The good thing about coaching in the SEC is that every win is massive. The bad thing about coaching in the SEC is that every loss is bigger. In four seasons as Auburn’s head coach, Gus Malzahn has been on both ends of each extreme enough times to call himself a tried and true SEC veteran at this point. At 35-18 overall and 18-14 in the SEC, he’s won the conference in a year no one expected (2013) and finished last in his division in a year he was expected to win the conference (2015). He’s enjoyed thrilling wins (the 2013 Iron Bowl comes to mind) and gutting losses (ditto the 2013 national championship game).
In an interview with the Ronnie Floyd podcast, Malzahn shared the first thing that comes to his mind when moving his team and his staff forward after a loss.
“It starts with you as a leader, putting your big boy pants on and being an example. I think it’s really important to be that example for your staff first because after a big loss that’s the first thing on my mind,” he said. “I’ve got to find a way to motivate my staff because they’re going to be the ones that the players are going to see.
“And then you’ve got to find a way to motivate your players I think the big key is putting the disappointment behind you. Sometimes you’ve got to readjust your goals, but you’ve got to be all in. It all starts with me.”
The process, Malzahn said, begins immediately after he steps off the turf.
“You’ve got have the wisdom and understand what you need to say to your team after the game. And then you go into the media room and you’ve got to be really thinking through the messaging as far as that goes,” he said. “Then you go home, and that’s usually when I’ve got time to sit and reflect back and look at it just from a big picture standpoint. I’ll sleep on it, I’ll wake up that morning and I’m on go. I’ve got my plan of how I’m going to address our staff, address our team and not look back.”
Just because moving on from a loss is challenging, Malzahn added, doesn’t make putting a win to bed easy. In fact, he said it’s actually more difficult in some ways.
“Sometimes when you get on a roll and you’re winning a lot your antenna’s got to be up even more than a loss,” he said. “You’ve got to find a way to motivate your team. I remember in 2013 when we won the Iron Bowl the way we did, there was a lot of distractions. They were good distractions but we had the SEC Championship the next week and every time you turn on a TV there was a showing of Chris Davis running back. We turned off every TV in our complex, we turned off everything that didn’t have anything to do with our SEC Championship. Sometimes the winning is also a challenge.”