Last night, Barry Hinson gained worldwide fame with his postgame comments after a 73-65 loss at Murray State. In doing so, Hinson joined the ranks of Pat Knight and Mike Montgomery as recent users of an over-the-top negative motivational technique. Knight and Montgomery came off looking like heroes in many corners of the media for what they did, and Hinson has a great chance of doing so, too.
Knight famously called out his team (even the best 6-2 rebounder in the country) for a lack of effort after a home loss to Stephen F. Austin in February of 2012. The Cardinals would go on a six-game winning streak, qualifying for the NCAA tournament, before losing badly to Vermont in a play-in game.
Last February, Montgomery gave his star shooting guard Allen Crabbe a two-handed shove to the chest in the second half of a game with USC. Before the shove, Crabbe missed his first three shots from long range and after it he made five of eight. Once again, negative motivational tactics worked, and Montgomery even drew chuckles from the assembled media after the game for remarking as such.
And then last night, it was Hinson’s turn to among other things, publicly declare that his guards are “awful”. I have no idea how this situation will turn out, but I’m guessing, once again, it will appear to work. For one thing, SIU has won 11% of their games against D-I competition so far. Almost surely, they’ll win more than 11% of their games the rest of the way. My predictions have them going 7-14 and they’ll be favored in their next two games, so Hinson has a great chance for some instant credibility.
You see, negative motivational tactics have a house advantage. They’re always used after a particularly bad performance. Lamar couldn’t have performed too much worse than they did against Stephen F. Austin. Pat Knight could have read from the phonebook or even praised his team in his post-game comments, and they would have shown improvement, because that’s almost always going to happen after you play well below your true ability.
I suspect if we looked at Allen Crabbe’s shooting in all home games after he missed his first three 3-point attempts, we’d find he was about a 40% shooter from long range (roughly his career average). Whether Mike Montgomery decided to shove him in the chest or not, Crabbe was going to perform better in the second half than he did in the first.
And if we looked back at teams in Southern Illinois’ current position, we’d find the vast majority of them improve their record going forward. In reality, Hinson has a short team with little ability to make perimeter shots, and on top of that they don’t run very often. That’s a recipe for trouble no matter how much you rip your team in public.
Did Pat Knight or Mike Montgomery or Barry Hinson’s actions have a positive influence on their teams’ performance? How can we possibly know without comparing their situations to other situations where there was no public humiliation involved? Whether there’s a place for the tactics that Knight and Hinson used is debatable. But the answer isn’t found in the results of their respective teams. It’s a lot more complicated than that.