Losing is a part of sports for everyone, it just happens to happen less frequently for some. Pete Carroll and Steve Kerr are a part of that group. The former is one of three coaches to win championships at the college and NFL levels, and the latter owns eight NBA championship rings as a player and a coach.
But when they fall, they tend to fall hard. Like, face-first-onto-concrete hard.
Carroll and Kerr own arguably three of the five most high-profile defeats of the 21st century -- the first Giants-Patriots Super Bowl and the Kick Six being the others, at least in my mind.
Carroll owns two titles at the college level and one more in the NFL, but he's one Vince Young run and one Russell Wilson pass away from 3-Peteing in college and Re-Peteing in the NFL.
Kerr won three titles in his first four seasons as a coach, but he's one LeBron James block away from being the only coach since Red Auerbach to claim four straight NBA crowns.
As it happens, Carroll and Kerr are killing their quarantine down time by co-hosting a Ringer podcast, Flying Coach. The subject off the podcast is not to share horror stories of devastating losses, but given the pair's shared history it's inevitable the subject would come up. That time arrived in Tuesday's episode.
Carroll started the discussion by saying his 40 years in coaching and his loss in the 2006 Rose Bowl prepared him for the Seahawks' loss to New England in Super Bowl XLIX.
"The game we just played has nothing to do with the next game, unless you let it. And so we have to take the next step with process and intent so we can get right back to the focus that it takes to do your best," Carroll said.
"The years at USC, when we won so much for so long, we were constantly dealing with that. We were constantly involved with accepting the fact that, this is where you are, this is who you are, you're expected to win. We need to do all that it takes and just keep going back to that mentality. I felt pretty prepared, honestly, to deal with it. That's why when we lost the Super Bowl, and the instant that we lost, I had thought about (dealing with disappointment) so many times, it wasn't like it was a new thought. It was, Get ready, because this is coming. All of the grief and everything that went along with that."
Like anything else in coaching, both men said preparing for emotional moments happens long before the moment actually arrives. Carroll recalled the process of moving on from championship victories and losses to be opposite sides of the same leaf. Kerr said that he and his staff remind their players constantly: A) how lucky they all are to play basketball for a living, and B) even still, there's more to life than basketball. They do that so it will sink in in those moments when players really need to hear it.
"One of our tenants as a coaching staff is to always remind the players to have perspective. We're doing that throughout the season. We're reminding them how lucky we are, how much fun it is to compete. It has to remain the same afterwards. For me, we're going to compete, we're going to prepare, we're going to enjoy every second of it, and whatever happens we're going to do it again next year," Kerr said. "The process, the journey itself is what is so enjoyable and ultimately what you're going to take from (the season). We all have trophies at home, but do you really spend a lot of time looking at the ring or do you think about, man, how much fun was that with Marshawn and Russell Wilson and my coaching staff? It's the memories more than the physical mementos for me."
The pair then shared what they said to their teams after each championship loss. Kerr seemed a lot prouder of his message than Carroll did of his.
"You guys had an incredible season, and I couldn't be any more proud of everything you've done. We lost. We got beat. The other team deserved it and give them credit. You still go home, see your family tonight, and the sun comes up tomorrow," Kerr said. We'll take some time off and roll it right back. How lucky are we to be able to do this?"
"The very next thing I can recall is being in the locker room -- I don't remember anything (on the field) -- and trying to make sense that 19 seconds isn't going to define who we are. We've already proven who we are," Carroll said, speaking of the Rose Bowl. "That was the first thought that I had... The next time around, ours was so visible and it was such a crappy way to lose that I knew I was going to have to take it. I was going to have to eat it. There's no way to explain that, so I said this is my fault and I did it... I felt like there was so much hurt that I would be better off to take it than ask somebody else to shoulder it with me. I don't know that that's the best way to do it, but I felt best about that."
"In sort of an ironic way it shows great strength to be able to do that. Nobody has all the answers," Kerr responded. "We'd like to think that we do but, especially in a sporting event, the ball bounces a certain way and there are so many decisions you make, you have to be able to live with a decision. If you look at it and say, 'You know what? That's a decision I'd like to have back,' and you say that, I think a team really respects and appreciates that."