John Tortorella Needs to Grow Up

Every time I see a coach giving a nasty post-game press conference, it always reminds me of covering golf for the Daily Collegian student newspaper at Penn State.

Greg Nye was the head men’s golf coach at the time and still is. He was a fantastic golfer during his days at the College of Wooster (Ohio) – he earned All-America honors all four years he played there – and has been well-respected as a coach for the Nittany Lions throughout his tenure there.

But as good as he was on the golf course, both instructing and playing, he was well known to many of us in the sports staff at the Collegian as being less than media friendly on more than one occasion.

I covered Penn State men’s golf during four separate semesters while in college, so I got to know Coach Nye pretty well. He wasn’t and isn’t a bad guy. Most of the time, he was more than willing to answer all of my questions and let his players talk openly to me. While the new team clubhouse and driving range was being built, he personally walked me through the construction site and gave me a highly-detailed tour of the place. And he did it with a beaming smile on his face. Sometimes he would tell me stories about his family. He could be very friendly and easy-going.

Some sunny days that I didn’t have an article due, I would walk up to the golf course while Nye’s team was practicing and I wouldn’t ask him a single question about golf or his team. We would just shoot the breeze and talk about his favorite baseball team, the Cleveland Indians. These were the days that fewer Collegian sports writers knew about. I suppose since I had covered the golf team so much, Nye ended up being more comfortable around me at times, or maybe I’m just delusional.

But there were also the days that Coach Nye wasn’t in the best of moods. These were the days that he asked me not to come up to the golf course. There were times where he would give me one-word answers over the phone after his team had placed poorly at a tournament. There were also times that I suspected he instructed his players not to answer their phones or give me comments following a tough loss, but that’s purely speculation.

He could make my job tough and when that happened, I resented him for it. But I also knew that there were coaches at Penn State that were even worse with the media. There were plenty of occasions when one of my fellow reporters would enter the office with a frazzled look on their face, followed by a story of “what just happened” between themselves and a coach.

It happens at every level of sports that reporters cover. And if you ask any sports reporter, I promise you they’ll have a story about a time where a coach was impossible to question after a loss and was just downright rude. Those times stick with a reporter because they made our jobs harder and it made us feel, well, crappy.

That’s why I cringe when New York Rangers coach John Tortorella gives a post-loss press conference. It’s awkward to watch on television, so I can’t imagine how it feels to be in the room with him. He looks like he’s about to murder someone for asking him anything about the game. He gives one-word answers and refuses to say, well, anything. He’s rude and he acts like a pouting child.

What makes his behavior worse is that he can be very articulate, insightful and outspoken when he wants to be. There have been plenty of times when Torts — as he’s affectionately referred to by some — is great with the media and he won’t shy away from a joke or two. He can be real gold for a reporter when it comes to the kind of quotes and insight he can offer up. Unfortunately, it seems that he is only helpful to reporters when his team isn’t playing poorly.

Here’s an example of the fun John Tortorella.

It’s obvious he’s a passionate person and a great coach (he’s up for the Jack Adams coach of the year award), but he’s tight-lipped and rude when it comes to the poor performances of his own team. Whether he understands it or not, answering questions from the media is part of his job, regardless if his team was shut out or it won by 10. He has a professional responsibility to sit with reporters, even just briefly, and answer their questions.

I understand his job isn’t easy because of the pressures of the New York market and it can be frustrating answering question after question following a loss.

And I could also understand his behavior if reporters were asking him extremely invasive and insulting questions, but they aren’t. They’re asking him simple questions about what happened during the game and he responds as if he caught them going through his medicine cabinet.

This is the most recent example of Tortorella’s infantile behavior after last night’s loss in Game 2 to the New Jersey Devils.

 

 

And last night was not the first time he’s acted like this. The following videos are his last three post-loss press conferences.

 

Final- Capitals 3, Rangers 2 (4/30/21)

 

Final- Capitals 3, Rangers 2 (5/5/12)

 

Final- Capitals 2, Rangers 1 (5/9/12)

 

His behavior makes me want to root against his team, even though I picked it to win this series. But I can’t stand his attitude toward the press post-loss, so I suppose I’m between a rock and a hard place.

I can only hope that win or lose, Torts realizes the press has a job to do, just like he does. He should know as well as the reporters that when your job doesn’t go well, life is crappy. Acting like a child won’t help the Rangers play better John so grow up, take the podium and be a man.

Your players oblige the media after every loss. You should too.

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About Pete Dombrosky
Pete is a graduate of Penn State University and a life-long Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fan. He covered men's hockey, golf, tennis, swimming and the enterprise beat as a reporter at the Daily Collegian, Penn State's award-winning, independent student-operated paper. He currently serves as the Assistant Managing Editor for Thrillist Media Group (www.thrillist.com).

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