Coaching Outbursts: What’s the Use in 2013?

Some sports diatribes are worthy of jail time (Bob Knight). Others make you sorry for a viralized-for-life victim (the reporter admonished by Ryan Leaf). Other rants are creepy (the Coastal Carolina football coach who said he needed fewer “meows” and more dogs), foolish (Dennis Green telling us to “crown their ass”) or petulant (Mike Gundy telling a reporter picking on a college player to “Come after me! I’m a man! I’m 40!”).

All are forms of temporary insanity. They happen, they spread on social media, they lead to rampant reaction and smart-ass cracks in the comments section, and then they die until another happens and they’re replayed in self-perpetuating nauseum. To this list, add Barry Hinson.

He would be the Southern Illinois basketball coach who described his players as “a bunch of mama’s boys,” compared them to puppies who need to be housebroken and invoked his poor wife in discussing the meek play of his forwards: “My wife — my wife! — can score more than two buckets on 11 shots because I know my wife will at least shot fake one time. … I’ve been telling my wife this for years: Size doesn’t matter.”

To which senior center Davante Drinkard responded on his Twitter feed, before the tweet was removed and his account was suspended: “I can’t believe the little man had the nerve to call us mama’s boys. Smh. I guess this is where Our team learns to point the finger.” So much for Hinson’s verbal methods resonating.

“They won’t let me coach them,” he began. “Any time I coach somebody, they put their head down. We’re soft. We’ve been enabled for whatever reason. I got a bunch of mama’s boys right now. And we just won’t buck up and bow our necks, and we’ve got to get through that.

“I’m tired of coaching a guy and having him roll his eyes, or put his head down or feel sorry for himself. I’m tired of that. This is big time. … We’ve got men and women serving our country. They don’t get to take days off. We’re going to college and getting it paid for.”

He was just getting started, invoking the name of point guard Marcus Fillyaw. “Marcus was absolutely awful,” Hinson said. “That’s about as PG-rated as I can say it. He was awful. Our guards were awful. Our three starting guards had one assist and seven turnovers. They must think it’s a tax credit. It’s unbelievable how our starting guards played.

“We made three turnovers tonight where we just came down and threw them the ball. I swear I thought one time that one of our players said, `Merry Christmas.’ ”

And then, he went bow-wow: “To me, when you’ve got a young team, it’s a lot like house training a puppy dog. You know what, when the dog does something wrong, `Bad dog.’ Well, I’m not going to hit ‘em. I’m not going to swat ‘em. But, `Bad dog, get on the treadmill.’ That’s probably what we need to do.”

Bad dog, get on the treadmill. It’s a t-shirt slogan, a rap line, a meme. And while I found myself laughing because I was utterly embarassed for Hinson and a university that always has derived much of its identity from its basketball program, I also know it’s not funny to the players and their parents. A coach with winning credibility can get away with a comedy show, but Hinson’s recent ledger hardly screams of big success. He was fired as coach at Missouri State in 2008 and spent the last four years on Bill Self’s staff at Kansas before taking over a Southern Illinois program mired in academic problems. He did boast the highest academic-progress rate in the Missouri Valley Conference while at Missouri State, which impressed the Southern Illinois people.

But for a man who prioritizes education, Henson sure didn’t look very smart behind the microphone. Nor was he particularly contrite the next day, admitting only one mistake on his Twitter feed: “It was wrong of me to single out a specific player. I apologized to Marcus and team. I stand by the rest of my comments. Go Dawgs!”

Hinson’s comments are critical of more than basketball issues. He ridicules his players as being dumb and cowardly and reduces them to the level of dogs. He is doing a standup act at their expense and blaming them entirely for the Salukis’ failures, refusing to accept any responsibility himself for a 2-8 team that finished 14-17 last season.

The question is what’s right and what’s wrong. How do we coach athletes, teach young men, coax them to pay attention and heed lessons? Knight’s methods wouldn’t work in 2014. You saw what happened to Mike Rice when he threw basketballs at his Rutgers players while unloading verbal torture in their faces and hurling insults. Frank Martin screams at South Carolina, and, yes, he’s always one outburst away from a viral moment.

What every coach should ask is whether the rant resonates. Mike Krzyzewski and Self would say it only resonates behind the scenes, where no one is humiliated. Barry Hinson embarrassed his players, his university and, ultimately, himself.

Check back in March. This will not end well.

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