, detail-oriented veteran helping his former player rebuild a program.  Should be a good match, right?  As you read Dave D’Alessandro‘s coverage on, though, you quickly realize that our imperfections as humans can deteriorate the best of relationships in a hurry!  But, who’s at fault?  Certainly, Kidd has the right and responsibility to call the shots and certainly, Frank needs to put aside his desire for control, but what happens to loyalty, communication, and shared vision?  It seems to me that Kidd knew what he was getting in Frank as an assistant and surely, Frank would appreciate Kidd’s inexperience and the likelihood of an erratic approach, right?

George Raveling is a retired college coach who is making an impact with his terrific website Coaching for Success.  Kevin Sutton, a Georgetown assistant, contributed 10 Things an Assistant Coach Can Do to Help Their Head Coach, which wonderfully sets the tone for assistant coaches.  Lawrence Frank probably didn’t read this!  As a young coach, I wanted to be the best assistant I could be and was passionate about filling that role, hopefully for my entire career.  It’s amazing, though, how external factors can change things in a hurry.  Coaching is about decision-making and some of the same factors addressed when we started 3PW:  Haste, Anger, Ego, Apathy, and Desperation affect the decisions that head coaches make with their staffs.  It’s easy to see that a couple of these impacted Jason Kidd!  My own career and the desire to maintain a reputation as a trusted assistant was dramatically impacted by these factors as well.  Loyalty is a necessity, but it’s often a direct by-product of open communication.  Staffs that function well have each member of the staff on the same page.  Assistants must be willing, but head coaches must set the standard.   When communication is inconsistent or damaged, coaching roles become compromised.

LIFE – Loyalty among friends.

It’s often been said that the greatest component of true friendship is loyalty, but like roles on a coaching staff, the extent of loyalty is often determined by our willingness to have open communication with our friends, family, or even co-workers.  And, it also involves working with and assisting each other when we make mistakes.  I love the idea expressed about Ulysses Grant by General William Sherman of the Union forces during the Civil War:

“Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.”   

Loyalty develops when we accept each other’s mistakes, help each other improve, and communicate with each other.  In this world, you will constantly be confronted by misguided and changing loyalties, so learn to have vision for the big picture and think beyond yourself.

FAITH – Loyalty like Jonathan.

Running with the GiantsIn one of John Maxwell’s fantastic books, Running With the Giants, Maxwell helps everyone learn from the Bible characters who have gone before us.  While so many of us hold King David in reverence as a man after God’s own heart, consider the case of his loyal friend, Jonathan, who kept his eyes on the bigger picture.  It’s really a case-study for assistant coaches, co-workers, subordinates, siblings, and friends.  It’s easy to brush it off as simple friendship (begin reading 1 Samuel 18:1-4 to see how it started and throughout the next chapters to learn more about their open communication), but when you consider the compromises made by Jonathan – the King in waiting and loving son to King Saul, who also listened to God’s plans – you realize that his loyalty went far beyond friendship.  Jonathan put the good of his nation’s future and the necessity for his people to follow God’s plans completely ahead of his own desires and his own potential status.  And as you follow their friendship, you find evidence that the two of them took time to communicate.  How often do you hear of that these days?  It certainly isn’t happening in Brooklyn!