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Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Outside the Lines:
Positive Coaching ... Dallas Debate



Here's the transcript from Show 156 of weekly Outside The Lines - Positive Coaching ... Dallas Debate

SUN., MARCH 23, 2003
Host: Bob Ley
Reported by: Tom Farrey, ESPN.com; Ed Werder, ESPN
Guests: Jeff Van Gundy, former head coach, New York Knicks; Dan Dakich, head basketball coach, Bowling Green University.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH - What are you doing?

BOB LEY - In your face. Old school coaches play the role of tough guy.

JERRY SLOAN, UTAH JAZZ HEAD COACH - If you're going to allow people to make mistakes over and over again and compliment them on it, I think you'll get yourself in trouble.

LEY - But others say the positive approach makes the difference.

PHIL JACKSON, LAKERS HEAD COACH - There's a difference between being resilient and still having the will and be destructive.

LEY - Some believe there's actually a formula for coaching success.

JIM THOMPSON, FOUNDER OF "POSITIVE COACHING ALLIANCE" - When coach, teachers, parents, et cetera, get close to that ratio, five positives to one criticism, great things happen.

LEY - Also this week, on a richly international roster; a hotly debated war -- the Dallas Mavericks.

NICK VAN EXEL, GUARD FOR THE DALLAS MAVERICKS - The Americans on the team, we just think like Bush is giving American people a bad name.

LEY - Today on Outside The Lines, a collision of sentiments about the war, and what is the mix that works? How much criticism, how much praise with today's athletes?

LEY - This morning as the war on Iraq continues with the ground advance towards Baghdad and air strikes, sports continues as one of the many prisms through which America view this is conflict. Later in this program, we'll look at the Dallas Mavericks, an NBA franchise with players from six different countries and how their anti-war sentiments and statements are being received.

But we begin at the intersection of mind games and common sense, where a coach works to get the most out of his players. Sports is built on emotion, and memorable coaches are recalled for exhorting the best from their team, challenging players, lighting a fire. How important in the relationship between coach and player is the encouraging word, the positive approach. It seems logical coaches would realize players respond well to such treatment. But in the emotional pressure cooker of sports, with the need to win, encouragement can be relegated to the back seat. Tom Farrey examines whether the positive approach works with youngsters and up to the highest levels of sports.

RHEA TAYLOR, NEW RHODES HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL COACH - Step up, step up, Mike. Right here, two-foot jump shot.

TOM FARREY, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - As coach of the New Rhodes High School basketball team the past two years, Rhea Taylor had a couple of problems. His teams were bad and he made matters worse.

TAYLOR - Hold up.

Two years ago I had a locker room tirade where I was hitting the black board and throwing the water bottle around. I really thought at the time that I was motivating them.

There are a couple of instances where I kind of berated them. You're doing this wrong and you're doing this wrong, and you are doing this wrong, and you need to do this better, and I don't like this about you and I don't like this about you and you need to change this.

FARREY - These in your face coaching techniques are deeply entrenched in the culture of sports. Every sport -- on the pro level...

PAT RILEY, MIAMI HEAT HEAD COACH - I scream like crazy, I scream at officials and I scream at my players.

FARREY - ... the college level -- even the high school level...

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH - You're killing us.

FARREY - ... where coaches often take their cues from those they've watched and played for.

TAYLOR - Way to stay out front, Arthur.

FARREY - Taylor played in college at Santa Clara where Dick Davey, then an assistant and now the head coach, is known for his intensity.

TAYLOR - I really thought, wow, it worked for me, it is going to work for my team as a whole. And that's not the case when you have 12 individuals.

Did you guys get rattled? Did you guys get flustered?

FARREY - This year, Taylor has a new approach. He is more apt to ask than tell.

TAYLOR - You're putting in the work but what are you not doing? What are you not doing. What are you not doing? What do you think you're not doing?

FARREY - He deliberately mixes praise with criticism.

