The stature of a head coach isn’t only built on a basketball court. The good ones focus on the Xs and Os — the legendary ones change organizational cultures. But how they do it is an interesting part.
Unorthodox mentoring approaches
Imagine a young player waking up and seeing his coach sitting next to his bed. “I just wanted to make sure you had a good night’s sleep.” That was a real possibility for Davis Bertans and Bogdan Bogdanović while playing in Belgrade for Dušan Vujošević.
Even if they had someone over at night, Duško had a system in place for that as well. “If one of us would want to have a girl over, then we would have to ask permission,” Bertans said. “There were rules in place – none of that the night before a game. That’s a no.”
Pat Riley — the king of unorthodox
The overseas equivalent of Vujošević is Pat Riley. Although not suited for everyone, his militaristic approach helped many maximize their potential both on and off the court. But getting there was challenging to say the least.
A story comes out every once in a while, painting a perfect picture of what it was like to play under Riley. Whether it’s him saving Kareem and Magic from a breakup, ducking his head in the ice bucket as a motivation, giving out Ricky Davis’ money to everyone on the team, or putting Tim Hardaway in his place, Pat always had to be the one in control. Mario Chalmers‘ story from The Posecast shows how far he was willing to take it.
“I knew Pat Riley was the truth when he had told me ‘Oh, you went to the club last night?” Chalmers recalled. “He told me how many drinks I had at the club and what time I left the club. I was like ‘I’m cool. You know all that?’ I didn’t even want to go out anymore. I had to find different ways to do different things. I wasn’t messing with Pat.”
Nobody messed with Pat, the same way nobody messed with Vujošević. Coaches of their stature demand respect. They refuse to settle for anything less than the utmost level of professionalism. But if you can stick it out, the return on investment is guaranteed.
For Chalmers, it came in the form of two NBA championships. And even though Erik Spoelstra was in charge of coaching, Riley, the team’s executive, was the one pulling the strings. As he always does.