If you’ve ever worked with a close friend then you know it can be trying at times. To get the low down on putting that strain on a friendship, Ohio State football coach Luke Fickell called basketball coach Thad Matta before bringing former Kansas City Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel onto his staff.
“He (Matta) knew what I was talking about,” Fickell said. “And he said, very clearly, ‘Yes, just make sure you set the standards and guidelines of what needs to be done.’ I called and talked to other coaches and said, ‘Can you hire your best friend?’ And to a ‘T’ they said yes.”
Fickell said it sometimes takes a close friend to provide honest feedback.
“It’s great to have someone who can come in the room, close the door and tell you what they really think,” he said. “Obviously, it’s not confrontational in front of people, but you know somebody that has your back … and knows you well enough to stand up and say, ‘No, this is wrong. You’ve got to do this or this or this.’”
I’ve found that it’s much more difficult being your friend’s boss when you are promoted from within the same company together and you have to make the adjustment from peer to superior. However, if you want to bring in “your people” after a promotion than there is an immediate understanding about who calls the shots.
If Vrabel wasn’t ready to learn from Fickell and do things the way he was told, he could have spent a year as an analyst with ESPN or jumped at any number of other opportunities that a guy with his resume would have at his disposal.
At the same time, we saw last season in Kansas City that some people (hello, Charlie Weis) think they are ready to take orders from a person that was once below them on the totem pole to quickly turn sour to that idea.
Add the Fickell-Vrabel story as the countless ones to watch next year in Columbus.