This blog was originally published on March 17, 2008 by Professor Russell L. Weaver.
In a recent entry, I noted Coach Rick Pitino’s “ability to inspire” and made a comparable analogy to deans. Some deans inspire their faculty, encourage them to greater heights, and help faculty bring honor and glory to their institutions. A few deans create destructive atmospheres that tend to pull their faculties down.
An interesting Pitinoism refers to the “name on the jersey.” As Pitino has said more than once, he wants players who are more concerned about the name on the front of their jerseys than the names on the back of their jerseys. And, indeed, Pitino is a master of creating an atmosphere which encourages players to think about the name on the front of their jerseys. This approach results in strong team play and terrific basketball teams.
Even though Pitino made his reference in a basketball context, the reference is perhaps as apt (if not more apt) as applied deans. Indeed, every dean should ask herself whether she is more focused on the name on the front of her jersey than the one on the back. Unquestionably, decanal attitudes have a big impact on faculty attitudes. A dean that is open, collegial, supportive, communicative and encouraging is much more likely to produce a faculty that is focused on the name of the front of their jerseys. By contrast, a dean that is uncollegial, punitive, plays favorites and arbitrarily hands out rewards, encourages faculty to think about the names on the backs of their jerseys. A sick atmosphere necessarily creates sick behaviors.
Indeed, if one considers why Pitino is so successful at encouraging players to think about the names on the front of their jerseys, one keeps coming back to the superb leadership that Coach Pitino provides. If he were different, his teams would be different.