When I was in my teens, whenever I left the care and supervision of my parents, one of the last things my father would say to me was "Robert, remember, be a Whetsell."
It took a long time for that to REALLY sink in. I tested that line more than once and dealt with the consequences.
My last coaching gig involved a private high school's boys' JV basketball team. There was more than one petulant and entitled kid on that squad.
My first talk with the team involed these three "facts:"
1. This team will NEVER lose because we got out-hustled;
2. I'm the coach, I make the rules, PERIOD. Don't like that, you can walk, or ride the bench;
3. If you ever embarrass the team, you lose the opportunity to represent the team;
We were humming along nicely, losing only one of our first 12 games to a "sudo" varsity team.
Then came a road game with our hated rival, Brunswick. Nobody could remember the last time we had won against them, varsity or JV. We were down 19 at the end of the first quarter. We battled back, and missed a decent look at a 3 as time expired that would have sent the game to OT.
As my team came off the floor, one of the players for Brunswick said quite clearly to one of our starters "No matter what, we still win and you still suck." Pretty harmless stuff relatively speaking, but venomous enough for a HS boy who just poured his soul into a comeback that fell short against an asshole.
As we waited for the ceremonial handshake line, he unveiled his own version of the Marcus Smart chair stomp.
As I proceeded to take my usual spot at the back of the line, I had the young man stand directly in front of me in line. He was our best three point shooter and generally a really good kid.
I whispered in his ear "If you want to spend another second on this team you'll look their coach in the eyes and apologize for kicking the chair." He shook the coach's hand and did as I had instructed.
In the locker room, once everyone had changed, I spoke to the team about the game. As we left the locker room, I pulled John to the side and asked him what he felt the consequence should be. His response?
"Coach, you make the rules. I'll deal with whatever it is. It was my fault and I embarrassed the team."
He was suspended for the next game and was not allowed to practice. He had to help with setting up for drills and cleaning up. I got a note from his father thanking me for setting a good example with his son. BTW, he hit 4 consecutive 3's to start our rematch with Brunswick that propelled RCDS to an easy win, and showed tremendous composure and leadership when they made a late run.
A buddy of mine thought the punishment was a bit harsh. After all, the other kid was an asshole.
I said, "Much better that he learn the lesson now under such benign circumstances, because the older he gets the bigger his potential loss could be and the more people who will be affected by his actions...and there will always be assholes."
Kyle at PFB and I are in 100% agreement on this. This isn't about basketball. This is about leadership, and Travis Ford is responsible for the complete lack thereof with this program.
This has nothing to do with X's and O's, with which we all have plenty of issues. This is all about teaching young men to represent things larger than themselves. Leadership 101. That is actually one of the main goals of organized athletics.
I have no doubt any number of Eddie's boys heard similar slurs, but you never saw one of them go after a fan. That doesn't make Marcus Smart a bad kid, it just means he hasn't been effectively taught the lesson. When Smart kicked the chair and stormed off behind the stands (twice) against West Virginia, he should have sat for a game.
This is now his second and more severe, outburst, which makes him the common denominator, and raises the need for this to be dealt with.
Life is full of assholes...temptations...opportunities to turn down the wrong path. Most of us have done so and gotten away with it because the world at large didn't care, or because we were lucky enough to have grown up in an age where a camera or microphone was not waiting for the moment. We were also lucky that it only cost us a little bruise or some embarrassment.
Others have not been so lucky. Careers, families, and lives have been lost because of a reaction over a non-life threatening event.
My brother, a retired minister of whom I have previously spoken, has shared more than once something that comes out of his background as a counselor. I don't know the exact quote, but it goes something like this, "If someone 'jerks your chain' and you react, then you have allowed that person to be in control of you."
I have no doubt that Ford cares deeply for these young men, and that he wants badly to restore the "rowdy" to GIA. He has tried really hard to win over the fans with his actions off the court.
Unfortunately his actions on the court and in the locker room have not come close to attaining that goal.
Multiple transfers...and now, in his 6th year of attempting to build a program at a school that actually has a decent basketball history, we have arrests and an altercation with a fan.
Mike Gundy speaks all the time about preparing young men for life.
Mike Holder should be preparing Boone to open his checkbook.
And Travis Ford should be preparing for his exit from Stillwater.