Spurrier should take lesson from Richt on handling criticism

For two coaches of top ranked programs, Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt seem at opposite ends in terms of perspective and dealings with media. (Phil Skinner/AJC)

For two coaches of top-ranked programs, Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt seem to reside at opposite ends in perspective and their respective dealings with the media. (Phil Skinner/AJC)

Over the past few seasons, Mark Richt has had no shortage of reasons to put his fist through a wall, terrorize secretaries and assistant coaches or erupt in a news conference, as if Athens’ own little Mt. Vesuvius.

He has suspended players for poor academics, poor driving habits and poor choice of herbal supplements (in or outside of brownies). Several prize recruits have been excommunicated for assorted acts of dumbness. His job security has come into question. He works in a conference where five other schools have won BCS titles. And, on a lesser note, his athletic director was fired for drunk driving.

But notice something about Mark Richt? He seldom seems stressed. He isn’t storming out of news conferences when he sees a columnist he doesn’t like (really?), or blathering on the radio about making progress in trying to get a guy fired (fantasy).

As Richt said Tuesday, “I don’t think I’m totally Teflon, but there’s not much anybody can say that can get me bent out of shape.”

Richt lives in one universe.

Steve Spurrier holds his breath in the other.

It’s an interesting contrast of coaches this week. Georgia plays South Carolina. Both are 5-0 and top 10 teams. But Richt clearly is enjoying the moment – and he can be seen this week in a series of humorous ESPN commercials – while Spurrier is acting like a whining, petulant second-grader, carrying on a battle with local sports columnist Ron Morris, whom he’s convinced is out to get him.

Richt chuckled Tuesday when asked about Spurrier, saying, “I heard about him leaving the news conference,” but he generally refrained from comment.

But Richt will tell you that he has changed. Few college coaches have had more reasons to be stressed, but he seldom shows it. (He and I had a minor flare up several years back that was blown out of proportion — geez, I really hate the media — but it was cleared up that same day.)

“I know that most criticism is pointed toward the coach, not necessarily the person,” he said. “If I’ve ever felt something became more of a personal attack, there have been times when I’ve talked to people privately. Or if a guy beats up on a player more than I think he should, I’ll get sensitive about that once in a while. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s still momentary light affliction, like Apostle Paul talks about. It doesn’t last.

“I know when my wife had cervical cancer, if that doesn’t put life in perspective, what does? There are just things bigger than whether I’m the head coach at Georgia, or whether anybody thinks I’m smart or not smart, or a good coach or a bad coach. I know I’ve got a job to do, and I want to know that the process I go through in that job is one I can live with when I go to sleep at night.”

Richt and Spurrier both have their moral compasses. Spurrier’s just spins a little more.

He lost supporters with his constant enabling of former quarterback Stephen Garcia, who was “suspended” five times, yet somehow never managed to miss a game (until the university finally dismissed him). Spurrier was indignant when asked about the perception that he was soft on issues pertaining to alcohol. He told The State: “There is something that they can always pick at you about. … If the president and A.D. say, ‘Man, you are too soft on that,’ then they will get another coach here,” he told The State.)

His recent radio vent lost other supporters.

Spurrier’s objective, of course, is to unify his fan base and cultivate the us-against-the-world mentality. It’s not uncommon. His power and ego ran unchecked at Florida because he was winning SEC titles and seldom was criticized.

But when somebody’s constant response to any criticism becomes, “I’ll just [retire and] and go to the beach,” it’s clear he has lost all perspective.

Richt has been through the wringer of a 6-7 season, a 7-9 record in the SEC over two years and last season’s 0-2 start.

“I’m enjoying coaching more now — but, I mean, we’re winning a lot more,” he said.

Of criticism, he said: “When somebody critiques me, I try to filter the information, regardless of whether I think the person is mean-spirited or sweet-spirited, because the guy might be right. I may not give him credit from a pride standpoint, but sometimes there’s validity to it.”

It seems like a healthier perspective than threatening to quit or get somebody fired.

By Jeff Schultz

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372 comments Add your comment

Chi Town

October 2nd, 2012
5:02 pm

Go Cocks!!!!

BigDawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:03 pm

Spurrier is a Tool!

