Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.

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The true test of a coach

Q: University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, who was just voted ACC Coach of the Year, gets so frenzied during games that he sweats through his suits. How does that arm-waving, finger-jabbing style contribute to his team's success? And why do other successful coaches pride themselves on their composure?

The truth is that there is no right or wrong way as far as coaching styles are concerned.

Some do it quietly, as in the case of the great UCLA coach John Wooden. Others walk the sidelines with a white towel across a shoulder, as did Georgetown's John Thompson, while some sweat through their suits, like Mr.Williams.

It is a fact that winning is very important in collegiate sports by virtue of hugely expensive arenas and media contracts. The end result is substantial improvement to the bottom line of the involved universities -- not to mention the status and the financial rewards afforded the coaches and the athletic directors.

As we get caught up in the middle of coaching styles we often forget that the real emphasis should be on the education and preparation for the future of the involved student-athletes.

Sports, as we are told, are a great teacher of leadership and team play. I wish we could find out what has happened to the last 100 or so young men and women who have played under the "leadership" of these big-time successful coaches. These student-athletes put out great efforts to make the school and the coaches successful.

The bar by which we should measure the greatness of the coach or the school would be to see just how many of these young men and women they have actually helped to find a better way of life. Too often we rate the coaches by the number of players that turned professional under their leadership, but far more of these student athletes became just regular citizens in communities across this country. Where are they now?

By Cleve Francis  |  March 15, 2010; 12:01 AM ET  | Category:  coaching Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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on 3/16, Grievis Vazquez said "I wish I could play for him 20 more years. He inspires me," Vasquez said. "We talk almost everyday _ about the NBA, different stuff about life. I have no words to describe how happy I am to be here and to be here for four years.

"Coach Williams, he's one of my heroes."
He is graduating, he seems very happy with his experience, I would say that is a success for both him and for Gary.

Posted by: didnik | March 16, 2010 7:38 PM
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Why? Why is a basketball coach responsible for other aspects of a student's life? Why isn't a cardiologist responsible for the quality of life of his patients, after they've received treatment? Those patients ensure the success of a team of cardiologists, by forking over huge dough and representing feathers in the hats of successful surgeons. Do you make sure that your patients lives are otherwise "in order?" That their marriages are stable, that they're pursuing fulfilling careers, that their wills have been reviewed?
And what's wrong with someone entering college just to study basketball, or any other athletic discipline. Why is that any less legitimate than a major in "American Studies"? How many students with those majors will be working in their particular "field" in 4 years or 10? I think the idea that a basketball coach should somehow be responsible for an individual's various life choices, is ridiculous.

Posted by: FredAlbert | March 15, 2010 1:50 PM
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Excellent answer. College sports has always be a connundrum. What is more important education or entertainment? I think we are still working on that answer.

Posted by: jnaway | March 15, 2010 1:50 PM
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My friend's son went to GMU and I have the highest respect for Coach Larranega after his experience there.
I would also say that we only see Gary during games. I don't know anyone who has played for him at UMD, so I don't know what his demeanor is during practice or how he relates to the players off court.

Posted by: didnik | March 15, 2010 1:48 PM
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While I agree with you, I don't think you answered the question properly.

Please rephrase your answer. :P

Posted by: rmcazz | March 15, 2010 1:00 PM
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Couldn't agree more. College has very little to do with college basketball much of the time.

Posted by: acebojangles | March 15, 2010 11:45 AM
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John Wooden, perhaps? John Wooton isn't someone I'm familiar with. Face it, universities recruit players to win games, not to educate them. Even the media plays along. If a regular student leave school before graduation they are dropping out. If an athlete does, they're foregoing a year of eligibility.

Posted by: Sutter | March 15, 2010 11:26 AM
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