"Coach Howland with a few words for Drew Gordon" - insomniacslounge (flickr)
A guest blog post from Bruin Blue. With his permission we are publishing this post which also went up on Bruin Report Online. GO BRUINS. -N
That of course is what Gordon said about his team last year. "[W]e just don't have enough heart." And what did he mean by that? What is "heart" to Drew Gordon? Playing hard? Doing everything you can to win? Fighting through adversity? He must have meant something like that. Of course, we are not used to seeing a player say something like that about his own team, particularly a freshman who was on a team dominated by seniors who had gone to the FInal Four two or three times. But Gordon decided that they had no heart, and was helpful enough to tell that to someone in the media. I'm sure his teammates appreciated it.
At the time, it seemed like maybe Gordon was a hard-trying player who was so bitterly disappointed at a couple of mid-season losses, that he was just venting out of frustration. But later evidence seems to indicate that Gordon wasn't including himself in that harsh criticism, but was directing it at the players who were playing ahead of him. They had no heart, Gordon believed. When he got in there, he would show us some heart.
Well, this year, he got his chance. He even broke into the starting lineup. He was playing quite a few minutes, doing pretty well, particularly compared to some of the others. But he apparently vehemently disliked the way he was utilized. The specifics are not certain, but probably he didn't like being used at the center spot, thinking that as a sophomore, he deserved to start at the "4," even though I personally have never seen him make a shot over eight feet. Maybe the offensive style utilized by his coach was not to his fancy. Maybe he didn't like to ever be taken out of games, particularly when the coach thought he had made a mistake or two or three. Even though of course the coach took other players out for the same reason, and Gordon was never benched for any extended period.
So Gordon didn't like these things, and he let the coach know about it, right in front of other players. He disrupted practices, muttered profanities at the coach during games. When the coach finally reacted by suspending him for two practices, he and his family decided that, seven games into his sophomore season, he was through. Done. Walked away from his team, his teammates, the program. Not to his liking, you see. He shouldn't have to put up; with not playing the position he wanted to play. He shouldn't have to do what the coaches say, in practice, or in games. He shouldn't have to show respect for the coach, the program, the university, in front of the rest of his team. Why should he? He is Drew Gordon, and he'll do exactly what he wants to do, or he's blowing this scene. "Later, homies," as he apparently wrote on his Facebook or Twitter page.
Of course, I'm entitled to an opinion, too, And mine is that Drew Gordon has no heart. Heart would be doing your very best all season, trying your hardest to help the team win, rooting for your teammates when you are not in there. Realizing that this particular team is not as strong as we all would like, and everyone has to follow the gameplan, listen to the coaches, support their other teammates. Not walk out on all of them because you weren't getting what you wanted, seven games into your sophomore season. Those teammates, they all had their goals, too, individual and team. They all wanted to win, to have a good season. That''s what being a team is--everyone trying to sublimate their own goals to that of the team. Apparently Gordon didn't think that his head coach, who has been coach of the year in three conferences, who has two Sweet Sixteens and three Final Fours in ten years at two major programs he had to rebuild, knew what he was doing. At least Gordon wasn't about to listen to him, or put up with the coach's way of running things. So he left, seven games in. And someone who does that has no heart.
Fortunately for Gordon, the way that the world, and particularly basketball, works these days, is that if you have enough physical talent, you can get away with just about anything. You can be a semi-reformed gangbanger, you can choke your coach, you can father twelve children out of wedlock, you can insult the fans, go into the stands and start attacking them. You can do just about anything. The world is all about you--if you've got the physical goods. And if you do, you get untold riches; lots of money, lots of women, lots of free time. You don't even have to play that hard in the NBA, during the regular season; very few do. So when you have a chance to get that rich, to make it in that way, many people deem it acceptable to put yourself far above anyone else; to push anyone aside in order to make it to the big payoff. And if that means having your parents make comments about how you just didn't like the style your coach played, comments that will undoubtedly damage him and his program, that's just the way it is played these days. And when you walk away from your team, which needed you, that's just what a guy has to do, if he wants to get into the NBA good life. I realize that you are not the first one to follow that creed, although you are about the first one I've seen who walked out on his team seven games into his sophomore season, a season in which he was a starter. But it's a lousy creed, an incredibly selfish one, and I am old-fashioned enough not to buy into any of it.
The man who made this basketball program, the living legend whom the court you have finished playing on is named after, would have seen you for what you were. He wouldn't have tried to ruin your life, he would have let you leave if you chose, because it is your right. But I doubt that you would have ever been recruited by him, because he wanted players with the right attitude, every bit as much as skill. Players who think team first, self second. Players who respect their coach and teammates, and do not let them down seven games into a season. Players who don't hide behind their parents' excuses and thinly veiled condemnations of the coach and program, while they eagerly look forward to going to another program where they might get their own way. Players who act like men, even at a young college age. Players who have heart.