Sunday, August 31, 2014


I'm a big believer that part of being successful is studying and understand failure.  Certainly it is important to have knowledge of how to succeed.  We can learn so much from leaders, coaches, programs and organization that have achieved and maintained excellence.  But we should also find the time to understand those who have failed and more importantly why. 

One of the best books on this subject is "How The Mighty Fall" by Jim Collins.  As Collins notes:

Decline can be avoided.
Decline can be detected.
Decline can be reversed.

He also points out that "Great companies can stumble, badly and recover."

One of the key parts of Collins' book is outline the Five Stages of Decline:

Five Stages of Decline

·         The first line of Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina. It reads, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

·         Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

o   Great Enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do these specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”), decline will very likely follow. Luck and chance play a role in many successful outcomes, and those who fail to acknowledge the role luck may have played in their success—and thereby overestimate their own merit and capabilities—have succumbed to hubris.

·         Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More

o   Hubris from Stage 1 (We’re so great, we can do anything!”) leads right to Stage 2, the Undisciplined Pursuit of More—more scale, more growth, more acclaim, more of whatever those in power see as “success.” Companies in Stage 2 stray from the disciplined creativity that led them to greatness in the first place, making undisciplined leaps into areas where they cannot be great or growing faster than they can achieve with excellence, or both. When an organization grows beyond its ability to fill its key seats with the right people, it has set itself up for a fall. Although complacency and resistance to change remain dangers to any successful enterprise, overreaching better captures how the might fall.

·         Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril

o   As companies move into Stage 3, internal warning signs begin to mount, yet external results remain strong enough to “explain away” disturbing data or to suggest the difficulties are “temporary” or “cyclic” or “not that bad,” and “nothing is fundamentally wrong.” In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setback rather than accept responsibility. The vigorous, fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether.

·         Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

o   The cumulative peril and/or risks-gone-bad of Stage 3 assert themselves, throwing the enterprise into a sharp decline visible to all. The critical question is, how does its leadership respond? By lurching for a quick salvation or by getting back to disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place? Those who grasp for salvation have fallen into Stage 4. Common “saviors” include a charismatic visionary leader, a bold but untested strategy, a radical transformation, a dramatic cultural revolution, a hoped-for blockbuster product, a “game-changing” acquisition, or any number of other silver-bullet solutions. Initial results from taking dramatic action may appear positive, but they do not last.

·         Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

o   The longer a company remains in Stage 4, repeatedly grasping for silver bullets, the more likely it will spiral downward. In Stage 5, accumulated setbacks and expensive false starts erode financial strength and individual spirit to such an extent that leaders abandon all hope of building a great future. In some cases, their leaders just sell out; in other cases, the institution atrophies into utter insignificance; and in the most extreme cases, the enterprise simply dies outright.

·         It is possible to skip a stage, although our research suggests that companies are likely to move through them in sequence.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Yesterday I post a review on the last book by Jeff Janssen titled "How to Build and Sustain a Championship Culture."  As I mentioned in the review, it's an outstanding book that would benefit any coach of any sport on any level.

Here are just a few quick takeaways from the book:

Jeff speaks to how when set, culture goes a long way in running your program:
Ultimately when your championship culture is in place, the culture leads, perpetuates, and even grows itself. Rather than you being the sole leader of the team who has to orchestrate everything, you have created an environment that is so entirely on the same page that it positively and productively leads itself. You have created a team of willing leaders rather than followers. It’s almost as if you could be away and the team could step up and do what needs to be done because they have taken ownership of the program.

