Awww. . .SNAP! An epistolary battle is raging between Mailbag King Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated and the one-and-only Brad Gilbert, Super Coach! This bitchy exchange comes in the midst of much public debate about Roger Federer’s coaching situation (some are tipping Darren Cahill for the post). Here’s the story:
First, the February 11th Mailbag post that made steam come out of Brad Gilbert’s ears:
I know it’s too late, and will not happen because of the Nike/Adidas angle, but wouldn’t it be nice to see Gil Reyes mentoring Roger right now? I think Roger could use the influence right now.
– Jeff Gundrum, Cleveland, Ohio
John Wertheim’s response: Gil Reyes speaks in these Zen-like aphorisms but his strength, no pun intended, is really on the physical training side. I know, I know, there’s an inextricable relationship between the physical and mental. Still, I think Federer would do much better with a Darren Cahill type, a plain-speaking, no BS type, who’s played tennis at a high level, knows the rest of the field (a lefty Spaniard in particular) and is “fair dinkum.” Two things we know about Federer: he is fiercely proud/stubborn and he is conservative in many respects. I think Brad Gilbert is a toxic personality match with Federer. And I think someone who’s too New Agey won’t work either.
Then, Brad Gilbert’s response to John Wertheim (in the February 25th Mailbag) followed by Jon’s defense:
It’s interesting when reporters take shots at coaches. The question referred to Gil Reyes as a possible trainer for Roger Federer. Instead of answering directly, you took a toxic shot at me [Feb. 11 Mailbag] — this was a gratuitous attack. I’m not looking for the job nor has he ever asked me, but I’m also not one to take a casual negative retort about writers. Fine if you want to slam me when the question is about me, but in this case, you went overboard. I’ve always respected your writing, this seems rude and unwarranted. Stick to the questions.
– Brad Gilbert, San Rafael, Calif.
Jon Wertheim’s response: Here’s what I wrote to Brad: “While I could have (and should have) used a different word than “toxic,” I think you’re overreacting. After Federer lost in Melbourne, I must have gotten 50 e-mails about his coaching situation and, as you can imagine, your name came up often. So while the question was about Reyes, I tried to incorporate as many related questions as possible. I stand by the opinion that you and Federer would not be an ideal match of personalities. I don’t think that’s rude or a cheap shot. It’s not a statement on your competence (We’ve often sung your praises as a coach, a tennis mind and commentator.) Or, for that matter, on Federer’s. It’s just a plug and socket kind of thing. (Think: Nash and Nellie.) I am happy to clarify and make the point that you’re not looking for a job. I’m sorry this upset you, but please know that this was not meant disparagingly.”
I think Brad’s being a little sensitive here. Jon called the personality combo “toxic” not Brad Gilbert, himself. And how interesting that the normally thick-skinned Gilbert chooses to be offended by such innocuous remarks? The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks. (You know I’m rooting for you to be Fed’s pick, B.G.!)
B.G. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images