That was then, this is now

In early April, shortly after his team celebrated a postseason championship, a George Washington men’s basketball player visited a campus Title IX coordinator to log complaints about Coach Mike Lonergan. Lonergan, the player believed, had created an offensive, intolerable environment, evidenced in his mind — and in the minds of many of his teammates — by the spate of transfers during the coach’s five-year tenure.

There is much more to the story, here is just one bit, from a player:

“It was always weird. When he goes on those rants, it’s like, how do you react? How do you respond to something like that? Players kind of just stayed away from him. We knew every time it would be you and him, he would go on some kind of weird rant. We would just kind of stay away from him. He did a great job in terms of winning. Off the court, something weird is always going to come out.”

Can you imagine that response to either Bobby Knight or John Wooden?  But at GW many players have left the school, refusing to play under the coach’s tutelage.  He may yet be dismissed and possibly also sued for creating an abusive environment.  In the old days, at the end the team wins, everyone bonds, and the coach is a hero.  Or was it really ever like that?  Maybe we have just stopped pretending.

That is via Peter Boettke.  Via Mark Thorson, the Japanese just made their last VCR player.


I'd wager we've just stopped pretending.

Not about everything.

I guess these young men would rather spend 180 hours a week playing video games in their mom's basement, or so I have read.

They don't get paid playing video games, and they don't get paid playing college ball, so the choice is really down to personal preference.

In many case, they get paid. Generally most college basketball player will get discounted tuition. But the good players will get, free tuition, room, board, healthcare, books. In addition, there are the non-monetary perks of travel, campus fame and women.

A few things. 1) I think most college basketball players aren't much motivated by the education. Many of them don't graduate and many more take cupcake courses that cut down on the time they have to devote to studying. 2) If you gave scholarship basketball players the option to take the valuation of their scholarship in cash, I'd guess the vast majority of them opt for the money (of course, that's not allowed). 3) In many cases, like at big schools with revenue generating basketball or football teams, the athletes generate far more money for the athletic department than the cost of their scholarships.

Also, it occurs to me you might have meant this sarcastically. If so, good one. You got me.

Let's be honest with ourselves. The best college basketball players also get cash money from unscrupulous sources. There is a whole network set up (AAU) as a way to make these transfers.

I interpret that as it's ok to criticize, but don't waste people's time. Yell if you have to, but get to the point.

In the old days the altar boys would just pretend that nothing untoward had happened, and everyone would think well of the priest.

That's what happened at Penn State, too, I think.

Bobby Knight was an asshole and embarassment who should have been fired

Players have said worse about Knight and left the team.

We have just stopped pretending. Bob Knight was always an asshole.

John Wooden was a gentleman.

The difference between Purdue and IU

Wooden was the coach of UCLA, not Purdue.

John Wooden was an alumnus of Purdue. Bobby Knight was an asshole.

Then shouldnt it be the difference between Purdue and Ohio State?

Ohio State is pretty much all assholes, basketball coaches included.

If you want coaches to coaches: Gene Keady of Purdue was 21-20 against Knight's IU and is a charitable man.

Yes, he was especially charitable to Luther Clay. Too bad the NCAA wasn't as charitable.

It helps to pay your players:

I don't know enough about Wooden, but Knight is as you described. The only evidence we need is his support for Trump. If his players 20 years ago knew he would have supported Trump. I bet they would have walked.

How old are you, 18?

There are winners, there are losers, and there are those with tenure. Peter Boettke has tenure.

If enough players to win were willing to put up with him, it's tolerable. If not, it's not.

On the contrary. If so many players walked away from the opportunity to participate on a winning team at a school they all voluntarily chose to attend, then that says a lot about what a jerk and/or weirdo this guy must be.

it is just the personal preference.

battered wives used to stay with their husbands 'for the sake of the children' and now they don't. I don't understand the point of this post, Tyler.

