Friday, March 21, 2008


I'm a big believer in the idea that coaches don't say enough.

We get a lot of cliche-speak from coaches, and it drives me nuts. A lot of it is media stupidity, but yet it's hard to put it all on the reporters, because some coaches are just, well, boring.

Press conferences from guys like Jacques Lemaire (Minnesota Wild) are absolute gems a high percentage of the time. He doesn't say a whole lot of controversial stuff, but he's plain-spoken enough and honest enough to be fun without being a lightning rod.

Old-school coaches like Joe Paterno (Penn State football) are generally harmless, but hardly boring.

Then you have some of these NFL guys. Bill Belichick (Patriots), Mike McCarthy (Packers), and Brad Childress (Vikings) lead the charge of boredom. They say very little, they rarely inflect, and it often looks like they'd rather be locked in their office than dealing with the press.

Personality is a good thing. Coaches who want to show some often have to be more cautious than the boring guys do, because you don't want to end up as a topic on PTI for three days after you said something controversial. It's a defensible position, but there has to be a middle ground between swearing and screaming at reporters and trying to put them to sleep when you're in their presence, right?

Well, sometimes, coaches can get caught saying too much. Maybe they rip into their own players. You never want to do that.

Or maybe, as John Gilbert says, you set sportsmanship back a decade.
The only person who seemed unimpressed was New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey, who was justifiable proud of his Wildcats, but set sportsmanship back about a decade. "It's hard for me to say anything but how proud I am of my team," McCloskey said. "Clearly, the better team was wearing blue tonight. Duluth kept coming up with big saves, but we pressed it to the metal to the end, and we were clearly the better team."

McCloskey went on to say that UNH had played Wisconsin, "and they gave us a tougher game," and added, "Duluth would be hard-pressed to win our league."
Now I understand why coaches often choose not to say much to the media. No, I'm not blaming this on the media. The question about Western dominance, which Gilbert speculates left McCloskey on edge, is legitimate. WCHA teams have won seven women's NCAA championships. There have only been seven contested. This year's title will make it eight-for-eight for the WCHA, no matter who wins.

McCloskey was so upset that his team didn't get the job done that he failed to give credit to the winning team. This came after he embarrassingly botched the name of UMD's starting goaltender (Kim Martin) at Wednesday's pre-tournament press conference. For a women's college coach to not know the name of one of the three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award.

No one doubts that New Hampshire played really well Thursday night, and it could be argued that their effort merited a better fate. However, goaltenders are part of a hockey team, too, and UMD's goaltender was better than UNH's. I would also submit that - at least in some ways - UMD played better team defense. Two of UMD's three goals came off scrambles in front of the net. UMD simply won the battle and got the puck across the goal line. UNH didn't have anything like that happen to them. When the puck got close to Martin, there were no UNH players close enough to score similarly ugly goals.

With all due respect, Coach McCloskey, keep the trap shut next time you get upset about a loss. "No comment" is better than insulting a 33-win team that just won the regular-season and playoff titles in college hockey's toughest league.

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