Last week I participated in a live stream with Golden State Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, who’s team won the 2015 NBA Championship and came within a play of winning a second one back to back. The program, called Cats in the Corner Office, was offered through the University of Arizona Alumni Association, where I am a 1999 graduate and Kerr a former member of the UA basketball team.
I have always been fascinated with sports coaches and have read hundreds of books on leadership, success, teamwork, winning, and motivation. Kerr is one of the best in his craft and the product of three coaching legends – Phil Jackson, former coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and winner of 11 NBA Championships; Greg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, winner of 5 NBA Championships, and the new head coach of USA basketball; and Lute Olsen, Hall of Fame coach of the University of Arizona Wildcats and winner of one NCAA Championship.
Can you imagine what it was like to play for these three men?
Below are 8 insights that Coach Kerr shared with us that you can apply to any industry, field, or profession.
1. The three coaches I played for – Phil, Pop, and Lute – first and foremost cared about their players. At the same time, you were a little afraid of them.
2. To motivate a team, you have to have a vision. You motivate them within the vision. You have to get them to see what would be so great.
3. Getting to know your people is the key to coaching.
4. To perform at your best, they need rest as much as they need work.
5. Pop had a term he liked to use called “appropriate fear.” Having appropriate fear meant having respect for the process or the opponent. It forced you to keep your antennae up.
6. When looking for exceptional people, I look for people who want to be part of a group, who have humility, who are hard-working, who exhibit joy and passion, and who work well with others.
7. In your discipline of academic pursuit, your major almost doesn’t matter. It’s what you learn in college through the process that counts.
8. When hiring in business, I look at personality, who I want to be around, people who are funny, good teammates, people who have aspirations to be part of a team, people who “get it,” people who enjoy their work and who’s joy comes from the process.
Part of the fun of a live stream is that listeners can send in questions and I was lucky enough to have mine read. My question to Coach Kerr was, “What did you learn from playing with Michael Jordan?” With a grin, coach calmly explained how much better MJ was than everyone else and how competitive he was – especially in practice.
When I was in college, I was a die-hard Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls fan, watching them win 6 NBA championships. In the 1997 Finals, Kerr made the game-winning shot. Since the Bulls reign ended when Jordan retired, Steve Kerr has been one of the few links remaining from Phil Jackson and that incredible Bulls dynasty.
What an honor it was to learn from Steve Kerr, a fellow Arizona Wildcat and former Chicago Bull, and now one of the best coaches in sports. Go Warriors!