There's been a change in expectations. Kids today seem much more "privileged" than previous generations. They expect a lot more courtesy and difference to them especially in college. Doesn't mean this coach isn't a complete jerk, but I suspect in older times there wouldn't be any problem - certainly not a newspaper article about him. It reminds me of the recent news of the interns at the one company sending a memo to management about changes to their dress policy, and instead of management listening to them, they were all let go and they were surprised. They were just use to the adults in their lives capitulating to them or caring about their opinions. They see authority figures less as mentors to learn from, and more as people they hire to perform certain tasks for them.

In the movies, the hero coach is always full of positive reinforcement, even if he has high standards and acts sternly at times. In my experience, that kind of coach existed only in the movies. Although coaches were positive and helpful, all of the ones I've known would not hesitate to use negative reinforcement - shame, insults, even humiliation - to motivate their players. You just learned to deal with it and move on. If the coach could get you to win, then resentment tended to ebb away. If you didn't win, then he was just a bad coach and that bothered you more. If you were really bothered by it, you just left, but that was very rare. If you couldn't handle such abuse, you were unlikely to make the cut for the team in the first place.

Negative reinforcement isn't necessarily bad. Sometimes harsh language is a better motivator than being nice and supportive. People often had terrible stories to tell about their DI in Boot Camp, but after their first taste of real combat, veterans almost always say that boot camp needed to be tougher. The abuse you got there was nothing compared to real combat. They understood its purpose was to prepare you for the real thing.

Bobby Knight was always an outlier. His antics were seen to cross the line by almost everyone I knew, but many of his players loved him and he won lots of games. In the end, it seemed that if most of his players were fine with it (although not all were), then it must not have been too bad. Most coaches, even the big jerks, stayed within the line of what most people felt was acceptable behavior.

Based on the article, I don't see anything that seems unusual. So it is hard to determine if there was something more that crossed the line, or if it is simply the different expectations of kids today. My instincts tell me that the kids (and their parents) have changed.

Bob Knight: the meanest man Charles Barkley ever met, and the coach of the program Larry Bird left.

He graduated his players. He wasn't an exploiter, like so many in that business. He really cared about his kids. And yes, he's a raging asshole.

Players graduate themselves or they do not. Academics and sports have in common that the willingness to work boosts probability of success. Knight recruited accordingly. He is a smart asshole.

"They see authority figures less as mentors to learn from, and more as people they hire to perform certain tasks for them."

Let's drop the pretense here. Authority figures are not necessarily mentors (some surely are, but so are some colleagues, friends, etc), they are... figures of authority, they boss you around because they can. Some of them are worthy to learn from, most probably are not (some kids are intelligent and reasonable, most probably are not, some politicians are honest-- and so on)., but you must obey them anyway until you have a better option. In this case, we are saying "kids" should stand year in, year out the kind of abuse grown men respond to with a good kick in the chin.


"People often had terrible stories to tell about their DI in Boot Camp, but after their first taste of real combat, veterans almost always say that boot camp needed to be tougher. The abuse you got there was nothing compared to real combat. They understood its purpose was to prepare you for the real thing."


I have read and heard the same thing many times.

Luckily, combat is extremely different from basketball or the real world. Nobody has to be told to sacrifice their life in basketball.

GW has not sent anybody to the NBA since 2007. That makes this a pretty slim lottery ticket.

Plus, Bobby Knight wins a lot more than GW. This guy is just an asshole coach who will make you miserable then maybe squeeze into the NCAA tournament if you are lucky.

This is a great take.

I remember reading about Billy Gillespie at UT El Paso, Texas A&M and then Kentucky. At UT El Paso, he beat his kids into the dirt. Very difficult physical conditioning, with the promise that they would eventually win. The kids bought into the system, worked hard, and greatly exceeded expectations there. His gameday style was one where the team pressed hard the entire game, and eventually just won due to endurance.

At Texas A&M, he brought one of his players from UTEP. Same grueling schedule and workouts. He almost had a team revolt, but Joshua Johnson, the transfer from UTEP, convinced the players that winning was worth the effort. The Gillespie era graduated some great players, including euro league favorite Acie Law.

