“Team Think” Time

With the summer months approaching, it becomes critical for players to work on their individual skills and to come back better players. We hope will this will allow us to be a more talented and skilled year than the year before, but that doesn’t guarantee that we will be a better team. I think the team has to improve as well.

As I’ve said in previous posts, any group can wear the same uniform, but that doesn’t make them a team. Until they’re willing to give up self for group they are not a team. Uniforms may be the same, but intentions are varied.

As the leader, it’s important that you put a great deal of thought to how you’re going to mold this group into a team. It could be sitting guys next to different guys in the locker room (which, by the way, is extremely important to Doc every year). It could be taking the team paint balling, as Phil Jackson has done with the Lakers. It could be taking the team to a pool or lake, which many football coaches have done in the past. Or it could be coming up with a team mantra for the season as we have done here.

Teams win more games than individuals, and I can tell you first hand that teams win many, many, many more championships than individuals do. It’s that important! So spend some time this summer on “team think.”

The Comeback

We’re all going to be in a number of games where we have to come back on a team. We get down big for whatever reason and we have to find a way to come back and turn it into a game again.

First and foremost, your team has to understand that doing everything faster doesn’t get you back in the game faster. It could be argued that trying to get it back all at once is a recipe for an even greater deficit coupled with a tremendous amount of frustration that may carry over into the next game.

Try to get your team to understand 4 simple aspects of a comeback:


  • play simple: no home run passes, no home run shots
  • go to your strengths


  • play better, harder, sound defense (no gambles)
  • be in a multiple effort mindset

If you can get your team to buy into these four things, you will increase your chances to position yourselves for a comeback. It’s not all at once; it’s actually one basic, fundamental possession at a time!

Not a Game of Perfect

I think it’s important that players know that you know that basketball isn’t a game of perfect. They also need to know that though there may be mistakes, a coach’s job is to limit or eliminate those mistakes. A coach needs to constantly identify the mistakes and come up with solutions so that those mistakes don’t continue to haunt the team and contribute to losses.

The player’s responsibility in all of this is to also understand that it’s not a game of perfect. But perfection is what he practices for everyday. Or as Kevin Garnett often says in our practices, “Let’s get this right first!” He’s constantly seeking perfection, knowing full well that it may never come.

Accountability becomes the ultimate responsibility. The great players in the NBA will admit they made a mistake and will seek help in order to correct it. Again, Kevin will also ask, “How do you want me to do this?” He’s strong enough to admit his mistake but immediately gets on course to correct it. He has no time for the blame game.

So make sure everyone knows that you know that perfection is the goal and making corrections of imperfections is the map to success. After all, it’s not a game of perfect!

Get Over It

So many things happen during the course of a game, the course of a season, and even the course of a player’s career. Without question, some of what happens is going to be negative in nature. No one, in any field, should ever think they will be problem free. Success doesn’t work that way. The road to success is paved with many tests along the way. The successful player gets over it; his mind is so strong he can let mental strength win out over emotional weakness.

Here are three of the key obstacles to overcome:

  • Get over “cool” This situation presents itself when a player is being outplayed (and he knows it), so he decides that he will go into the “I can beat this guy if I want to but I’m not going to tonight” mode; it’s a “play it cool so I look good even though my ass is getting kicked!” Get over it! Your team needs the best you not the cool you!
  • Get over “mad” Stuff happens — some of it bad and some of it against you. To go into a mad mode is team destructive and spirit killing; “mad” has a way of sabotaging the focus needed to produce at a high level. Save mad for the post game evaluation period; take care of mad by doing things harder and better! Get over it! Your team needs the most focused you not the mad you!
  • Get over “hard” To win a championship is not meant to be easy. Championships are about two hard playing, mentally focused, game-prepared, well coached, intense teams putting their best on the floor. When two teams like this match up it’s going to be extremely hard. Some teams give in to hard while others fight throught hard. Get over it! Your team needs the most prepared you, not the one that gives in to hard!

All these situations will be presented to you in every season. Spend time talking to your team about them. Prepare them ahead of time so that when that time comes they know how important it will be to “get over it”!

Overnight Sensations

We see stories on “overnight sensations” all the time, and every time I see one I read it because I want to find out the true story. What I usually find out is that there are very few truly “overnight” successes. There may be names that many people haven’t heard, but there are very few overnight sensations.

