Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness -- Coach Reads

by Bill Doughty

"Did I ever tell you about..."
That's how Red Auerbach's "Let Me Tell You a Story" opens, with one chapter devoted to his years in the Navy during World War II. Auerbach, son of a Russian emigrant, joined in 1943.  
Lt. j.g. Arnold "Red" Auerbach in WWII.
He did physical training at Great Lakes and served in Norfolk alongside fellow Sailors Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra before being assigned as a rehabilitation officer at Bethesda Naval Hospital where, in addition to his other duties, he played and coached basketball.

Auerbach was never assigned overseas. For a while he coached basketball for NFL football players.  "In those days, professional athletes needed to supplement their income during the off-season. The (Washington) Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants had formed basketball teams, and they traveled around the East Coast playing one another."

John Feinstein, co-author with Auerbach, writes in "Let Me Tell You a Story," "The greatest coach in basketball history began his professional career coaching football players at basketball."
Bill Russell and Coach Auerbach in 1964.

After the war his coaching career jumped from coaching high school and off-season NFL players to calling plays for the Washington Capitols and then leading the dynasty of the Boston Celtics.

How did he achieve greatness as a coach? Auerbach writes:
"Coaching is simple: you need good players who are good people. You have that, you win. You don't have that, you can be the greatest coach who ever lived and you aren't going to win."
Other great coaches discussed in "Story" include: Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, John Thompson, Phil Jackson, Bobby Knight and Dean Smith.

Dean Smith played for the University of Kansas on the 1952 national championship team. He became an assistant coach for the Air Force Academy under Coach Bob Spear, a former Naval Academy Coach. Smith's big break came when he joined the coaching staff at the University of North Carolina, where he would coach Michael Jordan among other basketball greats.

In "A Coach's Life" Coach Smith outlines his core values for success:
"Our philosphy at North Carolina was clear from day one. Each year we had the same goals: (1) Play together; (2) play hard; (3) Play smart. Together meant unselfishly, hard meant with effort, and smart meant with proper execution."
He was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who when someone asked him how to learn how to write, said, "by writing every day."
Michael Jordan and Coach Smith, 1980.

Smith said he built the success of his program on training and practice and compassion, and he shares leadership advice:
"A demanding teacher is quick to praise action that deserves praise, but will criticize the act, not the person. The coach's job is to be part servant in helping the player reach his goals ... To me the players get the wins, and I got the losses. Caring for one another and building relationships should be the most important goal, no matter what vocation you are in."
"A Coach's Life" by Dean Smith with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins is rich with wisdom and insight about life and basketball. Smith discusses the impact of World War II and the turmoil of the 1960s.

Books that tie coaching and leadership are almost their own genre. These are just a couple of examples for another March Madness weekend -- one in which Stanford just upset #2 Kansas.

Another coaching leadership book worth picking up is Jerry Lynch's "Creative Coaching: New Ways to Maximize Athlete and Team Potential in All Sports."
A master of the Final Four -- Coach Dean Smith.

Unlike the biographies of Auerbach and Smith in this blogpost, "Creative Coaching" is promoted as "a strategic handbook" to maximize performance.

This book offers core values and principles from coaches like Chris Weller, head coach of women's basketball at the University of Maryland ("courageous, fearless"), Phil Jackson ("maintain humility") and John Thompson of Georgetown ("compassionate"). The book explores how to develop trust, discipline, team intelligence, loyalty and commitment.

"Creative Coaching" is dedicated by the author: "To Dean Smith, the quintessential Creative coach with a teacher's heart."

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