Basketball players and their coaches have two kinds of relationships:
Blissful and symbiotic –
DOC: I love you guys. PAUL: I still don’t know what ubuntu means. KG: One day, when you’re coaching a different team, I’m going to say some unforgivable things to you and your players. I love you, but I’m a sociopath.
Or nasty and toxic –
I love how nobody on the sidelines even reacts to the coach executing a running kick on a player. Just another day at practice!
I know players who loved their coaches, and players who wouldn’t have helped their coaches if they’d found them trapped in a burning car. There’s not really an in-between. It’s a love/hate thing, in my experience.
I thought it’d be interesting to look back on a time in my life when I was convinced my old college coach, Tommy Amaker, was a sadistic person. I truly believed that he was determined to ruin my life and drain me of every last vestige of enjoyment that I could get out of basketball. This should offer a glimpse into the psyche of a college athlete, and allow you to understand how nuanced player-coach relationships can be.
For some context, know that I used to be incredibly bitter regarding stuff that happened in my college basketball career. The more time that passes, and the further I get from the world of organized spots, the more I realize that I was way too myopic/intense/obsessive when it came to basketball. I’m proud of how hard I worked, but holy shit do I wish I could go back in time and swap out a few lifting sessions for some quality time with a therapist. Six-foot-nothing Jewish kids from the suburbs should be thrilled just to be playing college basketball, let alone starting for an Ivy League team.
Also, for what it’s worth, Coach Amaker and I are on great terms these days. I will always be grateful that he took the time to give me a solid recommendation to my team owner during my second year abroad.
So, after my sophomore year of college, the team was summoned to the locker room for a meeting with Frank Sullivan, our head coach at the time. We filed into the locker room and sat in folding chairs while Coach Sullivan paced back and forth, rocking a tight leather jacket. We knew something was up, since he normally wore the same four shirts. Either he was having a three-quarter life crisis and was inviting us on a ride with his new motorcycle gang, or he was no longer a part of the program, and thus no longer gave a shit what he wore. Turned out to be the latter. He told us that the athletic director was letting him go.
As much as that must have sucked for Coach Sullivan, I was excited. Our team was pretty terrible, and I thought some new blood would be good for the program.
To be clear, I never asked for Coach Sullivan to be fired. I didn’t have that power anyway. I was the third fiddle on a team that just finished at the bottom of the standings. It wouldn’t have been like MJ demanding that Doug Collins be ousted.
Doug: “You’ve gotta pass the ball to Brad Sellers!” MJ: “…”