Some great thoughts from Bill Walsh on the importance of standards:
“Ideally you want your standard of performance, your philosophy and methodology, to be so strong and solidly ingrained that in your absence the team performs as if you were present, on site. They’ve become so proficient, highly mobilized, and well prepared that in a sense you’re extraneous; everything you’ve preached and personified has been integrated and absorbed; roles have been established and people are able to function at a high level because they understand and believe in what you’ve taught them, that is, the most effective and productive way of doing things accompanied by the most productive attitude while doing them.” –Bill Walsh

On the importance of strong commitment towards a culture:
“For better and for worse, there’s really no quick way to achieve culture change. Rules can be modified with a quick memo, but reshaping a culture takes a commitment to teach what we want, write a coherent vision to define it, model and live that vision as best we can, measure our progress, and then recognize and reward people when we succeed in making it happen. All of which requires tons of communication, years of stubborn persistence, relentless follow up, and probably a little luck.” –Ari Weinzweig

Teach your leaders to teach your culture:
One of the critical systems of education is the development of your team leaders. Because these people are so critical to driving you culture within your program, you must invest the time to mold your leaders into the kind you need to be effective.

Coach Saban on the importance of defining your standards:
“It all starts with everyone buying into the same principles and values… If you don’t define the expectation for everybody in the organization and the standard, what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it, then how can you know whether someone is mediocre or a high achiever… We clearly define personally, academically, athletically what the expectation is for every player and they have to be accountable to it.” –Nick Saban

Jeff on the discipline to exercise your core values during adversity:
It is easy to profess and practice your core values when everything is going well-when you are winning games, everyone is healthy, chemistry is great, your athletes represent your program well, and you’re getting all the calls. However, your core values will be most revealed during the difficult times like losses, when talented athletes get in trouble, and your season and/or job are on the line.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


We often blog about books or share excerpts of books in hope that it is something that can help you, your team or your family.  On a rare occasion I will speak of a book in a "must-read" tone.  Today is such a day.

I'm not sure there is a more important word in successful teams and organizations today than "culture."  From Webster we see that culture is defined in this manner:

 noun \ˈkəl-chər\
: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
: a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
: a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)
I have blogged about culture in the past.  It is so important I made it part of our summer camp's expectation seminar titled "Creating A Culture of Personal Excellence."
In fact, here is link to 17 other posts in regard to culture.  It was what your program truly is -- what it stands for.   The key steps in creating culture include:
Step One: Defining what you want your culture to be, understanding that culture leads to legacy.
Step Two: Working to teach and emphasize those components necessary to create your culture to all involved in your team.
Step Three: Working each day to maintain your culture.
This week Jeff Janssen released a book "How To Build And Sustain A Championship Culture."  It is by far the best book I have seen on this subject and would benefit any coach in any sport on any level.
As Jeff says "Winners have a certain way of doing things."
The table of contents from Jeff's book gives great insight into how the book is written:
1. Culture is King
2. 8 Kind of Cultures
3. 6 Key Components of a Championship Culture
4. Credible Leaders
5. Clear and Compelling Vision
6. Core Values
7. Standard of Behavior
8. Committed and Unified Team
9. Aligned Systems
10. Your 10-Step Blueprint to Build a Championship Culture
I have seen nothing more complete on the subject of culture than Jeff's book.  I can also tell you from my relationship with Jeff that this has been a lengthy process because he understood the relevance of it towards the success of an organization and, as he does in all his books, wanted to do detailed research.  That research included looks into cultures created by Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Walsh, and Annson Dorrance just to name a few
One of the profound concepts that Jeff's book talks about is does your program have a culture?  The answer is yes -- whether you know it or not or know what it is or not.  As Jeff says:
"Whether you realize it or not, your program already has a culture. Even if you are a new coach coming into a different program, you will need to contend with a culture that is already in place. So the question is not, 'Do we have a culture?' You do."
The importance of this book is that not only does it help you to define your team's culture but goes to great length in giving your methods of examples of how to build it and maintain it.  One of may great quotes in the book comes from Coach Mike Krzyzewski:
“You cannot merely expect culture to be a natural occurrence; it has to be taught and made a part of your everyday routine.”
This weekend I will have a few blog posts from "How To Build And Sustain A Championship Culture" but I would highly recommend purchasing this book.  I purchased 10 copies today for some of my coaching friends  --  I think it's that good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


"Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has."
-Billy Graham

"Obstacles can't stop you. Problems can't stop you. Most of all other people can't stop you. Only you can stop you."

