It's taken seven years, but Doug Gottlieb thinks coaches and fans are finally beginning to understand him.
Gottlieb says of himself: "I'm incredibly honest with the people I care about. My friends have come to become friends because they've accepted that."
That harsh truth-telling helped land Gottlieb his own radio show as well as columns in ESPN the Magazine and on ESPN.com. The former Oklahoma State point guard also does in-studio work analyzing college basketball at night and during live SportsCenter.
Gottlieb's "tell it like it is" style has definitely started conflicts with high-profile coaches. One of Gottlieb's most adamant criticisms of major conference programs is how some programs don't schedule true road games to test themselves in the non-conference.
One prime example Gottlieb points out is Jim Boeheim's Syracuse squad. Boeheim has publicly criticized Gottlieb's viewpoint, and sometimes things seemed to get downright nasty.
The same happened when the ESPN analyst called out Duke's athleticism in certain areas earlier this year. Gottlieb and Mike Krzyzewski traded barbs, but in both the Duke and Syracuse incidents, things passed.
Soon after the Duke fracas, Gottlieb was on Coach K's radio show. Earlier this year, Gottlieb had Boeheim on his podcast to civilly discuss a possible expansion of the tournament.
"I don't necessarily know if [Boeheim and I] have patched things up, but we don't have a bad relationship. Every once in a while we send each other a text. Sometimes it's busting each other's chops. Other times it's just an 'attaboy.'"
While he feels coaches have come around, he knows fans haven't.
"Fans think you don't like this team and you don't like this coach. That's not how it works. I don't go to sleep thinking I don't like somebody. I have an opinion. It's based on something factual. That's all."
Gottlieb made a valid point about his strong opinions. He asked rhetorically whether listeners would rather hear a guy waver and not be definitive or hear one distinctive viewpoint that he won't backtrack on without a well-constructed counterargument.
ESPN's analyst made it clear: He doesn't have an agenda. And, if you go back to Gottlieb's first remark about being honest to the people he cares about, it all makes sense.
"I handle everyone the same way, and people sometimes have trouble fathoming that. People in this business like to protect their friends, and I've always thought a true friend tells you what they really think."
Unfortunately for Gottlieb, critical fans are all too truthful with him and like to remind him of a credit card matter that forced him from Notre Dame and to Oklahoma State (where he excelled on the court).
Gottlieb put it this way: "That happened a college education ago. That happened three children ago. That happened 'everything I have now' ago."
He wouldn't have everything he has now without a simple philosophy.
When asked what the best advice he could give to overcome a situation like he did, Gottlieb paused, softly chuckled, and answered in a straight-shooting manner.
"When you screw up, you admit you screw up. The only way you are going to change someone's opinion of you is everything you do after the mistake...follow the path that you admit you screwed up. There's no hiding from it. There's no excuses. There's no blaming. There's no pointing fingers...figure out why you did it and move on."
Doug did move on. He moved onto Oklahoma State, left his mark in the record book, and played professional ball before moving to the World Wide Leader to break down sports rather than play them.
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