Why Steve Kerr Loves a Coach in Liverpool

NBA coaches quote him and SEC football coaches study him. It seems that everyone in sports has a manager crush on Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp.

Klopp has been a forcefully endearing figure since long before he landed in Liverpool. As a player at Mainz in the second tier of German soccer, he described himself as having fourth-division skills but a first-division brain. Those skills still made him one of the club’s all-time leading scorers, even as a defender, since he would routinely shift into attack when Mainz badly needed a goal, which was often.

“I was watching, but not specifically him,” said Andi Herzog, a former Austrian star now managing the Israeli national team. “Nobody knew that he would be the best coach in the world.”

Klopp was so popular at Mainz that the club made him its manager immediately after he quit playing in 2001. Over the next 14 years, first at Mainz and then at Borussia Dortmund, he refined his coaching style. Klopp called it “heavy-metal football.”

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His personal style is more dad rock. While the top European managers wear tailored designer suits, Klopp dresses like he’s taking his kids to kindergarten in Brooklyn. His take on sideline couture includes tracksuits, baseball caps and running shoes, all topped off with a thick beard and hipster glasses.

“Everybody’s gotta have their statement thing,” said Florida football coach Dan Mullen, a Liverpool die-hard and Klopp admirer. “I wear my visor. He’s got his little beard-glasses look.”

But the way Klopp handles himself—not how he looks—is the reason he’s adored. Mullen gushes about how he adapts his system to his players. Claude Le Roy, the French manager of Togo’s national soccer team, envies his ability to sidestep the shenanigans of many other coaches in the game. “He’s a natural leader,” said Le Roy, who has never met him. “He proves that you don’t have to insult people, that you don’t have to cheat, that you don’t have to constantly repeat, ‘I’m the boss.’”

Gregg Berhalter, the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team, played in the German second division when Klopp was starting out, but he could already tell that the intense, sometimes maniacal young coach on the sideline had a special quality. “He gives a sense of being a real person,” Berhalter said. “People relate to that.”

Klopp is the latest in a series of highly successful coaches over the last decade—Pete Carroll, Joe Maddon, Kerr himself—who have reimagined their position of authority for the 21st century. They are highly respected but not tyrannical. They have a metronomic pulse of their locker rooms. They’re not necessarily strategic geniuses, but they have an unmatched ability to unlock talent, and they maintain their own power by empowering their players.

“You can sometimes feel a coach’s influence,” Kerr said. “When a team takes on the personality of a coach, you feel this connectedness and this collective will, and then magic happens.”

Klopp’s players feel it more than most. As they come off the field, their 6-foot-3 boss doesn’t bother with a formal handshake. He wraps them in bear hugs.

A touchy, feely cheerleader is not what you would expect from a manager in the most cutthroat league on earth—let alone a German one. But even Germany can’t get enough of Klopp’s schtick. At a time when the nation’s economy is screeching to a halt, he is seen as a model of modern management: Klopp recently posed for a national magazine called Manager under the headline “Der Feelgood-Boss.”

Alexander Stöckl, Der Feelgood-Boss of Norway’s powerhouse ski-jumping team that dominated the last Olympics, is not a soccer fan so much as he’s a Klopp fan. “He has an aura that fascinates many,” Stöckl said. “It seems to me has a fantastic philosophy of coaching.”

That philosophy demands total commitment from his players. While soccer’s attacking ideal in the late 2000s became the intricate passing play of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, Klopp was developing a violently athletic approach based on fast breaks and high pressure. The battle between the two styles is now playing out in the Premier League, where Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s Manchester City are battling for the title for a second straight year—they’ll meet for the first time this season at Anfield on Sunday.

Everyone in sports has a manager crush on Jürgen Klopp. PHOTO: DARREN STAPLES/ZUMA PRESS

And there will be at least one coach of a championship team watching from eight time zones away. Kerr, whose sister lives in England and whose nephews are Arsenal supporters, had always enjoyed English soccer even if he didn’t know much about it. But he knew enough to know that he needed to adopt a team for himself. He’d been captivated by Egyptian star Mo Salah in the World Cup. Salah played for Liverpool. Kerr was suddenly a Liverpool fan.

