May 31, 2007

Coaches, Parents,

Filed under: b-ball,writing — jrice @ 7:16 pm

Brian asks about Donovan in the comments section of the previous post. It kills me that Billy D is leaving UF. I really don’t get the allure of the NBA. I’d trade prestige any day for a solid gig where you like the folks you work with, make a good living, and feel comfortable (which returns me to conversations I had months ago with now former colleagues who didn’t get it when I made the same remark about staying at an R1 school….though we are happy to move to another R1, it is not because it is an R1, it is because of the criteria I just put on the table). And when your salary is $3 million or $5 million a year, it’s in the millions. Your income is set. Is the NBA worth leaving behind the good gig?

Still, the NBA calls, and college coaches head out. Few make it. Larry Brown is the notable exception; today’s college ranks are full of those who didn’t and eventually returned to lesser college jobs. Prestige makes up its own allegiances (financial, but also regarding what is a “good” place or “good” job), and few of those types of allegiances are worth much. And even more still is the bigger question: why does it upset me that he’s leaving Florida? Why are my ties to UF so strong when it comes to sports? Allegiances are tricky things. I have stronger feelings for Donovan leaving the Gators than the UF English Department’s collapse.

Which brings me to Michael Bérubé’s recent post at Crooked Timber (Why was I reading Crooked Timber?). Bérubé narrates a tale familiar to academics (and academic couples, which, we, too, are): parents who don’t understand what we do for a living or why reading and writing are indicative of work. Other versions of this story include parents questioning our two/three days a week at the office schedule, or our two course a semester load. I too, recognize the story. While it is no doubt true (and it is true for me, too), I find it inconsequential. Unlike many others who I’ve heard tell this story, it doesn’t cause me any difficulty if my parents understand what I do or how I do it (Do I understand my father’s career in financial planning and insurance, for instance? Nope. So what?). My desire or allegiance to work (reading and writing) reflects a specific career choice that requires no explanation other than I want to do this; I have stronger feelings for it than anything else I’ve done. If family members understand that (and, actually, despite asides that seem to suggest I don’t work hard, these folks know I do), great. If not, great as well. I have other allegiances. Billy Donovan leaving the Gators upsets me more.

What I think I want(ed) to get at here before the Pistons game started (Oops! It’s started), is this overall allegiance issue: my allegiance to a college team (we fight over which onesie the baby should wear: Gators or Longhorns); my allegiance to a good job whatever the school’s title or ranking; my allegiance to my own family self-image, not the one parents might construct, or popular academic discourse about parents might try to construct for me.


  1. Yeah, I agree. I wish Donovan well, but I think it’s a bad move for him. I really thought when he turned down Kentucky– the one job I imagined he might want, because of past ties– that he was staying at Florida for the foreseeable future. He seems more like an enthusiastic teacher (and thus perfect for college players), not the manager of egos and front office politics that you increasingly seem to need to be in the NBA (Phil Jackson seems like the only person in the NBA who gets away with the zen teaching thing, and that’s only because he’s also skillful at the ego management and office politics, and came with two rings of his own). Good luck to Jeremy Foley, getting a new coach in during a rebuilding year. And I agree about the R1 question, too– it seems ironic, in a profession that so often prizes difference and supposed ‘radicality’ in its teaching and research, that we’d end up conforming to that particular conventional wisdom about “prestige.”

    Comment by Brian — May 31, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

  2. Well, 5 million is more than 3 million, and Donovan might be trying to craft a career as a sportscaster or something, and it seems like coaching in the pros is a prereq for that.

    As someone who is teaching at less than an R1: it seems to me that the ideal situation is the following, pretty much in this order:

    * A place to work where it works for you and your family (and I know what that’s about as part of an academic couple).

    * A place where you get along with your colleagues and where you get to teach stuff you want to teach to students you like to work with.

    * A location where you’d actually want to live.

    The “fanciness” of the school is pretty low on the list for me, and, given the stories I’ve heard from people who teach at supposedly elite institutions, low on the list is where it should be.

    Though I have to say that I am sick and tired of being at a place where we’re getting our meager nickels and dimes nickeled and dimed. The one thing that you seem to get from an R1 and/or flagship state school is more than substandard funding.

    Comment by Steve Krause — June 1, 2007 @ 6:59 am

  3. I guess catholic school tuition is higher than I thought.

    Brian is right on; I think the ego and player management in the NBA is going to be very problematic for Donovan. I thought he learned his lesson about those kind of folks from the whole Kwame Brown, Christian Drejer, Matt Walsh divo thing. I guess not.

    My brother says Anthony Grant is being tapped as the new HC. That would be great—especially if Florida can keep Larry Shyatt as well.

    Comment by cbd — June 1, 2007 @ 7:26 am

  4. Steve – I agree with you. Having been at R1 and non-R1, you’re right. Funding is a big difference. For Jenny and me, though, prestige is not an issue. Colleagues are.

    The thing about coaching and the NBA is – it’s not the main factor in the NBA for success. At the college level, coaching (and recruiting, which is aligned with coaching) is everything. In the NBA, salary caps are everything. Egos, paychecks, GMs, all play more a role regarding a team’s success than the coach. Coaches matter, but not the way they matter in college.

    The sad thing is if Donovan’s NBA career pans out like most who make the jump, he’ll be back at the college level in four-five years, but at another team. Maybe even Kentucky!

    Comment by jrice — June 1, 2007 @ 8:33 am

  5. I for one am glad to see Donovan go. Good riddance! I always knew he’d jump ship for the money. There’s something about his slicked back hairdo. Just you wait. Urban Meyer could be next…

    Oh, and I have an answer for the onsie question…neither. Scarlet and gray is the color combo of the future!

    As my fourth graders say…”Just playin’.”

    Comment by Zac — June 2, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  6. Well, given the way the pistons ended up playing this week, maybe it wasn’t worth getting to the tv in time to watch. Man, I can’t believe they dropped four games in a row. Still, better the cavs than the bulls.

    Comment by Brian — June 3, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

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