Malcolm Blight is one of the most intriguing coaching figures in the world. He is definitely the most intriguing coaching figure in the world who hardly anyone has ever heard about. That is the problem when your sport is Australian football. As a player he was renowned for his outrageous level of skill and willingness to use it in the most important moments. As a coach he was renowned for his disdain for conventional wisdom and willingness to experiment at the biggest games. As a commentator he is renowned for his individual analysis and willingness to view things from a different perspective.
He recently opined on the coaching legacy of one of the current top coaches. As a whole it is an interesting discussion about the balance between sustained excellence and playoff success in defining such a legacy. But the most interesting point for me, is when he suggests that:
“As a coach it is 80% about the team anyway. The rest of it, the club, the marketing department, the membership, the assistant coaches and the senior coach are the 20 per cent trying to help the 80 per cent be better. He is probably about five per cent … of the 20 per cent of the jigsaw.”
For clarification I am sure he meant five per cent of the 100%, not five percent of the 20 percent. We’ll put that down to poor editing at the newspaper. But is he really saying that the coach only influences five percent of the total performance?
It brings to mind legendary NBA executive Jerry West who is quoted as saying:
‘When you don’t have talent, coaching can only do so much. Once you have talent, coaching is everything.”
And Italian football coaching legend Giovanni Trapattoni, who is quoted as saying:
“A good coach who gets everything right can make a team maybe 5% better and a bad one can make it 30% worse. Sometimes more”
So how much is a coach worth to performance? Obviously I don’t know the answer. But I suspect it is less than most coaches like to imagine and more than most presidents like to admit.