NORMAN, Okla. -- One of the best things about my job at ESPN is that during the season, I get to watch the best coaches in the country at practice, especially in the Big 12. I love to see how they treat the first few days of preseason practice.
This week I watched the two Big 12 co-favorites and Final Four contenders, Texas and Oklahoma, practice. I was impressed with the intensity and work ethic both teams displayed as well as the relationship each team had with its head coach.
Coaching is much more of an art form than ever before. You have to keep a player happy and motivated without affecting the chemistry of the team. And you have to be careful about how you coach a player without "losing him." As one coach told me recently, "What we used to call constructive criticism is now called verbal abuse." Rick Barnes and Kelvin Sampson are part of a new era which contradicts the old maxim that a coach doesn't have to be liked as long as he is respected.