Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Gillespie: The End Justifies the Mean.

The end justifies the mean

Some players love him, some leave him, but Gillispie's aim is to make them better

By Jerry Tipton
February 22, 2008

After making the team as a walk-on in September, Dusty Mills waited for an opportune moment to introduce himself to Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie. The time seemed right two days into his short-lived UK career.

Mills approached Gillispie, who sat at the scorer's table in the Joe Craft Center gym as the other players headed for the locker room.

"Hi, Coach Gillispie," Mills remembered saying. "I know I never introduced myself. My name is Dusty ..."

Gillispie cut off the freshman.

"I know your name," the UK coach said. "Your name is Ollie."

His new teammates had nicknamed Mills for the player/team manager in the movie Hoosiers.

"If I need to know anything else, I'll look you up in the phone book," Gillispie added. "Have a nice day."

End of conversation.

Mills walked away disappointed.

This week, Mills became the third player to leave Gillispie's first Kentucky team. He cited the new coach's style as why he stopped his teammates from seeking his reinstatement. Alex Legion gave the same reason to explain why he left. The departures call into question Gillispie's demanding style, which he says benefits individual players and the team in the long term.

Mills had hoped to develop a relationship with Gillispie like the open-door access he enjoyed with his high school coach.

"But immediately, off the bat, I realized he was really unapproachable," said Mills, who acknowledged this week he had been dismissed from the team. "He has more basketball knowledge than any person I've ever met in my life. But I just feel like he has -- I don't know if it's no people skills or bad socially or however the heck you want to word it. But he doesn't seem to be very good with people."

Earlier this season, Gillispie's approach drove away Legion, a heralded freshman who transferred to Illinois after one semester.

"I just don't really work well in his style of coaching," Legion said in picking his words carefully. "His overall way of doing things. He's obviously had some success. But it isn't for everyone. I'll just leave it at that."

Gillispie declined to speak specifically about the players who've left UK's team either voluntarily (Legion, walk-on Kerry Benson) or otherwise (Mills). The UK coach acknowledged his demanding style. He said the long-range benefits outweigh any hurt feelings. More than once, he noted his personal attachment and affection for the players.

"You don't have the relationships like we have -- the love relationships that last forever -- without being approachable," Gillispie said.

The UK coach's methods, which prompt words such as "demeaning" and "negativity" from detractors, cause others to sing his praise. Josh Johnston found the experience as a walk-on for Gillispie's last UTEP team so rewarding he followed the coach to Texas A&M and walked on there. He described a Billy G. who bore little resemblance to the man who dismissed Mills from UK's team with a terse "You're done" shortly after Kentucky's flight from Vanderbilt touched down at 2 a.m. last week.

"I just felt he was sincere and genuine," said Johnston, now an assistant coach at the College of Eastern Utah. "He was not a guy to just talk to you on the court. He was a guy who actually cared about you. ... Nobody cares more about kids on a Billy Gillispie team than Billy Gillispie."

Supporters and critics agree that Gillispie can be difficult.

Acie Law IV wanted to transfer from Texas A&M more than once, even during his award-winning senior year of 2006-07. He stayed because his parents wouldn't let him quit.

"He's continually riding you to do more," Law said. "After a while, you say, 'I've had enough of this.'

"Once I matured a little bit and got used to it, I look at coach as a father figure. I love him to death. If I have a problem with anything, not just dealing with basketball, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone and ask him about it."

The two speak regularly and usually end the conversations by expressing their love for each other, Law said.

That wasn't the Gillispie encountered by Legion, Mills and, perhaps, Benson, who left the UK team during the first semester. Mills said Gillispie's coaching style led Benson to quit. Benson could not be reached for comment. His coach at Pleasure Ridge Park High School, Dale Mabrey, said Benson did not have a problem with Gillispie, but was tired of basketball.

"He just said he didn't know if he wanted to continue to play basketball," Mabrey said. "He had nothing bad or negative to say about the coaches. He liked them, and they liked him. Maybe it was a case where I didn't prepare him right so that he would've realized that when you get to that level, it's basketball 24 hours a day.

"The day he quit, he was supposed to be in the starting lineup in practice, and supposed to start the next game. Go figure."

