Columns » John Brummett

Coaching 101

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Here's a memo from a former fan who could become one again. It's to the next University of Arkansas head football coach.

Do not hire any kinfolks.

Make sure your friends understand that they must never send any hateful e-mails to any of your players.

Make sure your wife understands that you treasure her loving loyalty to you, but that she must never sit down before a computer keyboard while angry.

Do not whine that you never get to play Vanderbilt to pick up that easy victory. For goodness sakes, don't then get beat by Vanderbilt.

Hire the best offensive and defensive coordinators you can find, then delegate to them and never, ever let your ego get in the way.

Think about old Frank Broyles. In his coaching heyday, the smart rascal surrounded himself with assistants who were so ambitious and so good that, in two years' time, they'd all be head coaches somewhere else.

When you lose, blame only yourself and praise the other team. When you win, be gracious and act as if you've won before. Do not cry, win or lose.

If you are prone to some sort of brain chemical explosions, take medicine. When the national media come around, promote your players, not yourself.

Keep your pre-game exhortations to your players between you and those players, because that's the essential relationship, the vital intimacy. Tell CBS on the Fridays after Thanksgiving that your pre-game speech is for and about the players, not for their cameras and not ever, ever about you.

For that matter, make everything about the players and the fans, and nothing about you. Be satisfied with your own riches and fame in a field that, in the end, is but a game.

Make no excuses. Do not rationalize that you're going to lose some games because you're in a tough conference and, well, Arkansas is just not quite big enough to do much better than 8-4 or 9-3 regularly against those Floridas and Tennessees and LSUs and Georgias.

Be aware that you coach the 15th most financially rich college football team in the country, according to Forbes. So, at the least, we expect you to end the season ranked no lower than 15th. That's where you start, OK? We don't over-emphasize football around here so we can be mediocre.

That's not to say we won't cut a tad of slack your first year, since the boy before you left the cupboard pretty bare. But we'll make that excuse, OK? You don't get to make it.

And if coaching is about player development, and if you're any good, then you ought to take what you've got and make the most of it. We expect to win one or two next year that we shouldn't.

Do not whine that the academic standards are too stringent and the facilities subpar.

Do not come here as a running coach. Do not come here as a passing coach. Come here as someone committed to both means of assault and to developing such a balance that a defense never knows what to expect.

Understand that fans know diddly about formations and such. But we can read scoreboards. Understand that we only gripe about formations and play selection when the scoreboard isn't right.

Get these young men to class. Get them into study halls. Get them tutors. Try your best to keep them out of trouble, though, of course, no collection of 19-year-old men will be without the misguided incident here and there. When that happens, remember these words: tough love.

And when you get criticized, as you will, dismiss the criticism authoritatively when that's appropriate, be responsible and responsive when that's appropriate, and be always respectful of individuals and their rights to say what they choose.

You will be iconized. You will be glorified. You will be exalted. You will be extolled. You will be enriched. You will be envied. You will be vilified.

Do not bother coming here if you can't keep an even keel through all that.

Remember: Becoming a millionaire over kids' ballgames — that's a good thing.

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