-Jeffrey Gitomer

"You may not realize it when it happens, but at kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

-Walt Disney

"Nothing is predestined: The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings."

-Ralph Blum

"I would never have amounted to anything were it not for adversity. I was forced to come up the hard way."

-J. C. Penney

"The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration."


"There is no education like adversity."

-Benjamin Disraeli

"Adversity builds character and character makes us stronger."

-Mark Wilson

"When it gets dark enough you can see the stars."

-Lee Salk

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."

-Michael Jordan



I purchased a copy of the book "Football Scouting Methods" by Steve Belichick.  And as expected, it was extremely detailed.  And while it had an obvious tilt to scouting football, there were some takeaways for anyone that scouts.

I got my start in coaching by scouting for Ron Chambers and Doug McElwain at Winfield High School while attending Marshall University.  The junior high coach Brad Hodges took me early to show me the ropes, how to best scout and what RC and Mac were looking for.  I also spend some time with my junior high coach Allen Osborne and picked his brain on the topic of scouting. 

I learned so much from scouting -- in part because I was taught what to look for and also because I loved doing it.  While at LSU on the staff of Dale Brown, in-person scouting was still a part of the game and I rarely was on the bench for an LSU game as I traveled the country as an advanced scout.  Again, I learned so much from observing others.

Here is a great list from Coach Belichick:

What is Expected of the Scout

·         A scout should be static in his methods, since the frequent changes in football should cause him to re-evaluate his methods as well as seek ways to improve them from time to time.

·         The kind of information that the scout seeks should not be left entirely to his discretion, but should be spelled out in detail by the head coach, or those assistants entrusted with formulating game plans. It is not enough for the head coach to say, “Scout the game and bring back all the information you can.” Each head coach should have definite items that he wants to know about. Often, what is of importance to one head coach is of little or no concern to another. It is to be expected that every head coach will want to know the basic offense and defense used, and on the basis of this, what can be anticipated. However, the degree to which the offense and defense is to be analyzed for tendencies varies among the head coaches. Some coaches will want every analysis possible, while others will be content with the basic alignments and adjustments. Each head coach has his own requirements; these are dictated by his philosophy of the game.

·         In order for a scout to do a satisfactory job, it is important that he know thoroughly the head coach’s philosophy, as well as have a complete understanding with him as to what is expected in the scouting report.

·         In order to enlighten the scout as to what will be expected of him, some head coaches, at times with the aid of the rest of the staff, will prepare a check list for the scout to follow. This will enable the scout to have a complete understanding of what is expected of him insofar as his search for information is concerned.

·         There are other head coaches who will have a final report form prepared for the scout to use in determining what knowledge he is to seek.

·         Regardless of what type forms are used, it is important that the scout know where to place the emphasis in his work. Some coaches will want a detailed report on the personnel, while others will stress as complete a picture as possible of the offense and defense, along with the tendencies in each phase of the game.


The third annual Gary Blair Coaching Academy has been set for October 4-5 at Reed Arena.

Last year’s academy attracted over 100 coaches from all levels to learn from the Texas A&M women’s basketball coaching staff.

“The Coaching Academy has created a wonderful platform for us to share how we play and teach basketball the Aggie Way,” said Texas A&M women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair. “Our staff takes great pride in putting the Academy together in such a way that we can benefit junior and high school coaches as much as possible during the weekend, and continue our commitment to grow the game.”

The academy includes sessions led by each of the Texas A&M women’s basketball coaches, focusing on wide-ranging topics on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Registration for the academy includes three meals, a Texas A&M highlight DVD, a DVD of the academy sessions and a notebook that includes tips on scouting, motivation, coaching philosophy, conditioning, and practice planning, in addition to a playbook.

Coaches that register in advance can pay online through the 12th Man Foundation website for only $50.

Interested coaches may register here.

