I don’t take lightly the responsibility of writing a book review — I know how valuable money and time is to us all. But "Getting To Know Us” by Seth Davis is one of the best books I’ve read in the past several year for our profession. Davis picks eight outstanding coaches and dedicated a chapter to their journey. Each chapter alone is worth the price of the book. We learn from these Hall of Fame coaches the struggles they went through, and in some cases still battle, to maintain a level of excellence.
You will learn that each coach is different in so many ways yet each successful -- which is one of the most important lessons we can learn in doing what we do.
There is insight into coaching, teaching, recruiting, motivating, leadership and overcoming adversity. You read about the battle to balance your career and your family. The stories from the coaches themselves, the players that played for them and assistants that worked for them are priceless.
Above all, the title "Getting To Us" implies, we learn the methods and philosophies of how they turn players into teams.
Below I’m listing a short take away from each chapter but I can say strongly enough that this is a book you need to purchase and when you do, break out the red pen or the highlighter.
The take away from this chapter was the importance of having a shared vision with everyone involved in your program. As Tom Herman said:
“The message never deviates with him. Everybody from the strength staff to the video staff to the equipment staff to academics and nutrition — everybody who toughes the players there at Ohio State gets the same message and the same expectations and the same goals. I think that’s very rare.”
We often talk about the importance of communicating and connecting with our players and it was obviously a huge priority for Coach Izzo.
When Michigan State was building a new office and practice facility for its basketball teams in 2002, Izzo had a novel idea: He wanted his office to have no door. “I thought it would set a tone,” he says. “But I couldn’t do it because of fires codes.
“There were multiple times after a game when I would text him at one or two in the morning. He would always text me right back,” said Denzel Valentine. “From day one, he creates a family atmosphere and makes it known that he cares about you as in individual.”
As a disciple of Don Meyer, we were taught to plan your week on Sunday and the next day the night before. It was interesting to read Coach K’s view on this.
Davis wrote: To this day, before he goes to bed each night, he maps out his plan for the next day.
“I think it comes form West Point, where you lay you’re your uniform the night before. It helps you make effective use of your time. It gets me excited because I’m going to do something I’ve planned to do, what I love to do, and it’s different every day.”
The very first paragraph of this chapter grabbed me and detailed how competitors want to be in the mix regardless of their role:
Davis writes: He couldn’t take not competing, It killed him to stand still. So what if he was a rookie quarterback with a bright future? He needed to get into the game — now. So Jim Harbaugh went to his head coach with a strange request: Put me in on special teams so I can cover punts and kickoffs. “My first reaction was, ‘Are you crazy?” Mike Ditka told me. “Be he was serious. He just wanted to contribute."
And Ditka actually used him for a short time on his special teams.
One of the things that Davis brought out about Boeheim was how he handled wins and losses:
“It’s all about losing. When we win, I’m pretty happy for about an hour, and then I’m thinking about the next game. When we lose, I’m thinking about that game until we get to the next one.”
In this section, there was a fascinating insight about Geno on self-doubt that helps motivate him to be the best and in turn push his team to greatness.
“I live with self-doubt every day, so I can emphasize with the players I’m coaching,” Auriemma says. “I know these guys are filled with self-doubt. How can they not be? You’re putting yourself out there in front of thousands of people. You’re being judged and you’re eighteen, nineteen years old. So you’re thinking, 'Am I good enough to do this? What happens if I play shitty?' So this is part of daily life. I try to tell them, ‘It’s good for you to have self-doubt, because it forces you to look at yourself objectively.”
Something profound in this chapter was what his father would always tell him growing up: “There will be no victims in this house.”
There was also a key portion of this section where Doc talked about what he had learned from Pat Riley including:
“I learned from Riley that the key to coaching is to get a group of players to believe there’s one agenda, and that you have the same agenda as them. If you can do that, your players are going to do whatever they can for you.”
This may have been the best chapter in the book in terms of my take aways. David detailed how Stevens and his philosophy evolved including a leadership seminar class he took his senior year that introduced him to the philosophy of Robert K. Greenleaf.
“I remember thinking, this makes sense. Do you want to be around somebody who lifts you up, or somebody that breaks you down? That’s why whenever people ask me what’s your leadership style, my answer is ‘It should be you.’ There’s an authenticity that is needed for leadership. If it’s not real, then it’s not going to work.”
Dabo’s story is an amazing one — from his walking on at Alabama (he called it “crawling on) to his leaving football in a variety of jobs until finding his way back to the profession.
One good insight to his message is the utilization of repetition in story telling:
Davis wrote: He is a meticulous planner who tells the same stories, uses the same phrases, and harps on the same messages, even if his guys have heard it all a thousand times.
“That’s something I learned from Coach Stallings,” says Swinney. “I spent seven years with him, and every year I’d be like, ‘Here comes the Mama Don’t Fret story. Here come the Ben Hogan story.’ That’s how he protected his culture. When you say it enough so your players can repeat it, that’s when you know they’re getting it.”