Lam's losing record may not hold him back

23:02, Apr 18 2012
Pat Lam
DON'T WORRY: Pat Lam shouldn't worry. Coaches before him have fared just as badly and they have ended up coaching at international level.

Pat Lam shouldn't worry. Coaches before him have fared just as badly and they have ended up coaching at international level.

Failure is not ridiculed, it is seen as a useful experience to help the coach improve.

Losing speeds up the learning process, so it seems. This is obviously the New Zealand policy, like it or not, and it is a policy with some merit. Particularly if you're the coach.

Of course, it doesn't really apply to other sports or other countries so maybe we are on to a winner. After all, we have the Rugby World Cup.

Lam will have noted that Ian Foster had a 50 per cent winning record with the Chiefs over an extended period and he is now the second most important man in New Zealand rugby. The third All Blacks coach, Aussie McLean, has three under-19 World Cups and an Air New Zealand Championship, which is run-of-the-mill stuff, but he has the trust of his good mate and head coach Steve Hansen, which is obviously the criteria being used.

Success, it seems, is only one of the requirements when appointments are made to the All Blacks, otherwise Robbie Deans with a 73 per cent winning record with the Crusaders would have bolted into the job after the 2007 debacle.


Of course, the people who re-appointed the incumbents can stand by their decision now as being the correct one with Deans not yet taking the Aussies to the top of the tree. Again, a case of losing not altogether being a bad thing.

Which brings us back to Lam who had long ago been anointed as the "Real McCoy" based on a recommendation from none other than the successful British Lions coach Ian McGeechan for whom Lam had done some forward coaching with Scotland.

The fact that Lam had little coaching experience did not stop his appointment to Auckland and then the Blues.

Unfortunately for him, as is the case in the professional era, he has made his mistakes at the top end of the game, and in 2012 it appears he is still making them.

Should he be worried? Only from the media and the public.

Underneath it all it is unlikely the New Zealand Rugby Union will get rid of someone they have spent so much time developing.

They may move him somewhere else as they did with Frank Oliver when after a relatively poor record with the Hurricanes he was sent to the Blues, although maybe this was as a punishment.

It is certainly not a foolish idea if Lam was sent to another franchise as one of the assistant staff to continue his development. That is how it works in major sports in the United States and Europe. After all, being "sacked" is part of any real coach's development.

Coaching at the highest level is more about man and game management based on the correct and clever selections. These attributes come around over a period of time whilst learning to cope with the fluctuations of fortunes and the many aspects that make a successful team. This is called experience.

It is not Lam's fault that he was thrust into a job he thought he could do. There should be a better system in place that rewards those who have done the "hard yards" and are ready for what is to be thrown their way.

Maybe one of the criteria could be that head coaches need to be at least 45 years old and have worked in various roles under various head coaches.

Let's throw in that a stint in an overseas position would also be desirable. Head coaches need to be mentally strong after having ridden their share of rough seas. Anyone can take the drills. Only a few can hit the right spots in selection, direction and management.

Pat Lam's next steps will be followed with interest.

Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.

Taranaki Daily News