When the ex- Pacers’ President Larry Bird chose not to renew Frank Vogel’s contract and for some reason I chose to watch the entire press conference. Whether one agreed with the decision or not, it was obvious that Bird really would have preferred not to make that decision but felt compelled to do so because he believed Vogel’s “voice” had lost some of its effectiveness over the years (my words, not Bird’s.)
When asked by the media if Vogel had “lost the locker-room”, Bird was very firm that wasn’t the case. Bird went on to say that it’s common in the NBA for players to naturally begin to tune out coaches by the 3-year mark. Vogel lasted 5 ½ years and Bird more than implied that Vogel will be hired soon and he would receive Bird’s highest recommendation.
While I was watching and listening to Bird, I remembered a Doc Rivers press conference during the Donald Sterling fiasco and the same thought occurred both times- just how damn good both were as they each explained the pertinent circumstances within the vision each had for their programs.
Now, most coaches don’t and can’t have the same “juice” as Bird and Rivers but there are certain attributes that all coaches can recognize and put to work when working with the media:
- Be comfortable in your own skin. Don’t try to be “like” someone else.
- Be conversational. That’s really what it is.
- Be respectful of the questioner and everyone and everything you discuss. The moment you’re not, it will bite you back. Word always gets back.
- If a question seems adversarial, don’t reciprocate.
- If a question seems “dumb”, maybe it is, but answer it as if it isn’t.
- Be humble if things are going well or not.
- But, don’t be over-apologetic either. Keep your level of disappointment at a minimum. Be even-keeled and don’t let despair or pessimism seep into your words.
- Every time you speak publicly, it’s an opportunity to “coach” your players, constituents and even the media themselves.
- Don’t over-speak. That’s often when you can be misinterpreted.
- Be yourself but be your best self.
There are many ways to build a program and media opportunities are great vehicles.
Work on this aspect of the profession like you do at all other aspects. Some coaches are great at this phase but all coaches can be effective.
Do you have any more tips?