Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Great Players Can't Become Great Coaches [Mondays with Gus]

There's a reason why Jim Brown and Michael Jordan never coached in the NFL and NBA, respectively. It just so happens to be the same reason why people like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick can succeed without ever playing a down in the NFL. For starters, it's impossible to teach another person something that you have an unworldly natural ability to do.

Michael Jordan's greatest attribute (in my humble opinion) was his unbelievable ability to hold grudges and work tirelessly to prove people wrong. The man complained about how the NBA hated him (5 MVPs, ten-time 1st team All NBA) even after being inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player of all time. In his hall of fame speech, he insulted his high school basketball coach, a man that had cut MJ from the team because he hadn't grown tall enough to play. How on earth could you coach that? You would never be able to convince someone to hold a grudge for 30 years. It was a natural hatred of doubters (also called passion) that made MJ impossibly good, and impossible to listen to.

Jim Brown? That dude was a freak with a vicious streak a mile wide. He hated the world, and for good reason. The racism he dealt with at Syracuse can never (and should never) be recreated. In fact, all of college football legitimately hated Jim Brown, purely because he was a strong black man. Dick Schaap once said that Jim Brown coming in 5th in the Heisman race in 1956 is the reason he never voted for another Heisman Trophy winner again. The hatred for Jim Brown went to the NFL, too. Deacon Jones, a hall of fame DL once said he tried to injure Jim Brown after every play in a game. Jones said the most frustrating thing he ever dealt with in his career was that Brown responded “Nice hit, Deac.” Again, how on earth could you teach that?

What I'm getting at is that the greatest of the great have a natural hatred of opponents, doubters, and all criticism whatsoever. They can't handle it. So, they take it out on their respective sports, and do it with a natural athleticism that few are born with. They can't ever go up to someone and explain how to do this. It's programmed into their DNA.

Bill Parcells? He can explain it, because he would have to pay attention to every detail imaginable to be a great player. He's a guy that doesn't have a natural ability to fall back on. If someone pisses him off, he's going to have to outwork them and outsmart them. While he has a similar desire to win as MJ or Jimmy B, he can at least sympathize with what a regular player is going through. He knows that you can't just go out there and dominate a game. You have to prepare for it, because you don't have the natural ability to fall back on. Jordan scored I believe 4,800 points one day while dragging an IV with him down court in that ridiculous flu game. How could you possibly teach that? Parcells never had to. He had to win through preparation, not reaction.

And that's the mark of a successful coach; preparation. The Parcells and Belichicks of the world will continue to be the great coaches due to the fact that they have to prepare like madmen just to compete. They have little in common with their players. They can't motivate them because they don't know what those guys are going through. They have to have the game won before they step on the field. Jordan and Jim Brown? They could have won the game whenever the hell they felt like it. That's the mark of a great player, but coaches can't play that game and hope to win.

*Special thanks to Snaps for stimulating the debate on what a jerk MJ was, and inspiring me to write this article.

-Gus Rafeedie

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