A Quick Follow-up Note on "the Great Man Theory" of Coaching

So earlier this summer, when UNC suddenly fired Butch Davis, I mentioned how UCLA dodged a bullet. In that post I referenced a specific  post from Paul Wadlington (from the great Texas blog Barking Carnival) entitled "Chris Peterson, Brad Stevens and the Great Man Theory of Coaching". Here is quick look at Wadlington's theory:

"Can you imagine what Chris Petersen would do with our talent on offense?"

(Finishes beer. Attacks peanut bowl)

"Please imagine what Brad Stevens would do with our lottery picks."

(Posts reply. Scans basement walls)

The logic - promulgated by a media beguiled by the Great Man Theory of Coaching -- is persuasive: just hire the coach and you get their program. Add the Butler/Boise Way to the superior resources and prestige of a name program, give them elite athletes to coach instead of overachieving scrappers, and the trophy case will be bursting with hardware. It's little wonder that Brad Stevens and Chris Petersen are the two most coveted coaching candidates in collegiate athletics.

Except that it hasn't worked. When Boise and Butler lose their sought after head coaches, their teams get better. And the big name programs that take those coaches almost always get worse. These are inconvenient, if incomplete, data points. They merit exploration.

It looks like Jon Wilner also indirectly referenced that theory while discussing the vacancy at Arizona:

[S]houldn't the failure of Dan Hawkins at Colorado - and Dirk Koetter at ASU, to a slightly lesser extent - make AQ conference athletic directors pause for a nanosecond before they open the vault for Petersen?

(Heck, look at Kyle Wittingham, who's a quality coach by any measure. He won 9+ games four years in a row at Utah ... and then along came the Pac-12.

(One thing people forget: The AQ leagues don't only have better players. They have better coaches, too.)

It's something we should keep in mind here on BN as well.


This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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