The audacity of accolades: How some coaches are taking the shine off the medals

Posted: March 27, 2010 by Jared Field in High School

[Editor’s note: What you’re about to read might make you a little squeamish. I started this site five years ago because I wanted to have a voice, to tell the truth, and to cover the game I love. I don’t have to kowtow like newspapers do. I can just tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. It’s one of the many perks of being independent.]

Every season I’ll spot a few.

There are enough awards and distinctions from conferences, newspapers, websites and scouting services to fill gym-sized trophy case, so it stands to reason that a few head-scratchers would rise to the surface.

This season, however, is one for the record books — in one case, quite literally.

I’m bothered by processes more than people but, in the end, people should have to answer for their actions.

Every preseason and postseason distinction given to a player carries with it the force of convention. When a player is honored with an all-conference award, it indicates that a majority of coaches (typically not his own) felt he was deserving of one level of recognition or another.

Coaches get in a room, very often they make pitches for their players and then everyone votes. We understand why coaches, generally, cannot cast votes for their own players. It, at least in part, removes one biased variable. Similar processes occur when choosing all-state players, albeit the voters are members of the media.

When the results are posted, we all recognize, someone is going to feel slighted. It’s just the nature of the beast. That being said, members of the coaching fraternity and the media have the moral obligation to recognize conflicts of interest where they are evident and vote with their consciences. After all, it becomes obvious when they don’t and can limit opportunities for overlooked players.

Let’s just look at a few very recent examples of how some coaches (and media members) are taking the shine off the medals:

The Flint Metro League: In the Flint Metro League, an old boys club if ever there was one, two of the top players in the league failed to make either the first or second team. Lapeer West senior Anthony Sisson was in the top eight in scoring on a Lapeer West team that was better than average by FML standards, and beat Swartz Creek (conference co-champions).  Capus Robinson, a senior forward at Kearsley, was, by nearly all accounts, the best player on his team this season — Kearsley’s leading scorer and rebounder. Only one account, however, mattered in the end. Robinson didn’t make second team, though his teammate, sophomore guard Paul Adas did. You might recognize the name: His dad is the coach and, of course, was in the room when the votes were cast. This year, there were 16 spots between the first and second teams. These coaches, apparently, felt neither were worthy. And if you don’t think coaches do their friends favors, you’re exceptionally naive. Look at the results. One could make the case that Sisson is a better player and prospect than every player on that second team.

More embarrassing still is the snub of Holly senior Thomas Lovachis, who didn’t even get an honorable mention. He played 11 league games, three playoff games and, for the most part, did what he wanted in that league. He avearged more than 16 points per game. Petty stuff, gentlemen. Favors and favoritism. There has to be a better way.

AP: I take some flak now and then for covering Flint Powers too much. I don’t sweat it, though — everyone covers the heck out of that team. It’s what happens when you win a lot. That being said, on Thursday Flint Powers became the first team in the history of the MHSAA to have three all-state players. In nearly 50 years, not a single team has done it. It stands to reason, then, that Flint Powers should have been among the best, if not the best, teams in the history of the MHSAA — not a team that got handled in the state quarters. The Associated Press uses an 11-member panel of media members for the awards, and I submit to you that they don’t know all that much about basketball being played outside a 25-mile radius center on their front porch. Meanwhile, a player like Dewitt’s Andrew Lerg is left out despite averaging 21 points per game in the CAAC. They play good ball in Lansing, in case you didn’t know.

There has to be a better way.

The MCCAA: At the end of every JUCO season, coaches vote for the postseason awards by secret ballot. Just like in high school, it’s often used as a forum to quietly settle scores among coaches with differing agendas — the secret ballot practically ensures it. This season, Mott Community College won the MCCAA’s eastern conference and the MCCAA state title and, remarkably, did not have a single player on the eastern conference’s first team. Mott freshman Doug Anderson won freshman of the year, but did not get first team all conference. Keep in mind that there were two freshman on that first team. Can someone make sense of that for me? I can. It’s another example of coaches who make players pay for their petty agendas. There has to be a better way.

BCAM’s Mr. Basketball award: What more can be said about the Mr. Basketball award? It was just one year ago that the members of the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan made a mockery of the award given annually to the state’s best senior. Even when the coaches get it right, it’s an overt sham because so many of these guys only see players in their own conference. Because of this, many of them know a precious little about the candidates. And so, the “oh, he’s going to Michigan State, so he must  be the best,” is the rationale that gets us Mr. Basketball, Derrick Nix — a player who didn’t win the award for best player in his own conference. There has to be a better way.

I’m not advocating the removal of coaches or media members from the process. Someone, after all, has to be the arbiter. I am, however, asking for more oversight and accountability. I’m asking for coaches and media members to take their responsibility seriously, to bring objectivity to the table and leave their petty agendas at home. This game is about the players.

— Jared Field

  1. Patrick Hayes says:

    Gutsy post. Much respect for writing it.

