ARLINGTON, Texas — Mexico manager Juan Carlos Oosrio often pays tribute to soccer's top managers, praising coaching giants like Pep Guardiola, Marcelo Bielsa and Sir Alex Ferguson. However, when he was embarking upon the path to becoming a coach, he also took inspiration from another sport altogether.
The 56-year-old Colombian said Monday that during the 80s and 90s he studied on-court movement in basketball. Later he read about former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson's methods of motivating players who already had plenty of talent on their own and has incorporated many of those lessons into his own management style.
'When I had the chance to come here as an exchange student, I was at Clarke College in Iowa," Osorio said. "When my studies ended, I had a friend invite me to go to Chicago and her dad invited me to training on two or three occasions and I was impacted by seeing, for example, all of the situations that can happen after a rebound with either numerical inferiority or numerical superiority. From there, the playing styles are generated."
On those visits in 1984 the Bulls still were coached by Kevin Loughery but had an up-and-coming assistant coach in Jackson and that summer drafted a guard from North Carolina named Michael Jordan. Jordan went on to change the game of basketball, dominating on the court in the way Lionel Messi currently controls games on the field for Barcelona and the Argentina national team. Jackson eventually became one of the most decorated coaches in league history, winning six NBA titles with the Bulls and another five with the Lakers.
"Obviously, I had the chance to read more deeply from Mr. Jackson and I’ve learned big things, not only about sports but also because life is about opportunities: How to maximize try and maximize players’ potential starting from the good things the players do," Osorio said.
"Yes, I have a deep admiration for him, his teams and obviously at this time it was the top team and they had the Messi of basketball, Michael Jordan. So, I think I learned a lot from this experience."
Ostensibly to promote Mexico's friendly against Croatia on March 27 at AT&T Stadium but with more than a month until Mexico's next official match, the news conference brought out thoughts from Osorio beyond even the paying field. The manager referenced author Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours rule, an idea Gladwell writes about in his book "Outliers." It says that achievement in any field comes down to working on something at a high level for 10,000 hours.
Osorio said he saw the same need for dedication when it comes to developing young players. Asked about the U.S. system's struggles and the Americans' failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the manager said that the key was developing top coaches who are ready to make good decisions not only during in-game situations but more importantly on the training grounds. He highlighted Iceland and Uruguay as small countries who are able to punch above their weight in international football thanks to education.
"It’s one thing to be a manager and to coach your team on game days, but it’s another matter completely to train the way you behave on the field - how you play, if you play direct football or you play elaborated football. That’s training and it takes the day-to-day," he said. "I’m sure you know about Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 hours. I would say for any country in the world, you have to have those young players playing those 10,000 hours of high quality, training high-quality with high-quality players."
Osorio has had a largely positive tenure with El Tri despite heavy criticism for elimination in the 2016 Copa America Centenario and the 2017 Confederations Cup. His World Cup preparations continue with a March 23 match against Iceland before the March 27 game in North Texas.