As I watched a news clip of the VCU Rams boarding a bus for their magic carpet ride…destination Houston, each player willingly and joyfully appeased the masses of well wishes who had gathered for their send off by delivering hand slaps and high fives. As they orderly processed to the bus, it was easy to over look their coach as he blended in with the team; unable to readily discern who was who…a player..a coach…they were one: a unit, a team. This has been one of the secrets to his success…
How are these young coaches so different yet so effective?
Brad Stevens: mild mannered, unassuming, yet poised to strike with an “excuse me”.. a gentleman. Humbly gives his post-game interviews after he upsets his foes one by one, giving props to the opposing coach with an “I’m not worthy “ attitude. A real nice guy. He is the kind of guy who will help fix your computer when the Control-Alt-Delete maneuver doesn’t work. A rough and rocky year, he reportedly asked Gonzaga’s Mark Few for advice during a mid-season slump. A team who looked down and out, who wasn’t expected to even make the tourney after loss of Hayward to the NBA, rallied and credit must be given to Steven’s smarts, introspectiveness and style of coaching. His willingness to ask for help to better himself and his team is an attribute that should not go un-noticed.
Shaka Smart: Shaka on the other hand; Shaka n awe! And how he does.. indistinguishable from a player, looks stifled, not at home in a suit, yet agrees to a tie; appears could easily suit up and substitute for a foul ridden starter on a prn basis. If you play for him, you play with your heart and dedication or you don’t bother showing up. Just ask Joey Rodriguez, who was contemplating transfer and made it well know, Smart suggested he either show up to play or move on. Street smart, not one to hold back or be lost in the crowd, he is here and people notice. He has a prescence..charisma. Losing is not in his vocabulary. He is on a mission. He believes he can win.
Both of these coaches are the best and brightest; young and full of promise. They relate yet lead; inspire and are respected. They can raise people up. They are masters at clock management. Not afraid to go for it An ESPN commentator was quick to point out that their collective ages do not add up to Jim Calhoun’s current age. These two are rising stars in the world of college basketball and likely some day will rank amongst the Krzyzewskis, the Boeheims, the Pitinos, the Roy Williams, the Thompsons. For now, we all can just buckle up and enjoy the ride.
They have been dancing for weeks now. Can they keep it up? will their stamina persist? Their feet are tiring…bunions sore, plantar fasciitis roars…please just one more dance… For one Cinderella, the clock is about to strike midnight; the other is bound for the championship game and perhaps history (and a made for TV movie).