Tuesday, February 16, 2016


For some reason I suspect that if Bruiser Flint and I got to know each other we would be good friends. Or at least I would find him to be someone for whom I would have respect.  I can't pinpoint why I feel this way. Maybe I heard him interviewed at some point, or he was a guest commentator on a game.  But there is something about the little I know about him that makes me think he is a class act.

I think Bruiser Flint will get fired soon from his position as head coach at Drexel. The team has won only three games this season, and in the Colonial Athletic Conference--their league-- they have only been victorious once.  A few years ago Drexel was 29 and 7.  They did not get a bid to the big dance that year and this decision was a crime.  Drexel did not get the automatic bid when they lost in the championship game of the CAA tournament to a very strong Virginia Commonwealth University team.  I had watched them play during the season and they were terrific.  Drexel did win its first two rounds of the NIT that post season before succumbing to the University of Massachusetts in the quarterfinals. Still not getting to the big dance must have been a disappointment.

I saw Drexel play last Saturday against my university, Northeastern.  Drexel lost by 10 for their umpteenth straight defeat.  I was seated right behind the Northeastern bench, and just a few feet from the Drexel coaches as well.

I am reading a book now that is in part about employee motivation.  The section I just read is about what motivates people to excel--specifically whether negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement is motivating.  If someone criticizes you, are you likely to work harder to gain their respect, or if someone tells you that you are doing well, will that be a catalyst for better performance.

The book does not just speak about managerial factors.  Does one's failure make one want to do better or will it just be deflating; will success make you want to be even more successful or result in you becoming complacent.  In sports terms, will a great shooting basketball game encourage you to practice more to get even better, or will a lousy shooting game make you grab the ball and head to the gym to improve.

I was thinking about Bruiser along these lines even before I read the section in the book. But when I read these pages, it reminded me that I wanted to post this blog.

On Saturday, no matter what his Drexel players did, Bruiser was upset.  He was furious at bad plays (even when to me--a harsh critic often--the players did not do something so terrible).  He yanked players out when they made mistakes and was in the face of the exiting miscreants as they came to the bench.  Bruiser was on his feet for what seemed like 80 per cent of the game. And for a 100 percent of that time he was complaining about one thing or the other.

It seemed to me that his players were trying very hard. And they made some excellent defensive plays and strong offensive ones as well. They could not hit a foul shot with a gun to their heads, making less than 50% of the free shots. I haven't picked up a basketball in years and I know I could hit 75% right now.  But it was not the missed free throws that angered Flint especially, it was everything else.  Even after his team made a terrific play, the first thing he did was scream at them to get back on defense or excoriate a player for not getting in position for a press faster than a speeding bullet.  I remember thinking that I wonder if in practice he is a little more gentle. I hope so for his health as well as his players.  There was nothing, but nothing, his team could do right and they were working hard.

I don't know if the ten point loss would have been twenty had he not been so hard on his players, I did think that it would not be a whole lot of fun to play for Drexel at least on Saturday.  For what it is worth, I prefer Bruiser's style than that of the coaches who blow kisses on their players when they are lazier than lazy.  A particular pet peeve is when I see coaches clap or teammates give "skin" (that is what it was called in my day) when a scholarship athlete MISSES a foul shot.  If I was a coach I would prohibit that. A guy misses a foul shot, you do not give him skin. Points matter in games. Free throws are, go figure, free. Nobody is guarding you.  If you are getting paid a gazillion dollars a year in the professional ranks, or getting a 50,000 dollar education per year, or 200,000 dollar opportunity for a free degree (more if you count books), then you damn well better practice so you can hit 4 out of 5 free throws.

So, I am not a fan of coddling coaches, but there is an in-between.  Just like in the workplace, if your boss passed out lollypops to people who did not do a damn thing more than the minimum, it would demotivate those who worked hard.   But if all your boss did was tell you how lame you were, it is unlikely you'd wake up in the morning with a bounce to your step ready to meet the Czar when you punched in.

I feel for Bruiser.  He is still a relatively young man, but not a spring Chicken at 50.  I think he needs a new venue.  His 2011-2012 team was great and his teams can be great again, but an attaboy now and again would not be a bad idea.

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