TAYLOR - Put your hands into it. You work hard. You work, you work, you work. You turn in. You telling me you are trying to turn them. Get your hands in here unless you get to dislike it. But good job.

FARREY - And he's added a visual ritual to encourage players not to dwell on mistakes.

TAYLOR - Forget about all the other stuff. Brush it off, move on.

FARREY - Where did Rhea Taylor get these positive coaching ideas? From the Positive Coaching Alliance, a growing nonprofit group based here at Stanford University. Since 1998, the organization has trained more than 25,000 coaches, most of them in youth sports.

THOMPSON - What we're hearing from coaches all over the country is that this stuff works.

FARREY - Former business school lecturer, Jim Thompson, founded the group.

THOMPSON - More and more today, kids are dropping out of sports at an early age before they get the benefit of the life lessons learned from being on a team.

FARREY - Why are they dropping out of sports?

THOMPSON - Well, when kids are asked, almost always they say it's not fun anymore.

When I started coaching my son's team, I just saw a lot of unhappiness. Parents screaming at coaches, coaches screaming at kids, kids crying. And it just doesn't have to be this way.

We can never perform at our best if we don't have somebody pushing us.

FARREY - One of the hallmarks of the PCA training session is what Thompson calls the magic ratio. Coaches are encouraged to, in general, offer their players five supportive comments for every critical remark.

THOMPSON - And it's called a magic ratio because when coaches, teachers, parents, et cetera, get close to that ratio, five positives to one criticism, great things happen. Kids perform in a ways they didn't even think they could.

TAYLOR - Yes! Way to fight back.

I thought it was impossible. I thought it was a great concept. I listened to it. I took it in. But I thought, how in the world am I possibly going to find five positives for every correction or criticism?

But that doesn't mean that I'm going to give up or stop trying, because I have seen the benefits of being positive with them.

FARREY - But can this technique win games on a college and pro level? Many coaches are skeptical.

ROY WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS HEAD COACH - I don't think you can take five guys who can't play and tell them how pretty you are and how great they are and how fast they run and jump and shoot, and put them out there and they are going to win just because of that. If that's the case, then we'll never lose another game because I'll make it more than five to one, it can make it 25 to 1.

SLOAN - You know, basketball is a game of mistakes. If you continue to allow people to make mistakes over and over again and compliment them on it, I think you'll get yourself in trouble.

FARREY - USC coach Henry Bibby believes there's a better way to motivate players.

HENRY BIBBY, USC HEAD COACH - At this stage, you're looking at kids 18 and 19 years old. And I try to go back to the times when I was 18 and 19 years old. Something that was important to me was fear. I had a fear factor of authority. I had a fear factor of not being successful. And I kind of coached that way at times. And I'd break them down and I'd build them back up.

FARREY - What motivates you? Does fear motivate you? Do you play better if you are ...

ERRICK CRAVEN, USC SOPHOMORE GUARD - No, I don't think anybody plays better with fear, because they're always looking behind their back.

FARREY - Errick Craven plays for Bibby at USC. While he disagrees with Bibby on the value of fear, he says he likes playing for his coach.

CRAVEN - Well, it's hard. I'm not saying everything -- me and Bibby have the best relationship all the time. There has been times when he's criticizing him, like, why you always -- you know, why you always criticizing me? But you learn that it's nothing personal, he is just trying to help you.

FARREY - Bibby's is a military philosophy that's been part of coaching for decades.

JACKSON - But I think that we don't need to have a militaristic type of image ahead of us to think that's the style we have to have as coaches. That's not the only style that wins.

NBA BROADCASTER - To the Los Angeles Lakers with their third straight NBA title.

FARREY - Lakers' coach Phil Jackson became the national spokesman for the Positive Coaching Alliance last year after winning the ninth NBA title. He is not paid by the group.

FARREY - Has the magic ratio helped you win championships?

JACKSON - I think the combination of things has. Deep within the NBA heart, there's still some insecurities where they still need to have a lot of compliments about how much they mean for the team, how much their energy is important, and how much they're doing for us.

