If Pete Carroll Was A Basketball Coach


As a football fan, Sundays dominate my fall and winter weeks. To me this is a much needed respite from the grueling week. First off I am married, and every one who has ever had a relationship knows that sometimes even the best ones can be an emotional drain. I am also a father of three. My oldest daughter is eleven and going on twenty, and as a father that is some scary stuff. I also have a nine year old and a three year old. Any parent would know what a drain on time that one child can be, and though three is not exponential it is cumulative. Family, work, taking a full load at school and occasionally writing something to share on Field Gulls, though it has been something quite infrequent of late.

One thing many of you don't know is that I coach basketball. For a few years I was good enough to get paid doing it. That isn't saying a whole lot, many thousands of coaches across the US, and really the world, make a living being a coach. In my time as a coach, going on 14 years, I have seen more than a few different coaching styles. There is the Angry Coach who yells at his players every time they screw up, there is the Friend Coach who just wants to have the kids like him. You get the Clueless Coach who is probably coaching cause his kid is on the team and bit off way more than he can chew, The Cheerleader coach who thinks he can rah rah his way into victories, and the Hard Nose coach who hopes to win through sheer will power alone.

While basketball is a completely different game, coaching isn't. Sure there are a lot more players in football and a lot more specialized roles and thus more coaches, but coaching philosophy can transcend sport, as long as the coach has intimate knowledge of the mechanics of the sport. In this way I believe you can at least on the surface see many similarities between certain coaches.

In my youth I would watch football on Sundays and see the stoic face of Chuck Knox. He was the proto-typical old school football coach. He never smiled, he played tough defense and ran the ball down your throat and he was a winner. Other than that, what kind of person was he? This old clip shows he wasn't a great actor, and his quotes could be summed in what could be his most famous quote "Most of my clichés aren't original." With out doing any research on it, I would say that Chuck Knox was very similar to Pat Riley. I'm sure there are a few books out there that speak to Knox's coaching style, but we are blessed in this day of instant media to know Pete Carroll's coaching style well.

I liken Pete Carroll to John Wooden. The two are very similar in that they both approach coaching as teaching, but in modern times, many coaches have begun taking this approach. They are also similar in how they motivate. The basic premise is that people respond better to having more praise than criticism. The biggest misconception is that people don't respond to criticism. This is false. If they, person or in this case player, believe that you are genuinely interested in their success, they will perform better. The concept is pretty easy and once you understand it doing it isn't so hard. The implementation can be hard at the beginning though, but once the culture is built it has been proven to be one of the more successful coaching techniques.

Another aspect of their coaching style that is similar is how the criticism is delivered. While both are very honest with evaluations, like at the end of the year Pete said he wanted more from the QB position, the way it is delivered is equally important. Both coaches believe in the mantra of public praise and private criticism. This elevates players in both the public's and each other's eyes, and doesn't make them lose face. This is considered one of the more effective ways to deliver praise and criticism, but is not without fault. Some studies have found that it removes some aspects such as accountability and is more time consuming.

Pete has found a way around that, and has been able to be genuine with his praises as well. Pete has come up with two mantras or themes that prevail through his coaching. Always comPete, and Win Forever. Individually each is powerful, but together they are defining. Always comPeteing (sic) is pivotal in the accountability department. LenDale White is probably the most cited case of always comPete, but deeper than that is that not only are they comPeteing with each other and the rest of the league, but also with themselves to be the best they can be.

Win Forever defines the goal. I don't really think this can be overstated. When I first heard about "Win Forever," the book and the slogan, I really couldn't help but think it was just a marketing ploy. I can say this because the only thing I knew about Pete Carroll was that he was a football coach from USC and decently successful at that. I knew nothing about his late night outreaches to troubled gang members. I knew nothing about his energy level or positive attitude.

I liken myself to Pete Carroll on a few fronts. Obviously I do not have his level of commitment, or success. In fact we are quite different in a lot of things, but in the growth of coaching styles, we both moved towards the same approach. In high school and into college most of my coaches were old school, much like I envision Chuck Knox to be - hard nosed seemed to be the norm for me. I was a five sport athlete in high school and two sport athlete in college, though in all honesty I wouldn't consider myself an athlete.

I remember the first time I was really inspired by a coach. It wasn't in high school or in college, it was in my first job as an assistant coach. It was about half way through the season, and we were playing a school for the second time that year. The first game was decidedly our win, we must have won by at least fifteen. In the second game though we were down by 10 at half time. The defense was as stiff as wet spaghetti. The effort from the kids was minimal. The head coach asked me to get them fired up. So I went to my extensive highlight reel of coaches rants I had heard over the years and put together a montage. Needless to say, the rant did not work, we ended up with the worst loss in my coaching career.

I remember going home and just feeling terrible, not only for the rant, but because it didn't get any results. I knew there had to be a better way. The next day I sat in the coaches office with the head coach. I was expecting for him to lay into me, maybe even fire me. Instead, in words I will never forget, he said " You know Art, I love your fire, your passion. Sometimes it really motives me to put in extra effort, I think the kids see that too. I also think you really have a knack of getting through to the kids when you teach them." he went on to explain to me about John Wooden and his theories.

Seeing Pete running down the sidelines to give someone a high five. Hearing Carroll in an interview praising his players. They can seem like he is being disingenuous, but really he is laying the ground work, one that is almost laid, for a culture that will breed success now and forever.

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