Hamilton: US coaches not leading by example

PHIL HAMILTON
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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OPINION: Are there any adults left in the room?

Twice in just one week, American coaches have tried to win games with amateurish cheating. First Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd, out of timeouts, dropped a soft drink on the basketball court in the dying seconds of a close loss so he could force a stoppage to draw up a play.

Then, on the same day the NBA fined Kidd $50,000 for his offence, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin obstructed Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones as he ran down the sideline.

Fortunately for the leagues, both offending teams lost. Tomlin has said he was unaware of how far into the field he was but his claim doesn't ring true. He stepped out into Jones' path before jumping back, forcing Jones to cut infield. Jones may not have scored a touchdown anyway but Tomlin's jink certainly helped make the tackler's job a little easier. USA Today's website includes footage of Tomlin's reaction afterwards and as they note, he's "like a kid who reached in the cookie jar without anyone noticing."

The officials should have ruled a touchdown for sideline interference but didn't with the Ravens forced to eventually settle for a field goal.

It's not the first time coaching staff have got way too involved in an NFL game. A Jets assistant coach, Sal Alosi, was suspended and fined three years ago after he tripped a player chasing a kick down the sideline.

The NFL will come down hard on Tomlin and so they should. It's a ridiculous thing to do, particularly with all the cameras on the field making it hard to get away with any little thing nowadays, let alone something as blatant as this.

The rules require coaches to be off the six-feet (two metres) border during plays but it is a rule largely ignored by both coaches and officials. If the officials started penalising them every time they transgressed it would stamp out the problem pretty quickly.

Ideally they would make the border twice the size because players charging down the sideline are regularly tackled into bystanders (a coach seems to break a bone every other year from this).

Coaches encroaching on the field of play is not an issue restricted to the NFL. It has long been a problem in the NBA, too.

Funnily enough Kidd, when he was still playing, used it to milk a technical foul for the Dallas Mavericks by intentionally running into an opposition coach, Mike Woodson, as he dribbled the ball up the sideline two years ago.

Again it is a problem that is easy to fix if the will is there. Enforce the rule every time instead of only when it actually affects the play. A raft of technical fouls would quickly deal with it.

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But the bigger problem is that these two incidents came from head coaches. In one sense it's easy to understand - their jobs depend on wins and they're prepared to do anything to get those wins.

However, they are the men who set the standards and rules for their teams. Rules they expect their players to follow. What moral authority do they have when their players see them break rules when it suits them?

None.

With leadership like this, it's not a question of if things will go wrong at these teams but when.

- Fairfax Media

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