FARREY - Jackson read about Thompson's five-to-one ratio shortly after taking over the Chicago Bulls in 1989. Back then, Jackson would sometimes berate his players, especially Horace Grant.

JACKSON - Well, he got tired of that role after two years and I can't blame him. As a professional coach where it's your job to kind of do this as opposed to a kid, an amateur at a junior high or the teenage level. I thought if I could screw it up to three-to-one or just one-to-one, I would be doing really a good job just to kind of balance out positive with critical because these guys are very, very good.

DEREK FISHER, LAKERS GUARD - Even in games and also some of the practices where he would like to be able to say something or to be critical, but because of the values of what he believes in the terms of positive coaching, he'll hold back, he'll refrain.

JACKSON - There's a difference between what the term is soft, and there is a difference between being resilient and still having a will, and the players knowing you have a will, and being destructive, and demeaning, and hurtful.

THOMPSON - Where our focus is on high school age and younger; But we find when we talk with college coaches, professional coaches, and we explain what we think youth coaches should be doing, they say two things; they say, yes, that's exactly what these coaches should be doing. And secondly, that's the way they try to coach.

TAYLOR - But let's support one another even if something goes wrong or something goes poorly.

FARREY - Positive coaching is working for Rhea Taylor. Despite a roster with just one big man, New Rhodes made the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Jaguars clenched it with a come-from-behind win in which Taylor kept his cool and his players kept taking chances.

TAYLOR - You guys could have very easily given up when they made that run. But, you know, our conditioning, the way that we work, and the way that we support one another has been peaking and it's getting better each game.

Let's refocus on three ...

NEW RHODES HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PLAYER - One, two, three.

NEW RHODES HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL TEAM - Refocus.

LEY - To consider how far positive coaching goes, we say good morning to Jeff Van Gundy. He was the head coach of the New York Knicks through six seasons and he coached in college as a graduate assistant under Rick Pitino at Providence. He's now an NBA analyst on TNT. And he joins us today from Westchester County, New York. Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF VAN GUNDY, NEW YORK KNICKS HEAD COACH (1996 -2001) - How are you, Bob.

LEY - Just fine. Dan Dakich, he is the head coach at Bowling Green University in Ohio. He played for Bob Knight in the mid 1980's and spent 12 years as an assistant at Indiana University, and he has just completed his sixth season at Bowling Green where he is joining us from this morning. Good morning, Dan.

DAN DAKICH, BOWLING GREEN HEAD COACH - Good morning, Bob.

LEY - Dan, I had a little bit of an unfair advantage. I could watch you watching that story. I could see you had some thoughts forming in your head. What are they?

DAKICH - A couple of things. My first thought was, the guys that you see doing the yelling in the piece -- to open the piece -- coach Knight, John Cheney, Bill Parcells, coach Riley, coach Sloan are very successful guys. And I think -- I equate success a couple of different way, Bob. Obviously they're all successful in terms of championships, one, but I think as far as I can tell as far in every case, they're very successful in terms of how their players feel about them. That was one thought. The other thought was listening to Phil Jackson. And I thought coach Jackson really hit it on the head, where there's a difference, certainly, between being tough, being resilient, and having a will, and being demeaning. I thought it was -- it was very interesting listening to what he had to say.

LEY - Jeff, what application is there, this philosophy in the basketball world that you know?

VAN GUNDY - Well, my feeling when I saw that is that it's a lot easier to be positive when you have Shaq and Kobe and Michael Jordan. I think any coach would be positive on that. But I think particularly what you want to do in coaching is be realistic. I don't think it's about being optimistic or negative, I think it's about being realistic. And I think players at this level, the hype, college player and professional player, want to be told the truth even though the truth at times may hurt. But you have to tell them the truth so that they can progress and help your teams achieve, because as you go along further in coaching, you get more selfishness, that is the norm, and you've got to make players do what they don't want to do, which is be a part of a team and give themselves up for the team so that they can achieve what they want to achieve, which is to win and win championships and get rewarded contractually.

