Written by: The Sixth Man
This coach vs. general manager article is written in tribute to our friends over at insidestl.com. We wanted to thank them for their support!
A Debate of Prominence
The front office of any sports organization, whether it operates at the professional level or within the wavering confines of the NCAA, carries the identity of a brand and defines a way of life for its fan base. The careful moves of collective minds upstairs build the product before the players ever take the practice field prior to the start of a new season. Once they do, however, the fate of the team and progression of the players lie mainly in the hands of the coach or manager.
When the team experiences wild success, someone is owed a pat on the back and a raise. But if the results aren’t up to standard and the fans are calling for someone’s head to roll, the blame game can ravage an organization.
Our friends over at insidestl.com recently published an excellent year-end piece closing out 2013 by naming their St. Louis Sportsman of the Year. With the finalists pitting a general manager of a professional team against the coach of a college football program, it has sparked debate over which role is more vital to an organization over the course of a year. Was their final selection warranted, or did they overvalue certain achievements in the short-term? Read the article here.
The article indirectly raises a key question about the business of sport: Who plays a more integral role in the performance of an organization – the general manager or the coach? On one side, you have an architect searching for the raw materials that lead to success. At the other end, the individual responsible for shaping talent into sustained success. Who do fans celebrate when the whistle blows to complete a successful campaign? Which leader should they blame when their franchise comes up short?
The answer most likely sits somewhere in the middle, distributing glory or culpability between the architect, a GM, and the caretaker, a coach. But in the interest of assessing importance to a team, coaches are let go at an alarmingly high rate across all sports, collegiate or professional. And if a team truly believes that performance could improve with a different leader implementing strategy and regulating activity, does that demonstrate a problem with the previous coach or the mastery of a new one?
Perhaps the answer lies in the scope of their vision.
A General Manager starts with a vision of a winning team, a personnel formula that must combine existing parts with new complements. It is that same vision that is communicated to a hands-on leader in the form of a coach in order to develop a squad-specific scheme. The front office is tasked with moving the earth to create a winning foundation; a coach is asked to build upon that, often unsuccessfully. Apologies to the fans of the Raiders, Browns, Marlins, or half of the NBA.
It isn’t exactly a ‘chicken or the egg’ dilemma, but certainly a question to be explored.
Take it one play at a time,
The Sixth Man