For what may be the first time in Lee Fowler’s 4+ years in Raleigh, the man has been publicly quiet. Silent. I mean, silent as a mouse. He hasn’t popped-off in a newspaper interview for weeks. I hope someone has taken the time to check his temperature?
(Good, God. Has he really been here that long? How many SEC jobs can one guy fail to land in an election cycle?! Surely one has to come up with something after all of those swings of the bat? Don’t worry, Lee. Your behind the scenes jockeying for the Ohio State job might pay off yet….oops…did I just say that? Was that supposed to stay quiet?)
As the season has progressed, I have cited Fowler’s conspicuous silence to my friends as a reason for optimism that this dismal basketball record may actually have an opportunity to come to an end this year. (Please let me dream).
* One of my all-time favorites is how Lee gave his cell phone number to all of the newspaper reporters when he first got to State because he wanted to make sure that they always had the truth. LOL!!! As we soon learned, they always had the truth, and Lee always had his name in the paper.
Since Fowler has NEVER heard of a media member that he didn’t like, I figure that it is only a matter of time before he spouts off at the mouth in some public forum (since he still doesn’t have a problem speaking in private.)
Before Lee opens mouth and inserts foot – like when he publicly called some State alums/fans “crazy” in the Charlotte Observer a couple of years ago – I thought that I would do him a service and direct his attention to one of his contemporaries in the ACC. As the University of Virginia is stuck in a cycle that spirals towards a new basketball coach, Craig Littlepage has recently spoken in a manner from which Fowler could definitely learn.
I direct your attention to the following from Roanoke.com:
“When it appeared that he might not be able to respond to all of the e-mails he was receiving, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage said earlier this week that he was preparing a statement on the UVa men’s basketball program.
Then, he responded to all of the e-mails and answered all of his phone messages, as has been his practice. “I’m not going to do a release,” he said Tuesday.
However, in an e-mail and during a subsequent phone interview, he again tied the future of seventh-year UVa men’s basketball coach Pete Gillen to an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
“A year ago, there was improvement that led me to feel we could anticipate we could be competitive in and out of the league and be in the mix for the NCAAs in 2004-2005,” Littlepage wrote. “We’re not there yet.
“Those are the priorities we’ll measure the team’s success against after this season concludes.”
The Cavaliers (10-8 overall, 1-7 ACC) lost seven of nine games during January and are tied for last in the ACC. They visit Providence tonight for their last non-conference game of the season.
Littlepage said Jan. 20 that Virginia “wants Pete to coach the entire season.” When asked Tuesday if he thought Gillen might resign during the season, Littlepage said “no.”
When asked if the matter had been discussed, Littlepage said that his conversations with his coaches are private, as he has maintained on previous occasions.
Littlepage was in his box Saturday during a 110-76 loss to third-ranked North Carolina, which led 98-48 with under five minutes remaining.
“It was stressful for everybody – players, coaches, fans, staff, alums and probably even the casual observer,” Littlepage said. “Maybe for everybody but the people from Chapel Hill.
“Everybody felt some frustration after Saturday. I don’t think they will pack it in; that kind of game makes a real competitor anxious to play the next game.”
Lessons to learn from Littlepage:
(1) Don’t make definitive statements – even if you (think) that you have made up your mind, you shouldn’t let the world know that the remaining results of the season are inconsequential to your decision.
You see, meaningless games don’t go over real well with a fan base that have to buy tickets because of Lifetime Rights. Give us a break. We already have to buy the tickets for the worst out of conference schedule in the ACC. Adding insult to injury that you don’t care in the slightest about what actually happens on the court isn’t a smart move.
(2) You ALWAYS support “what is best for the institution” without staking yourself out on a definitive limb and painting yourself in a corner and without making the issue about any one individual.
Why do you keep trying to prove to the world that you are “right” about Herb Sendek? Is Littlepage obsessed with proving the UVa-faithful that Gillen really is the right guy because Littlepage had chosen to retain him in the past?
Fans don’t really care if you were right or wrong about Herb Sendek; people’s interest is NC State Basketball. People want to know that NC State Basketball is what is foremost in your mind. Not Herb Sendek. Not some 3rd party’s perspective who has no stake in the situation. And certainly not your positioning for your next job. Your need to constantly defend Sendek should be an indication to you that a problem exists regardless of who is “right”.
(3) Don’t attack supporters and fans of NC State. It is never a good idea to call the people that you supposedly serve by names like “crazy” and “lunatic fringe”.
(4) Keep all conversations between you and coaches “private.” Even if it doesn’t mean anything substantial, just say it. It sounds good.
(5) You make a statement without saying too much specific about the principal involved – in this case, Coach Sendek. (See points #1 & #2)
You always say that “We support all of our coaches. All coaching evaluations are made at the end of every season, and therefore we won’t comment on anything specific now.”.
This way, any/every coaching evaluation is done in the normal course of business and isn’t alarming to any fan or coach since a standard operating procedure exists. This also breeds comfort in people that realize the truth (because you say it all the time) – that what happens on the court really doesn’t matter to you because you have made up your mind that Sendek is the guy to take us the next level even though nine years of results indicate differently.
(6) Finally, SHARE some form of measureable goals against which you hold Sendek accountable. See Littlepage’s public comments that he expects to “make the NCAA Tournament”.
Of course, you will actually want to create some goals before you share them with everyone. Hint: Any of the following do NOT constitute examples of measureable goals:
* “I like the recuriting class. They are really going to be good.”
* “I know basketball.”
* “People in basketball like Herb”
* “Herb won an opinion-based Coach of the Year honor in the past that was voted on before Paul Hewitt took his team to the NCAA Championship game and before we set the ACC Tournament Record for the largest collapse in 51 years.
Shew…since I’ve done all of this work, I might as well go ahead and write Fowler’s statement for him. The following could be used in any form of email response, media statement, or generally tailored for short statements in conversations. It’s just a thought. But, I tend to think that it is a series of thoughts that make a lot more sense than Fowler’s Hussien-like approach with the media in the past.
The following is the template that I would use in any and all situations that ever required/requested a statement reguarding a coaching situation before a season ended:
“Thank you so much for your interest in the endeavors of our athletics department, in particular our storied basketball program.
Please rest assured that everyone within the NC State adminstration and community shares your standards of fielding the most competitive, successful, and integrity-filled teams across all sports. Due to the phenomenal level of support that we receive in our annually sold-out RBC Center as well as our overall rich tradition on the hardwood, the sport of basketball is certainly not exempt from our high standards.
I hope that you understand that we cannot, and will not ever comment on any coaching situation before a season ends. Our department conducts evaluations of every coach at the end of every season and that feedback is integrated into the coach’s development plan at the University.
In addition to some off-the-field metrics that are central to our department’s mission, I happily share with you that every coach is judged against three primary criteria:
(1) Success compared to our competition/peers.
(2) Success compared to the long term standards that our program has historically proven that it can consistently achieve.
(3) Success compared to other programs throughout the nation that have similar resources available to it as ours.
Again, thank you very much for your time and interest in NC State Athletics. Your support, interest, and passion is a key ingredient to separating our program from so many others.