Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post The head coach as executive

Tuesday September 12, 2006

One of the biggest differences that separates head coaches from assistants is that you have to deal with people. You’re not just the guy who calls the plays; you’re also the chief executive of the organization. You are the public face of the organization, and you must manage your staff as closely as you manage your 85 scholarships and your playbook.

It’s an underrated and often overlooked aspect of the job. Much of the coach’s success depends on surrounding himself with the right people. Jim Donnan made poor choices in this area at Georgia as the successful assistants he trusted eventually left the program as their careeers progressed. Tommy Tuberville has come back from the precipice by reevaluating his staff and making tough decisions that have looked brilliant. When Chizik, Borges, and Petrino come through your program, you’re making good personnel decisions. Chizik to Texas, Stoops to Florida – would there be national titles in Austin and Gainesville without those moves?

That brings us to Sylvester Croom. Life is tough at Mississippi State, and Croom is lashing out a bit at the criticism. That’s bad enough – fans are usually more patient with coaches they like – but it’s not necessary to be liked so long as you win. Charlie Weis and Bill Parcells aren’t especially friendly or receptive of questions, but they’re supported so long as they win. I even agree with Croom’s statement about the call-in show. They’re so often inane and uninformative because of the dreadful and repetitive questions, and a coach’s time is much better suited doing other things. But it’s still his responsibility.

The quote from Croom that would have me even more concerned were I a Mississippi State fan is this:

I don’t want to hear about getting rid of my coaches, because I’m never going to fire a football coach. I’m not. If it comes to that, I’m going to fire me.

On the surface, it seems like a loyal statement of support for his staff. But when you consider the coach’s role as executive, it’s shocking. Imagine an executive going before her board of directors and stating flatly that no employee, underperforming or not, would ever be replaced on her watch. How long would she last? Such a stance is extremely irresponsible. It causes the board of directors (or in this case the athletic director) to have to make wholesale changes where only one or two smaller changes might have done and preserved investment in the organization.

It’s not that it’s an easy or pleasant part of the job, and it might be that Mississippi State’s assistants are all doing a good job considering what they have to work with. It’s that Croom is abdicating a key responsibility of the executive. He doesn’t get that choice. It is a sign to me that he wasn’t professionally prepared for a head coaching position. Assistants get to toil in their area of the program to make the team better. If that’s all Croom wants to do without any of the other overhead and responsibilities that come with the big paycheck, he should have remained an assistant.

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