Tom Crean is out of basketball this year, his first year away from the game since the first time he was in the game. Except, saying he's away from the game isn't exactly right. From shortly after he was dismissed at Indiana last month, Crean has spent as much time as he can up close with the game of basketball, and the game of baseball, and the game of football.
Crean penned a first-person diary chronicling his year-in-residence as a coaching student for Sports Illustrated. It's packed full of good anecdotes, but I wanted to settle in on one in particular.
In August, Crean posted up at a basketball camp for NBA players in Las Vegas, run by 75-year-old trainer Tim Grgurich. It's in the downtime after the completion of the Summer League and the opening of training camp, so it's mostly young players trying to gear up for the season. It's also a pre-training camp for coaches as well, but one that's closed to college coaches, so the 2017 edition was the first time Crean got to peek behind the curtain.
And in that trip Crean says he got to see something he didn't expect, but something he'll carry with him at his next coaching stop -- wherever that is.
On the first day of camp, the players were stretching. Gurg didn’t like the energy he was seeing. (Or not seeing.) So he singled out one player, Frank Mason III. Gurg is 75. Frank Mason had just finished at Kansas, he’s the reigning Player of the Year and was drafted by the Kings. Yet Gurg gets on him for his lack of leadership, really putting him on the spot.
He didn’t do it to embarrass Mason. He did it to make a point. And he didn’t pick Mason at random; he knew he had thick skin. He also knew that Mason was headed to a team where his leadership skills would be important.
Leaders—including coaches—don’t always think this through. When you make an example out of someone or something, you need to be judicious. Pick someone who can handle it, someone who will benefit from the lesson. This was perfect.
When singling out a player to "send a message" to the rest of the team, make sure it's a player who will actually be receptive of that message.