Danny Boy

October 2nd, 2012
5:04 pm

CJB

October 2nd, 2012
5:05 pm

Apparently you don’t know that Ron Morris has been an enemy of the University of South Carolina before SOS came. Guy deserves all of this.

BigDawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:06 pm

How many SEC championships has he won at S.C.?? Zero! But it’s the schedule’s fault and the fact that the league counts all games against SEC opponents. What a bizarre concept?! Oh, I sure Bush shares some of the blame also…

Pat

October 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

I thought you would have been harder on Spurrier about this.

BigDawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:08 pm

Spurrier has such high standards and morals. He seems like a person who is very much at peace with everything, rofl!!

Gamecock982

October 2nd, 2012
5:09 pm

Jeff,
If you’re going to reference the Ron Morris story, then tell the whole story. Tell how Moron Morris referenced HBC playing Conner Shaw to the Joe Paterno situation at Penn State.

BigDawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:10 pm

A scholarship offer from Richt, priceless! A scholarship offer from Spurrier, worthless!!

SECya

October 2nd, 2012
5:11 pm

If you “University” can be taken down by one newspaper writer, then maybe it deserves to be? South Carolina as a program doesn’t matter on a national scale, it never will, so this is all just an example of Spurrier’s misguided attempt to drum up support.

Old Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:12 pm

You’d think that after all his years as a player and coach, Darth Visor would have developed thicker skin. He’s always had chip on his shoulder and at times I think he’s about to lose it emotionally.

I respect many aspects of his coaching; however, I lost a ton of respect for him with the Garcia issues. Especially after the QB was caught in his hotel room with girls the night before the SEC championship game.

He’s extremely lucky he’s never worked in the New York or Los Angeles markets. He’d be burned toast and long since be slathered in newsprint for all to gobble up.

For the sake of wins, Darth Visor has lost his soul. Donno if he’ll ever find himself back on the white side.

Jeff Schultz

October 2nd, 2012
5:14 pm

Gamecock982 — Context please. The analogy was what can happen when a college coach gets too much power. It was a poor analogy in that we’re still real close to that story but it’s not like there was any intent to reference Spurrier as a protector of a sexual predator. The context was what can happen when a college coach has too much power.

Jeff Schultz

October 2nd, 2012
5:16 pm

CJB — And really? You really believe Ron Morris wakes up in the morning and thinks, “How can I get Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks today?” The guy is a professional and has other priorities in his life.

GA Sandlapper

October 2nd, 2012
5:19 pm

GA Sandlapper

October 2nd, 2012
5:22 pm

Ron Morris is terrible. We need a Jeff Schultz or Bradly type of guy writing for the Gamecocks! National Champions every year

Old Dog Class of 80

October 2nd, 2012
5:27 pm

Of course, you could argue that Richt has lost his chances to be Miss America by being constantly voted Miss Congeniality.

Dawg Haus

October 2nd, 2012
5:29 pm

The Ron Morris drama aside, Spurrier has always been a whiny little two-year-old. So proud we have a grown man as our coach.

Sautee Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:30 pm

Morris will still be writing in SC long after Spurrier is through coaching in SC.

markie mark

October 2nd, 2012
5:30 pm

Gamecock982….and to add to what Jeff said….did you think to mention that Morris apologized for that remark and said it shouldnt have been made? I dont know about you, but coming from Florida as a dawg fan, I have never seen ANYONE in Gainesville or Atlanta sportswriting apologize to Spurrier….

And I am one of those who despise Spurrier for the damage he did to the college game by inventing the “run up the score” mentality…….. These are not paid professionals, they are college students.

Attention

October 2nd, 2012
5:33 pm

I hope Spurrier has a real short press conference after the game.

Steve

October 2nd, 2012
5:34 pm

If Spurrier thinks he is raising support to get this guy fired he’s crazy. It’s just the opposite. He’s given this guy and his paper more free publicity than money can buy. They wouldn’t fire him in a million years!! He’s too egotistical(sp?) to realize it.

SCJack

October 2nd, 2012
5:37 pm

Excellent article concerning the man and coach, Mark Richt. Having met him personally and I with a similar family cancer story can tell you he is as true to his character and demeanor outside the football arena as he is in it. Your depiction and observations are not only professionally tasteful but extremely accurate.

