Liam Day reflects on the comments made by Southern Illinois men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson, and points out that the younger generation is a lot better than we give them credit for.
It’s been a bad year for coaches: from the leaked video of Mike Rice’s abuse of his players at Rutgers, which we covered here and here, and which Melissa McCarthy uproariously spoofed in one of the funniest SNL skits in recent memory, to Beckie Francis, whose frankly bizarre behavior led to her dismissal as the women’s basketball coach at Oakland University in Michigan, to Mike Tomlin, who attempted to interfere with a kickoff return, to Jason Kidd, who intentionally spilled a bottle of water on the floor during a game in order to earn an extra timeout for his team.
To the list we can add Southern Illinois men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson. Now, what Mr. Hinson did does not rise to anywhere near the level of what Mike Rice did. During the postgame press conference during which he called his player’s “mama’s boys” and unfavorably compared the play of his big men to what his wife could achieve if she had been playing, he never comes unhinged, as Rice clearly was on the tape that eventually led to him being fired.
And calling someone a mama’s boy is not the same thing as calling someone a fag.
Still, I have to disagree with Jay Bilas, a commentator for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. He came to Hinson’s defense after the video of the coach’s press conference started making the rounds on the internet earlier this week. Bilas was quoted as follows:
On one hand, we want our coaches and subjects to be candid with us and tell us the truth, and then when they do we want to criticize them for that, too. I have no problem with coaches that want to perhaps motivate their teams through the media at times. I didn’t think any of it was over the top. We’ll see if it works.
With Bilas’s first point, I agree wholeheartedly. With his contention that none of what Hinson said during the press conference was over the top, I also agree. Still, I don’t believe you should ever attempt to motivate your team through the press. That is an abdication of one of your primary responsibilities as a coach. Your job is to motivate your team. If you can’t, the failure is yours.
Likewise when, during the press conference, Hinson complained that his team just wouldn’t listen, I would point out that getting your team to listen to you is also fundamentally your job. In fact, I would argue it’s the baseline. All other aspects of your job are secondary to it, build from it. Publicly complaining your team doesn’t listen to you does not paint you in the best of lights.
Some commentators have also latched on to the incident as de facto proof that today’s children are coddled. I first learned about Hinson’s comments in an op-ed column in the Boston Herald titled “Gen Cupcake,” as in Generation Cupcake. It’s a timeworn trope. Every generation complains about the ones that come after it: “They don’t know what real work is. They never lived through a depression. They’ve never experienced real suffering. When I was their age I already had two jobs. I walked uphill to school three miles in the snow every day.”
But none of it is true. By almost any statistical measure, today’s youth are better behaved and more focused than the generations that came before them. Crime is at levels not seen since World War II. Teen pregnancy rates are at historic lows. Underage alcohol use has declined and, with the exception of marijuana, whose use has ticked up due, most likely, to the rhetoric used by proponents of legalization, drug use among teens is also way down.
Conversely, today’s teens volunteer at much higher rates than earlier generations and enroll in and graduate from college at rates higher than their supposedly tougher elders. All of this in the face of persistently high levels of teen unemployment.
In publicly accusing his team of being soft, Coach Hinson also cited the men and women in the military who are fighting in Afghanistan. The implication is clear. The only people who get to complain are those who are currently fighting a war. Of course, most of those people are of the same generation as the players on the Southern Illinois basketball team, players who are soft because they don’t know what it’s like to fight a war.
I’m surmising that last bit, but I don’t think it’s an illogical leap from what Hinson was saying. It might go something like this: youth today are soft, except for the youth who join the military. Ergo, if you want today’s youth to get tougher, draft them all. Of course, that would be an awfully expensive lesson to teach.
If Barry Hinson thinks his team is soft, that they don’t listen, that they complain too much, maybe he should look in the mirror instead of popping off in the press. That’s much more a telltale sign of entitlement than rolling one’s eyes.