Then, he got the job at Kentucky. His style just didn't fit in there. The super talent that Kentucky was able to draw in was just not going to stand for his style of workout.

I do think that kids are changing.

Here is an interesting take on Gillespie:

That was then , this is now.

I thought some of that stuff was pretty funny, honestly.

"He told another, in front of the team, he should transfer to a “transgender league,” multiple players said."

Come on, that's a sick burn!

Yeah, the part about saying the AD was requesting tapes of the practice for masturbation purposes (when it was really to monitor his behavior) I thought was very funny. Was that the worst they could come up with? Then you get the comment from the "expert" that he was "sexually harassing" both the DA and the players. What??

Apparently this GW coach has former players that are fans, despite his "Bobby Knight" complex: ("Former GW players come to coach Mike Lonergan's defense amid abuse allegations")

I'm getting the sad feeling that MR is in irreversible decline.

I have to agree, and the speed and severity of the fall-off is somewhat baffling.

Analogous to the Robin Wells body-snatching of Krugman, except in this case it appears to be some sort of Dartmouth journalism major who has taken over. indicates that George Washington has never been a Top 25 ranked team this decade (not sure if they have ever been ranked). what does this all have to do with John Wooden?

I blame Bloomberg.

People are becoming oversensitive and emotionally weak and an institutional framework has sprung up to validate any perceived grievances.

Oh, the poor baby coach!

The coach seems to be just fine

That's it Cowen. I'm 75 years old with a bad hip, but I'm coming over there to whip your ass.

Wooden, to my knowledge, did not at all have a rep for knight-style coaching...

Re Bobby Knight.

Perhaps readers of this blog can handle some complexity.

Was knight a jerk? Certainly. Was he "old school"? Absolutely. Did he stomp and shout and work the refs? You bet. Did he refuse to indulge idiotic and pompous sports writers? To a fault. Did he rage at the conference brass and the administration and the TV networks? In some quarters, that's a compliment. Did he pout and snap in post-game press conferences after losing? Duh. Did some of his players hate the system, find it oppressive, and/or quit? Yes, of course. Did he stay too long and outlast his welcome and unravel in the end? Yes, quite so. However, if you want to believe he is the only sport coach like that, from peewee leagues to the Bigs, you are hopelessly naive. There are and were many coaches in that style. He was, perhaps, more so, but most definitely not singularly so.

He was also: consistently graduating a very high proportion of his players, particularly for a top tier team. He was the only coach to fight the conference and the TV networks when the Big Ten moved from a predictable Thursday/Saturday schedule to a nearly random days/hours schedule, thus dropping any pretense of being about education of the players. He ran a "clean" recruiting program, stridently so, despite being surrounded by chronic cheating programs. He tolerated very little crap and crimes from his players on or off the court - I am sure they wore suits on the bus. He coached old-school team-fundamental ball, in a league that was becoming a mini-NBA of street-ball marquee players, and he consistently won with that program against those teams, and he did it with players most of whom you have never heard of before or since. He voted against the three-point shot in the Big Ten, then having lost that vote, he immediately went out and won a NCAA title with a system built around the three pointer.

He liked to open his big ten kickoff luncheon talk - a gala alumni schmoozer - by reading the previous year's (incorrect) pre-season predictions from famous sportswriters, to a room full of those writers When asked a particularly dumb question in an interview, he would stare, and then he would tell the reporter what he thought about the question. He also had a remarkably dry sense of humor, sold with a stern dead-pan face, but if you looked hard you could see the twinkle in his eye. Every day with him was a roast. None of this endeared him with the press. He also harassed the conference and the NCAA repeatedly to uphold their own stated standards, not endearing himself with them either.

I'll not discuss his last few years. As I said, they were a few years too many.

His biggest mistake though, was letting a back-stabbing sportswriter follow him around and write a salacious biography. This style of ambush journalism was new back then. And Knight got the full treatment. He probably thought he could work the writer like he worked the refs.