For more information, email Coach Bob Starkey at



Tuesday, August 26, 2014


This is short and sweet but critically important -- more so than ever in today's world of social media and instant communication.  This actually came from an article written by Geoffrey James for Inc.  The title of the article was: "The 1 Personal Branding Rule Everyone Should Know."  You can read his entire article here -- but this is the most important part -- and one we will share with our team:

Every day, people screw up their personal brands by not following this absurdly simple rule:
Never go online if you're angry, upset or otherwise impaired.


"Practice is the best of all instructors, if the person running the practice knows what the hell he or she is doing. Improvement, especially toward perfection, comes only if the practice is demanding, well-thought-out, and constructive, by a coach who realizes that absolute perfection is unattainable-but is always the objective."

-Bob Knight

Monday, August 25, 2014


·         Keep coming after you get screened.

·         Common strength of a good defender is that they are hard to screen.

·         Average defender will stop or straighten up when hit by screen.


The following comes from "Be All You Can Be" by John Maxwell.

I want to give you a concise four-point outline for responding to problems:

o   Anticipate them. Don’t let problems take you by surprise

o   List them. Write down all the problems you’re aware of

o   Address them. Examine each problem thoroughly and think of a solution

o   Outsmart them. If plan A doesn’t work, be ready with plan B.

Friday, August 15, 2014


I ran across this website and really liked the stuff I read -- especially this post by Eric Barker titled, "6 Things The Most Productive People Do Every Day."  I'm going to share a few excerpts but you can read the entire article here.

1) Manage Your Mood
Most productivity systems act like we’re robots – they forget the enormous power of feelings.

If you start the day calm it’s easy to get the right things done and focus.

But when we wake up and the fray is already upon us — phone ringing, emails coming in, fire alarms going off — you spend the whole day reacting.

2) Don’t Check Email In The Morning
To some people this is utter heresy. Many can’t imagine not waking up and immediately checking email or social media feeds.

I’ve interviewed a number of very productive people and nobody said, “Spend more time with email.”

Why is checking email in the morning a cardinal sin? You’re setting yourself up to react.

An email comes in and suddenly you’re giving your best hours to someone else’s goals, not yours.

You’re not planning your day and prioritizing, you’re letting your objectives be hijacked by whoever randomly decides to enter your inbox.

3) Before You Try To Do It Faster, Ask Whether It Should Be Done At All
Everyone asks, “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” But the answer is stunningly easy:

You’re doing too many things.

Want to be more productive? Don’t ask how to make something more efficient until after you’ve asked “Do I need to do this at all?”

4) Focus Is Nothing More Than Eliminating Distractions
Ed Hallowell, former professor at Harvard Medical School and bestselling author of Driven to Distraction, says we have “culturally generated ADD.”
Has modern life permanently damaged our attention spans?

No. What you do have is more tantalizing, easily accessible, shiny things available to you 24/7 than any human being has ever had.

The answer is to lock yourself somewhere to make all the flashing, buzzing distractions go away.

5) Have A Personal System
I’ve spoken to a lot of insanely productive people. You know what none of them said?
“I don’t know how I get stuff done. I just wing it and hope for the best.”
Not one. Your routines can be formal and scientific or personal and idiosyncratic — but either way, productive people have a routine.

6) Define Your Goals The Night Before
Wake up knowing what is important before the day’s pseudo-emergencies come barging into your life and your inbox screams new commands.
Here’s Tim:
Define your one or two most important to-dos before dinner, the day before.
Bestselling author Dan Pink gives similar advice:
Establish a closing ritual. Know when to stop working. Try to end each work day the same way, too. Straighten up your desk. Back up your computer. Make a list of what you need to do tomorrow. 
Research says you’re more likely to follow through if you’re specific and if you write your goals down.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Anyone that knows me knows that I love reading -- that I believe strongly in the value of reading.  As Coach Don Meyer would say, "Leaders are readers."  The amount of information available today is amazing.  Books and magazines -- hard copies or digital -- are so many subjects are available.  Blogs and internet sites are numerous. In the coaching profession there are so many great email newsletters. 