“I randomly (or not-so-randomly) picked them because of one player,” Kerr said. “But it was, like, oh my god, there’s all this other stuff that’s so awesome to follow.”

He quickly learned about the show tune fans sing before kickoff whose refrain has become Liverpool’s mantra. ”YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!” Kerr tweeted after the victory over Barcelona. And he immediately gravitated toward the one aspect of the sport that he did know something about.

“I started to notice Jürgen Klopp,” Kerr said. “You could just see what a bright guy he was, his emotional intelligence and his love for his players without sacrificing that competitive fire—in fact actually fueling it.”

Kerr is still waiting to meet Klopp. Which makes him like pretty much every member of Klopp’s fan club. But until they can meet him, they have to settle for pretending to be him.

Liverpool’s wild 4-0 win to erase a 3-0 deficit in their Champions League semifinal against Barça happened on May 7. The Warriors, without Kevin Durant, came from behind to beat the Rockets on May 8—one of the most satisfying wins in Kerr’s coaching career.

Kerr decided this was the perfect time to channel his inner Klopp. Klopp had given himself permission to swear after determining that children were probably asleep by then. Kerr made sure he apologized to his mother before calling his players bleeping giants.

Three weeks later, Kerr was coaching in the NBA Finals once again, and Klopp was dealing with some business of his own: Liverpool was busy winning the Champions League.

Barr Quits Dalton School Post, Charging Trustees’ Interference

Donald Barr, the controversial and outspoken headmaster of the Dalton School, one of the city’s largest and most selective private schools, has resigned in protest of what he considers the trustee’s interference with his leadership.

“Everyone knows that I am somewhat anachronistic in my views of the educational leadership of a school,” Mr. Barr wrote in a letter yesterday to faculty members and parents. “I am not comfortable with the definition of board‐head relations that I see becoming current in schools everywhere.”

Mr. Barr’s resignation, which the board says was not requested and not expected, comes after 10 frequently stormy years as head of Dalton, which is housed in an 11‐story, brick building at 108 East 89th Street.

Question of Authority

The source of conflict between the strong‐minded Mr. Barr and his 20‐member board seemed to center on the question of where the board’s authority should yield to the headmaster’s judgment. There was apparently no one incident that prompted the resignation, but the confrontation was exacerbated by financial pressures that have forced the school to set priorities.

“The issue is the prerogatives of the board and the headmaster,” said Richard Ravitch, a construction company executive who is president of the board. “My sense of trusteeship and my understanding of the requirements of the state law And the bylaws of the school all say to me that it is the obligation of the trustees of an institution to make all the policies.”

Ironically, the present board of trustees includes many parents who rose to Mr. Barr’s defense when a faction of the former board and some of the parents sought his ouster in 1971. He was accused then of turning a “humanistic, progressive” school into one in which “discipline and authoritarian rule” were the hallmarks.

The issues then had nothing to do with this issue now,” Mr. Ravitch said. “All of us who are now officers of the board were supportive of him in that fight and supported his educational philosophy.”

The Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom, and the Future of the Right Paperback – October 9, 2007

if the acceptance and love of others as they are is the essence of Christianity, then the acceptance of our loneliness and doubt in a world far beyond our understanding is the core of all non-fundamentalist religion.

pg 219  Andrew Sullivan, The Conservative Soul

 

What religion can be at its most sublime is the fusion of that wonder we should really feel all the time in the presence of God. What religion can be at its most sublime is the fusion of that wonder with practical life. It is the marriage of the poetic and practical modes of experience. This does not require the imposition of fixed rules and doctrines, although they may be helpful guides from time to time.  It requires a constant reimagination of the potential of life  lived on earth as if it were heaven. It requires letting go of our desire not to let go. Jesus saw it in children. One of his most radical teachings was the notion that only if we become like children will we enter the kingdom of God.

Children love rituals, and their games are full of them. Perhaps because they are not yet fully formed, every moment matters more. We older types have sometimes become inured to the wonder and mystery of everything.

pg 222

 

These moments may come upon us when we least expect them. We may see flashes of eternity in the simple grin of a child in a game of hind and seek, in the approach of the tide on an autumn  afternoon, in the eyes of a lover in sex, or in grandmother’s ritual– but we know them when we see the. The key is to be open to them, because they happen all the time, all around us. But we are too “busy” to notice.

