Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by George Dohrmann and published in Sports Illustrated magazine (March 5, 2012).
As I began to read the article, I was reminded of a poem, Ozmandias, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822 ) and first published in 1818:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Here is the excerpt from Dohrmann’s article. To read all of it, please click here.
* * *
This story appears in the March 5, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated. Buy the digital version of the magazine here.
On the evening of Nov. 6, 2007, legendary former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden (1910-2010) spoke to about 600 Bruins student-athletes and coaches. The occasion was the debut of The Wooden Academy, a seminar series in which former UCLA athletes and coaches returned to campus to describe how the tenets from Wooden’s Pyramid of Success had helped them in college or life.
Wooden was 97 years old at the time. He spoke while seated in a padded chair on a small stage just off the baseline of the basketball court at Pauley Pavilion. To his left was a microphone stand with a long arm attached, which positioned the microphone so that Wooden could sit back in his seat.
Wooden talked about some of the players he had coached, and recited the 15 blocks in his Pyramid, which include cooperation, self-control, team spirit and intentness. Wooden also used a metaphor that will ring familiar to readers of his books. Think of a team as a train, he said, and its star player as the locomotive. There is much more to a train than just that engine. If any part of a train fails, if just one nut or bolt gives away, the whole chain of cars can derail.
At the time of Wooden’s talk, UCLA’s basketball program was one of the smoothest-running trains in the country. The Bruins had made consecutive Final Fours and would reach a third in 2008 behind freshman Kevin Love, the team’s new locomotive, who was in the audience that November evening. UCLA coach Ben Howland would join Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski as the only active coaches to lead teams to three straight Final Fours. Howland’s reputation for teaching defense and instilling discipline made him appear to be cut from Wooden’s cloth.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
As Ozmandias exemplifies, few pyramids survive that were built to commemorate pride and arrogance.
My own opinion is that, if anything, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is stronger today than ever before. He formulated it before his first season of coaching basketball at Dayton High School in Kentucky in 1932. FYI, he was a three-time All-State and All-American in high school and a three-time All-American at Purdue in college. The high school teams he coached had a combined record of 218-42 and the college teams he coached had a combined record of 664-162. Moreover, UCLA won ten NCAA championships, including nine consecutively (1963-1973).
He never measured “success” in terms of games won, even championship games. For Coach Wooden “success” could only be measured in terms of one’s qualities of character.
Memorable moments and unforgettable people during a ten-book journey…thus far…featured in an eleventh book
Others have their reasons for holding this book in high regard. Here are three of mine. First, with all due respect to the celebrities in sports with whom John Feinstein has been directly associated (e.g. Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, John McEnroe, Arnold Palmer, Dean Smith, and Tiger Woods), I enjoyed even more being introduced to others who offer unique insights into the sub texture of “the thrill of victory …and the agony of defeat,” a tag line associated with the ABC’s Wide World of Sports program on television (1961-1998). They include Steve Alford, Damon Bailey, Jim Cantelupe, Steve Kerr, Christina and Derek Klein, Esther Newberg, George Solomon, and Ted Tinling. For reasons best revealed in the book, each is a major contributor to Feinstein’s personal growth and professional development.
Also, I really appreciate sharing Feinstein’s perspectives on what he enjoys most (and least) about his career in sports journalism thus far, especially his take on what it is like to have access to so many major events, scrambling to make both domestic and international travel connections, and coping with hamster-brained “officials” who deny access (i.e. handlers, gatekeepers, security guards). What did he learn (and from whom did he learn it) about how to manage the logistics of travel, access, accommodations, food, rest and relaxation, and aspects of extensive travel?
Finally, there are his thorny relationships with various people, notably with Bob Knight, but also with Jim Courier, Rick Pitino, Bobby Valentine, Jim Valvano, and Tiger Woods. Eventually, he seems to have achieved mutual (albeit somewhat grudging) respect with each. Knowing only what Feinstein shares about these relationships, I have only his point-of-view but he seems to make an effort to portray both sides of the given disagreements, misunderstandings, and accusations. There are other, less volatile relationships that Feinstein especially enjoys, such as those with his Washington Post colleague, Bob Woodward, as well as with Bud Collins, Sally Jenkins, Ivan Lendl, Jeff Neuman, and David Robinson.
