For those following March Madness, you might have heard about the controversy surrounding Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. Izzo, who is one of the most successful coaches in college basketball, was in the news this week after video footage of him savagely berating a player made its way around social media. The video prompted a debate on whether it is still acceptable for coaches to scream at players on the court. For what it is worth, sixty-four-year-old Izzo made no apologies for his behavior during the post-game press conference. As a basketball dad, I have seen all types of coaches. My all-time favorite coach was John Wooden. I never saw the legendary UCLA coach yell at a player or even get emotional during a game. Coach Wooden said that the bulk of his job was done during practice, and if his players didn’t know what to do during the game, then he didn’t do a good enough job preparing them. On the other hand, my least favorite coach of all time is Bobby Knight. Knight, who is known more for his chair-throwing antics on the court than for his success at the University of Indiana, is probably the antitheses of Wooden’s coaching style and was eventually fired for assaulting a player. Knight is a jack-ass but I don’t feel the same way about Tom Izzo. Most coaches who scream at players are bad coaches.
There is a fine line between coaches who hold their players accountable, and coaches who humiliate their players. Coach Wooden would say they scream at their players when they should be upset at themselves for not properly preparing their team. After the controversy, many of Izzo’s former players came forward to defend their coach. It is clear that Tom Izzo had earned the trust and respect of his players by being a great teacher and mentor to them behind the scenes, but for every Tom Izzo, there are a hundred wannabe coaches who do the yelling without earning the trust. There is a lot of talk about in the era of political correctness whether we have gotten too soft on our kids, especially when it has to do with sports. There is definitely truth to this, but I still believe that coaching should be primarily about teaching — and screaming at players is not the same as teaching them. I like Tom Izzo, but I think his brand of coaching is something that needs to go away.