Mills declined teammate Ramel Bradley's offer to lead a team-wide appeal to Gillispie for the walk-on's reinstatement.

"I told my teammate, 'Don't make a distraction out of me; don't try to pull me back,' " said Mills, who added that he didn't want to be part of a program headed by a man who "tries to make you feel smaller than him."

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart saw nothing in Mills' dismissal or Legion's transfer to warrant his attention into "personnel decisions." He said he was "very comfortable" with how Gillispie is instilling toughness, discipline and competitiveness into Kentucky basketball. UK needs those qualities to win championships in all sports, he said.

"He's no more demanding than many of the successful coaches I've been around," said Barnhart, who noted football's Rich Brooks and baseball's John Cohen as examples at UK. "The great ones demand greatness because he knows where we want to go.

"Some young people can handle that and some people can't handle that."

When Kentucky played Florida International in late December, FIU Coach Sergio Rouco voluntarily defended Gillispie, his friend and former boss, by saying the UK players had to adjust from a "mild-mannered man" (Tubby Smith) to "Baby Saddam." The intended compliment drew laughter from reporters at the post-game news conference. For what it's worth, none of the holdover players from last season have left. Also none speak ill of Gillispie.

Legion cited Gillispie's personality and style as reasons he left. Neither playing time nor his mother influenced his decision, he said.

"I just felt I couldn't develop as a player," said Legion, who averaged 17.5 minutes in six games.

Legion acknowledged how Law ultimately benefited by staying with the program. But it wasn't enough for the Parade All-American to stay.

"Like I said, Coach Gillispie has his way," Legion said. "As a freshman, I just don't see that. I can't see going four years doing that."

Legion refused to speak specifically about his experiences at Kentucky. The player's mother spoke of a negative environment that her son kept from her until Thanksgiving.

"Three or four hours, nothing but negativity," Annette Legion said. "Just told you're nothing. ...

"My son kept a secret I didn't know. He said, for two months Billy talked about him, demeaned him and privately told him to go home and take your mother with you."

Many fans blamed Annette Legion for her son's transfer. But she said the decision was her son's.

"I had nothing to do with it," Legion's mother said. "My son tried to handle it as a young man, but it was over-bearing. He felt he was bullied long enough."

Gillispie did not want to talk about Legion or Mills. But he acknowledged his demanding style is intended to make players uncomfortable. He's trying to push players to greater levels of achievement, the UK coach said.

"My responsibility as a coach to each individual is to motivate them," Gillispie said. "If Joe Crawford is not an NBA Draft choice, I'll take that personal. If a guy such as Patrick (Patterson) comes to you as a sure first-round draft choice, if after one year, he's not a lottery pick, if he stays two years and he's not top-five, I take it personally.

"I'm going to help these guys to understand. Sometimes it may not be really comfortable to achieve at the very highest level. But I can see what exactly the top level of each player is and what the top level of the team is. Sometimes people want to get in a comfort zone and we have to motivate them to get out of it."

Gillispie likened himself to the character played by Sean Connery in the movie The Untouchables. When Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) tries to add the tough Chicago cop to fight organized crime, Connery has a question:

What are you prepared to do?

"He kept asking that question," Gillispie said. "I really believe that's relevant to what we do as basketball players. What are you prepared to do? ... Everybody wants to be an NBA player. But what are you prepared to do to make yourself become one of those guys.

"That's just my whole philosophy, basically."

When asked whether the cliche "tough love" described his coaching philosophy, Gillispie said, "There's a ton of love, I know that much."

Legion acknowledged that the coach patted players on the back. It was usually to point out areas of improvement, he said.

"He's going to tell you you've done a good job sometimes," the former UK player said. "But he's not going to baby you."

Gillispie compliments players. "But," Legion added, "it wasn't one of his strong points."

Johnston admitted that he initially had doubt. As a walk-on at UTEP, he assumed this was the way Division I players and coaches interacted. When the season began and the games became much easier than the practices, he embraced Gillispie's tough love.

"If you want to get better and you want a coach who cares about you, Billy Gillispie is the guy," Johnston said. "It's not an easy road. It's ultimately for the better of you."

