Not as easy as it looks

Disclaimer: The following sports column does not reflect the opinions of Camden News. Secondly, this column is not meant to imply any mishandlings within any local sports programs.

There was nothing better than playing my Sega Genesis on Sundays after church. Outside of Mortal Kombat, Madden, Shaq Fu and Streets of Rage, my favorite game was NBA Live 95. The game was so easy to control. One button to pass, one button to shoot and another button to jump. Besides being able to create a player, you could trade players when you were in season mode. I cant remember my starting line up but I do remember my Seattle Supersonics team being pretty stacked.

A few years later the PlayStation came out and so came changes to the game. Not sure which NBA Live year it was, but I was pretty heartbroken when I attempted to trade Ray Allen for Vince Carter and it was denied because of a new factor called the salary cap. Not only that but I had to find a coach, a GM and even pick their priorities - winning, business or being a disciplinarian. That added a lot to the game and overtime I did come to enjoy it. But sheesh, why couldn't it be so easy like it was in the beginning? Why were there so many factors to consider now and why was I spending late nights pulling my hair out trying to build an ultimate franchise.... on a video game?

In real life, it has to be 20 times worse. As a former sports editor I've witnessed every school I cover go through a coaching change in every sport. I actually tallied up the major sports and between three school districts I've covered 8 different head football coaches, 12 different head basketball coaches, 5 different baseball coaches and 5 different softball coaches in just seven years. I've been able to witness the Athletic Directors, School Boards and Booster Programs work their hardest to find the right person for the job. And every time after a hire, I've heard a fan or two say "they could've gotten someone better."

The point of this column is to break down what "someone better" actually means. Did the "someone better" even apply for the job? Is the "someone better" actually just better because you know them? Is "someone better" a win-at-all-cost but never prepare students for life after high school type coach? Is "someone better" going to demand you pay them like their Nick Saban? Is "someone better" going to get along with all of the coaches from all of the sports? Will "someone better" be active and actually invest in the community? Will "someone better" know how to encourage student athletes to give their best without belittling them on a personal level or threatening playing time if any other sports becomes a higher priority? How is "someone better"'s management skills and can they operate a budget? Can they adapt, do they really care about the kids, what are their values?

Again, let me emphasize. I'm not saying I've seen it happen here, and if I'm being honest 90 percent of those 30 new head coaches have been good people and were a pleasure to work with. But I am saying there are hundreds of incidents around the country where "someone better" actually ended up being worse in hindsight.

I wasn't born yet but I'm sure people thought there was "someone better" than Nolan Richardson after he went 12-16 his first year, but three final fours and a National Championship later, I think he was the right guy for the job. I remember fans being mad when Arkansas selected John Pelphrey after not doing enough to attract Billy Gillespie. Pelphrey didn't turn out the best, but do you remember what Gillespie did to Kentucky? I remember a time when the Knicks were leaning towards hiring Mark Jackson, but Phil Jackson was "someone better." Didn't work out too well. Two years ago Dan Mullen and Mike Leach fit the mold of being "someone better" than Sam Pittman, but are they today? I was a student when Buck James was hired at CF in 2005 and I remember people asking, "Why not Malzahn?"

Becky Hammon is an Olympic gold medalist that went from undrafted to a six time All Star. The first female head coach to win an NBA Summer League title and the only female to act as a head coach in an NBA Game. She's set to be the head coach of the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces but since 2013 she has lost jobs to "someone better" that didn't do too well.

Personally, I was hesitant to slide over from being a county reporter to a sports editor because there was no one "better" than a Lowell Sanders or a Kelly Blair. I read their work for as long as I can remember and still look up to them after my time at Camden News. But thankfully, I was given a chance to make mistakes and eventually do a couple of things right here and there. And honestly, I can already see the things that current Sports Editor Michael Hanick does way better than I did and I think that's pretty cool.

To get back on topic, I'm not saying a coach doesn't deserve criticism because by all means they do. I've found that the good coaches embrace it and use it to get better while other coaches might look to just use it against you.

At the end of the day, "better" is just an opinion. One person is never bigger than the program. Successful coaches will rightfully seek "better" jobs and students will graduate, but the program stays. The program and the student athletes and coaches that make that program at that time deserve your support. Every new coach, teacher, writer, etc. deserves a chance before we decide there's "someone better."

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