So I think there's many different facets, but I think the main thing is you have to be yourself. You have got to have emotion and passion, but that doesn't mean you cannot be positive. But I don't think you can drive bad teams like you can drive good teams. I think it's much harder to drive a bad team.

LEY - Dan, I've got a piece of tape I would like to play for you. Bob Knight, when he was at Indiana, as you well know, coached a classroom course for several years. And in that vein, he offered these thoughts. Take a listen.

BOB KNIGHT, TEXAS TECH HEAD COACH - Two best teachers, write them down. Give them a couple of minutes, they write them down. So now, beside the two best teachers, write down the two most demanding teachers, the two that made you work the hardest, the two that got the most out of you. The tow that you were scared not to screw up anything with. Same two teachers almost all the time. So kids understand the benefits of demand. They understand the benefits of discipline. But I just don't think there are enough people in society that make demands on kids.

LEY - Dan, you subscribe to that?

DAKICH - You know, I really do. I think that whether it's my own basketball team or kids in the summertime or, we run a kids' league during our basketball season for 10 weeks.

I think kids want to be told what they -- what they're to do. I think kids want to be demanded upon. But they also, I believe, want to be taught. I think you can do anything basically that you want to in coaching as long as, I think as Jeff said, you are who you are. If you try to be somebody else with kids -- coach Knight is a very demanding person. I feel like I'm a very demanding person. If I tried to be somebody else, that wouldn't fly with my team. Because my team expects me, as the head coach, to be demanding and they expect us to try to teach them and call them out, if you will, when they make mistakes.

LEY - Jeff, you talked about telling players the truth.

But aren't there various ways to do that?

VAN GUNDY - Oh, absolutely. There's various ways. But I think even to build off of Dan's point, it starts with competence as a coach. I think coach Riley taught me this a long time ago. You need to be competent, sincere, reliable and trustworthy with your players. But it starts with competence. And if you're competent, you can teach your players in many different manners. Some players respond to more positive coaching. Other players, you need to make sure that they understand the urgency in the voice that you present with your message. You can't treat every player the same because not every player responds the way you want them to with production with the same message. So the message has to vary depending on the player.

DAKICH - Bob, if I could make a point -- I think human nature kind of dictates that we listen to the negative. I actually, a couple of years ago, had a player who was an exceptionally good player but he wasn't playing as well as he could. I had an assistant coach talk to him. He felt like I was being far too negative. Now, the assistant coach did not tell the player he was going to relay the message to me.

So I actually turned and went eight-to-one. I did this on purpose in practice for three days. I went eight positive things said to the kid for every one negative. And I did this on purpose. The kid talked to my assistant coach after the couple of three days, not knowing that I and the assistant coach had been communicating, and the kid didn't really notice any difference because I believe that people in society, whether it is a basketball player, a business person, my wife, whoever it is, have a tendency to focus only on the negative. When I get together with my teammates at Indiana, and we talk about playing for coach Knight, we get laughing about a tough practice or what happened after a tough game. But I can't remember -- and we had a bunch of them at Indiana -- like coach Knight was probably somewhere around, as I think about it, three-to-one in terms of positive to negative.

But I can't remember -- you don't remember, boy, coach Knight was really positive all day in this particular practice. As my players, when they get together, don't sit around and remember how it was. You remember when coach was so positive in his practice? People have a tendency, in my opinion, human nature says that we focus on the negative things.

LEY - Jeff, we have got about 15 seconds -- what do you think of Henry Bibby coaching with fear?

VAN GUNDY - Well, I don't think of it in the same way he did. I think the fear has to be that if you don't produce up to your capabilities, you're not going to get what you want, which is playing time. I think that has to be the fear. And I think the second fear has to be that you will let down your teammates. You have got to be there and do the right things for your team and for your teammates. But just military-type fear, I don't believe in that.

LEY - All right. Gentlemen, thanks so much -- Jeff Van Gundy, Dan Dakich, we appreciate you joining us this morning. Thanks a great deal.