That Gillispie's way turned off Legion, that Mills said he "agreed 100 percent" with the word "demeaning" as an accurate description of the style did not surprise Johnston.

"It's not that he's trying to belittle you or hurt you," Johnston said. "He's trying to help you. Some people can't look past the criticism to see it's constructive."

Without any prompting, Mills likened Gillispie's style to another no-nonsense, this-will-be-good-for-you coach who draws admirers and detractors.

"I love Bobby Knight, but it's like Bobby Knight tactics that you read about," the now former walk-on said. "It's all about holding power and stuff like that."

Unlike Knight, Gillispie doesn't physically abuse a player. "No, no, no, no, no," Mills said. "I truly believe Billy Gillispie would never physically touch a player. I've seen him very, very (ticked) off, but he never made any motion toward physically touching a player.

"Put it this way, if he was ever in my face, I'd have 100 percent confidence that he would not lay a hand on me."

Gillispie, an unabashed Knight admirer, recoiled from any comparison to Knight. "Any time you're compared to a guy who won 902 games and graduated his players, that's not fair to Coach Knight," he quipped.

Observers have said Knight acted like a drill sergeant, tearing down buck privates and then building them back into soldiers. "He believes that destroying you motivates you to prove him wrong," Mills said.

Since Southeastern Conference play began, Gillispie has been noticeably freer with praise for players. Good numbers by Crawford in November and December drew a shrug. In the last week, Gillispie has used the word "fantastic" when asked about Crawford and Patterson, and noted how Bradley's turnovers in the clutch are a bargain when weighed against his ability to score.

"I don't have a strategy," Gillispie said of the recent encouragement. "What I do is I tell the truth 100 percent of the time."

Sometimes the truth hurts.

Gillispie noted his demanding nature extends to the classroom and social settings as well as basketball.

"I think we're teaching life through basketball," he said. "Life isn't always easy either. The people most prepared to be successful are the people who've probably gone through some trials and tribulations."

© 2008 Kentucky. com

Add a brief comment to show that you have read this blog.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Highly recommended reading for my class on Critical Thinking, HRM 304, Senior Project I on Critical Thinking, Midway College, Feb 26, Tuesday, AHR, Room 112.

This is a very good overview of the cognitive processing of the voter, really about how elections are won or lost. or how we refuse often to think critically. In the midst of a national election, it is most timely addition of our curriculum material in HRM 304

When It's Head Versus Heart, The Heart Wins

Science shows that when we are deciding which candidate to support, anxiety, enthusiasm and whom we identify with count more than reason or logic.

People are not dispassionate information-processing machines.

Updated: 1:06 PM ET Feb 2, 2008

It is a core tenet of political psychology that voters know nothing. Or next to nothing. Or next to nothing about what civics classes (forgive the anachronism) told us really matters. In 1992, the one fact that almost every voter knew about George H. W. Bush, besides that he was the incumbent president, was that he loathed broccoli. A close second was the name of the Bushes' springer spaniel, Millie, which 86 percent of likely voters said they knew. But when it came to the positions of Bush and his opponent, Bill Clinton, on important issues, voters were, shall we say, a tad underinformed. Just 15 percent, for instance, knew that both candidates supported the death penalty.

The fact that people have what is euphemistically called cognitive-processing limitationsmost cannot or will not learn about and remember candidates' records or positions—means voters must substitute something else for that missing knowledge. What that something is has become a heated topic among scientists who study decision-making, and, of course, campaign strategists and pollsters. Some answers are clear, however. In general elections, a large fraction of voters use political party as that substitute, says psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University; some 60 percent typically choose a candidate solely or largely by party affiliation. The next criterion is candidates' positions on issues; single-issue voters in particular will never even consider a candidate they disagree with. In a primary, however, party affiliation is no help, since all of the choices belong to the same one. And parsing positions doesn't help much this year, especially in the Democratic race, where the policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are minute. "When voting your party doesn't apply, and when the candidates don't differ much on the issues, you have to choose on some other basis," says political scientist Richard Lau of Rutgers University, coauthor of the 2006 book "How Voters Decide." "That's when you get people voting by heuristics [cognitive shortcuts] and going with their gut, with who they most identify with, or with how the candidates make them feel." What has emerged from the volatile and unpredictable primary season so far is that the candidates who can make voters feel enthusiasm and empathy—and, perhaps paradoxically, anxiety—are going to make it to November and maybe beyond.

