Two recent actions by head coaches in the NFL and NBA (Mike Tomlin of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and Jason Kidd of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets) have resulted in those coaches receiving fines.
In both cases, coaches manipulated their movements in an attempt to benefit their teams.Kidd walked into a player while carrying an open cup of soda, spilling the liquid on the court, delaying the game while he used the time as an undeclared time-out (the Nets had no remaining time-outs).
Tomlin had his back to a runback by a Baltimore Ravens player and strolled into the path of the previously unimpeded player, altering the runner’s forward progress before the runner was tackled by a Pittsburgh defender.
While both these coaches should be admonished for their gamesmanship, the actions were entertaining and a reminder why many in society watch sports. The strategies were entertaining and, fortunately, did not affect the outcomes of both contests (both the Nets and Steelers lost). When a coach becomes directly involved in the action, that in and of itself is news.
These actions were not Woody Hayes-ish. Many may still recall Woody Hayes, head coach of football at Ohio State, attacking Charlie Bauman, a Clemson linebacker, during the 1978 Orange Bowl in a fit of rage. Both Tomlin and Kidd appeared to be much more in control than Hayes during each coach’s action.
The actions of Kidd and Tomlin are much more meditated, yet perhaps much more forgivable (although fines were understandably issued).
The old adage, it’s how you play the game, generally does not apply directly to coaches yet Kidd and Tomlin are still playing a game – if not gaming a play.
Dr. William Steffen is the Chair of Sport Coaching at the United States Sports Academy. He was formerly the women’s soccer coach for nine years at the University of Oregon. He has also worked with members of the national women’s program. He has written and lectured extensively on coaching soccer. He most recently presented at the annual meeting of the National Soccer Coaches Association of American (NSCAA).