ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

February 1998


Business And Sports, One-On-One

Measurement On The High Seas

Scientists Develop Formula For Mulitnational Teamwork

Part-Time Statistics For Full-Time Results

Volunteers Wanted: Must Be Team Player, Success Minded


Chasing Good Examples
by Peter Block

Individual Change Key To Org. Change
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Business And Sports, One-On-One

NFC: What is the difference between coaching college students and professionals?
Well, I think there's much more at stake when coaching a professional. The professional's playing minutes are much more significant for his financial security. I also believe that most of these guys have been observed for years in college and are looking for financial security for the rest of their life. So their playing time is the most important ingredient. It's not so much learning the skills as in the beginning. Once they're contractually or financially secure then obviously they try to be the best they can be. I think the contract is the most important thing the players are looking for, then their minutes played and then they're looking for improvement. It's the opposite with college students. They're looking to improve in college so they get the playing time.

NFC: How much do you think monetary rewards motivate people?
Oh, I think it's a strong motivating force for the young, who've never had money and don't know what to expect from it. It's a tremendous motivating force, along with being the best. Once they make it, they realize it's not all that it's cracked up to be - that being the best is probably more important than money.

NFC: But does paying someone a high salary mean that they'll play better?
I used to believe that once you sign to play for a high contract, you wouldn't be as motivated. However, today because of the electronic media, every single time a player is mentioned who has a high salary, his salary is next to his name more so than his scoring average or his rebounding average. That type of pressure is a good vehicle to motivate a person. For instance, Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Every time they mention him, they'll state his salary. And every night he has to live up to that salary. So it is a pretty good motivating tool for him.

NFC: You can't go out and do the work for your players. Most managers, in the business world, can actually do the work of their subordinates. How do you get respect?
Well, a coach has been respected probably since the beginning of sports. He's the leader of the team. He's the person that makes the substitutions. He's the person that decides on the last-second strategy. So the coach has always been looked on in a respectful way. The way to gain that respect is obviously through experience and wins and losses. The more you've won and the more experience you have, the more respect you gain.

NFC: In your recent book you talk about tips for success. One of them was listening effectively. How do you do that? The stereotypical image of you, or any coach, is someone talking in the huddle.
I would much rather listen than speak because you really don't learn too much when you're speaking and you don't learn too much when you're motivating. You obviously learn more when you're listening, and I enjoy that. During a typical plane ride with our team, I'll be sitting around and we'll all be talking and I'll listen to people's suggestions, advice, ways to do things. Sometimes you also learn what not to do, as well as what to do, and I enjoy listening to that. I enjoy listening as much as I enjoy reading. I would much rather read a book, for instance, than write a book.

NFC: How do you keep the big picture in your head? How much of a game is strategized and how much is improvised?
Well, it all depends. Sometimes the best plans go awry. All of a sudden the other team takes you out of your strategy and now you have to improvise and suddenly do something about it, as well as the psyche of your players. Sometimes you can just see it in your player. He misses his first seven shots, but the game before he had an all-time high. His self-esteem just starts to go. His confidence is shaking and you have to do something about it. Taking him out of the game at that point shakes his confidence even more. Calling him over and saying, "look, you know the way shooting goes. Give credit to the defense, try to work for some easy shots, get your confidence back, and everything will be fine." That's what you've got to do. You've got to look to maintain optimum levels of confidence with your players on the court for later on in the game.

NFC: Who's been your greatest influence in terms of learning?
Because I started head coaching at such a young age, there are two venues that I've used. I've used my players as a way to learn what not to do. I also read everything I can get my hands on. Learning what to do and what not to do from books as well has really helped me, and from other people who've been through it.

NFC: What kind of books do you read?
Oh, I read a lot of history books. I read a lot of motivational books. I read a lot of things I agree and disagree with, and I think it helps me.

NFC: How do you handle player dynamics or rivalries among teammates? For example: what's more important, someone who's a star or someone who will work as a team? Or how do you handle comments like, "I'm not getting the playing time I should?" How do you sort through all of this?
I try to tell my players, "you're all talented enough to play, obviously everybody can't play. Some fit into the system better." So I try to get them to reverse their role. What would you do if you were the coach? I tell them to become the best they can be, don't give up. I get them to talk about what they would do as a coach in the same scenario. They usually come to the same conclusion that I come to. It doesn't pay to sulk. It doesn't pay to just sit there and say, "look I need more minutes." It does pay to keep yourself in the greatest shape possible and be prepared for the day when you do play, or get traded and you do get more minutes.

NFC: What do you consider good coaching habits?
I think not to lose sight of the personal feelings that go on with the people that are playing the game. Strategy is important. Organization is important. All the details, all the little details that go into making a successful team are significant, but don't lose sight of the personal feelings of the people that you're coaching. Understanding their feelings truly gets them to work at the highest level.

NFC: So, how do you do that?
I do that by staying in constant touch - from body language, to facial expressions, to just asking them how they feel. And just showing that concern, I think goes a long way at every level.

NFC: So, your players are pretty open about
saying, "I'm feeling lousy.?"

Well I go up to a player and say, "look, your head is down, I want to know why." He says, "no, no, I'm fine." I say, "you're not fine, I can tell. Now if we're going to communicate properly there are days that I'm going to tell you something and you've got to tell me what's wrong." And then he'll let me know. You always find out what's bothering them. It's usually something that is just misunderstood, but the only way to find out the truth is to communicate. He feels much better, you feel much better. You realize that the truth lies probably somewhere in the middle and he really didn't need to have that feeling because that wasn't where his frustrations had stemmed from.

NFC: At one point you talked about how change is good. But, you will always be faced with criticism and second-guessing, leaving Kentucky and moving to Boston. How do you manage change in your own life?
Well, the first thing you have to understand is how many people in business manage similar changes. Sports figures are no different except they are covered in the newspapers. If you're looking for a challenge in life and you're looking to take something on that's adventurous, then I think change keeps you forever young. A newspaper writer, who says you're leaving and judges you because of your departure, can't be a negative or a positive force for you. If it's time for you to take on a new challenge, and if you're looking forward to rebuilding something else, then take it on. If you're very content where you are in life and you don't need change, then don't take it on.

February '98 News for a Change | Email Editor


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