I personally utilize Google Alerts -- giving the specific names of coaches that I admire and want to learn from.  Each day at 10:00 am I get an email that list anything on the internet about those specific coaches.  For instance, Doc Rivers is on my list and I generally get 3 to 5 articles a day regarding Doc.

From my time working with Dale Brown at LSU, I learned how to fully use a book.  Coach Brown would be constantly marking his books with underlines and notes.  Afterwards his secretary would type the notes for his files for him to pull out utilize with his staff, team, media, fans or in his speech preparation for organizations.  This has been incredibly useful for me in allowing me to maximize my reading experience.  You can see an example of one my books above.  Coach Brown also assigned books to his staff to read and would annually give each player a team on the book to read as well, later having a conversation with them about what they learned.  I have took that on to the programs I work with having a book for our team to read in the summer (in which they must write a book report) and then have another book for our team to read during the season (in which is accompanied by worksheets).  The summer book usually steers away from basketball to broaden their horizons.   This year we gave each player a copy of "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou.  They will turn their reports in at the beginning of fall classes.  Our book for the basketball season will be "Toughness" by Jay Bilas.

I remember at Coaching U listening to Kevin Eastman talk about his discipline of rising each day at 5 AM to get his reading in.  Kevin is some who understands the growth that comes from reading:

"No matter how much we know on any subject, there’s always more to learn. Make the time to read, to study, and to think; each of these is important to your development. We all need to keep up with what’s going on in our field, too. I’ve found that news and magazine articles can be as helpful as books in this regard. The key is to keep searching so that you stay gain knowledge, improve, and stay relevant!"

The following is an excerpt from a well-written article by Kelsey Meyer for Forbes Magazine titled "Why Leaders Must Be Reader."
Reading Reminds You
I make it a habit to re-read specific books every year because I need constant reminders of the good things they’ve taught me. After my third reading of Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy, I was inspired to work with our team to handwrite every one of our clients a thank-you note. Whether you re-read the same book or article to remind you of concepts, or read content on time management and organization as a constant reminder to work on these things, reading is valuable because it keeps important concepts top of mind.

Reading Challenges You
A female co-worker of mine, whom I respect immensely, recently gave me a book and said, “I disagree with about 80% of this, but you should definitely read it.” I loved that she was sharing a book that challenged her opinions, yet felt it was worthwhile reading for the 20% that was valuable. Reading something you disagree with can have a big impact on your ability to think, both creatively and logically.
Reading Gives You Opportunities to Interact with Others
I have referenced articles and books I’ve read in countless conversations, not to sound intelligent or cool (some of what I read would accomplish the opposite), but to relate to those with whom I’m speaking. Here are a few ways you should be making the most of what you’re reading:
Take notes and share them with your team.
  • An investor in our company sends me, on average, five articles a day and I always put them in a file that says “To Read.” When I have 10 minutes at the end of the day, I read an article or two, knowing that I can discuss these pieces with him later. It’s a great way for us to share ideas and inspire action in each other.
Spark debates with your team.
  • I also like using article topics to spark debate amongst our team members about how we should address a subject. I’ve heard of companies creating book clubs, where employees discuss topics in books that relate to their industry during lunch once a month. Sparking debate and sharing ideas is a wonderful way to use written content as a team-bonding tool.

Back up an idea you have or a decision you want to make.
  • You can use an article/book/speech from a respected person in your field to back up a decision you want to make. I’m not saying you should make decisions based solely on what you read, but it does give you more leverage when you say, “I read in So-and-So’s book that he had success with X, and I thought that we could implement this idea in our company by doing Y.” It’s a little more likely to stick than saying, “Who knows if this has ever worked for anyone in the past? But heck, let’s be the first to see if it can work!”
If you’re one of those people who claim you don’t have time to read, then first, I question why you’re reading my measly little article. Second, I encourage you to make time. Time never “appears” for anything; you have to make it. If nothing else, learn how to multitask.

