From France 2010 to Detroit Pistons 2011: Player Revolt Against Mr. Coach

Player revolt against coaches is on the increase. Are coaches and team owners too authoritarian? Are players becoming too powerful? Read on…

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From France 2010 to Detroit Pistons 2011: Player Revolt against Mr. Coach

The world was treated to a rare treat of player revolt against a national team coach when the French national soccer team revolted against their coaching staff headed by Raymond Domenech. Apparently, the coach had contributed to the decision to expel one of the players, Nicolas Anelka, from the World Cup tournament in South Africa.

In solidarity with the expelled player, they resolved to boycott a training session to show their support for Anelka and therefore openly express their displeasure with the national coach and the National Football Federation. This action irked the national team director, Jeans-Louis Valentin to quit the position, team and the tournament in disgust. In the case of the French national team, the players refused the instructions of their coach so as to send a message to the National Football Federation. Indeed they released a statement stating that all the players in the squad took exception to the decision taken by the French Football Federation to expel Nicolas Anelka from the squad.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since and many people have moved on with their lives including the national coach stepping down and players being suspended. Anelka was handed an 18 match suspension. However, whereas many people had put that case behind them, Richard Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) had been studying the script. On 25th Feb. 2011, the Detroit Pistons’ players staged a revolt of their own. According to several media outlets, five Detroit Pistons’ players missed the morning shoot-around in Philadelphia, while two others showed up at the end of the session. This was in the morning as they prepared to play Philadelphia 77ers later in the evening.

Given the chaotic preparations and left with only a skeleton squad, the team went on to lose the game 94 – 110. It appears that the players who went missing had different reasons and not a collective one. Tayshaun Prince missed due to an upset stomach; Tracy McGrady—-remember events leading to his move from Houston Rockets—had a headache, while Richard Hamilton and Chris Wilcox simply missed the bus to the shoot-around venue. The others including Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey missed the bus but tried their best to catch up arriving just in time to see the cool down session. The other player, Ben Wallace, missed for family reasons. All this transpired on the back drop of feuding that has been going on between Richard Hamilton and their coach John Kuester. Apparently the bust up led to the decision by the coach to relegate Richard Hamilton to the bench.

These two incidents of player protests are indicative of the increasing power that the players wield. I wonder whether these kinds of protests would have been possible during the time when Vince Lombardi presided over the Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s with an iron fist.

These protests also have happened around the same time that “two basketball decisions” have taken place. The first decision was by LeBron James, when he left Cleveland Cavaliers to move to Miami Heat. This decision seems to have devalued the Cleveland brand to a point where they have just set a record of losing 26 consecutive matches in the league. It appears that his decision was made because his relationship with the team owners was not all that warm. It was therefore not surprising that the team owner went on to release a statement describing James in unpalatable language despite having registered  some of the best  seasons ever in the history of the club. The devaluation of the Cleveland brand has to do with what James meant to that club.

The other decision is that of Carmelo Anthony who has just been traded to the New York Knicks by the Denver Nuggets. The latter team took their time wanting to force Anthony to go elsewhere other than New York Knicks but his tenacity paid off.

What lessons do we learn from these incidents? It is clear that player power is on the ascendency. This is made easier by the media that keeps such cases alive and thereby forcing the team owners to take action. It is unfortunate that coaches seem to lose out when players revolt. The cases of Brett Favre and Brad Childress (Minnesota Vikings) and Vince Young and Jeff Fisher (Tennessee Titans) of the National Football League are pointers to where a team owner’s loyalty is when a coach does not take charge of the locker room.

Of much more significance is the emerging trend of listening to the players. It is not just an owner/coach and slave relationship. The leadership has to be accommodating to the needs and aspirations of the players. Those days when players were to be seen and not heard are well over. The new dispensation is for team owners to be sensitive to their players so that they can all pull and push in the same direction.

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