Friday, November 15, 2013

***SPOILER ALERT*** Personality Types and Maryland Athletics

Until recently, I have been an ardent supporter of Mark Turgeon and a disinterested/disheartened observer of Randy Edsall, which is to say I've been a typical Maryland fan in the year 2013, and a co-holder of conventional wisdom. Over the past several weeks, I have been researching online about the Meyers Briggs personality archetypes, and it has been a revelation not only in my personal and professional life, but also as a sports fan.
As a quick primer for the uninitiated, there are dichotomies between Introverted (I) and Extroverted (E), Sensing (S) and Intuitive (N), Thinking (T) and Feeling (F), and Judging (J) and Perceiving (P). For the record, I am an INFP/Idealist.
Mark Turgeon has been seen as a self-deprecating, straight-shooting Midwesterner. He's thought of as an excellent teacher, a mediocre recruiter (who had the foresight to bring in assistant coaches who are great recruiters, with positive results thus far), and a student of the game. We have been confused by his substitution patterns, which don't seem to take into account who is best suited for each role, who is the most talented, and who has the best chemistry with each other. Some of us have objected when he has been blunt in his criticism of players.
Randy Edsall has been seen as an abrasive, inflexible, unimaginative coach who shifts blame onto his players whenever they struggle to execute his system. He runs off everyone who doesn't buy in to his vision. He is a martinet, stringent, unyielding, closed-minded, who rules through fear instead of inspiration/enjoyment.
Now, there may be some differences, a duller edge or a keener intellect, but both of our coaches are of the same personality type, INTJ/Scientist, also known as the Mastermind. They have the same patterns and problems, the same failings as teachers of their respective games. ISTJs are the ideal coaches of individual, measurable and quantifiable sports such as track and swimming, but have a tendency to struggle with team sports which require them to develop unity between teammates, because that requires placing trust in others to execute their vision without their direct involvement.
ISTJs are innovators and iconoclasts, unconventional and results driven, and after they have decided upon something are slow to change their views.
Other well known coaching INTJs: Mike Leach, Bill Bellichick, and Gary Williams. ISTJ Coaches think that their system can be run by any number of interchangeable parts, that their system is the main component to winning and that any failures in winning are only failures in those parts filling the assigned role within the system. They discount the value of intangibles (see Bellichick's treatment of Wes Welker, a product of Mike Leach's system at Texas Tech). In Gary's case, after he won his championship, he felt that he could shape any athletic player into a perfect component, without considering their character (see John Gilchrist, Travis Garrison, Chris McCray), and when that failed he lost interest in recruiting, altogether. ISTJ coaches are at their best when they uncover or recruit players who both respond to their particular style of coaching and simultaneously can form the bonds between teammates that are left neglected by the coach. With Bellichick, he struggled in spite of his brilliance until he discovered Tom Brady (in the year that Brady went down, everyone had completely bought in to his system, already, and they were able to continue running it without their true leader). Gary of course had Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, and Greivis Vasquez.
ISTJs are students of whatever their field happens to be. This is true in science, engineering, insurance, law, coaching, etc. They are often successful in spite of expectations to the contrary, because they are able to revise their theories as they are presented with new information. As their theory and experience evolves, they become more adaptive to situations that they recognize, but are very slow to react to situations that present them with unexpected information, and they regard any type of communication that is not dedicated to the exchange of information to be inconsequential and bothersome.
Turgeon is currently designating all leadership responsibilities to Dez Wells, but Dez is stuggling to juggle keeping the team together emotionally, and intellectually (executing the master plan), and so his own game - which is reactive in nature, S instead of N - is suffering. Turgeon, in turn, is disappointed with him, and punished him by sitting him for most of the first half against Abilene Christian because he didn't give full effort on defense/rebounding, and then made him apologize to his teammates in the middle of the game (which is disruptive to their own games, but Turgeon doesn't pay attention to the emotional/intangible effects of his decisions, thinking anything that isn't concrete and fact driven is irrelevant and unworthy of attention).
The natural coach type is the same as the natural salesman, the ESTP/Doer. They aremercurial and reactive. They do not innovate entirely new ideas, but are able to rapidly shift between existing systems whenever one plan is stymied, throwing out different combinations of old ideas to get past obstacles, kind of a "throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks" method, if they don't recognize what they face immediately. Unlike INTJs, ESTPs are not wedded to any particular strategy. Their enthusiasm and air of enjoyment and spontaneity makes them excellent recruiters, and they can be very effective in-game strategists if they are intelligent. Examples of ESTPs in coaching: John Calipari, Sean Miller, Lefty Driesell, James Franklin (I haven't observed much of Franklin, so I may be wrong about this one, but he's clearly an ExTP - he could instead be the ENTP/Visionary type, an inspiring figure who doesn't engage in detail work).
Kevin Anderson is clearly Introverted, as he is awkward in public speaking situations, and Thinking, because he doesn't consider how his decisions will affect the coaches or fanbase and goes from facts and figures for what looks to be the safest bet. I doubt he would have made it as far as he has in an administrative role while being anything but Intuitive, and I'm confident that he is a Judger. So that makes him the same type as Turgeon and Edsall, having rejected other candidates such as James Franklin and Sean Miller (who he was considering strongly on paper until meeting him) - INTJs and ESTPs tend to react like "oil and water" to each other, each valuing completely different things. The ESTP's enjoyment of making a show of things (see Big Blue Madness) conflicting with the INTJ's compulsion towards the plain and genuine (see Maryland Madness 2013). For the record, I think that Debbie Yow was an ENTP, in that she made grand plans and then ran off when things started going badly because she didn't consider the details involved in actually carrying out those plans, but she was actually an excellent judge of coaching personalities (see Brenda Frese, James Franklin, etc.). INTJs hate to have ENTPs as their bosses, because they are not prone to inspiration from anything other than their own internal vision.
So, until Anderson is gone, we're going to keep getting the same type of coaches. I think that Turgeon will be moderately successful, but that his teams will continue to struggle with intangibles and thus will choke in many pressure situations unless leadership is grown internally by the players, and of their own accord (not having Turgeon direct who the leader will be). I do not think he will be a championship coach, but he could see a string of 3 successful years together if such leadership does arise organically. Ultimately, what I am rooting for is that Bill Self goes to the NBA after Turgeon has some success, and Kansas can't resist bringing in an alumnus. That's not to say I can't root for an INTJ coached team, I just don't think it will be as successful as one coached by a salesman type. Anderson will have the opportunity to screw up one more major hire, and that will be on the football side of things, before he is finally canned. I will not root for Turgeon to fail so that we can replace him, because I still love watching Maryland basketball and we could see some highs even when considering his inherent shortcomings for his role.
I have never observed Wallace Loh in any capacity, so I will refrain from drawing conclusions about his character, but I am hopeful that he will hire an ENTJ/Executivetype the next time around, for the Athletic Director position, because someone needs to clean up this mess.