Tough Decisions Part of Leadership

Brittney Griner is a freshman phenom on the Baylor University women’s basketball team. Unfortunately, she made a critical mistake Wednesday night when she lost her cool and punched an opposing Texas Tech player, breaking that player’s nose.

Having spent some time, in person, with Griner’s coach, Kim Mulkey, when I interviewed her for my book Final Four Leadership, I expected the punishment to be quick and severe. It was quick, but certainly not the punishment I was expecting. Griner was suspended for one game, the regular season finale against Texas, by the university, and one additional game as mandated by NCAA rules. A two-game suspension doesn’t send the type of message that needs to be sent in this instance. Baylor is nationally ranked, and most likely gets a berth in the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens to them in the Big 12 tournament this week.

For so long now, women in sports, and I would say women in every professional pursuit, want to be compared to men in a favorable way – equal pay for equal work, an equal amount of seats at the boardroom table, equal representation in management, and the list could go on.

In September, in the first game of the college football season, a player from the University of Oregon cold-cocked an opposing player from Boise State during post-game handshakes. That player was suspended for the remainder of the season, only to be made eligible to participate in the team’s bowl game. Considering that while the football season is long in terms of months, they only play 11 games, that was a pretty stiff sentence. In college basketball, teams can play close to 30 games depending upon post-season success. Again, a two-game suspension for Griner’s action hardly seems to match the incident.

As I have over the past couple seasons, I’ve watched the teams of the coaches that I interviewed for the book whenever they are on my television. I’ve seen Baylor play several times, and Griner exhibits the type of behavior that I wouldn’t want to see my own daughter demonstrate on the court. She hovers over opponents when they’re on the floor in a taunting manner, she thumps her chest enough to cause damage to herself, and she is more demonstrative than I thought Mulkey would allow a player to be. I don’t know Brittney Griner and have never spent any time with her. I don’t know what kind of kid she is. I only know what I see on the television screen. Some athletes are different personalities on and off the court, so if Mulkey says, as she did in her statement regarding the punishment, that Griner is a great kid, then I’ll have to take her word for it. Griner’s actions, however, depict a different scenario.

One of the more difficult characteristics of leadership is the ability to make difficult decisions under tough circumstances. I think a stiffer penalty was due in this case in order to send the message to this young lady that she needs to elevate her behavior to match the class that her coach has spent so much time developing in her program. It also would send the message that actions have consequences.

On a side note, I had the great opportunity to be a guest, along with my family, of coach Sylvia Hatchell in Chapel Hill a couple of Sundays ago when the Tar Heels hosted the NC State Wolfpack in a Pink Zone game. The Pink Zone games happened during the month of February, and it’s the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s way of elevating awareness for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund. It was especially gratifying, since a portion of the proceeds from my book are being donated to the Yow Fund, and it was also pretty cool being a halftime guest with Brad Heller on the Tar Heels Sports Network. I’m going to try to link the interview here. Tar Heels Sports Network interview


This entry was posted on Saturday, March 6th, 2010 at 10:21 am and is filed under Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.


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