Charles van Commenee has been the head of UK athletics coaching since Beijing, and one of its most influential figures for longer (Denise Lewis credits him with making her an Olympic champion). He's been making headlines in the last couple of weeks for the slightly bewildering tenacity with which he's been publicly castigating one of Team GB's medal hopes, Phillips Idowu.
But then, as this terrific profile of the man makes clear, van Commenee is a difficult, unpredictable, driven character who inspires love, hate and fear among those who work with or for him.
Most importantly, he's a brilliant, highly demanding coach who by all accounts has raised the standards of British athletics across the board in the relatively short time he's been in charge. Sometimes it takes somebody like van Commenee - an outsider who is willing to upset people - to shake up an organisation.
Anyway, the whole thing is worth reading, but I enjoyed this particularly:
Fuzz Ahmed, the former actor who has become UKA’s high jump coach and mentor of medal hope Robbie Grabarz, knows how tough it could be with Van Commenee. “Sometimes, he’s pissed me off beyond belief. I’d have that guy sit in a chair in the middle of my training sessions and critique them harder than any theatre director I’ve ever worked with to the point where I was a gibbering wreck. And you know what? It made me a better coach.”
Once, after a major row, Van Commenee told Ahmed before a clear-the-air lunch he was too garrulous, that he needed to say less in his coaching sessions. “Then he went quiet over lunch and I thought 'God, he’s angry, he’s going to fire me’. We ordered dessert in silence and at the end of the meal, he just leant across as I was finishing my tiramisu and said: 'Ah, Fuzz yellow pudding.’ I thought he’d gone off his trolley. Then he added: 'Now you will never forget this lunch, because the only thing I’ve really said to you is 'yellow pudding’. You really don’t have to say so much, you know.’ He was right, of course.”