God Coach, Blasphemed

I read a couple of articles today about the worship of college basketball coaches as demigods. One example:

The experience of the coach is simply much more accessible to almost every grown-up fan than the experience of any high-level player…He’s still connected to the magic of sports, but with him it takes the form of inspired halftime speeches and brilliant late-game stratagems — basically work e-mail lifted to a spiritual plane.

And another one:

 “Look at the intensity of these coaches,” [Dick] Vitale crowed as ESPN went to its own timeout. “You think these guys don’t want it?”

And Vitale was not wrong, as both Crean and Izzo were screaming and gesticulating and emoting like late-period Al Pacino. But amid all that noise and college-kid emotion and fraught promise and everything else, amid all that, the coaches?

Both articles are interesting reads, especially the first one from Grantland, and they’ve given me something to chew on–the sports media and fans really do elevate their authority figures to ridiculous heights.

I was ashamed of my own transgressions–DEAN SMITH IS A GOD–but before I fully explored my alter of coach-deities, my mind went to a memory involving the aforementioned Dick Vitale.

ImageImageBefore a massive game against #1 ranked Ohio State, I was eating dinner with the media in the tunnels of the Smith Center when Vitale decided to take a seat at the table I was eating at. (Side note – whatever you think of Dick as a broadcaster, he was incredibly polite and gracious to our table of 20-something punk kids. My recollections, however, might be colored slightly by my starstruck-ness, as I was fresh out of school.) Where we were eating happened to be on the way to the visitor’s locker room, and the giant trees of OSU’s team were soon lumbering by us. As soon as Thad Matta got near our table, Vitale lit up with a huge grin and sprung out of his seat to greet the up-and-coming superstar coach. It was evident they had spoken before; they had the appearance of good friends. Though he spoke briefly with their injured center, and jolly giant, Greg Oden, Dick ignored the players and focused on exchanging pleasantries with their coach. Later, when Vitale was gushing over Thad on the broadcast that night, I thought there was something slightly off about the display of friendliness I had witnessed before the game–though Vitale’s just a cheerleader, a prop to ignite excitement in the game, there still should be some distance between the commentator and the commented upon.

The articles I read today gave me another perspective on their interaction: Dick avoided talking to most of the players not because it wasn’t necessary for the broadcast, but because he couldn’t relate to them. So, of course, he’s going to point out the coaches during the game–after all, he’s more comfortable in slacks than gym shorts.


Author: Justin Blake Burnett

I'm a mediocre to slightly above average husband, a reader of cereal boxes, and a lover of Swiss Cake rolls. I'm also a feature producer for Fox Sports. I technically do sports stories, but the subject matter is usually all over the place, like me. I do other things, but they're not as interesting.

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