• Love and Basketball: A Leadership Game Plan From Coach K

    Posted: June 17th, 2015

    This April when Grayson Allen lumbered across the court in the NCAA championship game to save a loose ball, the Blue Devil freshman roared with enough emotion to raise the hair on every head in the packed stadium. But most affected were a 68-year-old coach and seven other young men in blue, who fought off the struggles seen earlier in the game and swept past Wisconsin to win 68 to 63.

    That was the fifth NCAA title for Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s also coached two teams to Olympic gold medals. He described that moment to a business audience at the Salesforce Connections conference in New York City on Tuesday. With that experience in mind, Coach K recommended some emotive strategies for fostering a championship team that works just as well off-court.

    Cultivate an ownership mentality.

    The 40-year coaching veteran doesn’t have any rules in the locker room. Instead, he has standards in which coaches and players alike take ownership. When coaching the Dream Team for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the players helped him form their own list. Adding to Coach K’s two original standards (looking each other in the eye and always telling the truth), players like Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant contributed ideas like never being late or having a bad practice; LeBron James suggested, “No excuses.”

    Involving teammates in forming an agreed-upon list gives them more ownership in the project and a personal commitment to their own performance. Rather than being dictated to, “All good people want to be part of something great,” Coach K says, “and they want to feel appreciated when they are.”

    Embrace your team’s feelings.

    The secret to connecting teammates, says Coach K, is not just about seeing and listening. Feeling important, recognized, and heard keeps teams alive and retains talent in well-run organizations. If you can’t get to the heart of every team member, partnerships won’t be as effective.

    Get close to the players on your team and encourage them to not hide their emotions from you. But in turn, you have to honor their vulnerability–make sure they feel understood and appreciated, and encourage others on the team to step up and make everyone feel respected.

    Part of that respect is trusting teammates, especially standout players, to call the shots sometimes. However, Coach K says it’s vital to know your team well enough to pull someone out immediately when they exhibit destructive behavior. He warns against letting things slide and instead, looking your player in the eye and saying “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

    It may sound harsh, but he says that’s just being real. “And if your team is real then it’s also going to be tough.”

    Never stop innovating.

    Coach K admits that before the 2014 season, things on the operations side at Duke Men’s Basketball were a little rusty. Procedures were so ingrained they hadn’t evolved with changing personnel and standards. He decided it was time to refresh and “get back to our personality.”

    So he called the staff together and changed a lot of processes and procedures. Before the championship game he called the staff together and told them that when the team won the title, it will be in large part thanks to the behind-the-scenes work done by people who will never be on TV. That kind of acknowledgement of your team’s efforts will only serve to strengthen your bond.

    Source: http://www.inc.com/bartie-scott/love-and-basketball-a-leadership-game-plan-from-coach-k.html


You can possess countless good qualities as an individual, but if you don”t have the courage to proceed, you may never see those qualities come into fruition. It takes courage to put what you believe to be best of you on the line, to test it, and to see how far it takes you. Courage means daring to do what you imagine.

- Coach K

Belief can mean the difference between a fear of failure and the courage to try. On a team or in a family, belief makes each individual stronger and also fortifies the group as a whole. The basis of belief is in individual relationships.

- Coach K

When you are winning, your commitment is never challenged. But loyalty and dedication during difficult times can be tough. When commitment doesn’t waver, that’s when you have the greatest chance of winning. You can never give up.

- Coach K

You have to adapt what you do based on who you are. In teaching, you must remember that no group or individual is the same as who you taught the day before, the year before, or the decade before. Your plan has to suit who you and your team are right now.

- Coach K

When you care about someone or something, you show genuine concern for that person or thing, in good times or bad. When you care about one another and about your purpose, you are compelled to put your feelings into action. Care creates an atmosphere that breeds success and gives you the confidence to try again.

- Coach K

Adversity can teach you more about yourself than any success, and overcoming an obstacle can sometimes feel even better than achieving an easy victory. Through adversity, you can discover things about your endurance, your ability to turn a negative into a positive, and your personal strength of heart.

- Coach K
Collective Responsibility

We win and we lose together. Handling the responsibility for wins and losses together removes the burden from one individual’s shoulders and distributes it among each member of the team. That atmosphere is conducive to high-level performance and places you and your team in the position to be bold and unafraid, and if you should lose, you are not alone.

- Coach K

No matter how successful you believe yourself to be, you can never feel as if you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle. There are always new and wonderful challenges out there, and part of maintaining success is knowing when you need to accept them.

- Coach K

Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication. Communication does not always occur naturally, and must be taught and practiced in order to bring everyone together as one. The most crucial element of communicating is telling the truth.

- Coach K

Take care not to allow one aspect of your life to so consume you that you neglect the others. Balance can put things in perspective, can bring you joy even when you are down, and can allow you to be at your best in all aspects of your life.

- Coach K
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