FNF Coaches Talk — Willie Taggart’s Mentors, Old-School Discipline, Nick Saban’s Biggest Sacrifice

FNF Coaches Talk

Welcome back, Coaches. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share these three stories.

1. FSU coach Willie Taggart relied on mentors, experience to cope with tough Year 1 (Orlando Sentinel)

Coaches — We know it gets bad when your team is losing, but it’s likely never been as bad for you as it was last season for first-year FSU coach Willie Taggart.

The Seminoles finished the 2018 season with a 5-7 record, resulting in the end of the program’s consecutive bowl game streak.

One person left a racist comment on the school’s Facebook page calling for Taggart to be lynched.

For Taggart, tunnel vision was the key to surviving a tumultuous Year 1. He said he was able to draw on advice from mentor Dick Tomey, who died earlier this month.

“Everyone on the outside doesn’t understand the issues, so you can’t get caught up with all that stuff,” Taggart said. “You’ve got to stay focused, keep your head down and make sure you’re correcting those things. [Tomey] was a big part of it in being there and seeing those issues and correcting them and making sure you’re holding everyone accountable to do things the way that you want.
“But you’ve got to understand, it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve got to be consistent in your message and your approach to get people to change bad habits.”

Taggart has been through challenging debut seasons leading programs throughout his coaching career. Taggart went 2-10 his first season at Western Kentucky, then 7-5 the next two seasons. He went 2-10 his first year at USF, 4-8 his second season leading the Bulls and 8-5 during his third season. And he helped Oregon bounce back from a losing season in his sole year leading the Ducks, posting a 7-5 record.

Taggart has said his past experiences helped him handle the heat in Tallahassee, although it was amplified at a program of Florida State’s stature.

What sources of inspiration have you found when you’re having a losing season?

2. For a generation that preached discipline and respect (sometimes loudly), staying in touch with the times isn’t easy (Los Angeles Daily News)

If you enjoy the “Back in the Day” features that we run in our magazine, you’ll enjoy this story.

This is about the way kids are disciplined today vs. how they were disciplined in the distant past. We figured coaches might be able to relate.

Their parents refuse to discipline the kids beyond a few tepid words of “please don’t do that.” The kids totally ignore them, and their parents allow it, which drives him crazy.
He remembers how his parents handled the situation, and he doesn’t recall the word “please” ever coming up in conversation. Neither do I. In my house, if you acted like a brat, you got the stare – the evil eye, my Italian mother called it.

The author remembers his high school football coach, Roy Vujovich, teaching a basic math class.

“I was doing a story on the Class of ’54 having its 50th year reunion when one of Roy’s former students walked up and said, “Coach Vu, remember me? I was in your basic math class, the kid who never shut up.
“Remember that day you took me out in the hallway and pinned me up against the lockers? I thought you were going to kill me. Thanks, coach, you really straightened me out.”

The author argues that today Coach Vu would be fired for his behavior — not thanked.

How has your style of discipline changed with the times?

3. The sacrifice of success from Roger Federer, Nick Saban, Venus Williams, Udonis Haslem (The Sun-Sentinel)

Here’s another one that coaches can surely relate to. Some of the best athletes and coaches share their biggest sacrifices in pursuit of greatness. We’re sure Nick Saban’s response will sound familiar to many of us.

Nick Saban, Alabama coach: “I enjoy what I do. And with it comes a lot of self-gratifying moments for me and a lot of people. I think our profession is not family friendly because of the manner in which you have to go about your job. If I had one sacrifice above the others, it’s that I could have been a better husband to my wife and better father to my children. To do this job, you’re away a lot. When I was in Cleveland, for instance, my children were 2 and 4 and I went on a West Coast trip and between preparing for it and returning and getting ready for the next game I didn’t see them for 11 days. My granddaughter, I [didn’t see] her for two weeks getting ready for the [Orange Bowl]. Every coach has a story like these, I’m sure. On the other side of it, there have [been] so many great rewards in this profession. But the family, not seeing them, I don’t like that. It bothers me.”

We encourage you to read all of the responses. There’s some great stuff in there.

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!