Listen to content while driving or walking to work (I suggest “This American Life” and “Intelligence Squared” on NPR – I’m obsessed with both). If you don’t have time to read an entire book, read short articles online. If you’re dying to read a book but honestly can’t find the time, then pair up with a friend and take turns reading and sharing the ideas through short descriptions, or find excerpts of the book online.

"If you are a leader, you should be striving to develop knowledge to improve yourself, your company, and the people who work for you. To do anything less is to shortchange your ability to lead." -Kelsey Meyer


Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Purchased "The Rise: Creativity, The Gift of Failure and the Search for Mastery" by Sarah Lewis per Coach Mike Dunlap's recommendation. I've just completed it -- great read with some blog posts to come.  My question is, what are you reading and what are you getting from it. I don't usually do it but I'm leaving the "comment" box open -- please feel free to let us know what book has your attention right now.


I  came across an absolutely great article on Derek Jeter written by Joel Sherman for the New York Post.  It is possibly the best thing I've read about Jeter and some of the reasons he been so consistently successful.  I've written before but to me, the true test of greatness comes with the test of time.  There are many that are good, even great for a short period of time but it is the long haul that truly show us greatness.

I strongly suggest you take the time to read the entire article here -- until, here are some great excerpts:

On Friday night, Jeter started his 2,610th game at shortstop. That moved him past Omar Vizquel for the most in major league history. It might not be Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken stuff, and it came and went without confetti and fanfare. But you do not start that many games in the middle infield — all those double-play pivots, etc. — without a sense of responsibility, a reservoir of pride and a steely constitution. The day-after-day mental and physical grind ultimately defeats every athlete. But some endure better than others. And Jeter is at the top 1 percent.

“We all consider rolling over and shutting the alarm clock off,” Joe Torre said by phone. “Jeter never rolls over. He gets out of bed. It is never a consideration to take a day off. It is a sense of responsibility to his team and to himself.”

I remember a conversation long ago with Gene Michael when he was still the Yankees general manager. We were discussing the traditional five tools — hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding and throwing.

That day I disagreed with the confines of the five tools. I suggested there were so many more than five tools. Aptitude was vital. You could have five tools, but if you couldn’t apply them, what was the use? Victor Martinez might only have two tools, but he has pretty much maximized them. That is so much more valuable than having five that excite scouts but never come out in games with consistency.

Grace under pressure is a tool. Again, you could have the physical stuff down, but if you can’t do it with 40,000 people in attendance or in October, what is the point?

Discipline is a tool. Are you going to keep working out, avoid perks that could drain your energy and skill?

And durability is a tool. Danny Tartabull used to tell me to project his stats over a full season and I finally told him, “Why? You never play a full season.” Mark Buehrle might not be blessed with the stuff that makes scouts drool, but wind him up and he gives you 200 innings. Every year. Year after year.

Because I believe it is in all these areas beyond the traditional tools that Jeter was an A-plus and took very good traditional tools to a Hall-of-Fame level.

His aptitude, his grace under pressure, his discipline and — for me — especially his toughness.

Chili Davis Code: If I am playing, I am healthy enough to play. He never played the “I am 80 percent” game to provide an alibi. Never told you off the record how he was really feeling, again, as a way to set up the excuse. “I’m all right.” That he what he told managers and media.

Jeter felt a responsibility to play, that the team was best when he did. Torre and Joe Girardi have known they could write his name into the lineup game after game, season after season. Do you know how much easier that makes the managing job?

“There was a playoff series in which he had pretty much a broken hand, got shot up for Game 1, couldn’t feel his hand and said he would rather just play with the pain,” Torre said. “There was never a consideration that he wouldn’t play. He came to the ballpark to play. It certainly made my job a whole lot easier. You talk about a guy who is a leader. You have someone who wants to rest, they look across the locker room and see him. He forced other people to play, not literally, but by example.”