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Problems with college coaching may have to do with more than coaches
In the name of discipline, or just to win, coaches sometimes get carried away -- and their programs don't stop them

Tim Rudell
Terry Pluto says coaches can decide whether to try to out-street their kids, or teach them
Courtesy of Wikipedia
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Abusive coaches are under fire in college athletics. And Rutgers, soon to join Ohio State in the Big 10, got a double-barrel blast in April when basketball coach Mike Rice was fired and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti resigned over video of Rice verbally and physically abusing players.

Now, there may be another shot. Julie Hermann, hired to replace Pernetti, is accused of being abusive to her players when she coached volleyball at the University of Tennessee 15 years ago.

WKSU Commentator Terry Pluto says, along with head scratching over Hermann’s hiring, something more must be considered.

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Rutgers not alone
One question, Pluto says, is why Rutgers picked Hermann. But a bigger one, he says, is: What’s going on here in sports?  Seal of Rutrgers, the State University of New Jersey, and one of the nation's ten oldest colleges

Pluto recalls other examples of abuse – caught on national TV – including Morehead State Coach Sean Woods shoving one of his guards as he was coming off the floor and then going down the court “berating him face to face.”Pluto says he recognizes that “players will drive you nuts.” But he says some coaches forget what they’re there for and confuse abuse with discipline.

“I have a theory: You cannot ‘out-street’ your kids. …You think these kids come from the street, and on the street they talk a certain way. And therefore, for me to communicate with them, I have to go down to the street level.

“No,” says Pluto. “You actually are a coach. You are there to raise them up.”

Good examples
Among the coaches he says get the difference is Lenny Wilkens, whose teams included the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“He rarely swore at players,” Pluto says, in part because it wasn’t his style. But Pluto says Wilkens also told him, ‘I have the ultimate club, … I control their minutes. That’s the only way I could control players who make more money than I do in the NBA.’”

But many coaches don’t want to answer for that decision, he says. “They don’t want to go on ESPN and say, ‘I’m sitting Jimmy Jumpshot because he acted like a jerk in practice.”

"But what really would speak to Jimmy is he doesn’t play.”

Another coach who "gets it" 

Cleveland State coach Gary Waters -- Terry Pluto says, he does it rightCleveland State coach Gary Waters is another coach Pluto says does not humiliate  players. In an ironic twist, Pluto notes that he was brought in to clean up Rutgers after a former coach included naked free-throw shooting drills in his practices. But he was fired because he didn’t win enough.

Pluto says that’s no excuse for dodging meaningful discipline.

“It’s on the coach, it’s on the athletic director, it’s on the president. You say, ‘This is how  we want to run our program. And coach if you want to suspend your star player, … I don’t care if it’s the middle of February and we’re on national TV, if … that’s what it takes, suspend him, I’m behind you."

Related Links & Resources
Sport Illustrated on Hermann not resigning

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