04 May 2013

Bad Management: The Chicago Bulls & Derrick Rose

A case study in management throwing their top performer under a bus.

Derrick Rose is a 24-yr-old professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls. About a year ago he suffered a bad knee injury which required surgery. The recovery period was estimated to be between 8 months and 1 full year. He is now "medically cleared" to play and has been practicing but has not yet played in a game. The Bulls are about to play game seven of a best-of-seven first round playoff series. While Rose's continued refusal to play in a game has the public support of his coach and teammates, it seems now a large number of fans are practically levitating with rage that he hasn't yet suited up at game time. At best there's rampant confusion. At worst incoherent fury. This is not Derrick Rose's fault. It's management's fault.

Rose is an all-star and the most exciting and valuable player in Chicago since that Jordan fellow. He could easily be the franchise breadwinner for the next ten years. When Rose was getting surgery last year, the Bulls management team -- probably starting from the owner -- should have simply announced: "Derrick will miss all of next season. Even if he thinks he's ready to play before the end of the season, it is our call now, in the cold light of day and not in the heat of the moment of a playoff run, that he not play for the entire season. As a management team, our priority is to get Derrick 100% ready to play at the start of the 2013-14 season. We want Derrick to be the heart of the Bulls for years to come. We expect that as soon as he feels ready to play he will want to get in there and help out his teammates,  but we are making a call now to manage and minimize the risk and that call is that he will not play in the 2012-13 season."

That gets him off the hook entirely. If he ends up cleared to practice and looks great, all the pressure goes to management to defend their decision, not to Rose himself. (Remember he's 24. Management should be expected to have perspective here.) They, not Rose, get the blame. If Rose is privately demanding to be put in, he can discuss with the team and if they want him in, they announce how his incredible heart and desire forced them to reconsider.

By all accounts, Derrick Rose seems like a genuinely nice guy, good teammate, and a pleasure to coach. A manager's dream, in other words. That is what good management should do to protect a star: deflect and absorb all the pressure onto themselves for bad outcomes, and ensure he gets all credit for good outcomes.

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