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My highlights

Coaching basics
What moves me is watching young men bond together and tap into the magic that arises when they focus—with their whole heart and soul—on something greater than themselves. Once you’ve experienced that, it’s something you never forget. (Location 75)

Brotherhood
Junger recalls one soldier telling him that he would throw himself on a grenade for any one of his platoonmates, even those he didn’t like all that much. When Junger asked why, the soldier replied, “Because I actually love my brothers. I mean, it’s a brotherhood. Being able to save their life so they can live, I think is rewarding. Any of them would do it for me.” (Location 101)

That kind of bond, which is virtually impossible to replicate in civilian life, is critical to success, says Junger, because without it nothing else is possible. (Location 104)

It takes years of nurturing to get young athletes to step outside their egos and fully engage in a group experience. The NBA is not exactly the friendliest environment for teaching selflessness. Even though the game itself is a five-person sport, the culture surrounding it celebrates egoistic behavior and stresses individual achievement over team bonding. (Location 109)

Changing people
One thing I’ve learned as a coach is that you can’t force your will on people. If you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves. (Location 218)

My approach was always to relate to each player as a whole person, not just as a cog in the basketball machine. That meant pushing him to discover what distinct qualities he could bring to the game beyond taking shots and making passes. (Location 227)

The system, the triangle
What attracted me to the triangle was the way it empowers the players, offering each one a vital role to play as well as a high level of creativity within a clear, well-defined structure. The key is to train each player to read the defense and react appropriately. This allows the team to move together in a coordinated manner—depending on the action at any given moment. (Location 241)

With the triangle you can’t stand around and wait for the Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants of the world to work their magic. All five players must be fully engaged every second—or the whole system will fail. (Location 244)

That stimulates an ongoing process of group problem solving in real time, not just on a coach’s clipboard during time-outs. When the triangle is working right, it’s virtually impossible to stop it because nobody knows what’s going to happen next, not even the players themselves. (Location 245)

Another aspect of the system I liked was its reliability; it gave the players something to fall back on when they were under stress. They didn’t have to pretend to be like Mike and invent every move they made. All they had to do was play their part in the system, knowing that it would inevitably lead to good scoring opportunities. (Location 980)

Make the team members know each other.
My confidence grew out of knowing that when the spirit was right and the players were attuned to one another, the game was likely to unfold in our favor. (Location 322)

Shaking things up deliberately: wake players up and raise their level of consciousness
Once I had the Bulls practice in silence; on another occasion, I made them scrimmage with the lights out. I like to shake things up and keep the players guessing. Not because I want to make their lives miserable but because I want to prepare them for the inevitable chaos that occurs the minute they step onto a basketball court. (Location 326)

Want to win, did your best is not enough: As the season got under way, I was troubled by the team’s lack of competitive spirit. This was a new problem for us. Michael had such an overpowering drive to win that it rubbed off on everybody else. But now that all the players on the core championship teams had left, except for Scottie, B.J. Armstrong, and Will Perdue, that drive was only a faint memory. (Location 1957)

During a team huddle, he said, with a cold, determined look in his eye, “We are not going to lose this game.” (Location 2620)

Procrastination helps
I believe that focusing on something other than the business at hand can be the most effective way to solve complex problems. When the mind is allowed to relax, inspiration often follows. (Location 344)

Believe in the work that goes into making the team better.
obsessing about winning is a loser’s game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way. (Location 356)

What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow, as human beings as well as basketball players. When you do that, the ring takes care of itself. (Location 365)

Rather than squeeze everybody into preordained roles, my goal has always been to foster an environment where the players can grow as individuals and express themselves creatively within a team structure. (Location 1253)

the Lakers had struggled in the playoffs because of weak group chemistry, and the players lacked the mental toughness to finish off big games. (Location 2719)

Phil as coach
he asked me to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the teams we were facing and draw pictures of their key plays on the board. This forced me to start thinking of the game as a strategic problem rather than a tactical one. As a young player, you tend to focus most of your attention on how you’re going beat your man in any given game. But now I began to see basketball as a dynamic game of chess in which all the pieces were in motion. (Location 534)

with all kinds of ideas about how to make the game more equitable and collaborative, including paying all the players the same salaries one year. (Location 893)

