The Bobby Valentine/Kevin Youkilis Circus and Why Superstars In Sports Are Different From You And I

Posted: April 16, 2012 in MLB, NBA
Tags: , , , , ,

Superstars in any walk of life see the world differently than you or I do – doesn’t matter if it’s a singer, golfer, business person. They are better – they know they are better, they want to be treated differently – even the guys we like such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson had coaches fired. But I’m watching Sunday night and the Heat are 10-1 without Wade, the Bulls are like 12-5 without Rose, the Lakers keep winning without Kobe…why? What is the downside to any superstar? Like the public, the players often become bystanders – you bring Picasso into a loft, you give him a canvas – that’s if Picasso was still around, even with other great artists around, everybody would want to watch Picasso perform. That was always the brilliance of Phil Jackson – former Bull and Lakers head coach. Is that he got Michael Jordan – the greatest individual scoring talent, except for Wilt, in the history of the game – he created an offense called the “Triangle offense” and a lot of people think the Triangle offense was built for Kobe and Michael Jordan, yet I’d argue just the opposite.

Anybody who really knows the Triangle offense knows that it was created to get Kobe and Michael to share! To get guys shots that don’t normally get shots, that was always the genius of Phil Jackson. Sitting down with the great Picasso of our time and convincing him “let somebody else have the paint brush and the canvas every once in a while. I mean, you can get your shot anytime you want, relinquish the brush from time to time.” When Michael Jordan had Doug Collins as a head coach, he shot about 1100 times a year, with Phil Jackson it was 900 or high 800’s. Couple shots a game – 2 or 3, makes a world of a difference. That was the genius of Phil Jackson because it’s very hard to ask the gifted to give things up – you know, unless they’re getting a tax break. The key in the NBA is not getting a star; it’s getting the right star! And getting the right coach to work with that star and convince him to get others involved because stars will always get their shots.

Carmelo Anthony had 42 points on Sunday; yet the problem is that the rest of the starters had 19. The Knicks offense became like the Cleveland one when Lebron was there – 4 dudes watching one dude. You’re not beating elite teams with the “4 dudes watching one dude” offense. It’s really a gift; it’s a gift for anybody and any management position to get a star – a superstar, to share. Share the mic, share the ball, share the brush, share the technology, share your genius…it’s really hard because superstars, in any industry, think differently. I watched the Knicks on Sunday and sat there and thought “Melo has always been a great talent, but does Melo realize that Denver got better when he left and ultimately, it’s not his shot but the ability to draw a double team and pass to a better shot, a 60% shot not a 48% shot, which will get the Knicks to the next level” It’s hard, after he scores 42, to see that because he was the only guy late, taking 22 ft leaners that clanked.

It’s like I’m watching Kobe on Sunday – and Kobe didn’t play for the Lakers, but he was coaching on the sidelines and I was reading in the LA Times this morning where it basically said “man, Kobe would be an interesting coach” Kobe would be a terrible coach! Magic couldn’t coach; Michael Jordan has not been a good GM. Most of your great baseball managers, Joe Torre was a very pedestrian player. Isaiah Thomas – great player, not great anywhere else, why? Because they see things differently. If Kobe Bryant was a coach – let’s do a role play here. I’ll be Kobe and you be random NBA player, let’s play a game. This – if Kobe Bryant was a coach, I’ll play Kobe, this is how Kobe would coach.”Kobe: alright guys huddle up, here’s the plan. You go break his ankles top of the key, launch from the free throw line, switch hands in mid air, then dunk through two defenders…got it? You: ugh, coach…I don’t think I can do that. Kobe: what don’t you get? It doesn’t matter if somebody’s hand is in your face, you drain the shot anyway, just be better than everybody else. You: but coach, I can’t be better…Kobe: can’t you just be…great?”

That’s how great players see the world, that’s the prism in which they see it. They don’t understand that most of us don’t have that innate skill – that’s why average players make great managers in baseball. Was Jim Leyland a great player? Was Joe Torre? Not really!  A-rod is a great player, but he won’t be a great manager, he won’t even be a manager! Kobe’s a great player; he won’t be a very good coach. That guy at Oklahoma City, Brooks…he’s a good coach. Phil Jackson? Was a marginal player, but a great coach! Greg Popovich, Doc Rivers…good not great, but are great coaches. So as Melo lights up the Gardens, in the end superstars…it’s not about them, it’s about ball movement and getting the right superstar to link up with the right coach who can convince him that he’s got 4 other guys on the floor.

