Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lessons from Steve Spurrier

A number of head coaches in different sports have been held up as examples for the rest of us. John Wooden, Bear Bryant, Red Auerbach, Lou Holtz, Joe Paterno... oh wait, he got kicked off the list. But Steve Spurrier? When was he ever on it?

When Steve Spurrier was hired to coach the South Carolina Gamecock football team, I said at the time that I didn’t know if we’d win many games but that this was about to get fun. It got fun right away and the winning came in the seasons to follow.

I was reminded of this the other day when his comments became a story on ESPN.com"Alabama, gosh, they look like they could beat a couple of those NFL teams that I've watched on Sundays," Spurrier said Wednesday on "The Dan Patrick Show." "I think a lot of the oddsmakers out there that usually know what's going on, I'd guess Alabama would be favored by a little bit." Alabama beat an NFL team? I don't think so but I couldn't help but smile as people scrambled to respond to yet another Spurrierism.

Spurrier gets a lot of heat for his shoot-from-the-hip comments, but to me, since he’s a football coach and not, say, a head of state, it’s harmless entertainment.

A person could learn a lot from Steve Spurrier. 
  • Have fun. Spurrier has supplied us with a seemingly endless supply of quotes to keep us laughing. Here’s Spurrier talking about playing Georgia the sixth week instead of the traditional second week of the season:  “I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
  • Innovate. As head coach at Florida,Spurrier changed the way the SEC played football with the pass-oriented offense, known in the sports media as the "Fun 'n' Gun"
  • Change with the circumstances. The architect of the freewheeling “Fun n Gun” at Florida has a team at South Carolina not well-suited to that style of play. Lately, he’s winning with defense and a solid running game.
  • Live a balanced life. Urban Meyer nearly worked himself to an early grave coaching Florida. Spurrier gets criticized at South Carolina for golfing a lot. South Carolina had a record 11 wins last season.
  • Know when to quit. After two miserable seasons coaching the NFL Redskins, he gave it up despite the owner’s desire that he stay. The NFL was not for him and he knew it. 
  • It's not all about the money. When Spurrier resigned the Redskins' head coaching job, he walked away from the remaining three years of a five-year, $25 million contract, the richest ever for an NFL coach at the time.
Spurrier won a Heisman Trophy. He played 10 years in the NFL. He won a national championship at Florida, he made it to the NFL as a head coach, and he's brought South Carolina its greatest success to date. I know, he says a lot of things that he shouldn't say and is hardly a role model for sportsmanship, but he is successful and looks to be having fun at the same time. Not a bad thing.