Because voters are not computers, willing and able to remember and analyze candidates' every position, they rely on what political scientist Samuel Popkin of the University of California, San Diego, calls "gut rationality," which provides one of the most powerful of the heuristics Lau cites. In his now classic 1991 book "The Reasoning Voter," Popkin uses an example from the 1976 Republican primaries, which pitted President Gerald Ford against Ronald Reagan. While campaigning in Texas, Ford ate, or tried to eat, a tamale without first removing its corn-husk wrapper. He nearly choked on it. Mexican-American voters inferred from this—reasonably, Popkin argues—that Ford didn't know much about them or their culture, and that it therefore made sense to pull the lever for Reagan. The Gipper carried Texas overwhelmingly, winning 96 delegates to Ford's zero, thanks in part to the Latino vote. In the 1992 campaign, when George H.W. Bush looked at his watch during a debate with Bill Clinton, the message that "gut rationality" received was that "Bush didn't want to be there," says GOP consultant Frank Luntz. " 'Voters felt 'He doesn't understand the country anymore,' which leads to 'I don't trust him'." In contrast, during the debate Clinton walked over to a questioner in the audience; as he looked into her eyes and spoke about the economy, she nodded and nodded. "No one remembered what Clinton said, but everyone remembered the visual expression of affirmation," says Luntz. "That one small move led hundreds of thousands of people to change their minds" and vote for Clinton.

With these and countless other instances of voters following their guts, the debate about whether the electorate is guided by its head or its heart, by reason or emotion, is over. "More important than what people think is how they feel," says Luntz, a view expressed by almost every expert NEWSWEEK interviewed. That doesn't mean voters don't care about Obama's war vote or McCain's support for the Iraqi surge. They do—but not because they have made a coldly rational calculation of how those positions would affect them. Instead, voters evaluate how a position makes them feel. To a struggling ranch hand in Wyoming, it may well feel right to vote for a candidate who opposes gun control even if the candidate also favors tax breaks for the wealthy—even though, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, a candidate who wants to raise taxes on the rich is the more rational choice.

Campaign ads therefore aim for the heart even when they seem to be addressed to the head. One Clinton ad shows a skydiver in free fall against a background of headlines about the housing bust and stock-market gyrations. A parachute opens—and Clinton's image appears. The emotional goal is clear: stir up fear and anxiety about the economy, then present Clinton as savior. In another ad, Clinton talks about her economic-stimulus plan, followed by a voice-over warning that "we know you can't solve economic problems with political promises." By reminding voters that these are risky times, the ads are meant to make voters feel anxious and thus more receptive to the argument that this is no time to gamble on a relative newcomer such as Obama.

When voters consider candidates' positions, they are drawn to the candidate who assuages fear, inspires hope, instills pride or brings some other emotional dividend. People are not dispassionate information-processing machines. "When a candidate says he is pro-life or antiwar, for example, he is giving voters a policy position but also appealing to strong emotional elements," says Democratic strategist Carter Eskew, who is not affiliated with any campaign this year. In Clinton's health-coverage ads, "she identifies with people she says have been forgotten or invisible. It's a policy position with an emotional appeal."

But recognizing the power of emotion leaves unanswered which emotions are paramount. The answer is, it depends—on circumstances as well as on individuals' emotional makeup. But as in every election, the emotions most in play are fear and the yearning for security; hope and a desire for inspiration, and a wish for a certain level of comfort with a candidate.

The strongest human emotions are fear and anxiety. Crucial to survival, they are programmed into the brain's most primitive regions, allowing them to trump rationality but not for rationality to override them. A terror attack on the United States would therefore drive out consideration of every other issue for most voters—and probably push many to Clinton and McCain, the candidates who have most successfully trumpeted their national- security credentials.

