The Lions fired head coach Steve Mariucci this week after less than three seasons. His “West Coast Offense” didn’t produce in Detroit, despite high draft picks and high-priced free agents.
Former 49ers coach Bill Walsh — the father of the West Coast Offense — described it as: “precision-timed passing, variable formations, and the exploitation of each player’s skills.”
But the Lions didn’t have the skills to pull off the West Coast Offense. Yet Mariucci stubbornly stuck with it instead of adapting to the talents of the players he had. Coaching-wise “Mooch” is apparently a One Trick Pony…a West Coast Offense Guy, and that’s it.
Mariucci may be a good coach with the right players and the right situation (he was successful with the 49ers). But he certainly is not a GREAT coach…
Pat Riley was a great coach. When he ran the L.A. Lakers, the game was “Showtime,” with Magic Johnson leading dazzling fast-breaks. When Riley moved to the New York Knicks, his team consisted largely of slugs and thugs, so he s-l-o-w-e-d the pace and emphasized tough, physical defense. He adapted to the abilities of his personnel and came within a few missed free throws of an NBA championship.
Pat Riley wasn’t about Showtime…he was about winning and whatever it took to get there!
Some radio managers are like Mariucci, not Riley. Here’s how radio guys can be One Trick Ponies…
Corporate formats. My last radio gig was for a company called Doubleday. In the late ’70s, Doubleday succeeded in St. Louis with tightly-formatted AOR. So they then launched stations in New York, Detroit and D.C. with the very same format. No research. No assessment of the market. Hey, if it worked in St. Louis, why not New York?
Why not? For one thing, Doubleday missed opportunities with its single-format focus, most notably in New York, where its WAPP launched before Z-100 and could have filled the CHR niche first.
I asked my former boss why they did AOR everywhere. He said: “That’s what we do best.” Bad thinking…Marketing 101 says: MAKE WHAT YOU CAN SELL.
Fortunately, most radio groups are smarter today. For example, Radio One — while best known for Urban radio — is into other formats when a market situation calls for them.
Trendy formats. One Trick Pony thinking assumes a successful format is the right strategy everywhere. For example, Infinity had success with Jack in L.A., so it flipped its Oldies station to Jack in New York and Chicago. And in New York it was a very bad idea. Infinity aside, a number of stations have jumped on Jack…and some of them will regret it!
Radio is notorious for jumping on the “hot new format,” whatever that is. When I programmed KTFM in San Antonio in the late ’70s, it was an unusually successful AOR. After I left the G.M. — impressed by the success of Disco on New York’s WKTU — put it on KTFM, thinking it would be successful in any market with a high percentage of Hispanics (like New York…or San Antonio). He was wrong, and KTFM wasn’t Disco for long.
Using programmers as strategists. Some consultants and P.D.’s are One Trick Ponies. Not that there’s anything wrong with it…it’s called specialization! The problem arises when G.M.’s ask the “Classic Rock Guy” or the “Country Guy” or the “Rhythmic CHR Guy” to recommend a format. Too often, their answers are: “Classic Rock” or “Country” or “Rhythmic CHR,” respectively.
To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. To a programming specialist, every situation looks like an opportunity for his specialty!
Every so often, someone asks me what format I specialize in. But I specialize in research, not a format! Specializing in research means you will recommend whatever format will make your client successful, based on the preferences and perceptions of listeners in their particular market! So it could be Classic Rock, or Country, or Rhythmic CHR or A/C or Hot Talk or…whatever.
Then, go out and hire the “Classic Rock Guy” or the “Country Guy” or the “Rhythmic CHR Guy” or…whoever.
Don’t be a One Trick Pony…be a strategist. Be a Riley, not a Mariucci. Adapt to the situations and opportunities in your own market.