VAN GUNDY - Thank you.

DAKICH - Thank you.

LEY - And next up, anti-war sentiment and the Dallas Mavericks. Canadian Steve Nash has spoken out.

STEVE NASH - In no way do I -- am I anti -American or anything else. I just -- I'm anti-violence. I just wanted to see people's lives saved.

LEY - Thursday, for the second time in three nights, hockey fans in Montreal booed the playing of the American National Anthem. Pictures from around the world this week make it clear there's not popular support for the war with Iraq in other countries.

If you glance down the roster of the NBA's Mavericks where there are citizens from France, Canada, Germany, Mexico, a Virgin Islander, it is clear that global conversation on this war is represented here in the very city that President George W. Bush once owned the local baseball team. Ed Werder now, in Dallas.

ED WERDER, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - In perhaps the most amenity filled locker room in the NBA, Dallas Mavericks players can closely monitor world events right up until tip-off. The Mavericks are a unique team, a global collection of players, many of whom hail from countries whose governments do not support the war with Iraq. While the most notable anti -war protester is Canadian guard Steve Nash, it was the American citizen Nick Van Exel who this week delivered the most controversial rhetoric on a Dallas radio station.

VAN EXEL - The Americans on the team, we just think like, Bush gives American people a bad name.

Basically I was saying I'm all for the United States. I'm all for disarmament. I'm all for going over there and fighting for terrorists. I am definitely for that. But I just said, you know, just all Americans don't think like Bush. And that's true. We all don't. Just everybody don't think like me.

WERDER - In addition to replacing his customary Mavericks regalia with more patriotic apparel, flamboyant owner Mark Cuban has asked his players to refrain from commenting on their war views. But in the hours following the U.S. invasion, Nash felt compelled to espouse his anti-war stance when asked and took the opportunity to clarify that position.

NASH - No way do I -- am I anti -American or anything else. I just am an anti-violence. I just wanted to see people's lives saved. But I'm 100 percent behind those soldiers that are protecting our freedom. Who wouldn't be?

NBA ALL-STAR PA ANNOUNCER - In his second all-star appearance, 6'3" guard, Steve Nash.

WERDER - Nash first drew public attention to his personal beliefs at the NBA All-Star Game. While he says that responses have been overwhelmingly positive, Nash accepted that he might be criticized, a Canadian making millions of American dollars.

NASH - Well, I understood there was a risk involved. I was willing to take that risk. My main goal was to get people to get more involved and to be more proactive and educate themselves on the issue so they can make an informed decision so they can support one ideology or another. I never said think as I think.

FEMALE ANTHEM SINGER - O say can you see ...

WERDER - The war was on the minds of many in attendance when the Mavericks played the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. In addition to a rousing national anthem, the game featured a halftime tribute to retiring Spurs center David Robinson. The Naval Academy graduate takes exception to athletes and entertainers, like the Dixie Chicks, who have publicly criticized the country's leadership in wartime, some of them going so far as to say they're embarrassed to be from the same place.

DAVID ROBINSON, SAN ANTONIO SPURS CENTER - If it's embarrassment to them, maybe they should be in a different country. Because this is, you know, this is America and we're supposed to be proud of the guys we elected and put in offices, and doesn't like Saddam Hussein in office and we got to put up with what they're doing. This is part -- all of us have a part in what's going on. If they're not proud of it, then they probably ought to think about being in another place.

NASH - I'm entirely grateful for the opportunity I have in America and all Canadians are very grateful for the protection and the big brother that America is to us.

CIVILIAN in IRAQ - [speaking Arabic and smiling]

SOLDIER - I know that word.

LEY - As to the booing of the American anthem in Montreal, the club president of the Canadians has apologized. Friday night in Atlanta, and last night in Miami, the Canadian anthem was booed by American fans.

Keyword on line, OTLWEEKLY. Our library of program transcripts. We look forward to your e-mail on positive coaching and the debate in Dallas. Our address, OTLWEEKLY@ESPN.com.