(Good evening Fanatics, it looks like it may be a long season. However, we intend to do more than bitch and moan about how putrid our home team is. We know they are bad, but what distinguishes us from many other fans is that we are proactive and have no problem providing solutions to help make our team better. Of course, we can’t force the Knicks, management or players, to heed our suggestions, but we will still provide options and solutions for their consideration. So we begin our focus on solutions with a discussion on leadership launched by this recent article by championship coach Roy Williams. Enjoy).
UNC Basketball Coach Roy Williams: Be Led By Your Dreams
Hansbrough, Lawson, Ginyard, and Hinrich were all leaders on the court
One thing that makes college basketball so enjoyable, yet at the same time so challenging, is that each year the team is different. There are new players, and you may ask the student-athletes who return from the previous season to play new roles. Team chemistry changes, and the attitudes and relationships that ebb and flow from wins and losses always take on a new life.
The constant is a need for outstanding leadership. It’s important to identify leaders, then nurture, guide, and encourage leadership on and off the court. Some years, the best leaders are your most gifted players. However, sometimes the most effective leaders may not be the best scorers or rebounders but players who set great examples by their work ethic, or by being vocal, or by carrying out less glamorous roles that coaches know are critical to a team’s success.
I believe in three guiding leadership principles:
- Everyone on the team must focus on the same goal. It’s my job to effectively communicate those goals to the team.
- Emphasize those goals every day.
- Understand that although everyone has a common goal, individuals also have goals, needs, and dreams that must be cared for.
The third point may be the most challenging to address and is where leadership may be most critical. We remind our players that the name on the front of the jersey (North Carolina) is more important than the one on the back (their own). Each of them comes from a different background, has different goals and dreams, and is blessed with unique skills. Finding a way to blend those is what leadership is all about.
I’ve coached great players like Paul Pierce, a Kansas Jayhawk from 1995 to 1998. He combined tremendous ability and work ethic and was one of the best players in the country, and teammates enthusiastically followed his lead. In 1997, Kansas was ranked No. 1 with guards Jacque Vaughan and Jerod Haase, who were great on the court, excelled academically, and made an impact in the community. Our players truly looked up to them because of the standards they set every day.
Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich provided fantastic leadership over my last few years at Kansas. People often think of them in the same sentence because they were so successful together, but they led in different ways. Collison came into my office after his sophomore season and talked about the way we practiced. As a result of his input, we started to practice fewer hours as each year went on, and in his next two seasons we reached the Final Four. My practices are still influenced by Nick’s comments.
Hinrich poured his heart out every day, and his teammates had to feed off that emotion and play even harder just to keep up with him.
When I came to North Carolina, player leadership was missing. The team had gone through a rough time, losing 20 games two years earlier and missing out on the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons. They needed to learn to trust my leadership, and it was important for leaders to emerge from among the players. Jackie Manuel bought in first. He knew the only way he would play was to play defense, rebound, and hustle. The other players saw how it pleased us coaches, and they followed his
lead. All-Americans Sean May and Raymond Felton combined their talent with a strong vocal presence, and we won the national championship in 2005. Not bad for a team that people felt was too selfish to win.
In 2006, we lost our top seven scorers from that team but won 23 games and made it to the second round of the NCAAs, something most experts doubted we could accomplish. We had a great freshman, Tyler Hansbrough, but we also had senior David Noel, the best leader I have ever coached. David averaged 3 points the previous year, but he had experience, an even temperament, and the respect of his younger teammates.
Three years later, we again won the national championship. Hansbrough, a four-time All-American by then, led with his work ethic and passion to excel. We had Ty Lawson, the fastest and finest point guard in the country. Every time he was on the floor, his teammates believed we were going to win. We had seniors Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, and Danny Green, who led in so many ways. There’s no question our players were gifted, but the leadership on the 2009 national championship team was as fine as on any team I’ve ever been around.
That’s the great thing about college basketball. Every year is unique. I can’t wait to see what is in store this year. I know one thing. We have great kids who can lead and allow themselves to be led. I tell them all the time: Be led by your dreams, not pushed by your problems. Go out and chase your dreams.
Roy Williams has spent more than 30 seasons as a basketball coach, the past 21 at the Universities of Kansas and North Carolina. He has led two teams to national championships.
Now we begin our discusion on the issue of leadership:
Leadership appears to be the Knicks most critical issue from top to bottom. We know that leadership from the owners determines the long term health of the organization. The most successful organizations have great leadership in common. In sports the champions have championship ownership — the Yankees (Steinbrenners) and Patriots (Kraft) and Lakers (Buss) are examples of what great leadership at the very top can achieve. We can only wish James Dolan would understand what it takes to build a championship organization. Clearly he tries by hiring who he believes is the best with the necessary experience — but he has not been very successful. Equally as bothersome though is the floor leadership starting with the coaching. Floor leadership begins on the bench. Leadership requires accountability and responsibility and it is very telling that D’Antoni blames loses not on himself but on nebulous factors such as his player’s energy. It is never that his players are unprepared for their opponent. In contrast, Scott Skiles had his Bucks prepared for the Knicks. They were prepared to run them into the ground and to hit them in the interior belly. The Knicks looked lost, again, on defense and offense. It is also very telling that D’Antoni talks about being positive, but never talks about consequences of actions or in-actions. It is also telling that one hand he talks about developing confidence and trust but then he pushes his players under the bus publicly. More than once he has been sarcastically critical of his players as in publicly criticizing Duhon for publicly criticizing his teammates. What kind of sense did that make? Leadership delegates and supports leadership. How do you criticize your captain publicly for telling the truth?
D’Antoni’s approach certainly explains why their appears to be no leadership beyond the bench. There are certainly leadership personalities on the team. Whatever one may say about Duhon, he does have leadership qualities. So does Douglas. Gallo is trying to gain his bearings. Harrington has been very proactive in showing leadership. Wasn’t Nate a quarterback? Is he considered a leader in the locker-room or is he too goofy to be respected beyond his phenomenal basketball skill? What is David Lee doing? Roy Williams makes some great points about leadership. How do we develop that on these Knicks before the season totally gets away from the home team?)