Tag Archives: Eric Mangini

Stay Classy Coach

Michael Silver has a great column on the lack of social skills shown by many in the Bill Belichick coaching tree.

It’s the latest testament to Mangini’s apparent lack of tact and people skills, personality traits he honed under his estranged mentor, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Like two other Belichick disciples, new Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and neophyte Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, Mangini has marked his arrival at a new organization this offseason by alienating established leaders while projecting a self-assuredness that borders on arrogance.

With three Super Bowl titles as a head coach and a prior record of success as a brainy defensive coordinator, Belichick, a future Hall of Famer, can get away with his power trip. Whether Mangini, Pioli and McDaniels are able to pull it off will depend upon how many football games their respective teams win, something that often depends upon the men in uniform buying into the program.

In the meantime, in Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver, the new guys in charge seem to be consumed with winning mind games, a strategy I’m not so sure will serve them well over the long haul.

In Denver, McDaniels’ sloppy handling of his interactions with Jay Cutler after an unsuccessful attempt to trade him at the start of free agency led to the loss of a franchise quarterback, largely because the 33-year-old coach was obsessed with demonstrating his unquestioned authority.

In K.C., Pioli’s arrival as the all-powerful general manager after years as Belichick’s right-hand personnel man was soon followed by a less-publicized incident involving a star player. According to Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock, perennial Pro Bowl guard and locker-room leader Brian Waters  asked to be traded or released after becoming offended by the arrogant attitudes of Pioli and his newly hired coach, Todd Haley.

Waters, a source told Whitlock, flew to Kansas City in February specifically to meet with the new GM and coach in an effort to become familiar with their leadership plans. The source said Pioli told Waters he had no interest in meeting and that Haley began a hallway conversation with the player by proclaiming that 22 guys off the street could win two games, as the Chiefs had in ’08.

Mangini, fresh off a 1-4 finish with the Jets that got him fired after three seasons – he had a 23-26 overall record (including a playoff loss) in New York – arrived in Cleveland with a similar swagger. One of his first moves was to orchestrate the firing of director of pro personnel T.J. McCreight, the highest-ranking personnel man remaining after Lerner’s dismissal of general manager Phil Savage, and one of the people who’d interviewed to replace Savage. (Mangini, hired while the GM job was still open, successfully lobbied Lerner to choose Ravens personnel executive George Kokinis.)

McCreight, a source said, was called into the office of team president Mike Keenan, who pulled out cell-phone records showing that McCreight had engaged in conversations with reporters – an act frowned upon by the paranoid Mangini. McCreight explained that speaking with the media was among the duties with which he’d been entrusted by Savage, but he was nonetheless terminated; he has since been hired as the Cardinals’ director of pro personnel.

I hate defending Bill Belichick but he has always treated players well.  Before he learned how to do this, he flamed out in Cleveland and left there with not many Christmas cards from the organization or the players.   It may work in the short term but players play for a coach they respect and who they think respects them.  Witness the success that Mike Smith had in Atlanta doing the exact opposite that the Belichick coaching tree is trying to do.  He respected the veterans, listened to their input, and when the going got tough, they believed in their coach.

Looking outside football, contrast this with how Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports treats people

In 25 years of racing in NASCAR’s top series, Hendrick has built a powerhouse organization of 500-plus employees who have a fierce loyalty to their boss. They love working for “Mr. H.” and put 100-percent effort into job performance. If the grass is possibly greener elsewhere, few ever bother finding out.

Steve Letarte started as a high schooler stocking the parts room and grew up to be Jeff Gordon’s crew chief. Gustafson came aboard in the chassis shop when he was 24 and was Busch’s crew chief six years later. Chad Knaus started as a tire changer on Gordon’s original “Rainbow Warriors” pit crew, left briefly for a bigger job elsewhere, then returned to build Jimmie Johnson’s three-time championship-winning team from scratch.

Even Tony Eury Jr. has come full cycle. He spent childhood summers sweeping floors and polishing cars at Hendrick with his grandfather, Robert Gee. When Earnhardt chose HMS in 2007 over every other team in the industry, Earnhardt used this example to demonstrate his affection for Hendrick: When Gee, one of the first employees at All-Star Racing (now Hendrick Motorsports) had aged well past his ability to perform as a fabricator, Hendrick let him continue to work.

He treats his employees as family – firing Casey Mears, a close friend of Hendrick’s late son, Ricky, was a gut-wrenching business decision – and goes out of his way to offer a helping hand.

Sidelined several weeks with a fast-spreading sinus infection that kept him away from the track, Hendrick returned for last week’s All-Star race on a scaled-back schedule. Thursday, he was still making his rounds at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, reconnecting with people he had not seen in several weeks. When an industry veteran updated Hendrick on an ailing family member, Hendrick said to him, “Tell me if there’s anything I can do to help.”

That kind of attention is what separates Hendrick from the other car owners. Of course Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress and Jack Roush have good employee relationships, but none have established the kind of companywide adoration that Hendrick receives from his race team, his automotive organization and virtually everyone inside the Cup garage, including his competition.

Who would you rather work for?