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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Drew seems to realize what coaches the world over know but rarely acknowledge in public: the main job of a head coach is to get the very best out of players. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

Drew sad and without answer to biggest problem for Bucks


It's virtually impossible for me to even begin to count the number of post-game news conferences I've attended.

Football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, golf, tennis – all at the college and professional levels and I've even gone to some after high school games.

I've seen head coaches, assistant coaches, women coaches, old coaches, young coaches, coaches about to be fired, coaches with a solid future, angry coaches, resigned coaches, no idea coaches, how-to-fix-it coaches and in a couple of cases, coaches who kicked me out before they started to talk.

As I said, I don't know how many of these I've attended but the number has to be in the thousands.

The one thing I've almost never seen is a coach who seemed both unbearably sad and totally perplexed.

That's until Larry Drew Saturday night.

I had a birthday party to go to Saturday night, but it started late so I watched the Bucks get crushed by the Atlanta Hawks, 112-87. It was horrible to watch on television and it must have been gruesome if you were in the crowd.

The Bucks were 8-34 going into the game. But they had beaten Detroit last week in a solid effort. There is always hope in the NBA. But Drew sounded absolutely hopeless in his post-game news conference.

What many coaches do when faced with that kind of performance is to retreat into the world of X's and O's, schemes, calls, statistics, that kind of thing. But Drew faced a fact that was obvious to the people who were watching.

I saw his post-game conference video on the Bucks' website.

"This was just a totally, totally unacceptable performance," he said, with a sorrowful look on his face. "Here we are in the situation we are in (worst record in the league) and my biggest concern, as I told the guys after the game, do we still have any fire in our belly? That's my biggest concern is do we have anything inside that would allow us to go out and compete at a high level?"

Figuring out what "playing hard" means is a lot like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's take on obscenity. "I can't define it," he said, "but I know it when I see it."

For Drew, that was his main issue.

"I don't care what the situation is from a wins and loss standpoint," he said. "Guys are being paid to play hard and we didn't play hard. When you play against teams that play hard, you've got to play harder. We didn't play hard. We did not play hard. We have to play harder. We have to be a much more competitive team. I know at times when we play against certain teams we give up size, we give up strength but that is no excuse to not play hard."

He identified the problem and then moved, with deep concern, on to the only solution.

"I've gotta ... I've gotta … get these guys to play harder," he said.

He continued, answering several questions with the following:

"I've gotta find a way to get these guys to play harder. That's my job. I'm disappointed with everybody, myself included."

"We're paid to play hard. I'm paid to coach this team to the best of my ability and get these guys ready to play."

Drew seems to realize what coaches over the world know but rarely acknowledge in public. Plans come and go, but the main job of a head coach is to get the very best out of all the players. He does seem to realize that he is dealing with something other than lineup changes or a new defensive scheme.

"It's beyond basketball now," he said. "It's beyond basketball. It's about going out there and representing what's on your chest and what's on your back. That's the attitude we have to bring, every single night we play. Forget the record. This is just about going out and competing and competing at a high level."

Herb Kohl and John Hammond, the two men who hired Drew, are watching what happens here with a close eye. The Bucks do not have the best talent in the league, far from it. But Drew is right that no matter what the record, no matter what the standings, no matter what the night, there is no excuse for not giving it everything you've got every minute of the game.

If he can't get that restored, and soon, the cries for his job are going to climb from a little rumble to a full-throated roar.


Talkbacks

Photodavie | Jan. 28, 2014 at 7:38 a.m. (report)

When your 8-34, I think it's fair to say the Bucks do NOT "still have any fire in (their) belly?". The real competition is who will get the #1 pick in the draft. Right now Orlando is our only "competition" at 2 games ahead/behind us. An exciting #1 pick could breath new life into this team in 2015. Look what a Lebron did for Cleveland, Durrant in Oklahoma, etc... Come on Bucks, you've got to keep losing to eventually win!

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