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Issue 328 - Success Stopper: Complacency - (Pat Riley)

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 8 Issue 328
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



Pat Riley is one of only five coaches in the history of professional basketball to have won five or more NBA championships. He won four with the Los Angeles Lakers during their Showtime Era in the 1980s, and one with the Miami Heat in 2006. Prior to Riley becoming the head coach in 1981, the Lakers had won two NBA championships in twenty years. Under Riley they won four championships in the next seven years.
Like all coaches who have accomplished amazing results, Riley had great talent but not every coach who has great talent achieves amazing results. Riley was a great team builder. In 1986 the Lakers were eliminated in the conference playoffs. They had won two NBA championships in the previous four years and Riley was concerned the players had become complacent.
Following that 1986 season, Riley launched a new program that he called the Career Best Effort Program or CBE. The Lakers coach recorded data from basic categories on the stat sheet and effort hustle plays, applied a plus or a minus to each column, and then divided the total by minutes played. He calculated a rating for each player and asked them to improve their output by at least 1 percent over the course of the season. They were updated on their progress each week. If they succeeded, the season would become individually and collectively their Career Best Effort. The next two seasons, the Lakers became the first NBA team to repeat as back to back champions in twenty years. Riley described the importance this way:
"Players can't excel in every area, but they can strive to better themselves in the areas that we value most for each individual. Then we can show them what they need to do to have their Career Best Effort."
As a master team builder, Riley also preached against what he called "The Disease of Me."
In his book The Winner Within, Riley describes "The Disease of Me" as the overpowering belief in the importance of oneself. "The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they're part of the team is to sacrifice. It is so easy to become selfish in a team environment." The Disease of Me is ever present, but it can be anticipated and overcome. Riley lists the following symptoms of the disease:
  • Inexperience in dealing with sudden success
  • Chronic feelings of underappreciation
  • Paranoia over being cheated out of one's rightful share
  • Resentment against the competence of partners
  • Personal effort mustered solely to outshine a teammate
  • A leadership vacuum resulting from the formation of cliques and rivalries
  • Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully
By using his Career Best Effort Program and using his list to coach against the Disease of Me, Riley created a check list to prevent complacency and promote team work.
What is your check list?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




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Application Exercise




I'd like to think when life is done
That I had filled a needed post.
That here and there I'd paid my fare
With more than idle talk and boast;
That I had taken gifts divine.
The breath of life and manhood fine,
And tried to use them now and then
In service for my fellow men.

I'd hate to think when life is through
That I had lived my round of years
A useless kind, that leaves behind
No record in this vale of tears;
That I had wasted all my days
By treading only selfish ways,
And that this world would be the same
If it had never known my name.

I'd like to think that here and there,
When I am gone, there shall remain
A happier spot that might have not
Existed had I toiled for gain;
That someone's cheery voice and smile
Shall prove that I had been worthwhile;
That I had paid with something fine
My debt to God for life divine.
Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)






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