My personal co-favorites among Feinstein’s ten previous books are Civil War and Let Me Tell You a Story but he will probably be best-remembered for Season on the Brink. All are first-rate. Hopefully, he will publish several more books in years to come and then another One on One.
Recently, just for the fun of it, I drew up a list of those I consider to be the finest coaches of athletic teams. They include (in alpha order) Arnold (Red) Auerbach, Dan Gable, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Joe Paterno, Pat Summitt, Bill Walsh, and John Wooden. Then I asked myself, “What do they share in common?”
1. They are results-driven. Great coaches focus on getting the results they want on the practice field, in meetings, and during pre-season. Bill Walsh wrote a book whose title sums it up very well: The Score Takes Care of Itself.
2. They are avid students. The process begins when they begin to play a sport. They are determined to increase their knowledge and improve their skills.
3. They are passionate teachers. With very few exceptions, great coaches insist that they are happiest during practices. At Penn State, Coach Paterno broke an ankle while demonstrating the proper way to block. He was 78 at the time.
4. They are fierce but principled competitors. Great coaches compete against themselves. To them, “losers” are those who give less than a best effort, waste time, whine and complain, blame others, cut corners, disrespect opponents, etc.
5. They are brilliant innovators. Great coaches are obsessed with constant improvement, theirs and others’, with regard to offensive and defensive strategies, practice and off-season schedules, equipment, and even nutrition.
6. They are obsessed with significant details. Throughout his Hall of Fame coaching career, from the first season at a small high school in Indiana until his last NCAA championship season at U.C.L.A., Wooden devoted all of the first practice session each year to explaining and demonstrating how to put on a pair of wool socks. Not one of his school and college players ever had a problem with blisters.
7. They “grow” other great coaches. All great coaches can be viewed as a “tree” whose “branches” are coaches who had been their assistants. A total of 24 head coaches in the NFL were an assistant coach on Walsh’s staff at one time, and many of them led teams to victory in the Super Bowl (e.g. Brian Billick, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren, George Seifert, and Mike Shanahan).
Those in business who have direct reports entrusted to their care and supervision would be well-advised to study the great sports coaches. The most highly-admired CEOs have…and continue to do so.
The best companies of the future will use the latest information processing, communications, and social networking technologies to become shape-shifters, constantly restructuring themselves to adapt to changing circumstances and new opportunities. They will become protean.
shape-shifter: able to change shape – yet remaining the same in the inner core… (“whatever form Proteus takes, he still retains his self.”)
Michael S. Malone, The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise and Fall of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You
Two leaders are very much in the public eye at the moment. One is our President. The other is probably the greatest college basketball coach (on the men’s side) of the era. And as I was reading about both of these leaders, I realized that they both have characteristics that are described so well in the Michael Malone book, The Future Arrived Yesterday.
They are both “shape-shifters.” A shape-shifter is not a flip flopper. Nor is a shape shifter a leader that has no true inner core. In fact, it is true that only a genuine inner core makes shape shifting possible. And though you may want to take exception to such a description of these two men, I think it makes sense.
If Obama’s belief system was fairly consistent, his public persona was not. Remnick returns repeatedly to the notion that Obama is a “shape-shifter,” with a remarkable ability to come across differently to disparate constituencies.
And regarding Coach K, the men’s basketball coach at Duke University, in an article in Slate.com, The Duke Fluke: Why are so many Blue Devils awesome in college and awful in the pros?, the author Josh Levin describes Coach K as the greatest motivator of all:
Coach K’s motivational techniques are too masterful. Part of the Krzyzewski mythos is that he is no mere coach. He is a leader of men…
But it is this trait that makes him a shape-shifting leader. For Coach K, it’s very direct, and brilliant. He simply coaches each year differently than he did the year before. He figures out what that year’s team needs, and changes everything he needs to to produce a winning year with that specific team. Again from Levin:
Mike Gminski, who played at Duke just before the Krzyzewski era and now broadcasts games for CBS, says Coach K’s “hook is to get his team together for that year.”
And here is the possible lesson for us all. What worked yesterday may not work today. What works today may not work tomorrow. What motivates one person may not motivate another. What motivates one team may not work with the next. In other words, the leader must be a true shape-shifter. True to an inner core, flexible and nimble in every other way. Companies have to do this. And so do individual leaders. We really do need shape-shifting leaders for a shape-shifting era.