Gamecockrock

October 2nd, 2012
5:40 pm

Steve has not done one thing to lose Gamecock fans and that is all that matters. He’s the best coach we’ve ever had and my goodness, he just doesn’t take crap from the media. Good for him. What do you want, Obama?

You guys can criticize him all you want but he’s second only to Bear Bryant in terms of quality coaches. He’s winning at USC. He won at Duke. Duke! 6 SEC championships and 1 national championship at FL. He’s earned some slack from the media especially the clown Ron Morris. He’s not paranoid. Morris is out to get him.

SCguy

October 2nd, 2012
5:43 pm

No, Jeff. Some mornings he wakes up and thinks about getting Holtz or our AD, Tanner. He’s full of it.

bad moon

October 2nd, 2012
5:49 pm

Spurrier – great coach. The only problem I have with him is…He critisizes other coaches for things he doesn’t have the guts to clean up in his own back-yard. His comments about UGA players getting or being suspended during first week or two of season. While his own players (see Garcia) wouldn’t last very long in Athens. Other schools in the conference have much softer discipline rules. Especially South Carolina. And it is a fact Richt has helped players that have failed in Athens for one reason or another. Don’t know about Spurrier? Also nationally and regionally Bulldog fans take some heat for saying ‘Richt is a good guy’ .

Dawg Days

October 2nd, 2012
5:50 pm

Something weird about Spurrier always wanting to needle opponents. I think he is lacking in certain areas.

OrlandoDawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:52 pm

I’ll take CMR any day of the week and twice on Sunday’s…over Darth Visor….

Astropig

October 2nd, 2012
5:56 pm

A little different take here.

I have to come down with Spurrier here. He doesn’t have too much power. He has about the right amount. He wasn’t hired to flatter the press in Columbia and glad hand the beat writers. Brad Scott and Sparky Woods did that and most of you are asking who the hell those guys are. (For the record,they are two unsuccessful USC coaches that are best forgotten). They loved the press and the press loved them. And they averaged about 4 wins a year. Spurrier has taken SC football where it has never been and made the SEC a better conference for it. He’s our generations Bear Bryant. He wins and runs a clean program. Steven Garcia was a jerk,but that’s more his and his parents problem that the HBC. Spurrier isn’t trying to build men,he’s trying to beat teams in the toughest conference in America.The Marines build men,so maybe Garcia should enlist.Anyway, the media will always find something to criticize,analyze and stigmatize because good news is no news. And the story at USC since Spurrier has been there is nothing but good news.
He’s not warm and cuddly, but he doesn’t need to be.

Riverdawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:57 pm

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t Spurrier an employee of the State of South Carolina?
A state employee trying to get a newspaper columnist fired from his job sounds like state action in an effort to chill freedom of the press in violation of the 1st Amendment. Too bad the president of the university doesn’t have the guts to call Darth Visor’s bluff and let him pack up and go to the beach.
Spurrier would find fault in a Carolina sunrise.

bad moon

October 2nd, 2012
6:05 pm

No doubt Spurrier put USC on the map. Great coach. Also don’t have a problem with win at all cost. Don’t care if he let a dumbass like Garcia stick around because he obviously had no back-up. Not a problem. It’s using that as a way to ‘poke’ the other coaches. Making fun of them because of their suspensions. Is kind of cowardly in my opinion. But his record and willingness to take a challenge like USC job is noteworthy.

bad moon

October 2nd, 2012
6:08 pm

Also if one of Richt’s coaches was arrested for urinating in public and public intoxication. Do you think he would still be in Athens?

Okay don’t answer that. There’s no way Richt will fire Bobo.

JB at home

October 2nd, 2012
6:11 pm

He has a inner peace with Christ…..And walks it. He loves Football, winning etc, but Mark has a higher purpose ( And catch’s a lot of flak for it) But if you know the word, it tells you being mocked about your Christian faith is a badge of honor. It proves you aren’t turning it off and on with your “setting”…. Mark is the real deal. If Georgia fires him, he will be at peace. Rich, but at peace.

b

October 2nd, 2012
6:12 pm

A guy like Spurier makes it so much more interesting.

