Leading the team

Coaching a successful basketball team
is not so different than running a successful business. In fact, a basketball team is a business in the sense that it
requires the same sort of elements that
profitable and healthy corporations need
to keep on track with its goals.

Nobody knows that better than Rollie
Massimino, director of basketball operations for the men’s and women’s teams at
Northwood University in West Palm
Beach, Fla. Massimino is best known for
leading the Villanova Wildcats to an NCAA
championship in 1985, despite entering the
tournament as an eighth seed. He holds a
career record of 515-391, which ranks him
57th all-time in wins among coaches with
at least 10 years of experience at the NCAA
division I level.

Smart Business spoke with Massimino
about what business leaders can learn
from how successful basketball coaches
operate and how they can position their
companies to pile up victories.

What are some parallels between coaching a
basketball team and running a company?

It’s about winning and about having a
goal that you try to accomplish that everyone is accountable for. For a goal to be
accountable to the entire program, you
need good people, and that’s all part of the
ingredients of winning. Also, you must
make sure you can accept failure at times
because you don’t always win. The way
you handle failure is just as important as
the way you handle winning.

What could a CEO or company president
learn from watching a good basketball coach
lead a team?

First of all, I think a good basketball
coach would make a good CEO, and vice
versa. Why? Because there are so many of
the same details involved in coaching and
running a business.

When I try to develop a basketball team, I
look for people who are loyal, have a solid
work ethic and want to be the best they
can be. Without these qualities, it’s difficult to be successful in this kind of business
because, quite frankly, basketball is a business. It takes a very special kind of person
who has no clock but has the desire to
work as hard as he or she can to be the best
he or she can be.

It would seem basketball coaches need to be
masterful motivators. What could CEOs learn
from them about motivating their employees?

The most important thing I tell my kids is
that they develop a philosophy for that particular season to be the best they can be
and understand the different roles they’ll
need to play. And isn’t it amazing what you
can accomplish if no one takes the credit?

About seven or eight years ago, a group
of CEOs got together to try to decide what
it takes to make employees happy and
enjoy what they’re doing. And guess what?
It wasn’t additional days off or an increase
in insurance coverage or more money in
their paycheck. It was two simple words:
caring and sharing.

Different people coach different ways.
The teams I coach take on the identity of a
family. Everything we do is family-oriented, and I always tell my players I spend
more time with them than with my own family. There’s one captain of the ship, then
we analyze and make sure we care and
share and understand that, ‘You work for
me, I work for you.’

They say it’s not all about winning but how
you play the game. Do you agree?

Yes, because with me, it’s all about the
journey, not the destination. Winning is an
attitude, and you have to develop an attitude. You also have to develop goals and
find ways to motivate your people.

Would you rather have talented players or
hardworking players? Or a combination of

I want both. I want the best and most talented players, but I also want players with
confident attitudes that carry over and help
them accomplish their goals.

How do you personally handle the tremendous amount of stress that occurs while
coaching a game?

First of all, coaches, like CEOs, feel stress
on a daily basis, not just during a game. I
handle it with the idea that I’m going to prepare myself every morning I get up and try
to put myself in a position to win. I don’t
always win, but I at least want something
to happen that particular day that’s positive.

ROLLIE MASSIMINO is director of basketball operations for
the men’s and women’s teams at Northwood University in West
Palm Beach, Fla.