Oct. 12, 2009
I don't play much poker - OK I don't play poker at all - but if I did Jim Grobe would never get an invite. He has to be the coolest coach to ever roam a sideline. Is Wake Forest winning? Are the Deacs getting trounced? Don't look to Grobe's demeanor for any clues - there won't be any.
"It's actually a plan," admits Grobe. "If I get real emotional on the sideline I usually don't think very well. What I'm trying to do is let the players be emotional - let the players go play the game. I'm trying to make decisions from a head coach's perspective that will give the young guys a chance to go win football games. Basically I'm trying not to screw it up, and if I get as emotional as the kids I don't think very well."
From what little I've seen on television replays it appears that Grobe never gets mad - ever. But he says we don't see everything.
"The only time I get stirred up, and it's happened a couple of times, is if I feel like that there are two or three calls in succession that seem to go against us," says the Deacs' ninth year head coach. "I don't think it's bad to let the officials know that sometimes you're not real happy with the way things are going. If I think there's an issue I'll go to the linesman or the side judge and let them know what we're thinking. But if the players see that you're really upset with the officiating they'll sometimes focus more on that than blocking and tackling, and we just try to get them to go play the game and let us concentrate on all of the other stuff."
The most emotion I think I've seen Jim Grobe display was when he and assistant Billy Mitchell embraced near the end of the ACC title game in 2006. But that was when the hay was in the barn, the pressure cooker unplugged and minds were free to dream of the Orange Bowl berth that was to come. Usually though, even when things are going really, really well, Grobe stays on the straight and narrow.
"We talk to our players a lot about not getting too high or too low," Grobe explains. "When bad things happen out on the field you usually find out it's not as bad as you thought. The same thing is true when good things happen. You have to remember during the course of the game when you have big plays, unless they're game-enders, you get too emotional and you find out that the game isn't over."
How many times have you seen a coach running stride for stride with a player down the sideline, whipping a towel or jumping up and down trying to help the player into the endzone? I guess it works for some, but thankfully it's not Jim Grobe.
"I want our kids to expect to make good plays," Grobe says. "I don't want them thinking that when they make a great play it's unusual or a shock to anybody. I'll pat them on the headgear once in a while, but they know I expect good play out of them. I don't want to get too overjoyed with one good play because what you find is that you have a lot of football left."
Like it or not it's just the way Jim Grobe is. And it's not going to change. What we see today comes from years of navigating the ups and downs of a game played with a weird shaped ball that never bounces the same way twice.
"I think it's experience," says Grobe. "I'm not saying it's the right thing - I know that some of our fans wish that I would be more emotional - but through my playing experience and all of my coaching years I've pulled different aspects of the people I've been around and coached with - different aspects and things I think are really, really good."
Grobe says it's all about time and place.
"There are times to be emotional. But for me it helps me think a little bit better and coach my team a little bit better if I stay under control even when it seems the wheels are coming off."