My goal in my first year as head coach was to transform the Bulls from a stage 3 team of lone warriors committed to their own individual success (“I’m great and you’re not”) to a stage 4 team in which the dedication to the We overtakes the emphasis on the Me (“We’re great and you’re not”). (Location 1106)

I wasn’t interested in becoming best friends with the players; in fact, I think it’s important to maintain a certain distance. But I tried to develop genuine, caring relationships with each player, based on mutual respect, compassion, and trust. (Location 1255)

My approach was to relate to him as an adult and hold him accountable for his actions the same way I did everyone else on the team. He seemed to appreciate this. Once he told reporters that what he liked about me was that I treated him “like a man.” (Location 2322)

Looking at the history of the game
The coaching staff also played a critical role in getting the players to shift consciousness. When I was an assistant coach, Tex, Johnny, and I used to sit around for hours talking about the history of the game and the right way to play it. We didn’t agree on everything, but we did develop a high level of trust and a commitment to modeling the sort of teamwork that we wanted the players to embrace. (Location 1179)

Individual developmnet
Opening up: As a rule, pro basketball players are not forthcoming about their deepest yearnings. They prefer to communicate nonverbally or make jokes rather than reveal any vulnerability, particularly when they’re talking to their coach. So it can be tricky trying to unearth what makes each player tick. (Location 1287)

I simply pushed him to think about the problem in a different way, mostly by asking him questions about the impact that this or that strategy might have on the team. “How do you think Scottie or Horace would feel if you did this?” I would say. I treated him like a partner, and slowly he began to shift his way of thinking. When I let him solve the problem himself, he was more likely to buy into the solution and not repeat the same counterproductive behavior in the future. (Location 1310)

To make your work meaningful, you need to align it with your true nature. “Work is holy, sacred, and uplifting when it springs from who we are, when it bears a relationship to our unfolding journey,” writes activist, teacher, and lay monk Wayne Teasdale in A Monk in the World. (Location 1696)

“Many of these guys were the main dude on their college teams,” he says. “But now they were in the NBA and there were a lot of players who were faster, quicker and stronger. So they had to figure out a new way to compete and be successful. The thing that got them here was not going to get them to the next level.” (Location 1860)

Believe in the right way
there are plenty of things you can’t control in a basketball game. That’s why we focused most of our time on what we could control: the right footwork, the right floor spacing, the right way to handle the ball. When you play the game the right way, it makes sense to the players and winning is the likely outcome. (Location 1392)

Making games that people love: “We felt like the good guys because we were trying to play the game the right way. It was as if we were part of something bigger than the game. And it was reinforced after we started to win, because the fans would let you know how important it was to them. (Location 1727)

Practice runs
I used discipline not as a weapon but as a way to instill harmony into the players’ lives. This was something I’d learned from years of mindfulness practice. (Location 2136)

To remedy the problem, psychologist George Mumford and I designed a program of daily meditation practice for the players, slowly increasing the time spent in each session from three minutes to ten minutes. I also introduced the players to yoga, tai chi, and other Eastern practices to help them balance mind, body, and spirit. In Chicago we’d used meditation primarily to increase awareness on the court. But with this team our goal was to bond the players together so that they would experience what we called “one breath, one mind.” (Location 2818)

By ten they, too, would show up to warm up for practice, which started at eleven. We’d focus on refining our triangle skills, as well as our defensive goals for the upcoming game or week. Then we’d move into an offensive segment, including a full-court scrimmage. I’d often put Pip or M.J. with the second unit and see what influence their presence would bring to the practice. Afterward, the guys would hang around and work on their shots, and our trainer, Chip Schaefer, would get them recharged with fresh blended fruit drinks. If we were headed for a road trip, we might go upstairs to our team room and have a short video session. (Location 2140)

thing I loved about this team was that everyone had a clear idea about their roles and performed them well. Nobody groused about not getting enough playing time or enough shots or enough notoriety. (Location 2148)

There’s a Zen saying I often cite that goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” The point: Stay focused on the task at hand rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. This team was getting very good at doing that. (Location 2337)