Montrezl Harrell has stepped aside as co-captain of the University of Louisville basketball team, leaving Wayne Blackshear as captain after 18 games, nearing the stretch drive.
Whether Harrell was asked to step aside or he wanted to be relieved is not clear, the action is almost unprecedented. Why would a coach ask a player to quit being a team captain? Why would Harrell not want to continue in the role?
Rick Pitino, the coach who made Harrell captain, says its no big deal, that Harrell is still the leader. Typical of Pitino, adding to the confusion. If Harrell is the leader, where does that leave Blackshear?
While the role is largely symbolic, the captaincy is a position of honor, serving as a source of leadership. Coaches expect captains to command the respect of their teammates.
Blackshear, while a good role player with many positive qualities, has rarely displayed leadership qualities on the court. Despite Pitino’s urgings and his own personal commitment to become more assertive, Blackshear conveys the impression of a player just wanting to blend in during his senior season.
Possibly, Harrell, who has been in bit of a slump for several games, was uncomfortable with a formal leadership role. He may have felt he needed to focus more on his own game and professional career, less on the overall team. If so, it’s could be a step back for a team preparing for the ACC grind in February and March.
Pitino is the ultimate micro-manager of a basketball coach, but he badly needs some team leadership to navigate the obstacles ahead. The role of team captain is a big deal whether he’s ready to admit it or not.