Kenyans are still pointing out their areas of dislike in Okumbi ever since FKF President Nick Mwenda appointed the former coach of Kariobangi Sharks FC as Harambee Stars coach. A few weeks ago I was discussing football with my dad and he did not have kind words for Okumbi and the man who appointed him. I stood my ground that despite all the dust the appointment raised, Okumbi is a good coach.
We live in an extroverted world and introverts like Okumbi have decks of odds tipped against them. Partly because his demeanor does not represent the part and people have to second guess him. People have a problem with his low monotone voice as much as they have a problem with his obsession with wearing a worn out cap. Coupled with their analysis of his tactics, the young tactician has a mountain to climb to convince Kenyans.
Recently I interviewed former Kenyan Rugby International Michael “Tank” Otieno and got a deeper meaning of coaching. Tank who coached current Sevens Rugby team head coach Benjamin Ayimba was adamant that there is no big difference between a foreign and local coach. The virtue is in the players. According to him, Ayimba is as good as Mike Friday and his performance in this seasons IRB Sevens circuit proves it. His opinion is foreign coaches can come in once in a while as consultants because of their exposure to superior facilities.
Mike went further to elaborate that a coach’s main job is to create a good environment for his players to express themselves. Once the environment is right the job is half done. He points out that professional players know more than the basics of the game and so the coach is not expected to teach them the game. This is a plus for a local coach because he understands the culture of our players so creating a conducive environment will not be difficult.
Michael Jordan in his book “For the Love of the Game” says that the difference between former Chicago Bulls coaches Doug Collins and Phil Jackson was the atmosphere they created. Doug was emotional and created tension and was never afraid to show how he felt. In the contrary Phil Jackson was poised, comfortable with players and comfortable in all situations no matter how difficult the moment was.
Jordan says under Phil they were allowed to find peace in the noise, allowed to figure out options as well as being clear headed enough to execute them. Phil is the coach who did not mind when the maverick Denis Rodman walked into a match straight from a night out as long as he performed to his best. Phil went ahead to win six NBA Championships with Bulls and five with Los Angeles Lakers. He is proof that coaching is not a preserve for extroverts.
The next step is to make the players believe in him as the coach. This takes time to build and I believe the comeback win over Congo at home recently is a good step in building that belief. Once the team believes in the coach, it is the time for him to bring in his philosophy. Phil Jackson transformed the one man attack machine of Bulls around Jordan to a formation where all the five players were involved in offensive play. Okumbi is slowly going into that phase, a few international friendlies and we might see the mojo in the soft spoken coach.
Against this background, I will still stand by Okumbi even after I registered my reservations earlier that FKF erred in appointing him. He is one of the few philosophical coaches in Kenya. In spite of his reserved personality and cool demeanor Okumbi is a good coach and I believe he can inspire Harambee Stars to back into top 100 in FIFA ranking. Let players and fans give him time and support, that is the only thing we owe him, he owes us results.