William Rosario's Somewhere in the Americas
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Coaches don't get no respect

SAN JUAN (William Rosario's Somewhere in the Americas) - Who in the world of basketball is not paying attention to what the Golden State Warriors are doing in the NBA this season? It is more than a story. They have singlehandedly quieted down the “82 is too many regular season games” argument that had begun to take center stage in the changes to come department of the league. They have made November games must-watch entertainment, so why argue for less of it?

But for me, the most interesting part is that they have been doing this without their head coach. After becoming the first ever rookie coach to win an NBA championship, Steve Kerr has been sidelined with complications from back surgery and his team has not missed a beat. Luke Walton, Kerr’s assistant, is about to become the coach of the month in the league without an official win to his name (interim coaches are not credited with win or losses).

It is a wrong that will likely be corrected by the league as soon as the opportunity is presented (they are good on common sense issues), but it has made me think about this era we are living in where coaches and they job they do has been reduced and dismissed as a “I could totally do that” kind of profession. To quote legendary stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield, coaches “don’t get no respect”.

Dangerfield is actually a good reference to bring up, because comedy, and specifically stand-up comedy, is one of those professions where people actually see professionals on stage and say “I bet I could get up there and make people laugh”. Yeah, right. It’s not like that comedian has been honing his/her skills for years on the road in order to try and make you laugh and actually be successful at it. And coaching has come to this.

In one of the press conferences of the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship this past September a journalist asked Puerto Rico national team head coach Rick Pitino if he thought that coaches will one day be replaced by Youtube videos. I know it sounds like I’m kidding, but I’m not. The guy used a track and field runner that had learned his craft on Youtube as an example. Pitino was fairly diplomatic and replied that he thought that it was specific to individual sports and that it did not necessarily applied to basketball, but the question was everything. Are coaches thought of as that disposable?

This week I had the opportunity of sitting down with two of the most active coaches in Puerto Rican basketball in the last 15 years, Flor Melendez and Omar Gonzalez, and they each brought up the lack of respect for their profession on different occasions. It wasn’t without reason. Both of them were part of two of the most historically laughable basketball decision the island has seen.

The Brujos de Guayama fired Melendez after a three game losing streak with four games to go before the playoffs started. The team was in 6th place and three games out 3rd place. The explanation? “The team needs better chemistry”, said its owner. They were subsequently eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after ending the regular season in 8th place. This, after being fired from the Puerto Rico national team in 2013, two years into his four-year commitment. Explanation? The federation’s president had a gut feeling that a change was needed. No data or no team progress evaluation/analysis, just...a gut feeling.

Omar Gonzalez, on the other hand, was fired after the second game of the 2013 playoffs from Caciques de Humacao after registering the best record in franchise history. Replaced by who? The owner of the team.

Same thing happened the next year to Carlos Calcaño, who had won the championship the previous season with Piratas de Quebradillas. He was fired after the first game of the playoffs and was also replaced by the owner of the team. (Both decisions ended how everyone expected...immediate elimination).

In Mexico earlier this year, mid-dinner after the draw for the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, a team owner in their national league started to brag about how some years ago he had fired his coach after the second game of the finals. Sergio Hernandez, Argentina national team head coach, was sitting by my side, looked at me and said: “This guys is actually proud of this, he thinks it was a genius move.”

Coaching has come to this, people with no knowledge of the game think they can be better than professionals that have been trained and certified to do the job.

Social media has put this general attitude in full display. These are some of the tweets I found simply by searching the phrase “I can coach better than”:

That last tweet and sentiment is what got me thinking about the coach situation in this “selfie” generation. I knew people were going to use this to point to how anyone could be a coach. It is a shame, because watching the Warriors-Clippers game in which Golden State came back from a 20-point deficit to win, it was apparent that Luke Walton was actually doing a superb coaching job. Yes, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were being amazing in the court but Walton remained calm when the team was being blown out and was impeccable in his substitution pattern throughout the game. He was really good. 

But of course he did not get the respect he deserved. The “sofa coaches” still blabbered about how anybody could coach the Warriors, right...from their sofa. They should be allowed to. I would love to see some of these geniuses coaching during a time-out of any professional team. Now, that would be a comedic performance if there ever was one. 

I’ll close by leaving you with one of my favorite one-liner from Rodney Dangerfield: “I tell you, I get no respect. My psychiatrist told me I'm going crazy.  I told him, "If you don't mind, I'd like a second opinion."  He said, "All right. You're ugly too!"

(Oh, that psychiatrist actually sounds like a “selfie” generation member insult-tweeting. I hope they don’t start calling the coaches ugly too...)


William Rosario


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William Rosario

William Rosario

If you want the jet-lagged musings of a guy who spends half the year living basketball in the Americas right there in the organisational trenches of the continent's senior and youth championships, along with the South American and FIBA Americas League, then this column is definitely for you. William Rosario, FIBA Americas Communications Director by day and filmmaker by night (some nights), joins FIBA's team of columnists from around the world to bring you "Somewhere in the Americas".