With yesterday’s news about Tyrone Corbin, we thought it might be interesting to tackle how the Jazz’s former head coach handled “haters.” Is there a right response to the people who disagree with you? Were Corbin’s comments at locker room clean-out day—and comments throughout the year—along those lines? What should Corbin have done or said? And were his responses understandable?
First off, many of the so-called “haters” took issue with Corbin’s response to the question about management’s decision to go young. Here’s his full response:
“You wanna have a fair shake, and you want the best opportunity you have, can have, to win. We just, the organization decided to go in a different direction from the guys we had the year before. I knew it would be difficult. I said right from the beginning, is, in no way when you change the roster like we changed, is good for a coaching staff, especially in the last year of their contract. And it brings a lot of questioning and everything to do with young guys…You see why coaches that’s been in it a long time won’t put themselves in a situation where they have a young team because of those things. It doesn’t matter how you scheme things when you have young guys. Young guys make mistakes in this league. And the consistency of play, and that’s why they’re young in this league…I would have liked for things to be different and have been handled differently, but they weren’t. So, it is what it is.”
I’ve seen quite a few complaints regarding this response in the Twitterverse, on blogs, on message boards, and among friends. I can’t claim to know all of the viewpoints out there or to speak for the “haters,” but of what I’ve seen, Corbin’s constant response to criticism has been to place blame on the youth and inexperience of the team, even though Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson both logged significant minutes with the starting lineup when healthy. And that rubbed many folks the wrong way, especially when “development”—specifically development of the F5—was one of the three D’s that Dennis Lindsey said Corbin would be judged by when the season began.
I do appreciate Corbin’s honesty in admitting that he knew he and his coaching staff would be facing an uphill battle when management decided to let Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson walk last offseason. But I think a better response, while still acknowledging his disappointment in that, is that Dennis Lindsey gave him milestones to reach that had nothing to do with wins. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the number he most consistently worked for, but something along the lines of, “Obviously we were disappointed, from a win-loss standpoint, that we lost the veterans we did in the offseason because they helped us win. But management gave us three areas where we knew we could make improvements. We have talented, defensive-minded players, and it was up to us to develop schemes and teach them in a way that we could all be successful.”
Also, the cliché “it is what it is” has been so overused by Corbin in the last 3.5 years that I’ve developed a bit of rage every time I hear it or read it. But that’s my issue, not yours.
What about Corbin’s response specifically to the “haters”—how was that handled?
Was it hard to take the negativity?
You know what? Misery love company, man. You know, I, you know, there are some miserable people, and they love talking about what somebody else is doing or not doing…People like to criticize, and that’s what it is. People like to read it. I don’t give a lot of energy to it myself.
Oof. So, I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist and don’t have any fancy letters after my name; however, my friends have called me Dr. Laura for many years, for relationship/friendship advice. I’ve read more self-help and business/PR/marketing books than I’d like to admit, and it seems like public relations/relationship advice 101 is, if you’re being criticized and you want to handle it with class and grace, tossing out insults is not the right way to go about the situation. To rise above, validate either the criticism or the criticizer as having a valid opinion, and then discuss—without getting defensive—reasoning behind choices, while asking for clarification if necessary.
I think there are plenty of Jazz fans out there who don’t just criticize to criticize, but point out areas where they feel like their beloved team could become demonstrably better.
What could he have said? How do you handle all the negativity?
“Try to understand the source—it comes from a fan base that cares deeply about their team and they want to see an improving team. We were told defense was going to be a yardstick by which we were measured and so we tried to make defensive changes—for example, changing from showing out on pick and roll defense to dropping back more so our bigs could be closer to the hoop and protect the basket—along the way to help, but we weren’t able to find the right scheme or player combinations that offered that. (Doesn’t throw the players or management under the bus, while offering a specific example of something they tried instead of clichéd platitudes)
Or even saying, “I try to stay away from the negativity as much as I can, but Dennis Lindsey and I have a collaborative partnership where we’re often bouncing ideas off of each other to make sure.”
From what I’ve read, listened to, and heard, whenever specific criticisms were levelled at Corbin, he took the lowest, easiest route out: used excuses (“We’re inexperienced, man”), assigned blame (not good for a coaching staff to lose all the veterans, players are young), or deflected onto fans (for example, as being miserable and wanting company). If he had said, “You know, we need to see what we can do better to make sure our schemes are being run with precision and that rotations are quick, and adjust the schemes accordingly, if need be,” that would have both taken some of the blame on himself and his coaching staff, while acknowledging that improvement is part of the player’s responsibility.
Obviously, for Jazz fans, this is a moot point [ref]Or a moo point, if you’re Joey Tribbiani.[/ref], but it’s one Corbin will hopefully learn as he looks to find a spot on another team’s bench for next year. The best way to make sure your critics—whether local bloggers or well-respected national columnists—don’t escalate the debate is to validate that they’re entitled to their opinion, acknowledge where they may be right, and then be open and honest about your reasoning behind your decisions (as much as is appropriate to not give away strategy).
Were Corbin’s responses understandable? From the point that he felt unfairly attacked and criticized, you can see where his responses came from. But I think, as a coach, and as a coach of an organization that prides itself on doing things the right way, he would have been better off taking the higher road.
What do you think, SCHoopsers? How do you wish Corbin had handled the haters differently?