Sports, Football, Winter, Basketball, Column

Results Matter, Not Tactics

On vacations and breaks, I spend a lot of time talking to elderly people in Brueggers’ Bagels. Sometimes it’s about politics, other times it’s about the riveting, yet nonexistent social and or love life of an assistant sports editor.
Over Easter, I ran into a father of a Boston College graduate at the chain’s location in Malden, Mass. Somehow, we got to talking about BC’s athletic department. When I told him my affinity for all things basketball, the “do you think Steve Donahue should have been fired” topic came up. He went on to tell me that Director of Athletics Brad Bates was right to fire Donahue, because his teams never crashed the boards and took too many 3-pointers.

The numbers back him up. Donahue’s 8-24 team came in 343rd in rebounds per game, while shooting an average of 22 3-pointers, which tied for 29th in the nation with 19 other squads-including Michigan. John Beilein plays a similar style to that of Donahue, which may explain why the first person Donahue’s Twitter account follows is the Maze & Blue’s head coach. While Beilein’s team went out of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight to a shot as large as Aaron Harrison’s stones, Michigan had a similar season to BC on the boards too, coming in 303rd in rebounds per game.

Michigan’s shooting was better than the Eagles, though-much, much better.

While that was just one of the many differences between the two squads, the body of work saw the Wolverines make the Elite Eight, while the Eagles won eight games. Donahue’s tactics failed for the majority of the season, excluding the win over then-No. 1 Syracuse, and the Eagles still lost to every ACC team except Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

With everyone on the “Boy, Michigan is a fun team to watch,” bandwagon, Donahue was public enemy No. 1 in Chestnut Hill, and rightfully so.

Coaches are often criticized. One in particular was chewed apart over the weekend, after a little clash between Chelsea and Liverpool in England. Tactical mastermind Jose Mourinho played a B-team against an Anfield squad run by his apprentice, Brendan Rodgers. The genius won the day by parking what Rodgers labeled as “two busses.” For those estranged from the world of soccer tactics, parking the bus occurs when a manager deploys his outfield players behind the ball to absorb attacks and combat attacks. Mourinho did the same to stall Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in a midweek fixture, and in 2010 to beat Barcelona, as the coach of Inter Milan.

There was speculation before the match that he had thrown in the towel by putting out a starting lineup of second stringers. While the Portuguese does mind games too-he conceded the league to Liverpool in a press conference-only an idiot would think he would give up. In the final minutes of the clash, NBC Sports commentator Lee Dixon said, “The man’s never conceded anything in his life. He sure wasn’t going to concede this game.”

Mourinho set up his side to play a direct style of soccer with a packed defense. His rearguard, which was protected by a double pivot, was packed like the Comm. Ave. bus on senior night. He had his side lend Liverpool the ball, but with good reason. With all 11 of his players behind the ball at different times on Sunday, Mourinho forced a non-possession team that needs momentum from counter-attacks to become Barcelona for 90-minutes. The Reds fell into Mourinho’s hands and failed to adapt, which might cost them their first Premier League title in 24 years in under two weeks’ time.

But if you looked to social media, there was little praise for Mourinho, unless you follow @heightsalex. Some comments were made in the heat of the moment, but others went back to pronounce Mourinho a hypocrite, because he denounced West Ham for playing “19th century” football in January. Probably as a result of Mourinho’s mind games, “The Special One,” knows how to get it done.

While anybody can park a bus in front of a goal—ask Tony Pulis, he’s been doing it since, err … the 19th century—nobody does it better than the Portuguese. Mourinho established himself as the smartest mind in the game over the weekend and was thrown to the dogs for it. He will do anything to win-not to mention use time-wasting tactics, which is something every soccer player has done in his or her career.

So for all the morons out there who blasted the master, you should be tied up, tossed into a closet, blindfolded, and have headphones taped onto your head when a sporting event comes on. No fan has the right to criticize the tactics of a coach if they work.

The same goes for bitter Boston Celtics fans who hate on the Bad Boy Piston team. My mom does that pretty openly, by the way.

Sports are more than entertainment. My high school yearbook quote was from former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Is that extreme? No.

There is a genius behind technical sports like football, basketball, and soccer-among others-that should be honored and respected. Some coaches and players are brilliant, others aren’t.

So why trash a guy who most likely instructed his players to throw the ball down the line throughout the game to keep Liverpool from taking possession in the middle of the pitch and starting a steaming counterattack? Mourinho had every detail down and should be applauded for that.

If you want to go on Twitter or Facebook and rip Donahue’s offensive shape and defensive coaching to shreds, then be my guest. If a team wastes time and gets its ass kicked, call for the manager or head coach to be sacked.
It doesn’t matter how a team plays. It only matters if it wins. That is the business and the purpose of sports.
Heck, I would love to see Jim Christian set the Eagles up to get a lot of touches in the post come the fall. If KC Caudill gets into the paint and at least tries to knock an opponent out by elbowing him on a rebound, I wouldn’t mind it. If Garland Owens gets into a scrap with someone after a play and Patrick Heckmann comes in to help him, Christian can stick that up onto the “Identity Board” he talked about upon his introduction a few weeks ago, and applaud it.

If anything that is done is against the rules, we have referees.

I’d also like to see Ed Kelly enforce a more direct style of play with the men’s soccer team. Giuliano Frano and Nick Butler might not be the most physical midfielders in the college soccer, but if you have to park the bus and spread the ball to the wings where Nana Boateng and Isaac Normesinu can counter with Zeiko Lewis in front of them, why not?

Steve Addazio introduced a prolific power-run game to Alumni Stadium last fall, and few have complained about the classic style of smashmouth football the Eagles are playing.

For those who want to be entertained by something that most would label “beautiful,” Arts Fest was last weekend. I heard good things about DOBC and Juice. You might want to check that out.

For all those coaches out there playing ugly, keep doing you-unless you lose a lot, then your fate comes down to a bunch of suits. I’ll tell those elderly folks in Brueggers the same. You don’t have to make it pretty, as long as you win.

May 1, 2014

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