And there's the Ben Wilson story:,751741&hl=en

Yes, the Ben Wilson story. An example of how Knight would sleazily imply wrongdoing by competitors and never provide any proof.

"Was he, "old school"?," you ask. "Absolutely." Lou Henson, Ray Meyer, Lute Olsen and John Wooden were old school also, but in a humane respectful way.

"Rival Panasonic stopped making VCRs in 2012, but Funai was still making the tape machines for Sanyo in China..."

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When did China become part of Japan?

Or did Japan become part of China and I missed it?

I realized I needed to buy a new VCR about a decade ago but could not find any that weren't total junk because they had been "value engineered" to remove all value to make thmy so cheap that a huge profit could be made at $100 with 75% return rate. Then they sold for $40 and still had a high profit, but mostly didn't work after a year.

I picked up used ones for a few years, the sellers promising "yeah it worked great the last time we used it a year ago." Price $5-10 and it looked like ones I had used for years. Nope, the insides were totally different with zero common parts.

By the way, portable CD players seem to be made by one Chinese company, again, no commonality between even the same generation.

I wonder if Funai trains design and manufacturing engineers with contracts with US and Japanese old brand name milk the brand to nothing liquidation outfits.

The only way to learn to design a product for manufacturing is to actually design a product for manufacturing.

We did that in the US back before 30 years ago.

But conservative economit's told US corporations that training workers cost too much, so outsource to the cheapest bidder. The Chinese government dictates to its corporations how many workers they must hire, and that means they must train their new hires no matter what it costs.

The weirdness is what makes it.
I've played for coaches who were certainly "abusive" but kept the team loyal because they were just tough cool dudes, usually successful former athletes. Some people quit but they were generally whiners, and there had to be some winnowing process.
I've also played for abusive coaches who lost the team pretty quickly. They tended to be insecure, and something was definitely off about them. Abuse from a confident coach gives you something to aspire to, abuse from a weird coach just wears you down.

re Mulp.

Brand monetization. Quality cannibalization. Bargain basement bottom feeding. Controlled descent into terrain. Simulacra.

That's what we've become.

But it didn't start with offshoring. It started with tax-preference-induced M&As and other wholly domestic acts of self-consumption.

We have all started pretending. Pretending that everyone is capable of everything. Pretending that all it takes is the gentle, civil sort of conditioning acceptable in a feminized schooling system.

Pretending that feats in the very tail end of the performance spectrum are accessible to stable, well-rounded individuals around the mode of the normal curve.

The coach was:

1) abusive,
2) not particularly successful,
3) sent nobody to the NBA

" Or was it really ever like that?"

That is really and truly hilarious. Was *anything* really ever like we remember it?

Good question. Elizabeth Loftus has the answer. NOT AT ALL.

Some bad coaches, mentors and other bosses abuse you for the slightest mistake.

Other bad ones say nothing at all, and then one day blow up at you -- if not show you the door. And refuse to take any responsibility for the situation getting as bad as it did.

* * * * * * * * * *

On another note, pretty much any time you root out abusive people you're going to catch at least a few good ones. And chill many others who could have been better.

In part, that's because being good doesn't always translate into looking good to outsiders. And vice versa. Remember the knowledge problem. Check out Thomas Sowell's Knowledge and Decisions.

So it's a trade-off. Subsidiarity, if not laissez-faire, empowers both the good and the bad. Regulation, especially by higher powers, enfeebles both the bad and the good to some degree.

A high transfer rate is pretty much always a warning sign, especially if it doesn't seem to be related to playing time or a new coach replacing the old coach's players.

I don't think "but he wins" is a very strong argument in this context, either. Coaching stars at mid majors tend to win big. One NCAA appearance and winning the NIT is moderate success, but nothing to sell out your principles for.

With regards to Bobby Knight, the man isn't abusive as much as he has temper issues. Consider the outtakes of his golf show

You can see how some people would have trouble playing for him, but he's not being weird or taking liberties. He just loses his temper easily.

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