CALL ME A POP-PSYCHOLOGIST BUT…
I think I may be on to something here. I had a conversation with Steve Clifford yesterday morning on Open Mike (our 2nd interview with him as a head coach with the Magic), and I found him to be a great interview, incredibly honest, forthcoming, and willing to answer questions without hesitation. In other words, he was “likable”. You tend to like people that you can have a real conversation with in life, rather than the contrary. I’ve found, in my 7 years in this business, talking to coaches is no different. In fact (and this is where pop-psychology comes into play), I think that accessibility, self-awareness, and likability could be a predictor of success.
I was trying to figure it out yesterday- Why was I feeling such an overwhelming sense of optimism surrounding the Magic? It was only after the Clifford interview that it hit me: This regime is making it a point to be as open, forthcoming, and likable as they possibly can be. They want to insert a little personality back into the organization, and they’re doing it with every move. Jeff Weltman is one of the easiest executives I’ve ever interviewed (far more likable than Martins), same goes for Hammond (worlds better than Hennigan), Steve Clifford (I never felt like Vogel enjoyed talking to the media), and now Mo Bamba, who is one the most interesting individuals I’ve ever covered.
Back to the coaching correlation…If you look at the coaches that I’ve covered in the last 7 years in this town, can you correlate “likability” to winning? I think you can.
- Adrian Heath- won @ the USL Pro level.
- Stan Van Gundy- went to the NBA Finals.
- Scott Frost- undefeated last season, national champs.
- Jimbo Fisher- 2013 National Champions
- Willie Taggart- turned around a miserable USF program
Never connected/poor results:
- Jason Kreis
- Jaque Vaughn
- Frank Vogel
- Jim McElwain
- George O’Leary
- Scott Skiles (inconclusive)
If you look nationally, I think the perception is, the Belichick’s-Saban’s-Popovich’s of the world, who are gruff and unlikable do all the winning. That is just untrue. Look at the teams competing for championships in this country and you’ll notice a common trend among the coaches.
Eagles: Super Bowl champs, Doug Pederson = Likable
Villanova: CBB Champs, Jay Wright = Likable
Jaguars: AFC Championship, Doug Marrone = Likable
Cubs: 2016 World Series Champs, Joe Maddon = Likable
CFB Playoff champion 2017, Dabo Swinney = Likable
NBA Champs, Steve Kerr = Likable