JB at home

October 2nd, 2012
6:13 pm

Riverdawg…..I imagine they walk around egg shells with Sprurrier. He’ll take his ball and go home on most any whim.

JB at home

October 2nd, 2012
6:17 pm

But I will say this about Sprurrier. He doesn’t make that much money for a coach with his success. He has never held SC hostage for Saban type money. So I admire him FOR THAT. He could say, you want ole Stevie, I need 4 Mil per year…..I think he makes like 2.2 mil per year.

unbiased committee

October 2nd, 2012
6:18 pm

Spurrier is a 67 year old brat.

Dawgs Win.

Herschel Talker

October 2nd, 2012
6:23 pm

Dont ever use Spurriers name with Bear Bryants, not even close, and thats when it was all corrupt, but anyway nice article Jeff, you are one of the ones who has given CMR hell, but it was cool to here him say he doesnt care and that sometimes you were right. We will see how your future articles go concerning him.Oh and who do you think will win? I’d rather not wait for the chalk board, love ya man!

Spur'em

October 2nd, 2012
6:23 pm

There is only 1 stat you need to know to understand the anti-Spurrier comments from Dawgland. Spurrier led the Gators to an 11-1 record vs the Georgia Bullpups. Heck, if Carolina wins Saturday he will be an even
4-4 against UGA with the Gamecocks. UGA……Spurrier is your Daddy.

1eyedJack

October 2nd, 2012
6:25 pm

I always see Spurrier as the little kid squating over an anthill with a magnifying glass.

Tide Rising

October 2nd, 2012
6:28 pm

Spurrier has always been something of a whiner. He’s still funny though.

Tide Rising

October 2nd, 2012
6:29 pm

“UGA……Spurrier is your Daddy.”

Factual statement.

randy

October 2nd, 2012
6:30 pm

great article jeff, a lot of people don’t understand the kind of coach georgia has.
coach has all the players back, but if you go out the rules he will step in.
georgia wants players to go on in life and be a man.
glad we have richt on our side.

2_dawgs

October 2nd, 2012
6:30 pm

Spurrier needs football; Richt doesn’t.

Riverdawg

October 2nd, 2012
6:35 pm

Spurrier is fine with the press when they report his digs at other schools:
Free Shoes University–when FSU players got caught in the sneaker scandal.
When Auburn’s library burned: “I understand it burned up both books and neither had been colored in yet”.

But for a reporter to question his decisions. Heaven help them.

Rick

October 2nd, 2012
6:35 pm

Spurrier is simply Steve Spurrier. No more .. No less.

Probably not the most likable guy, but I think that he is honest and a hard worker.

The man has quite a bit of credibility.

Tide Rising

October 2nd, 2012
6:36 pm

If dawg fans weren’t complaining about Spurrier they would be complaining about Saban, Miles, Tebow, Cam Newton, basically anyone who has won a national title and has more success than them.

randy

October 2nd, 2012
6:37 pm

by the way all you gamecocks and gators, spurrier never beat georgia when he played for florida.
this is something that has killed him. he want win this saturday his team will will lose.

Tide Rising

October 2nd, 2012
6:39 pm

“coach has all the players back, but if you go out the rules he will step in.
georgia wants players to go on in life and be a man.
glad we have richt on our side.”

Randy,

If that were true then Richt wouldn’t be having something like 50 players over the past 5 years having been arrested or having a police contact. He’s a fine Christian man but his discipline and leadership of the young men under his charge in terms of learning discipline and staying out of trouble is nothing short of absymal. The arrest records of dawg players and the Fulmer cup championship a couple of years ago prove it.

Bright Idea

October 2nd, 2012
6:44 pm

You overanalyzed. It is simple. Spurrier is about Spurrier. Richt is about others.

SicEm

October 2nd, 2012
6:45 pm

I actually subscribed to The State even though I live in Charlotte becauae I am a huge Morris fan. Anyone who will check the massive ego’s of Holtz and Spurrier is a guy I support. I subscribed after his artivle about SOS selling his soul to win. I love it that he sticks it to that arrogant jack ass.