Preface: I am not a fan of Esa Ahmad. He’s an exceptionally gifted athlete who underperformed during his time with the Mountaineers and left the basketball program on bad terms. In addition, he called me a “clout chaser” and my article on him “female sh*t.” With that said, there is some truth in his recent social media messages about Head Coach Bob Huggins.
Laced within the anger and the ridiculous grammar, there was more than a hint of truth from former Mountaineer Esa Ahmad on his Instagram tirade about college coaches.
Ahmad has denied that the posts had to do with Bob Huggins or anyone else from West Virginia University, but it’s abundantly clear who he was addressing in his messages.
Ahmad’s messages were poorly worded and so I will clean them up, but essentially he said:
“A team can only go as far as their Head Coach. Fans believe everything that the Head Coach says, but they have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. If a team is having a bad season, all of the blame gets put on the players.”
Ahmad certainly has a point here. Has Bob Huggins ever taken the blame for a loss? Has his substitutions or strategy or preparation ever caused a loss, or have the losses always been due to “players missing shots” or “players throwing the ball away” or “players not doing what they practiced”? It’s not fair or reasonable to take credit for 880 wins without taking any blame for the 350+ losses in his career.
“Coaches are so quick to say that a team is a family, but at the end of the day it’s all a business. If a player isn’t helping the team, then the coach is quick to throw shade.”
Again, there is a fair amount of truth in this statement. College athletics is a business and the idea that college coaches put the student-athlete’s best interest above the team is absolutely absurd. Coaches get paid to win and players on a team are the means to reaching that end.
“Coaches are never supposed to turn their back on players or talk down on them especially when things aren’t going right. That negative energy is toxic and can definitely make everything much worse.”
Virtually every coach in the nation takes the blame for losses and takes the responsibility in their own hands to fix the mistakes. Huggins simply does not do this and although he has been massively successful, pointing fingers, blaming the players’ effort, pulling players immediately for making a mistake, and a general negative energy cannot lead to positive results with today’s athlete.
“Players trust coaches and put their lives in the hands of the coach for 4 years, but as soon as things don’t go well, coaches begin to talk negatively about players and still expect those same players to run through a wall for them. No matter how big a coach is, respect can go a long way.”
It’s hard to remember sometimes that these players are still kids. They are the very impressionable ages of 18-22 and they rely on coaches to lead by example and show them how a mature, rational adult behaves.
Screaming at young men over a mistake during games or grumbling about what players did wrong in the post game is not an effective strategy and it’s what a young man needs to learn to cope with adversity. Calm, rational, purposeful explanations and reasoning is far more productive.
Most of what Ahmad said was caused by obvious bitterness from his abrupt and untimely exit from West Virginia University, but there is a lesson to be learned here. This is the modern athlete and this is how they feel and how they expect to be treated in college athletics today.