Politics and coaching prove a potent mix for former Red Wing coach

Carl Pierson is a former Red Wing girls basketball coach who now lives in Waconia, Minn. His book "The Politics of Coaching: A survival guide to keep coaches from getting burned" became the top-selling basketball-related coaching book sold on Kindle and Amazon in early August.

RED WING — When a colleague and friend of former Red Wing girls basketball coach Carl Pierson had his coaching contract non-renewed after unsuccessfully navigating a politically charged situation last spring, Pierson chose an unusual response. The self-described recovering swear-a-holic turned author to compile details from a number of similar situations and sprinkled in advice from a political perspective to become an author.

It seemed to tap a sensitive topic.

Pierson's book "The Politics of Coaching: A survival guide to keep coaches from getting burned" became the top-selling basketball-related coaching book sold on Kindle and Amazon in early August. It's the 14th-fastest-selling coaching book of any kind, six spots ahead of a book written by NFL coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets.

But the author's success story provides a jarring juxtaposition to the material covered in the book, particularly for coaches who have dealt with many of the uncomfortable situations detailed by Pierson. He says interaction with players, parents, administration, media, technology and booster clubs are all potential pitfalls for prep coaches. He provides personal examples for virtual every situation, along with mitigation plans.

"Coaching has always been a profession where you've been subjected to a certain degree of scrutiny," he said. "I think it has evolved over the last decade into a more cutthroat profession — particularly with parents who have so much invested in their kids. Not just personally, but financially. If they feel like a coach is stepping in the way of their kid getting a scholarship, there are parents who won't blink an eye at getting a coach fired."


The 272-page book covers virgin territory in an otherwise saturated genre. It's received praise from around the country; Pierson lists comments on his website from prep coaches in California, Texas and Nebraska.

"The (political) things I've always kind of taken for granted and been intrinsic for me, most coaches don't understand them," said Pierson, who recently left Champlin Park to teach in Waconia.

Red Wing is where many of Pierson's examples originated. He's changed the names and sports for some of the bigger controversies detailed in the book.

A cursory glance at headlines around the state this summer provides ample supporting evidence. Staples-Motley boys basketball coach Lynn Peterson, who is fourth all-time in Minnesota history with 683 wins, recently resigned after unspecified allegations were made in the community; while no details have been released by the district, message board chatter almost universally supports the coach.

Southeast Minnesota has plenty of examples as well, including at least five parent-driven firings or resignations in the past 12 months. Some of the ousted coaches feel that administrators did not provide enough support, led by Cannon Falls boys basketball coach Chip Callister. He has a public hearing before the school board scheduled for Monday night.

Perhaps the most high-profile example in Minnesota history came in 2007 when John Marshall graduate Matt Addington was suspended for the year after a postgame incident as boys basketball coach at Lakeville South. The Cougars were one of the most highly regarded teams in the country at the time.

Addington resigned after that season, but has since served as president of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association while rebuilding Kenyon-Wanamingo's program. He's taken a much keener interest in such issues since his own experience.

"I'm not asking for a force field around a coach, but nowadays parents are an email away from an administrator, and coaches are one meeting or one phone call from losing their job," said Addington, who has taken two programs to the state tournament. "Winning, losing. Big, small. Rich, poor. I've been in all those situations and (these issues are) present in all of them."

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