This morning Team USA wrapped up their second consecutive Gold Medal in Men’s Basketball under the leadership of Coach K*. But unlike his incredible Duke teams, this team is not made up of amateurs who are hustling to earn a spot in the pros. No, this team is made up of professionals. And not just any professionals; these are the very best players in the World. These are pampered superstars who can have every wish catered to by appreciative owners and adoring fans. Men who don’t even really have to the listen to their Coach, because they can get their coach fired.
So how does Coach K do it? How does he make these twelve superlative individuals work together as a team? Do we really think, that they could do it without him? Is he just a figurehead that allows them to check the box “Head Coach” on their entry form?
I would say not, just look at the USA Basketball team in 2004 where the United States lost to Argentina. It’s not a forgone conclusion that as long as you fill the roster with NBA players that they will win.
Enter Coach K in 2006, and the USA has never looked back. In 2008 the US looked like a TEAM again and in 2012 they were incredible. But did you know that despite the importance of a Coach in basketball, the coach does not win a medal if the team does? Which means that after Coach K won in 2008, he came back even when he knew he would not get a medal that properly acknowledged his contribution to the effort. The old West Point graduate instead is satisfied knowing that he filled the role the team and perhaps the country needed him to fill.
Coach K exemplifies the idea that as leaders we can be called on to fill a role that provides guidance to our teams to help them excel but not to take up room in the spotlight. After all they were the ones “on the floor”. We should be satisfied that we got to work with champions.
* = I understand that simply mentioning Coach K in Raleigh brings strong feelings of hate from NC State and North Carolina fans. You should read on anyway.