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Winning vs Character: What is More Important for a Coach?

Over the past several weeks, I have read, observed and discussed with many individuals the behavior of several coaches. Bobby Petrino and Ozzie Guillen are two of the coaches who have been in the news lately as a result of their behavior.

Guillen became the manager of the Miami Marlins during the winter and had become one of the new faces of the franchise. The Marlins have signed several prominent free agents this winter, have moved into a new stadium and changed their name. The franchise has not drawn many fans and has hoped that these changes would help them attract more fans, especially from the heavily populated Latin community in Miami. So what does Guillen do? In an interview,he praised Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. Numerous individuals called for Guillen to be fired. Thousands of former Cubans escaped Cuba to live in freedom away from Castro’s dictatorship in south Florida and now the new manager of the baseball team praises him. Guillen was suspended for five games and made a public apology. Never reluctant to express himself on or off the baseball field, he made a huge mistake in his statements. Many fans have said they will not attend Marlin games while he is employed by the organization.

Petrino had been the head football coach at Arkansas for the past four seasons and had turned the program around into a winner. However, earlier this month he was in a motorcycle accident. After a press conference with the media, it was discovered that Petrino had lied about the accident. It was revealed that he had been riding with a former Arkansas athlete with whom he had been having an affair since last fall. Petrino lied about her being with him in the accident and attempted to cover up his behavior. Not long after this occurred he was fired as a head coach. However, many Razorback fans wanted him to remain as head coach because of his ability to turn the team into a winner.

The main issue here with both of these incidents relates to character. Guillen has a history of speaking his mind and emotionally exploding. When the Marlins hired him, they had to have been aware of this. He is a successful manager, having won the World Series with the Chicago White Sox a few years ago. He could not have made a more damaging remark to offend the thousands of Cubans living in Florida. However, the Marlins decided to keep him after he apologized. Petrino, despite his history of being a successful football coach, could not keep his job, because the issue of character became more important. As a father of two college sons, one of whom is a collegiate swimmer, I applaud the Arkansas Athletic Director for making this coaching change. I would not want my son being coached by a man who blatantly lied not only to the media, but to his superiors as well. If you were an athlete on his team, how could you and why should you believe anything he would say after this kind of behavior? In the end, I believe character is more important than winning, no matter what level of sport you are playing.

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