The role of a professional sports coach is a precarious position, similar to that of a substitute teacher. In both positions you have to be authoritative, prove yourself to be capable and exert complete control over your charges. Show a little bit of weakness or vulnerability and the patients will start running the asylum. That is why this whole Rashard Lewis-Stan Van Gundy incident is so troubling.
In case you haven’t heard, on Thursday Lewis refused to re-enter a Magic game in the second quarter even though Van Gundy asked him to. His excuse was he had two fouls and his replacement on the court, Ryan Anderson, was playing well. Their opponent, the Utah Jazz, subsequently went on a run and ended up winning the game. This incident alone is troubling enough – Van Gundy’s reaction to it makes it far more concerning for Magic fans.
At first the coach was understandably angry and confused by Lewis’ defiance, but that has given way to acquiescence. Lewis wasn’t punished at all for his transgression – he was allowed to play again in the second half of the game and wasn’t fined or suspended. Van Gundy is now trying to blow this all off as not a big deal. NOT A BIG DEAL?!? Hopefully this is just a face-saving attempt on his behalf, because this IS a big deal. His authority and coaching ability has been challenged by a player and he doesn’t think it’s a big deal?! Now that is a big deal. Van Gundy says that his relationship with Lewis is great and the player was trying to be unselfish in his actions, but all of that is beside the point. The point is, Van Gundy’s ultimate authority and knowledge as the coach has been challenged as his response to it is to back down and submit to his player. Not only did Lewis refuse his coach’s orders, in the process he implied that he had more knowledge of what was best for the team than Van Gundy did.
All of this could have been easily remedied if Lewis was dealt with properly. He should have been punished for this and a strong point should have been made that something like this will never EVER happen again under Van Gundy’s watch. This isn’t to say that players shouldn’t be allowed to voice their opinions and make suggestions to a coach, but in the end the coach has to have the final say and the players have to follow his lead. As it stands now, Van Gundy’s blood has been spilled in the water and it is only a matter of time before the sharks move in for the kill.