To become a “sensation” in any field requires years and years of learning, listening, observing, practicing, and refining. Nothing of greatness happens overnight. The days of entitlement are long gone. Advancement and success are more about investment than entitlement!

To reach your dreams you must think “investment”

  • investment in your reading
  • investment in your learning
  • investment in your thinking
  • investment in your practicing
  • investment in your growth
  • investment in your relationships

Put the time in to get to where you want to go. The best way to become an overnight sensation is to invest years and years of work and dedication to your craft.

Complaining vs. Committing

Seasons are over, evaluations are taking place, meetings are being called day after day. But what is truly being accomplished? Is all of this looking back or looking ahead? Although I think both need to enter into the conversation, I think you look back to identify but you have to look ahead to improve.

Maybe we spend too much time in the off season complaining about what players didn’t live up to expectations, what players didn’t play hard, what players didn’t understand how to play. While all of these things are important to identify, at some point you have to move on to the future. You have to get past this and get on to the “how can we overcome and improve on these areas of weaknesses” phase.

If the off season is about getting better, then it has to be about committing to do the things that need to be done to make sure you are a better player, coach, team, and program than you were last year. Make this off season a season of commitments rather than a season of complaints.

Importance of Responsibility

We see players in all sports being suspended. My first thought every time is that I’d like to ask the player, “Did your action that got you suspended help your team or did it just help you feel good? Are you a team player or just a player who’s on a team? Are you willing to do everything – both on and off the court – for the team?”

The answers to these questions will tell you all you need to know about a player. These are questions that need to be asked early in a player’s career and must be continually asked to keep the answers fresh in the player’s mind. To be successful and reach the goals the team has set, every player must put team first. That includes how you conduct yourself off the floor as much as how you conduct yourself on the floor — not to mention how you conduct yourself in the off season. Can we trust you that you are working on your game to help the team improve?

I know this: every team in the NBA wants guys they can trust and who put team first. When you have a team full of players who seriously take on this responsibility, you will have a chance to win it all! And that’s what we all play for!

Mindset of a Great Coach

I was reading an article the other day about Larry Brown — always trying to learn more about successful coaches. A comment he made about himself was very revealing and a great lesson for all coaches, no matter how successful they may be. He said, “I love practice. My biggest fear is I haven’t done enough as a coach… where these guys encounter something I haven’t prepared them for.”

That’s what he said, but what is the lesson? We have to go deeper and analyze what was probably behind this statement:

  • Putting constant every day thought to what the opponent might do — and being ready for it.
  • Analyzing his team’s weaknesses and working on them to make sure the players are ready for when that opponent tries to take advantage of them.
  • Putting in detailed teaching points to make sure the player does things the right way to combat what the opponent may try to do.
  • Making sure he teaches things individually and then making sure his drills incorporate this in a game-like situation.
  • Understanding that his ultimate job is to give his team every possible chance to win the game. To do this he must think of EVERYTHING he needs for them to know and execute, leaving no stone unturned!

You can go on and on and add to this list. The biggest thing to me is that here is a Hall of Fame coach who has forgotten more than many of us will ever know, and he’s worried that he hasn’t prepared his team well enough! That tells you the passion and the hunger that makes up one of the best coaches of all time. Not a bad example for the rest of us to emulate.

Help Defense: See It — Hear It

There’s no question that defense wins championships. I know first hand, as our 2008-2009 team won the NBA Championship with a defensive mindset. We weren’t going to give our opponent anything easy. Every possession became a personal challenge of our defense vs. your offense. The pride we took in our defense was incredible, which is usually the case with championship teams in any sport!

Beyond intelligent ball pressure, the basis of our defense was our ability to play great help defense. We felt that help defense isn’t just about positioning alone. We wanted to be in the proper help spots and we wanted to get to those help spots quickly, but there was more to it than that.

Not only did we want the player with the ball to see our help (so that it would immediately discourage him from driving into that area), but we also wanted him to hear our help. We wanted to let that ballhandler know — verbally — that we were right there and waiting. He was not going to have an easy drive or easy possession!

Our talk was so important that we actually taught it and demanded it. We want our talk to be early, loud, and continuous. We wanted to intimidate them not only with our positioning but also with our talk. We felt that talk was intimidating. Letting them know we know what you want to do and we are here to stop it.

Analyze your defense. Make sure it is both sound and intimidating. That’s what championship teams do!