By Spike Eskin
There has been a lot of talk in Philadelphia that the Sixers may have quit on their coach. Doug Collins and his “non-stop-crazy-c’mon guys-why-did-you-throw-that-pass-I’m-going-to-text-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night” style has, according to some, worn the players down. There would certainly be precedent for it, as it’s happened at his previous stops Chicago, Detroit and Washington.
Whether that’s happened is not my issue. My issue is the notion that the players do not have the right to quit.
The fact that NBA players make a lot of money, have what we perceive as fun jobs, and are celebrities, does not mean they should like getting yelled at. It doesn’t mean they don’t get to have a workplace they’re comfortable with. It doesn’t mean they’re not human, and react like the rest of us do to a boss that they don’t like.
In the media, however, if an NBA player is unhappy he’s instantly a malcontent. What you hear is, “shame on them, they’re too sensitive.” What you hear is, “that’s the coach’s job, to yell, to push them to win every game.”
Since when is this the way people like to be treated? Even more importantly, since when has this tactic worked long-term?
The last head coach or manager to win it all in Philadelphia is Charlie Manuel, whose style is … opposite to say the least.
Let’s play make-believe. You’ve got a good job, you’re succeeding, your boss drives you nuts, but whatever. Success can mask a lot of problems. It’s hard to speak up if there’s success.
It’s when the road gets tougher, that the truth is seen more clearly.
Let’s say you struggle a little. Eventually you become more frustrated, your work suffers. Then finally, when your business is failing, and you hate your boss, finally you quit. You just won’t work for him anymore. Maybe you quit and go somewhere else, maybe you just start mailing it in. Whatever the solution is, you just can’t do it anymore. It happens.
NBA players have guaranteed contracts, it’s not easy to up and leave. I don’t mention it so you’ll feel sorry for them, but to understand their options are limited when dealing with a coach they just can’t take anymore.
No one likes getting yelled at. No one likes a boss that micro-manages. No one likes a boss who rides them every day, about every move. Whether that boss has good intentions or not, we all need some space. NBA players are no different.
Collins has mentioned that this isn’t how it used to be. That players used to be able to be yelled at, able to perform even if they were rode hard. Things change. Many things have changed in the workplace, and many of them for the better.
Maybe that’s the way it used to be. Maybe even, on some level, that style brought out more from players than the kid gloves many successful coaches are forced to employ these days.
Things change. That ship has sailed. That style cannot work in today’s workplace environment.
The Sixers may have been unhappy long ago. Long before disaster. Doug Collins’ style and the modern NBA player were never meant to co-habitate the same court. This was doomed from the start. It was just masked with enough wins that we didn’t quite notice.
The Sixers didn’t just decide to quit on their coach because they suddenly didn’t like him. If it’s happening, if it has already happened, it has been bubbling for a long time. It was a process. A process destined to play out. And it’s as likely to happen in an office as it is on the hardwood.
Spike Eskin is the sports editor for CBS Philly, a reporter for KYW 1060, and a host on 94WIP. You can follow him on Twitter @SpikeEskin.