Having coached for 67 sports seasons over 33 years as well as being the parent of a varsity athlete, I’ve been on both sides, parent and coach. I agree with most everything said above. I also believe the only person who has the job of determining who starts and how minutes are distributed is the coach. Parents don’t get a vote. Having just read Mattski’s comment, I believe positive parents who tell their kid to hang in there and keep working can be very important to a player’s success. In my preseason meeting with parents I always told them what my criteria were for starting and what may criteria were for getting minutes as a sub. I had a pecking order, and frankly it was something I gave a great deal of thought. The kids understood this, too, at least they were told multiple times, and had every opportunity to come see me in my office after practice, if they disagreed. MOST of my kids understood exactly where they stood on the team and why. They also knew what they needed to improve on to play more. I would always tell my parents, “When you look at our team you are looking with tunnel vision. You may think you are looking at the entire team, cheering like crazy for all the guys, but you really focus on one player, your son or daughter. You really do. I understand that, but I tell all of your kids, and I’ll tell you this, too, I will treat all of them fairly but I will not treat them equally, because they are not equal.” Then I emphasized to them the criteria I used in evaluating the players. and placing them in the order in which they would play from starter to last man on the bench. I would finish with, “AND, I will always do what I believe to be in the best interests of our team and our program.” I also told parents, “IF you wish to speak to me, please call me and we’ll set up an appointment. I will not talk to you immediately before or after a game, unless it’s to congratulate us on a great game or to commiserate about horrible officiating.” It was also pretty much understood that if their son (or they) couldn’t accept the criteria I set forth, they did not have to play in our program, but were welcome to find another one. By the way, I WAS the random History teacher when I was coaching at the middle school and high school levels. But in addition to that I was a pretty good coach that kids wanted to play for.
As for being a parent, my son hardly got off the bench as either a junior or a senior. As a junior he played a little bit until he got hurt. When he DID play, he didn’t play well. He got hurt about two thirds of the way through the year, so didn’t play the rest of the year. He decided to come back his senior year, and the coach, I thought quite generously, kept him. He didn’t play much except for a few spot minutes, and his attitude got pretty bad. As the season wore on he was buried at the end of the bench, deservedly so. Attitude, by the way, was one of my personal criteria for playing on MY teams. I wasn’t always happy with the coach, but NOT because of playing time. I never complained to him but I DID have several talks with my SON about his attitude and the commitment he had made to the team. And, yes, I DO know that parents with the kind of attitude I had and Mattski has are fewer and fewer in number these days.
Finally, the AD. I obviously don’t know the whole story, but the AD MUST support his coach. I had an AD once who told parents, “You may come talk to me, in my office, about anything EXCEPT playing time. That will be decided by the coach.” That same AD, a rather large man and himself a successful and respected former coach, once intervened between a coach and a parent who tried to confront him angrily after a game. The AD stepped in, ushered the parent away, and said, “Call me tomorrow, we’ll meet in my office and talk. You can’t talk to the coach right now.” THAT is part of the job, and an important one. A good AD is invaluable! Quite frankly, and especially in the world in which we now live, players AND parents must be told what the rules are. Those rules must be communicated effectively. I once had a contract ( in another sport, not basketball) that the kids had to sign before I would keep them on the team, and frankly, every parent I talked to loved it.
As for Steve Finamore, I feel really bad for him. He’s obviously a very good coach. I believe he truly has the best interests of his players and the team at the forefront of the decisions he makes. I hope he’ll be alright. I also feel bad for East Lansing HS, AND for the kid whose parents confronted that player’s coach. He may be a great kid whose parents, for whatever reason, can’t handle the kid’s lack of playing time. I also feel sorry for the other kids in the East Lansing program at the needless loss of their coach. Sorry for the length of this, but It’s something about which I am pretty passionate and with which I’ve had some experience over the years!