A parent screamed, in regards to their child whom I coached on my basketball team several years ago. This wasn’t Michael Jordan being cut from his varsity team. This aspiring "professional" basketball player was a junior, trying out for the Junior Varsity.
The recent departure of Larry Drew II took me back to the actions of that young man and his parents. When I heard that Drew II’s father had called Coach Roy Williams to tell him their decision, I was reminded of how often we, as parents, fail our children. We are supposed to be grooming them to become self-reliant and positive contributors to society. We stress that quitters never amount to anything and that trying your best will serve you in the long run. Our job is to teach our kids skills and model behavior so they may learn to cope with adversity and develop positive attitudes that will help them achieve success in life.
Traits like work-ethic, commitment, dedication and sacrifice are the keystones to greatness. Yet all too often, we choose the easy path. Rather than saying no, we coddle, cajole and negotiate. We substitute and placate. We don’t want little Johnny to be unhappy or lose his confidence, so we give him what he wants so that he can be happy and tell him what a good little boy he is. We solve all of their problems so that their unhappiness goes away.
In time, instead of learning to deal with being unhappy, Johnny grows into a young person who feels entitled to get everything he wants. Johnny no longer accepts being told anything negative and lacks the skills to cope with any struggles he may face. Even worse, he has a perception of himself that doesn’t fit with reality. Just watch the first three weeks of American Idol and you will see exactly what I am talking about.
It is certainly understandable that some parents believe their children have a future in sports. Let’s face it, I am sure the Jordan’s believed Michael would have an opportunity to play in the NBA someday, and probably rightfully so. Yet for the masses, very few of us have a remote shot at a playing career. Most of us have jobs.
Which brings me to Larry Drew II.
A lot has been discussed regarding Drew II over the last few days. Mentions of the unfair criticism over Larry’s play throughout his tenure at North Carolina abound. We all acknowledge that the fans and media were far too harsh with the young man, and I agree. In fact, I wrote several articles backing Larry last season, pointing out that his play, while not at the level of Lawson or other greats, certainly was solid and acceptable at that point in his career.
However, whatever Drew II was or is feeling is immaterial. All college basketball players are subject to unfairly harsh criticisms. Ask Harrison Barnes. It is how we handle that criticism that determines our true character.
When faced with being cut from his varsity team, Michael Jordan showed his true character. Rather than transferring high schools where he might have made the team, he decided that he would swallow his pride, work harder and tryout the next season. Jordan himself stated "I think that not making the Varsity team drove me to really work at my game, and also taught me that if you set goals, and work hard to achieve them—the hard work can pay off."
This is why Michael Jordan became the greatest player in history. He wasn’t just a talented player. Nor was he simply a great athlete. Jordan understood that you get nowhere in life taking the easy route. He knew that when a coach told him he wasn’t good enough, he had to accept that at the time, he wasn’t, no matter how much he thought he was. He also knew that even though he might not be good enough then, with hard work, he could get better and become great.
Larry Drew II has shown his true colors. Rather than accept that his game needed work, Drew took the easy way out and quit on his team. Instead of rolling up his sleeves, accepting the challenge from Marshall, and earning his way back, Drew decided to forgo the wisdom from Michael Jordan and bolt for easier pastures. His departure at this point in the season made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Not for the team and certainly not for Larry.
But the real shame in all of this isn’t Drew II’s actions, for he is but a child. The real disgrace is Larry Drew Senior.
Team sports are predicated on concepts like sacrifice, commitment and dedication. Any coach worth their salt knows this and lives their life by these ideals. Ask any coach of any team sport if they would let their son or daughter quit in the middle of the season for anything other than health or financial concerns and I guarantee all of them would say "Hell No! They made a commitment and they need to live up to it."
Which is why I am so flabbergasted at Drew Senior.
How could a head coach of an NBA team allow his son to quit on his program in this manner?
By leaving when he did, Larry Drew II quit on his team. By his actions, he made it clear that Drew II was more important than his teammates or program. He showed that he was unwilling to dedicate himself to work hard and earn his place. Larry Drew II was unwilling to sacrifice his pride in order to accept a role.
If I was Larry’s father, I don’t believe that I would have called Roy Williams. I would have sat my son down and said something like:
"Son, you made a commitment to the North Carolina program and owe it to them to follow through with that commitment. If you are unhappy about your benching, or cannot accept your role, then you need to talk with the coaching staff and ask them what you can do to EARN the role you want. Then, you need to work hard to achieve that goal. If you decide that you cannot live with that and need to transfer, you need to own that choice and live with the consequences. Most importantly, you MUST finish out the season before you make any decision, because you waited too long and should never quit on your team in the middle of the season. If you do, you will be branded a quitter the rest of your life."
SHAME ON YOU LARRY DREW SENIOR!
How can you enable your son to miss out on the opportunity to develop the kind of character that you are asked to instill in your own players. Drew II is now going down the path of least resistance, and that path only leads to mediocrity at best.