Monday, November 5, 2007

This is why you are Michigan State

Earlier today, Mark Dantonio made a crucial coaching error and at the same time confirmed that he truely belongs at Michigan State.
In case you missed it, after Michigan's come-from-behind win on Saturday, Mike Hart made some unfortunate comments about laughing at "little brother" Michigan State. The comments were the type of thing you save for teasing your friends, for message board banter, or for talking smack in the office among alumni. Ideally, it's not something you want one of your senior leaders saying.
But earlier today, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio went one further in his press conference today, making fun of Hart's height ("Does Hart have a little brother, or is he a little brother?"), saying Michigan had to check themselves, saying "pride comes before the fall", and "their time will come.
His comments were wrong on many levels. First of all, a coach should never, ever get into a war of words with an opposing player. As Mike Gundy memorably noted, you're the man, he's a 21-year old. Your job is to represent the program with dignity and class. Dantonio showed all the class of a $5 whore or a congressman two weeks before the election. Let the players respond to Hart. There is a reason why successful coaches like Lloyd Carr never say much of anything substantial in press conferences. It's called coach speak, and it's designed to present the program in the best light without providing bulletin board material.
-Secondly, Hart didn't single anyone out personally, he called out the whole program. Dantonio made a personal attack, one that could easily be interpreted as having racial overtones ("a little brother"?).
-Thirdly, complaining about an opponent's behavior after you lose a game reeks of sour grapes. You don't like Hart making jokes or the Michigan team gathering to observe a moment of silence for MSU, don't blow a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter.
-Finally, and perhaps most importantly from an MSU perspective, your outburst sends exactly the wrong message to your team. You are 5-5 and need one, maybe two wins to secure your school's first bowl bid in four years, and your are still obsessing about the one that got away. Right now, you need your team to focus 100% on beating Purdue and need to forget about this loss. Michigan State's recent history is that they go in the tank after the Michigan game, no matter how that game turns out. Given that you have lost five games by less than a touchdown, do you really want to bet that your team's fragile psyche will respond well to your very public temper tantrum?

The bottom line is that Dantonio let his pride and disappointment get in the way of what was best for the success of his program, and in so doing took his place in the recent pantheon of less than stellar Spartan football coaches.

Update: Iblog for cookies tackles this subject as well, and does it more effectively.