Events that fall well short of a terror attack can also "prime" voters' anxiety, by which psychologists mean that the event brings that emotion to the fore and shapes thinking. On the day of the New Hampshire primary, President Bush held a press conference that was heavy on national security issues; just two days before, an American warship and Iranian speedboats faced off in the Strait of Hormuz. It was, in a way, a January surprise. "These two things primed voters' brain networks for 'national security'," says Westen, who argues that McCain and Clinton benefited. (The counter is that antiwar Democrats may turn away from Clinton.) "If I wanted to stop Obama," adds Westen, "I'd keep raising the specter of war with Iran. People who are anxious are drawn to leaders who give them a sense of security." In fact, an adult's political leanings can be predicted with eerie accuracy by how anxious he was in preschool: the most anxious children grow into the most politically conservative adults. Their temperament leads them to value predictability, protection and preserving what they have rather than taking a chance on change.

Anxiety has a more subtle effect on voting decisions, too. It pushes people to seek out new information, research shows. Uneasy about either the state of the country or their personal finances, anxious voters are motivated to find out more about the candidates, paying greater attention to news coverage and debates. This year's electorate is nothing if not anxious, says political scientist George Marcus of Williams College, with two thirds telling pollsters the country is "moving in the wrong direction." That helps explain why polls have been so unreliable, particularly on the GOP side: anxiety pushed voters to learn more about the candidates, which translated into taking a new look at some they might have originally supported (Giuliani, who had long been leading in national polls) or dismissed (McCain).

Even when anxiety is triggered by a specific issue, such as fear of an impending recession, it prompts voters to seek out more information on all aspects of a candidate, not only his or her economic platform. "That's why candidates and their personal qualities are getting a lot more attention," says Marcus. Everything, in other words, is in play. "When voters looked again at Giuliani, they were, like, 'Wait a minute, I don't like all this stuff about the [three] wives and the kids [who don't speak to their father]'," says Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. "He began to tank under the power of the microscope."

The many anxious voters taking another—and another—look at candidates may explain one of the more remarkable phenomena of this primary season: the many late-breaking voters. In New Hampshire, 18 percent of voters made up their minds on the day of the primary, says pollster John Zogby; in Michigan, 16 percent did. What sways those late deciders is more emotional than rational, says Obama strategist David Axelrod: "They're making critical decisions not just about the issues but about the character and personality of the candidates."

Obama has staked his hopes on the appeal of hope, which tends to be a winning strategy as long as voters' fears and anxieties are not primed by, say, a terrorist attack or a sharp economic downturn. "The outrage and cynicism that the Bush administration has made so many people feel has led a lot of them to want to feel inspired again," says Westen. That is clearly something the Obama campaign is counting on. In his endorsement speech last week, Sen. Edward Kennedy scarcely mentioned Obama's positions on issues, emphasizing instead the country's yearning for "a president who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream … and who can lift our spirits and make us believe again," and calling Obama someone who can "summon our hopes and renew our belief that our country's best days are still to come." Although hope for the future is almost always trumped by anxiety about the present, it can sway voters whose fears are in check. That may explain Obama's success with better-educated, well-off Democrats, while Clinton appeals more to those who have only a high-school diploma and are struggling economically.

In contrast to anxiety, enthusiasm tends to close voters' minds to new information. It makes voters stand pat, as it were, rather than try to learn more about candidates. The lack of enthusiasm for the GOP pack may therefore explain why that race has been particularly fluid: unenthusiastic voters are still actively seeking more information about the candidates.

Clinton's misty-eyed moment right before the New Hampshire primary tapped into another factor that shapes voters' decisions, namely, whom they identify with. Her display of emotion brought her gender front and center. That led more women to identify with Clinton. "When Hillary, who has played against gender stereotypes, suddenly tears up, women flock to her because she seems like them," says political scientist Pippa Norris of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. That was especially true for older women, says Zogby: "When she showed emotion, they said, 'Her struggle is mine.' They related to her."

