Hey, coach, teach me something

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

While there’s plenty to write about in the world of sports — NFL bounties, Linsanity, Tiger’s resurgence, Bulls mania, Blackhawks battling, spring training getting in gear — I’d rather try to figure out the art of coaching.

I recently read two articles on two different coaches, one being UCLA men’s basketball coach Ben Howland and the other Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim. Howland was recently accused by several former players of allowing on and off the court misconduct under his watch and giving preferential treatment to star players. One source claims drug use was prevalent. Howland denies that but did indicate that perhaps some changes were warranted in the way he handles his players.

Boeheim’s article in Sports Illustrated described his method as hands-off when it comes to the lives of his players off-court. They are men, not boys, after all. He sticks with the X’s and the O’s, and he’s won more than 850 games in his career — his current team is 30-1.

So what is a coach to do, keep the teaching between the lines or act as the players’ official guardian?

There’s no right or wrong answer. The profession is all-encompassing. Teach someone how to do something and how to do it well, and it may have a profound effect in life off the court, the field, and outside the lines.

Legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has published three books on how his coaching methods cannot only help you better yourself in the profession but also live a better life in general. There’s Beyond Basketball: Coach K's Keywords for Success, and The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team. The most recent self-help book from the Blue Devils’ coach is Leading with the Heart: Coach K's Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business and Life. I can only assume they all say the same things.

But is reading about how a coach handles blue-chip hoopsters going to help inspire you to get up in the morning? Maybe, maybe not.

I do believe that trying to micro-manage athletes is impractical — and possibly counterproductive. Take new Cubs President Theo Epstein’s “The Cubs Way,” a manual soon to be distributed to Cubs employees, most notably Cubs players. It’s been reported that these are guidelines for players to adhere to on and off the field. Turning in early is said to be a requirement. Young players need to get their rest for the grind of playing all those day games.

Seems a little much, a bit too nit-picky, if you ask me. A manual imploring a grown man to be responsible outside of work smacks of intrusiveness.

But who am I to question a successful sports executive who is now in charge of bringing a World Series title to a team that hasn’t won one in more than a century?

I’d rather try to figure out the art of coaching.

Contact: bspencer@oakpark.com

Twitter: @oakparksports

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