Podcasts and Cheating Coaches

First off, for those of you anxiously awaiting the audio only version of Chris Yeh and my discussion of Kobe Bryant, I’ve updated the Wages of Wins podcast feed.

Next, I want to draw attention to a recent post “George Karl has never been a good coach” by Josh Weil  (@joshweil) It started with a discussion from another distinguished guest poster, Kevin Draper (@TheDissNBA) from the great site The Diss.

The basic breakdown is this. When we look at things coaches do (improve players, allocate minutes, improve defense) we don’t really see Karl doing any of these well. In fact, it turns out that the truth about George Karl is that his teams often win in spite of his coaching, not because of it. In fact, Josh shows that the Milwaukee Bucks in 2001 that won 52 games, still weren’t managed properly. Basically, George Karl is a bad coach if we dig into the details.

However, Kevin and Josh’s discussion brought me back to a book I read recently. In Dan Ariely’s “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty” he discusses not only cheating but how we perceive ourselves when we cheat. How does this apply to Karl? I’m glad you asked!

An experiment Dan Ariely conducted worked as followed. People were given a test. They were also given the answer key to “check their answers” in the optimistic view and to cheat in the realist view. And of course, that’s what they found. When given the answer key the average scores were higher than the control, where no answer keys were available. Here’s the fun part, participants were then told they would be given another test with no answer keys. They were asked to predict how well they would do. Did they say “well I had an answer key and ‘corrected’ myself so I’ll do worse.”? No! They estimated that they would perform similarly to their cheating inflated score.

This subject ties back to sports. George Karl has “lead” many winning teams. Of course, do Karl and the people judging him say “We had some very good players, how well did you manage them?” No, they just look at the results, which is the wrong way to judge things. The problem with coaches like Karl is that they can be poor coaches. However, it is likely they believe they are good coaches. It is important to make a criteria of what a good coach will do and evaluate it. Otherwise, we end up rewarding coaches like George Karl and randomly firing good coaches. Hopefully a few GMs read Josh’s piece and can learn from it.

-Dre

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