Which candidate a voter identifies with is one of the most important gut-level heuristics, since it is tantamount to deciding that someone is enough like you to "understand the concerns of people like you," as pollsters put it. "If you feel a candidate is like you racially or by gender, you're more likely to believe that that candidate will support what you support," says Norris. But with a white woman and a black man vying for the Democratic nomination, where does that leave black women? Whom they most identify with depends on which aspect of their own identity dominates their self-image. For instance, in a study of whether black women believed O. J. Simpson guilty or not of the 1994 murder of his ex-wife and her friend, those whose identity as a woman trumped their sense of themselves as black were significantly more likely to believe Simpson guilty. But black women whose self-image was dominated by their race tended to believe him innocent.

Which aspect of identity takes precedence can change week by week and even hour by hour, depending which aspect of yourself you're reminded of. That, too, explains some of the volatility in this year's primaries. Several studies find that when Asian girls take a math test that asks them to indicate their gender, they are reminded of the stereotype that girls aren't good at math and therefore don't do as well as when they are not asked. But when they're asked for their ethnicity they assimilate the stereotype that Asians are math whizzes and do better. Clinton's emotional moment in New Hampshire brought gender to the fore, but the injection of race into the South Carolina primary made that aspect of identity more salient, and black women voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

Explaining why voters make the decisions they do is hampered by people's poor powers of introspection. Exit polls ask people whom they voted for and why. But the explanations tend to be post hoc, and wrong, because people have such little insight into their own motivations, reasoning and emotions, says Eskew. "People default to things like 'He shares my values,' or 'I think he's authentic,' or 'I like his position on abortion," he says. "But those are rational reasons. The real ones, the emotional ones, are harder to articulate." But they are the ones that count, and the campaign that best harnesses the power of the heart is just about certain to see its candidate at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue one year from now.

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/107601

Monday, February 04, 2008

NY Giants become 'Giant killers"

Best Superbowl I ever saw, Best, ever.
Down to the last minute, a come from beind win, of an underdog team, playing INSPIRED BAll.
Defense, team play, believing in one another.
A triumph of spirit, and a coaching miracle.
I want to read an interview with Tom Coughlin and the team leaders about how this was accomplished.
PS. I hada similar victory, coaching a high school team, St. Leo Prep, 0-2, with no TDs in a young season, new head coach, against an undefeated Catholic High School, St., Ann of West Palm Beach, Fl, who had won ten straight, until they met us. Which is another story. The story today for those who love sports and sports competition is what happened last night.
Here is one post

Led by Coughlin, the underdog Giants captured their first Super Bowl title in 18 years by upsetting the previously undefeated New England Patriots, the highest-scoring team in National Football League history, 17-14.

``The best part of it for me is that this group of young men, who came together and believed in themselves, bought the team concept completely, took the names off the back of their jerseys and checked their egos at the door,'' Coughlin said after the game. ``The reinforcement for the team is the greatest source of satisfaction for me.''

The championship comes after Coughlin, 61, sat down with Giants owners and promised changes in his approach to coaching. In 2006, New York became the eighth NFL team to reach the postseason after winning just half their regular-season games, and lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

After the season, Giants owners John Mara and Jonathan Tisch met with their coach, whose contract was almost expired. Coughlin received a one-year extension and went to work, forming a player's leadership council to get more input from the team.

Both players and owners said Coughlin became more open and accessible to the team, improved communication and never went backward, even when the Giants started the season 0-2.

`It Worked'

``We met with him and we asked him to step it up and he did that,'' Tisch said in an interview after the game in Glendale, Arizona. ``I'm not in the locker room so I really have no clue what he did. Whatever it was, it worked.''

Giants players embraced the new Coughlin.

``He is smiling,'' Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan said in a news conference last week. ``He is using words like `fun' and `enjoyment' and it blows my mind every time he does.''

The Giants hired Coughlin in January 2004, shortly after the team's worst season in 20 years. The former New York assistant and Jacksonville coach had led the Jaguars to two American Football Conference Championship games and compiled a 72-64 record in eight years before getting fired for missing the playoffs three straight years.

Coughlin embraced discipline as the key to winning. In Jacksonville, he imposed a ban on beards and jewelry. In his first season with New York, he fined several players for not being at team meetings early enough.


We shall be hearing more.

Today we celebrate a stunning example of what an inspirted TEAM can do.

Paschal, recoving from total knee replacement (9th week post-op)and aiming and planning to ski by the end of this month, "God willing and the crick don't rise." Feb 4