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Legends Know Sports: Coach vs. General Manager

Legends Know Sports: Coach vs. General Manager

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


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