Dairy of a bad coach…and even this guy has his defenders


1 Response to “Dairy of a bad coach…and even this guy has his defenders”

  1. December 1, 2009 at 6:22 PM

    BYLINE: Vahe Gregorian • vgregorian@post-dispatch.com, 314-340-8199

    Is Kansas coach Mark Mangino a mean-spirited bully or just a hard-nosed coach seeking ways to motivate players and under scrutiny simply because his team now is losing?

    To some degree, anyway, the answer is in the eye of the beholder and ranges from accusations that KU is on a “witch hunt” to allegations Mangino makes a habit of inflicting emotional abuse on players.

    Staying out of the discussion is Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel, who since Kansas last week began an investigation of Mangino’s conduct has deflected questions even remotely related to the matter.

    Whether asked about how KU might respond when the teams meet Saturday or more broadly about his own philosophy on the treatment of players, Pinkel hasn’t been lured in.

    “Mark’s a friend, and he’s a colleague,” Pinkel said. “And I just don’t think it’s appropriate to comment in any way on that.”

    After all, he said, he has no reference points on any program but his own.

    Left unsaid but true, virtually any statement Pinkel might now make about his own outlook on verbally or physically abusing players – as Mangino has been accused of – would smack of rubbing Mangino’s face in it.

    (For the record, though, here’s what Pinkel said at a Missouri high school coaches’ clinic in Jefferson City in 2001: “We never make fun of a player. … We do not ever grab a player. Real simple … You do that right now, you’ll be on the front page of the paper. You’ll go to prison, OK? You can’t touch players. You can’t ever, ever touch a player.”)

    >From a purely practical standpoint, Pinkel is wise to stay above the fray – even if it might be interesting to hear him express his inner thoughts the way filter-free Texas Tech coach Mike Leach does.

    Some see a yellow light and down-shift. Some accelerate, as Leach is prone to do … and perhaps all the more so when it came to Mangino, with whom he worked at Oklahoma in 1999.

    Leach defends mangino

    Asked whether KU’s investigation of Mangino might give pause to coaches in how they treat players, Leach put the pedal to the metal.

    “My suspicion is – and nobody truly knows what went on in Kansas – but my suspicion is Mark is in the middle of a witch hunt, which is unjustified,” he said in this week’s Big 12 media teleconference.

    Never mind the inherent contradiction of noting he doesn’t know what’s happening at KU and suggesting it’s a witch hunt.

    Leach soon moved into more thought-provoking territory about the perhaps-fine line between abuse and discipline.

    “Heaven forbid somebody should ask a guy to pay attention, focus in and for the sake of all his teammates and coaches and everybody else, pay attention,” he said. “Well, there’s different ways to ask a guy to do that. Sometimes after you’ve asked him a number of times, you raise the bar.”

    In Leach’s case, that’s meant everything from banning the use of Twitter to ripping his players’ complacency for listening to their “fat little girlfriends” tell them how great they are to making receiver Ed Britton sit at a desk on the double-T at midfield of Jones Stadium during spring practice … amid 30-degree weather and snow flurries as punishment for skipping classes.

    If that didn’t set Britton straight, Leach matter-of-factly told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal at the time, “Then that will be the last we ever hear of Easy Ed.”

    Britton ultimately appeased Leach and has 30 catches this season. While he wasn’t an Academic All-Big 12 selection, nine other Red Raiders were – suggesting Leach’s efforts to emphasize academics are working.

    Accusations emerge

    Mangino is accused of poking a player in the chest this season and using verbal dress-downs of players before teammates loaded with personal and sometimes confidential information.

    At least two former KU players recalled a taunt directed at a player who had shared with Mangino that his father was an alcoholic.

    So what, Leach seems to be saying.

    “The interesting thing to me in all this murmuring (is that it) went from, ‘He hit some guy in the face,’ to, ‘Well, he didn’t even touch anybody but he just said mean things to him,’ ” Leach said.

    That wasn’t quite an accurate portrayal (nothing has emerged that says the player wasn’t poked), but it led to Leach’s ultimate point.

    “The mean man told some player something he didn’t want to hear,'” he said. “Well, there’s a mean man in Lubbock who tells people stuff they don’t want to hear, too. And (that’s) just part of (the job).”

    Like any sharp debater, Leach is stretching his point to snapping and maybe beyond.

    Is Bad record to blame?

    But even if “witch hunt” seems strong, even if it appears Mangino has had “mean man” moments, it’s also true that Mangino’s temper issues have been documented over the last few years but weren’t explored deeper by the KU administration or reported by players when Kansas was 12-1 in 2007 or 8-5 last season.

    That makes for another point of debate:

    Is it just coincidence that the investigation is emerging as the Jayhawks have lost six in a row, perhaps helping Kansas find a way to save some money by firing Mangino for cause?

    Just as plausibly, though, might former players have waited until now to speak simply because they felt intimidated while there and didn’t want to make trouble while Kansas was succeeding as never before?

    Whatever the truth, whatever happens with Mangino’s job, the case will make fodder for panel discussions and dissertations on the modern limits of how far coaches can go.

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