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

iopbrave

October 5th, 2012
12:30 pm

Hey Schultz

Why don’t you say that Richt and the GA program are like the Penn State program and see what Richt and all the Dawgs have to say. Unemployment line for you then!

uga2000

October 6th, 2012
8:41 am

Steve has every rights to be “cocky.” He is great for the SEC. He is a great plays caller.

Charleston Jacket

October 6th, 2012
8:42 pm

Spurrier owned the mutts while at Florida and owns them at South Carolina.

21- O at the half – sweet.

Better put some more Div II oponents on your schedule.

Russa

October 6th, 2012
9:42 pm

“Spurrier should take lesson from Richt on handling criticism”

Richt needs to take lessons from Spurrier on how to win the big games

azdawg

October 7th, 2012
12:49 am

Jeff. I’ll take a journalist bashing spurrier over a can’t win the big one richt anyday. spurrier now owns ga just like he did as fl coach. he’s a winner whereas richt is a nice man.

Charles

October 7th, 2012
7:07 am

Hate him all you want he is a damn good coach. He has proven that at ever college he has coached at. He is intense and a winner. Look at other successful programs. Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, and South Carolina to name a few and don’t look now here comes Florida. To win you have got to play to win not hope some other team is going to help get you there.

Freehawk

October 7th, 2012
8:22 am

“Like I told the guys, ‘The bad news is we took a whipping, but the good news is that we all took it together.” – Good Saint Richt

Fbfab

October 7th, 2012
9:28 am

I guess it is a good thing Richt is so better than Spurrier at handling criticism. Because Spurrier owns him on the field!!!!!!! Ha!

scwebbie

October 7th, 2012
10:03 am

I love columnists who write a column based on telling half the story! Exactly what Morris does in Columbia, except it is not an attack against Spurrier’s football, it’s an attack against Spurrier’s integrity. You’ve expressed your opinion based on half the story (incorrectly). This is exactly why the public at large is so antagonistic towards the press.

Cocky

October 7th, 2012
11:28 am

Richt should take a lesson from Spurrier on coaching football.

icon pack

October 7th, 2012
4:57 pm

Joe

October 7th, 2012
10:58 pm

Wow Jeff, you couldn’t just admit the the dawgs got whipped on the field and out coached from the sidelines this year, you had to attack the spurrier. Are you buddies with Morris? Birds of a feather.

icons library

October 7th, 2012
11:18 pm

Brian Mayan

October 8th, 2012
5:15 am

After all that, I’ll take the 6-0 coach over the 5-1 coach all day!

Garnet Spur

October 8th, 2012
6:50 am

35-7 for third straight!!! Nuff said!!!

LogicalUS

October 9th, 2012
8:40 am

It seems that Spurrier does not need to take ANY LESSONS at all from Richt.

He delivered a pretty detailed lecture on Saturday night and then sent little Marky to sit in the corner.

don abernethy

October 9th, 2012
8:50 am

Georgia should have hired Spurrier in 2005.

Warhorse

October 9th, 2012
12:06 pm

You took too many crip journalism courses instead of obtaining an education that would afford analysis. Spurrier has a design of taking the heat off his team and putting it on himself. Richt and others are targets for criticism that moves on to his team.

Warhorse

October 9th, 2012
12:17 pm

“The bad news is we took a whipping, but the good news is that we all took it together.”

Is Mark Richt fostering clusterflagellation, a religious practice of the most holy in ancient days?

Deisel

October 9th, 2012
3:04 pm

Most of the UGA fanbase could learn how to handle a loss like their headcoach Richt.

I was wondering how the Dawg fans would react to their beatdown by the Gamecocks and the results didn’t surprise me.

QB Murray’s house being vandalized is just plan stupid and juvenile. Much like that Bama fan poisoning the famous Auburn oak trees — all because of a football game.

There are a ton of morons in the southeast and most of those morons are the diehard football idiots that scream, “S..E..C….S..E..C” because their particular university (the one they never attended) team stinks.

I could NOT WAIT to get out of the southeast and back west where there are a lot more educated people that don’t tie the quality of their life to a football team’s winning rocord.

Keep your S..E..C if that’s what it means to you.
And try to get a life sometime in your life.

mcdaviddawg

October 9th, 2012
6:28 pm

Richt doesn’t respond because he doesn’t really care. Since Rciht obviously doesn’t want to coach, he should do the honorable thing and quit. We’re not getting much for the 3 mil a year.

mac is back

October 9th, 2012
7:08 pm

Knowing younr starting rb has failed a drug test a drug test and deciding to not “find out” till the next week is not being of higher morals than other SEC coaches.