Speaking of other guys, this thing in Boston is a mess! So Bobby Valentine gets hired by the Red Soxs – and everybody knew it was problematic, Bobby is pretty rigid, pretty old school, you’ve got baseball players with guaranteed contracts, mix that with the parochial nature of Boston  which is – there’s an old saying in New England that “fences make great neighbours” I’m serious!  Boston is uniquely parochial; it is uniquely interested in itself. Chicago – in the middle of the U.S. their TV ratings show that they will watch east coast sports teams and they’ll watch the west coast sports teams. Boston will watch nobody but themselves and perhaps New York. So Bobby is really a visitor to Boston, he just doesn’t understand it yet. Bobby’s got a blue hat with a red “B” and he thinks he’s like a native, he thinks he’s just like “one of them”

I’ve got family friends who live in New England – they moved from Texas almost 10 years ago, they still feel as if they are visitors – you can’t move to Fenway and just because you have a uniform think “hey, this is my town and my team” Bobby Valentine criticized Kevin Youkilis on Sunday and Dustin Pedroia came out saying that it’s not the way they do things in Boston – maybe that stuff works in Japan (Bobby was a baseball manager in Japan for 8 years) Dustin Pedroia spoke up for Kevin Youkilis, who got ripped by  Bobby Valentine on Sunday saying “…his teammates have his back and we know how hard he plays, so I really don’t understand what  Bobby’s trying to do but – that’s really not the way we go about our stuff around here, I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon” But then he added another shot to Bobby Valentine saying “…maybe in Japan or something, but over here in the U.S. – man we got a 3 game winning streak, we want to feel good and keep it rolling. We feel like we have a good team and we just have to get each other’s backs and play together because if you don’t do that, I don’t care what sport you play in, you’re not going to win” ohh boy more to come on this later!

  1. Mike Crack says:

    Yeah, I guess there’s a bystander effect that applies in the sporting world when great talent is around. I guess it’s why you see stars get reduced to role players during Olympic competition (hockey, basketball)

    Yeah, it’s unlikely a great player like Kobe would make a great coach. Wayne Gretzky was awful, and the other examples you listed show the same.

    Heh, sucks for Bobby. That’s unfortunate that he doesn’t have control of his players, although baseball seems like a sport where the manager isn’t as much of the leader of the team as in say, football. The players in baseball seem to police themselves.

    • Absolutely! Now your bound to find the exception, but for the most part the theory I believe holds water in most if not all professional sports!

      Great point about Gretzky, in fact I think the Coyotes got better when he left! The great’s of the sport try to “dumb” it down – it’s like that brilliant prof we can all think about in undergrad or even post-grad, who was so smart and very articulate, but just couldn’t get his students to grasp the idea/concept. In sports though, it’s mainly due to these innate abilites that they possess – vision, decision making, ability to read the game, athletisicm etc. What makes the “marginal player” excel in a coaching role is that they always paid more attention to the details than the star. The star simply had the talent to wash away his mistakes and never had to work that hard on improving his/her game because of their innate skiill. As the marginal player – you’ll do anything to have an advantage over the other player your competing with for a starting spot. Your flaws are more apparently to you and to improve upon them requires you to carefully paid attention to your shortcomings. With that in mind, they develop the mindset of what it’s like to be a fringe player. When in the coaching role, all that time spent as an average player gives them great insight into the minds of those players they are coaching – in turn, providing more effective planning and team schemes, knowing how to relate to those average players and using their experience to bring the best out of them, coniciding with the great talents he may already have on the team.

      Bobby being Bobby! Everyone was expecting the circus in Boston to arrive sometime, nobody expected it this early into the season! He’s problematic but a great baseball manager. His old school ways certainly have to be kept to a minimum to not disrupt the team if he is to make a name for himself with the Red Soxs. It doesn’t help that they haven’t gotten off to a great start. Talented team but if the locker room starts having more inner conflicts and all, its all up for grabs between the Rays and Blue Jays!

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