Baseball Magazine

Tip for Disciplining Your Players

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

I realize this is a baseball blog but I have a coaching tip that relates to something seen recently in the world of college basketball.  My alma mater (Villanova) recently had a big win against cross-town rival St. Joe’s University.  It’s one of those rivalries where both schools feel they can lose all their games in a season … but they’d better not lose that one.

Villanova won in a nail biter but the main story involved the conduct of one of St. Joe’s players.  An excerpt from a story the next day is here …

Forward Halil Kanacevic has been suspended two games and a week of practice by the university, as the result of an obscene gesture he made midway through the second half of Tuesday’s game at Villanova….

Kanacevic had just made a three-pointer against Villanova. As he headed down court, he put up three fingers. When two of the fingers disappeared, a celebration became an incident. SJU coach Phil Martelli, athletic director Don DiJulia and Kanacevic himself were all quoted in a statement released by the university.

“There is no place for obscene gestures or personal outbursts directed at anyone,” Martelli said. “We have always sought to conduct ourselves in a respectful manner to our University and to our opponents, and this behavior was unacceptable and inexcusable, even in the heat of the moment.” ….

“The tradition of the Philadelphia Big 5 and the reputation of Saint Joseph’s University are greater than any one game or any one player,” Don DiJulia (St. Joe’s AD) said.

Let me just say that I have the utmost respect for St. Joe’s University and their athletic programs.  They are a class school filled with class people.  Coach Martelli and Don DiJulia have a great reputation in the Philadelphia area as people and as professionals.  That being said, there is something else about this story that was very briefly mentioned in some of the other media stories about this event.  Here it is from another media source.

On Tuesday, it was the Villanova cheering section that eventually got the best of Kanacevic after he flipped the bird. With under a minute remaining, he missed two free throws with his team up, 61-60.

He faltered again, too. With 3.5 seconds left and St. Joe’s down 63-61, he had a crucial turnover by throwing the ball of the leg of Villanova’s Maurice Sutton, only to see the ball bounce back and hit him before going out of bounds. The call was disputed, but stood and helped Villanova seal the win.

Do you see the problem?  After reading both excerpts, does anything jump out at you?  It did for me.  After the player made the “unacceptable and inexcusable” gesture, he was allowed to play the rest of the game!  Kind of makes the whole “reputation of the Big 5 and St. Joseph’s University are greater than any one game or any one player” line a little bit hollow don’t you think?  I guess it’s possible that every St. Joe’s coach on the bench missed seeing the gesture in real time but I doubt it.

My respect for St. Joe’s University, their basketball program, their coach, and AD still remain high.  However, if they had pulled the kid immediately at the next stoppage of play, my respect for them would have gone through the roof.  It also would make their post-game comments a little more believable.

The lesson for all coaches is this.  When you discipline your players, be sure to be firm and fair but also make sure it comes as quickly as possible.  Saying your players conduct means more than winning a game is easy.  Proving it with your actions, even in the middle of a huge rivalry game like Villanova-St. Joe’s, is when the ultimate respect for you and your program arrives.

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