The opposite of this kind of faith is fundamentalism: the constant recourse to abstraction and authority or text.

Most people are bad at arguing. These 2 techniques will make you better.

Anyone who has argued with an opinionated relative or friend about immigration or gun control knows it is often impossible to sway someone with strong views.

That’s in part because our brains work hard to ensure the integrity of our worldview: We seek out information to confirm what we already know, and are dismissive or avoidant of facts that are hostile to our core beliefs.

But it’s not impossible to make your argument stick. And there’s been some good scientific work on this. Here are two strategies that, based on the evidence, seem promising.

1) If the argument you find convincing doesn’t resonate with someone else, find out what does

The answer to polarization and political division is not simply exposing people to another point of view.

In 2017, researchers at Duke, NYU, and Princeton ran an experiment where they paid a large sample of Democratic and Republican Twitter users to read more opinions from the other side. “We found no evidence that inter-group contact on social media reduces political polarization,” the authors wrote. Republicans in the experiment actually grew more conservative over the course of the test. Liberals in the experiment grew very slightly more liberal.

Whenever we engage in political debates, we all tend to overrate the power of arguments we find personally convincing — and wrongly think the other side will be swayed.

On gun control, for instance, liberals are persuaded by stats like, “No other developed country in the world has nearly the same rate of gun violence as does America.” And they think other people will find this compelling, too.

Conservatives, meanwhile, often go to this formulation: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

What both sides fail to understand is that they’re arguing a point that their opponents have not only already dismissed but may be inherently deaf to.

“The messages that are intuitive to people are, for the most part, not the effective ones,” Robb Willer, a professor of sociology and psychology at Stanford University, told me in 2015.

Willer has shown it’s at least possible to nudge our political opponents to consider ideas they’d normally reject outright. In 2015, in a series of six studies, he and co-author Matthew Feinberg found that when conservative policies are framed around liberal values like equality or fairness, liberals become more accepting of them. The same was true of liberal policies recast in terms of conservative values like respect for authority.

Willer has shown it’s at least possible to nudge our political opponents to consider ideas they’d normally reject outright. In 2015, in a series of six studies, he and co-author Matthew Feinberg found that when conservative policies are framed around liberal values like equality or fairness, liberals become more accepting of them. The same was true of liberal policies recast in terms of conservative values like respect for authority.

So, his research suggests, if a conservative wanted to convince a liberal to support higher military spending, he shouldn’t appeal to patriotism. He should say something like, “Through the military, the disadvantaged can achieve equal standing and overcome the challenges of poverty and inequality.” Or at least that’s the general idea.

In a recent effort Willer and a co-author found, in a nationally representative sample, that conservatives would be more willing to support a hypothetical liberal candidate for president if that candidate used language that reflected conservative values. For instance, conservatives who read that the candidate’s “vision for America is based on respect for the values and traditions that were handed down to us…” were more likely to say they supported him than when the candidate’s message was framed with liberal buzzwords.

How to sway the other side: Use their morals against them

Willer’s work is based on moral foundations theory. It’s the idea that people have stable, gut-level morals that influence their worldview. The liberal moral foundations include equality, fairness, and protection of the vulnerable. Conservative moral foundations are more stalwart: They favor in-group loyalty, moral purity, and respect for authority.

Politicians intuitively use moral foundations to excite like-minded voters. Conservative politicians know phrases like “take our country back” get followers’ hearts beating.

What moral foundations theory tells us, however, is that these messages don’t translate from one moral tribe to the other. “You’re essentially trying to convince somebody who speaks French of some position while speaking German to them,” Willer says. “And that doesn’t resonate.”

Willer cautioned that it’s still extremely difficult to convert a political opponent completely to your side, even with these techniques. “We found statistically significant effects,” he says. “They’re reliable. But in terms of magnitude, they are not large.”

The chart below shows how well the moral reframing worked for each policy area in Willer’s study. To be clear, there’s only so much that reframing in terms of values can do: It can’t turn an anti-Obamacare conservative into a proponent, but it can soften his stance and get him to listen to counterarguments.