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Thursday, August 1, 2013


A few weeks ago, I had a post about a book and made reference to the fact that I would have loved to have read it when I first started coaching.  In fact, it would be in my Top 10 books that I think could've impacted me greatly as a young coach just starting out.  I have since received a great number of requests asking for the complete list and so each day, over the next few weeks, I will list a book that I think young coaches would benefit from reading as they start their coaching journey.  I would imagine that many will be looking for X&O books -- just as I did when I first started coaching -- but instead you will find a list of books that will not only make you a better coach, but a better person. Books that concentrate on teaching, goal setting, communication and leadership.

Book #8

Dean Smith and Gerald D. Bell with John Kilgo

This is an outstanding look into the culture developed by Coach Smith and his team that created one of basketball's great programs.  One of the unique things about this book is the many passages written by his former players and how they interpreted the lessons given to them during their Tar Heel career.

In the early parts of his introduction, Coach Smith wrote the following: "We believed in following a process instead of dwelling on winning or worrying about consequences.  We asked our players to concern themselves only with things within their control, so our mission state was: Play hard; play smart; play together."

This book is then divided into the following chapters:

1. The Foundation

2. Playing Hard

3. Playing Together

4. Playing Smart

5. Lessons Learned

This passage was written by former Carolina great Pete Chilcutt:

My Carolina basketball career was one of continuous learning, lasting throughout my five years there.  My learning curve certainly was a little steeper in my first year in the program, but the process never stopped.  From the day I arrived on campus from my Alabama home, I learned the qualities and fundamentals it takes to succeed in basketball.  As I look back on my UNC career, I realized that I grew up while in the program and learned any things that are helping me get through life without basketball.

While we did watch tapes of our games and practices at Carolina, I think we spend must less time on that activity than players at others schools.  Our film sessions were brief, direct, and to the point.  Coach Smith believe in short, effective viewing sessions which he thought were the best way for him to teach and for us to learn.  It took only one instance of his throwing a player out of a meeting for not correct identifying something on tape to get every one's rapt attention.

Included in the practice plans were the offensive and defensive emphases of the day.  As you know by now, players were required to recite those from memory if called upon by Coach Smith.  The entire team ran sprints if the recitation wasn't accurate.

You've also read about Coach's decision to give us a Thought for the Day to learn and recite.  It was a key learning tool for us that had nothing to do with basketball.  Some of those are still fresh in my mind. This was one method that Coach used to teach us, and it certainly help keep basketball in perspective.  As I look back now, I see that a secondary benefit was that it relieved the pressure on us that playing basketball at this level could bring.  As much as basketball was Coach Smith's passion, he was first and foremost a great teacher whose top priority was not to win but to mold his players into good citizens.  He wanted us prepared for the day we would wake up and basketball would no longer be a part of our lives.

Good people are happy when something good happens to someone else.

To build teamwork, it certainly helps to start with goodpeople.  As head coach I was very partial to young men who genuinely wanted to play at North Carolina, who needed no sales job to persuade them.

We didn't necessarily recruit unselfishness per se.  It takes some people longer to understand and grasp the personal benefits associated with putting the team firt.   We usually thought we could change a self-center behavior pattern once we got the players to North Carolina.

One person' selfish attitude could poison the locker room and make it hard, if not impossible, to establish teamwork.  We didn't make many recruiting mistakes in this area, but when we did, we either saw change or helpted the player find another school.  this happened only twice in my times as North Carolina's head coach.  Had we acted otherwised, we would have violated the very philosophy we taught to our players.  We weren't going to allow someone's selfish interests to supersede what was good for the team.  That simply was not going to happen.

Building teamwork is harder than it ought to be, simply because of both our society's fascination with individual success and the emphasis it places on winning no matter how it is achieved.  For example, when a child comes home from a basketball game, the first thing he or she is likely to hear from parents is "Did you wing?, followed by "How many points did you score?"

Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat.  Passing, screening, cutting and movement away from the ball: The game can be almost balletic in its grace and simplicty.  A team can accomplish great things when the individual members don't worry about who gets the credit.

The most important thing in good leadership is truly caring.  The best leaders in any profession care about the people they lead, and the people who are being led know the caring is genuine and when it's faked or not there at all.  I was a demanding coach, but my players knew that I cared for them and that my caring didn't stop when they graduated and went off to their careers.

I believe it's accurate to say that the most effective leaders have these things in common: the talent to create a sound strategy for their teams or businesses; knowledge of the important of recruiting good people who wish to improve their personal skills and believe in the companies' or teams' philosophy; understanding that whether they like it or not, they lead by example; belief in the importance of being light enough on their feet to adapt to changing conditions; and the ability to honor their commitments, admits their mistakes, and take responsibility for their failures.

It's also true that leaders in virtually all professions must learn how to compete.  While we talk with our players about the process and not about winning, that didn't mean we didn't want to win.  Winning was important to us, very important.  Leaders must know hoe to bring their teams back from defeat.