Assistants can speak volumes about a coach

A coaching staff says a lot about the leader. Do you hire big names? Do you take a risk on an unknown assistant? Do you favor the right personality over a distinguished resume? The people a coach surrounds himself with speaks volumes about the direction his program is headed. That’s why Auburn fans anxiously look for clues about the Gene Chizik administration through the persons tabbed for his staff.

But Chizik isn’t the only coach forming a staff these days. New Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has hired a bevy of former Alabama coaches. According to Ray Melick’s column in Sunday’s Birmingham News, Swinney has hired Woody McCorvey, Danny Pearman and Charlie Harbison.

“There is only going to be one boss,” Swinney was quoted as saying. “But we all have great respect for each other. They’ll work with me. They are people I trust and know they’ll have my back, no matter what.” (Be sure to read the Melick column. It is a fascinating look at Swinney.)

You can’t exaggerate the importance of having people you trust on your staff. Just like working in an office, if you don’t trust your coworkers, your guard is always up because you can’t depend on them. Is the guy in the next cubicle pushing his agenda for a promotion? Is he trying to undermine you? Is he trying to sabotage your project?

If you have to ask those questions, there’s a problem. If you have to worry about those issues, morale takes a hit.

Morale in the office or on a coaching staff is a big component of success. If people are miserable their work product suffers.

It doesn’t mean a staff can’t be successful when personalities clash. Alabama’s Gene Stallings oversaw a staff with gigantic egos and plenty of backstabbing. All Alabama did was win. Alabama’s Mike Dubose was another story. His staff was beset by friction. You never knew who was running the offense. Was it Charlie Stubbs? Was it Neil Callaway?

This season Auburn’s staff was the subject of chaos; much of that chaos was caused by personality conflict. It was foolish to hire renegade offensive mastermind Tony Franklin. Franklin’s ego is almost as large as former Hoover High School coach Rush Propst.

Just how big is Franklin’s head? He thinks he should have been allowed to bring his assistants into Auburn.

When did an assistant get the privilege of hiring other assistants? The head coach is called head for a reason. He’s in command. The offensive coordinator isn’t the leader.

It was a clash of styles on the Auburn staff, and the entire team suffered. Tuberville made a gigantic error hiring Franklin. It upset the balance of a very successful program. You can make a case Tuberville needed to be fired due to the Franklin fiasco, slipping recruiting and general malaise. You can’t make a case Tuberville was a bad leader. His leadership style worked. He won 85 games in 10 years.

Tuberville’s CEO style was much different from Alabama’s Nick Saban. Saban loves details and obsesses about everything. Tuberville is a steward overseeing the organization. Tuberville’s style resembles Dwight D. Eisenhower. Saban’s style seems more like Julius Caesar through his insistence on celerity of command resting in himself. (A case could be made that Saban’s famous harshness on subordinates resembles Confederate general Stonewall Jackson; Jackson quarreled with subordinates and was possessed of a dour disposition. It would be easy to see Jackson demanding Little Debbie’s and telling people not to speak to him. )

Saban’s staff at Alabama has exceeded expectations. Kevin Steele and Kirby Smart are hot names on defense. Jim McElwain is now a hot name on offense thanks to the improved quarterback play and play calling. We don’t know much about these assistants because of Saban. He keeps them out of the press. There is no doubt. Saban is in charge of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Who will be in charge of Auburn? With the naming of former Pat Dye players and assistants, the ceremonial head of the Auburn family would exert considerable private influence over the direction of the team. Will that happen? Or will Chizik go his own way?

It can be no doubt that Dye was gleeful in the end of the Tuberville era. He triumphantly gloated during the Gene Chizik press conference.

In Britain when a new prime minister is appointed to form a government, he is summoned by the monarch and as a symbolic gesture of fealty, kisses the monarch’s hands; if Chizik hires a Dye staff, it will be the equivalent of kissing hands. We’ll know who is in charge on the Plains. If Chizik is beholden to outsiders the staff will be dysfunctional; it will be meandering in search of a clear leader. It is just one more reason for fans to care about the assistant coaches.

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13 Comments

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  1. 1
    tmc1

    I for one cant wait to get back to some Pat Dye-style football on the plains.
    steriod abuse, pay for play, and some good “old school” grade fixing to bring home honor and victory to Auburn University. Honestly, that is all Auburn has ever been. Second school in the state… Bending and breaking every rule possible in an envious attempt to be as good as Bama. Auburn is the state of Alabama’s answer to SMU.
    From the year that Auburn tried to steal the NC from an Ohio State team that won it outright on the field. (1957) until now Auburn hasnt changed thier habits.. And no amount of whitewash, bleach and spin will ever obscure it.
    All hail ChopBlockU!

  2. 3
    tmc1

    Compared to Auburn, Bama is a recently cannonized St. who is feeding the hungry on the way to helping under-priveliged kids in a eco-friendly car.

  3. 4
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    Ihere yaa tmc1……It wasnt a full year ago when the textbook deal went down was it ? How many of your starters were arressted last year ? You are full of dog crap.

  4. 5
    BamaBrando

    Textbook deal Ballplay? My goodness. Players arrested. How many have been arrested? You don’t think Saban is changing things? He did inherit a mess down there, like Chizik is doing. But seriously, you think the textbook deal is as bad as Pat Dye paying players? The heat is on at Auburn. Watch what you say, because Auburn is on the verge of doing desperate things. They have done it before, so don’t think it won’t happen again.

  5. 6
    Bamaman

    Ballplay, it was over a year, the day we played Tenn, the four or maybe five guys missed four games for trying to help some other fellow students who were probably having as hard of a time making it as they were, it was not for personal gain as ruled. As far as how many starters were arrested, just a couple I know of, the majority of those were walk ons or those who had never played a game.

  6. 7
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    Incorrect my friends. The “Legacy Crew” incedents were over the summer . Rashaad Johnson was a walk on though.

  7. 8
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    And the textbook crew had a few starters as well. Im not saying this because I believe it. Im sayuing it to prove a point. Auburn wasnt succesful on the field last year. But they were succesfull off thw field. No NCAA violations. No troubles. I will miss Tubbs when it comes to that. He ran a clean program.

  8. 9
    tmc1

    Ballplay says:

    ” Auburn wasnt succesful on the field last year. But they were succesfull off thw field. No NCAA violations. No troubles.”

    And I might add…nothing was reported by anyone at Auburn for anything whatsoever. That is odd behaviour for a team that leads the SEC in infractions.
    Luckily no one got a DUI, because the local police would call CTT and Brother Chette when they caught someone DUI so that CTT could drive them home.
    Must be nice to get caught drinking and driving and get a free pass home because you are a football player…eh?

  9. 10
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    Yes tmc1……..It does beat going to the slammer I suppose. Do you always hear black helicopters ? Only when you think about Auburn, right ? Again , without you even knowing it, you make my point once more for me ..Thanks.

    But answer yes or no. Was Auburn in good shape off the field under CTT ? Bowden was a joke, Dye was a joke. Ctt really straightened things up IMO. And thats all it is, MY opinion.

  10. 11
    tmc1

    No black helicopters here.
    And thanks to writers like Phillip Marshall no negative news whatsoever made it out of Lee County. None. Zero.. Nada…Unless you count the assault on Deron Furr. Oh but that was just food honest innocent fun by a half dozen clean cut young men with hearts as pure as the driven snow on a thug.
    Yeah tight.
    People with a good moral conscious dont gang up on one person.

  11. 13
    Auburnisajoke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian.

    I can relate to bad spelling. Too much eggnog in your case. Lack of intellegence in mine.

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