Self-criticism isn't always something you see too often with coaches, and I don't know why. Perhaps it's because a coach could drive himself crazy if he second-guessed the way he did things. Perhaps it's because coaches need control. Perhaps it's because coaches need a degree of arrogance (my way is the right way) in order to project confidence among their players, and self-criticism takes away from that.
But sometimes coaches take those reasons too far. I'd think players would respect you if you admitted once in a while that you messed up or that you need to rethink the way you do things. Sure, don't do it too often, but if you're always right, then you become autocratic, right?
I bring this up because I had become increasingly concerned that Flip Saunders would be too dead set in the way he used to do things. His methods were largely successful and have led him to being one of the NBA's most underrated coaches, but he wasn't perfect. His players tuned him out in two different places and he hasn't always been great at pushing a team to the next level.
But some of my concerns have been tempered after reading this great piece by Marc Spears about Flip and the Wizards. The jist? Flip is making a concerted effort to reach out and communicate with his players because he never did so when coaching Detroit. This led to the players not respecting him and tuning him out by the end of his tenure.
Flip Saunders has built up his frequent-flier miles this summer traveling to Las Vegas, Atlanta and Chicago. These aren’t vacation trips. They’re business. Hired in April as coach of the Washington Wizards, Saunders has spent the past couple months getting to know his new players.
It’s something Saunders wishes he had done during his previous job with the Detroit Pistons.
There's much more quote-worthy material in there, but I don't want to quote too much and take away from Marc's work. Some highlights:
- Flip never really had the time or the drive to go and meet with the Pistons the year he was hired. He blames some of that on being hired late in the summer, but a lot on himself as well
- Flip says his lack of a relationship with his players made him unable to properly discipline them. The end result was a locker room that didn't respect Flip at all.
- Flip vows to be more of a disciplinarian this year
- Flip understands Gilbert Arenas' need to entertain and sometimes break plays, but he's going to make Gilbert play defense this year.
- Flip has asked Arenas to "take it easy" before training camp. Translation: No more Barry Farms.
Perhaps there's something to the Flip Saunders and Company Positive Thinking Media Campaign (TM) after all.