  2. PJR says:

    Good Post! Absolutely correct! The all league teams have abuses but sadly are typically among the best since generally coaches vote on them. The All Area Dream and 1st teams and the Detnews/Free All Metro teams are typically littered with fiascos or blatant misses. I think you hit the nail on the head when you strongly infer that most misses and mistakes are due to good old boys doing favors for each other at the expense of some kids with no connections. It’s just a shame that adults to this. Couple of fixes I often thought would be good is to have coaching transparency with no secret ballots allowed, and second having the players in a league vote but using a secret ballot here to prevent peer pressure, and have that count 50% each, noting they both can’t vote for guys on their teams. I really like the players voting, as in my experience the players who are playing know who’s really the good players and tough! You could and should do a player voting thing after each game, say vote for top three players on each opposing team, and then secretly send these tallies into the league after each game and add up the cumulative!

  3. Gavin Raath says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m annoyed with this year’s Mr. Basketball voting and its one-sided nature. Again, Keith is worthy winner, but to win by a landslide is a complete joke. I can’t stress that enough.

  4. Marcellus Miller says:

    Very good post and right on point. As a person with insight to how conference teams are chosen, I can tell you that it is often far less about what the voters have seen (most coaches only see opposing players once or twice depending on team), but rather about how coaches sell their players. Outside of true marquee players, many know very little about them. The number of players each team gets allotted is largely based on finish in the conference. It can be quite a joke sometimes. One coach is upset how another one acted during their game earlier in the season or what he may have said afterward so they won’t vote for their players. And that’s just one example…

  5. PJR says:

    OT But – Can’t find those old HFCC JuCo article where there was an argument about HFCC offering scholarships or not. There’s a great article on HFCC Coach Abe that puts it all to rest, found here:

    As I said HFCC does NOT offer scholarships, and is basically a D3 playing in a D2 league. It’s truly amazing how well HFCC does under Coach Abe and staff, winning last years state championship and NJCAA District, getting a No. 1 national rank this year, etc., etc., etc., given he doesn’t offer athletic scholarships. For proof, here’s an excerpt from the article:

    ” … HFCC does not offer athletic scholarships, but the team’s success is generating the kind of buzz it takes to attract top talent. “It’s hard to compete for recruits with schools that offer scholarships,” said Mashhour, “but we are getting guys who like our style of play and who can see that we can give them the chance to get to the national tournament and they are bringing in their friends and teammates. …. ”

    Like I said, NO SCHOLARSHIPS!

    But the article’s Great Read so go read the rest of it! And KUDOS to HFCC Coach Abe! Find it hard to believe some four year isn’t all over this fella!!

  6. A Coggins says:

    As we spoke at the Breslin, I 100% agree. Excellent article Jared.

  7. PJR says:

    BTW One area your argument is right but wrong in is that the MCCAA Freshman of the Year Award should have gone to Jamie Stewart and not Doug Anderson. So while you are right that something is very amiss by Doug Anderson not being on the all league 1st team, it’s not nearly as much that Doug Anderson isn’t on that MCCAA all league 1st team, it’s that HFCC’s Jamie Stewart wasn’t Freshman of the Year. Facts are Stewart was arguably the MCCAA POY over Jackson CC’s Minnerath, and at minimum should have been named Freshman of the Year if they choose to give POY to Sophomore Minnerath.

    • PJR says:

      I’m sorry, above I mean Kevin Grayer not Nick Minnerath. Minnerath was Western Conference POY and Grayer Eastern Conference POY. So if Sophomore Grayer edges out Stewart for Eastern Conference POY, then Stewart should absolutely get Freshman of the Year, no question.

  8. It Ain't Right says:

    Those were three metro league snubs… I think Lovachis got snub because he was a transfer that some say Lance courted….Remember when Hamady’s girls first became dominant. They won the league by a landslide and didn’t get any votes for anything.

  9. SC Fan says:

    As a metro fan, I wondered myself about Lovachis and whether he was elgible to receive a post season award from the league having only participated in half the season. Personally, in the two contests I saw him play, he was 3rd best on his team. Fowler and Hopkin were both deserving candidates.

    • Jared Field says:

      I look at it like this: Try to replicate what happens in the real world as best you can. In the real world, results tend to matter more. Lovachis was among the top 16 players in the at conference. Heck, he was among the top six. What these coaches are doing isn’t ultimately hurting other coaches, but players. That’s very small of them.

  10. Kevin Jackson says:

    I just don’t understand how Mike Thomas was not coach of the year answer that he’s been at K central. 2 years class A finals 2 yrs in a row ….1 loss this year and the beat nationally ranked Country Day no love in Kazoo he wasn’t even conference coach of the year either year…POLITICAL BS…how are they letting bielien turn Michigan into a mid major right before our very eyes? Brundidge and early offer give me break…

    • Jared Field says:

      Couldn’t agree more. There are a lot of jealous coaches out there.

      As for Brundidge, Michigan just needs better players. That’s the bottom line.

      • Ty Williams says:

        Is it just me or is Brundidge overrated? Brundidge plays like a smaller version of Paul Pierce without the athleticisim. I don’t know what position he will play in college. He actually would be a small point guard, let alone a tiny two guard. His handle is very suspect and all he does is drive to the basket. I have seen him play three (3) times and I was not impressed. Just an opinion.

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