Gottfried Gambling On “Calvin’s” Response To The Name Change
NC State's basketball team held their annual media meet-n-greet yesterday afternoon. Most of the soundbytes from it were of the standard, boring preseason chatter variety, but there was one interesting tidbit that coach Mark Gottfried relayed to the press:
C.J. Leslie is no longer C.J. Leslie. He's now "Calvin."
“It’s time for a new start with him,” said Gottfried. “C.J. Williams is C.J.; Calvin is Calvin.”
The message from Coach Gott was clear: you (Leslie) are who I say you are, and you better get used to it.
Typical college basketball players don't draw this type of "special treatment" from their newly installed head coach, but it's hard to argue against Leslie having earned it. Anyone with a TV and two functioning eyes could see that, at times last year, "Calvin" checked out and was merely going through the motions. Or worse, that he was operating independently of the game plan to serve his own motives.
From "Calvin's" performances and the subsequent lack of discipline from the coaching staff, you could see Sidney Lowe had little-to-no control over Leslie.
That's something Gottfried is hellbent on gaining, evidenced by yesterday's revelation.
Lauded by State fans, the name change is a bold but potentially risky move on Gottfried's part.
While today's modern athlete sports a tough, robust and athletic body, along with that often comes a fragile and easily broken ego. The era of tearing kids down through shame and verbal abuse with the expectation they can be built back up into obedient warriors by their coaches is over. I can only think of two coaches in recent memory that could probably get away with operating in that manner: Coach K and Bobby Knight. Coach Knight is no longer in the coaching game, due in part because the world evolved away from his militaristic coaching approach. He now sits in comfy couches breaking down game film rather than choking players and flinging chairs.
Coach K is winning as much as he ever has, but he's long in the tooth and destined for retirement shortly after he breaks Knight's wins record.
Unlike Coach K and Bobby Knight, Coach Gottfried doesn't have the luxuries of multiple NCAA titles and decades of success to bolster taking such a hardline stance with a kid like Leslie, a kid he just met a few months ago. In response to Gottfried using such a public shame tactic, "Calvin" could easily go the other way of Gott's intended result, shutting down in response to what he might perceive as an unwarranted act of disrespect. (If you don't think a ego-driven kid would take being publicly called out in this way as a sign of disrespect, ask yourself how you'd feel if your company's president sent out a company-wide memo saying, due to a lack of team-first attitude, you are henceforth to be known as "John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt," effective immediately.)
If Leslie reaches a point where he shuts Gottried out, I have no doubts Gottfried will bench him indefinitely, an act probably to the benefit of the rest of the team.
But it's hard to deny that "Calvin", when operating within the framework of the team concept, is a tremendous asset that would greatly improve Gottfried's chances of getting State back to the NCAA tournament this year. Watching a future pro prospect waste away on the bench while his team struggles will naturally lead to a lot of second guessing from fans and media alike.
The $64,000 question is how does a coach in today's era placate the ego of a sulking superstar without losing the respect of the rest of your team? Maybe the simple answer is you can't. Certainly no one player can hold the rest of his team hostage, and perhaps the risk of alienating "Calvin" is offset by the assumption the rest of the team will rally around their coaches and perform better without him. Maybe Gott's been around enough prima donnas to know "Calvin" will react positively to this public shaming and all this fretting is nonsense.
But should "Calvin" implode, sulk, get outwardly displeased and/or become more of a distraction than an asset, we might look back to this name change decision and wonder if Gottfried took the right tact in handling this situation.