Those in charge of Kentucky basketball keep saying Big Blue fans need constant love from whomever becomes the next person to run their program.
Wait a minute. Hasn’t that been the case forever around Lexington?
Yep, and everybody knows it.
So why did those Kentucky officials lose their minds two years ago and hire who they just fired? Billy Gillispie is a decent strategist but a private guy who’d rather hug his X’s and O’s. That translates into a nasty fit for a school whose basketball coach must become the Dalai Lama of the commonwealth while winning SEC and national championships.
“It’s like when you were single, and you look at a pretty girl walking down the street, and it’s very enticing, because she’s very attractive, and she’s got this, that and the other thing,” said Falcons owner Arthur Blank, an expert on getting a coaching hire famously wrong before getting it famously right. “Until you get to really know that pretty girl, you don’t know if she’s going to be a good marriage partner to you.
“It’s very much true in the business world, because you become enticed with certain skill sets, and the way a person kind of appears to be. You could think, ‘Well, this person can change,’ but as people well know in a marriage that, if you marry somebody and hope they’re going to change, that’s not good for a good relationship.”
No, it isn’t, and Kentucky officials aren’t alone in knowing what they need for a coach, then ignoring it, then understanding it again after many lumps. It even happens around Atlanta, where Blank brought to the Falcons the splendid model he used at Home Depot involving the creation of the right culture for a business.
Even so, Blank hired the overmatched Jim Mora and then the overwhelmed Bobby Petrino. He later returned to his Home Depot principles for the definitive Falcons general manager in Thomas Dimitroff, who joined Blank in hiring the definitive Falcons coach in Mike Smith.
“You can’t bring somebody in and say, ‘Well, they have good skills. Now I hope they become a different person,’ because, chances are, they’re not going to be a different person,” said Blank, referring to Petrino, a lifetime college coach who never understood during his less than a season with the Falcons that NFL players aren’t teenagers anymore. Added Blank on the Petrinos of the world, “They are who they are, which is not to say they’re bad. It just may say that they don’t fit with your organization.”
If you’re in charge of Georgia football, for instance, you hire Ray Goff, and you hope he becomes Vince Dooley. When Goff doesn’t, you hire Jim Donnan, who has the coaching but not the charisma.
Finally, 13 years and many brutal losses to the Gators after Dooley’s retirement, you hire Mark Richt, and you flirt with living happily ever after.
It was only four years between Blank’s firing of Hall of Famer Dan Reeves and hiring of Smith. In other words, Blank should share his playbook on this subject with Kentucky and others.