Still trying to figure this out …
Tuesday was a chance to ask Temple coach Rod Carey why, right after the very first loss of his Owls career, an upset blowout Saturday at Buffalo, he kept his players away from the media.
“It was really simple,’’ Carey said at his weekly press availability at 10th and Diamond. “You know … it’s really simple for me, so I’ll oversimplify it again. They were hurting, and they were upset. And my job as a coach is to protect them, so I chose at that moment to go ahead and say let’s hold off until Tuesday and … give them some space away from that performance. It’s hard going out and playing a game and losing like that. That was the simple reason.”
Carey added, “You guys may not agree with that; you may not like it. And I have sympathy. A lot of you guys traveled up there and then didn’t get to meet with the players. I know that’s hard on you guys, too. Believe me, that’s not something I’m going to do every time. But it is my job to go ahead and protect them in that situation, so I chose to do that.”
If the message is Temple Tuff, I asked Carey, is that Temple Tuff, not talking after a loss? (That’s the slogan, right?)
“Well, I think that that’s your opinion,’’ Carey said. “I don’t think that talking or not talking has anything to do with tough, in my opinion.”
Maybe he’s right, but I’m not so sure. Accountability seems like part of mental toughness. Temple players have been remarkably good over the years at holding themselves accountable. The more you talk to Owls players, the more you tend to be impressed by them.
That’s certainly true this season for team leaders such as Anthony Russo and Shaun Bradley. They tell it like it is. They’ve been great after the wins, and there’s little reason to believe they’d be less so after a loss.
Interestingly, I’ve found that Carey gets decent marks in this area, too. He does try to explain his thinking, win or lose. He might even be a more open X-and-O communicator than his predecessor, who happens to be showing up at the Linc on Saturday with Georgia Tech.
Geoff Collins certainly cared more about the PR end of things. And Carey might be right, that his job is to win football games, not court the media.
Some Temple fans will say, good for him — enough of those media whiners.
Many of those same fans, however, want more publicity for their program. It’s hard to have it both ways. There is some correlation between actually talking to the players and writing about them.
There was a Temple hoops coach who used to keep his freshmen from talking to the media during the regular season. Guy named John Chaney. Chaney wasn’t the only coach who kept freshmen away as they got their feet wet. After several games I covered, Chaney also closed his locker room.
As I remember it, those were times Chaney was blistering them more than protecting them. I always thought he didn’t want us heading down the hall and getting a rebuttal from anybody. I also thought it was wrong, but I didn’t get a vote.
But Chaney was used to having media around. I was reminded Tuesday of the time a couple of beat writers drove Owls point guard Pepe Sanchez and the school’s sports information director to a game because he needed to get over there early. Not just any game, at top-ranked Cincinnati. No big deal.
Coaches do try to control the message. That’s not new, at any level. Carey is a serious football guy. Buffalo loss aside, from what I’ve seen, the new guys are plenty sophisticated at coaching the game.
If you want to argue that our business isn’t his concern, the truth is, this isn’t really our business. Temple football has never been the thing the local media cover to add revenue to their operations. We cover it because we absolutely should cover it, as the Division I team in town. Historically, Temple is the one looking for more coverage. Life in a pro town.
I asked Russo, who had his ups and downs at Buffalo, if he didn’t want to talk to the media after that game or if he didn’t care.
“No, that was a Coach Carey decision,’’ Russo said Tuesday. “I completely understand. I respect that he was looking out for the players. He knew we were emotional after that loss. I would have been fine talking to the media. It was a tough loss — it wasn’t too tough. But that was him protecting the players. It was his decision, and I respect it.”
Russo is a standup guy, including when it’s time to stand up for his coach. Good for him. Maybe he can give his coach a couple of PR lessons.