Weis, Coaches Leaning Toward Wrong Side of Responsibility

By John Feinstein
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, November 25, 2008; 2:48 PM

Back in the 1960s when the Boston Celtics were in the process of winning 11 NBA titles in 13 years, Red Auerbach would hold his postgame media sessions just outside the door of the Celtics locker room. There were no interview rooms in those days; no live feeds of postgame press conferences, just a handful of writers gathered around the coach.

After a Celtics win -- which was most nights -- Auerbach would talk to the writers for about five minutes, tops. "After a few questions I'd say, 'hey fellas, I didn't score a point or get a rebound tonight. Go talk to the guys who did,'" Auerbach said long after he retired. "When we lost I would stay and answer every question. I'm the coach, we lose, I take the responsibility. That's the way it should be."

Auerbach died a little more than two years ago and it often seems that the notion of coaching accountability died with him.

Nowadays, coaches appear more than ready to separate themselves from their players after a loss while willingly taking bows after a victory.

The king of this new sport is Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis, who performs miracles worthy of female gymnasts in twisting himself into position to pat himself on the back after victories only to act as if he spent the game sitting in the stands waving a pom-pom after losses.

Two weeks ago, when the Irish were more than fortunate to hang on to a 20-point lead in the final minutes against Navy, Weis talked in his postgame conference about his decision to run the football at halftime. "I just said we're going to run it until I get bored running it," he said.

He said very little about his team losing its composure in the final minutes and allowing Navy to recover two onside kicks other than to say he would be sure his team practiced onside kick coverage more in the next week. He gave almost no credit to Navy -- just as he had done a year ago when Navy ended its historic 43-game losing streak against the Irish -- for not giving up when the game was clearly lost.

Last Saturday was much worse. Notre Dame coughed up a 23-10 lead in the fourth quarter against a Syracuse team so awful that Coach Greg Robinson had already been fired during the week. The NBC announcers yammered on about Syracuse's inspired performance but, with all due respect to their players, Notre Dame had about 100 chances to put the game away, and didn't.

Even one of those perfectly timed, 'Luck of the Irish,' holding calls on Syracuse's last drive couldn't keep Notre Dame from losing, 24-23.

"I feel sick to my stomach for the seniors," Weis said. Nice of him. How about saying, "I let the seniors down."

You see that's what Auerbach would have said. That's what Bob Knight, who crushed his players behind closed doors but always put the blame on himself in public would have done. "I didn't do a good job getting these kids ready to play this game," was a frequent Knight post-loss comment. Have you ever heard Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden say their players failed them? Dean Smith? Mike Krzyzewski?

No coach in history has been better about giving credit to the opponent after a loss than Krzyzewski. Not only does he talk about how well the other team played he will almost always insist he was out-coached, whether that's the case or not.

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