The weeks of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments and then the Masters are one of my favorite times of the year.

Sure, I love the obvious. The upsets, seeing my Creighton Blue Jays make a run, games on all day, and let’s not forget Chuck, Ernie, Shaq, and Kenny in the studio!

What I also love are the stories that surround the tournament. Often you will find one that teaches you lessons on leadership… what it takes to successfully coach your people while building culture the right way. Then there are the stories that you may have never heard had a certain team not made the tournament. 

This is one of those stories. 

As Aldrich was gearing up for March Madness, as the 47-year-old coach leads the Longwood University Lancers to the NCAA’s “Big Dance” for the school’s first time ever.

This  fragment pertains to the lessons I want to share with you:  

In 2016, Aldrich was in the midst of a lucrative career. After being a partner at one of the world’s top law firms, he’d become the chief financial officer of a private equity firm, with a salary of $800K per year, he told The Washington Post. But then, his best friend and former college basketball teammate Ryan Odom landed the job as head basketball coach at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.


Odom offered Aldrich a position as director of recruiting, a job that paid only $32K per year. But it got Aldrich closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream: a career coaching college basketball. He accepted.


Today, Aldrich is making $150K as the head coach for Longwood, in Farmville, Virginia, leading the program to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA men’s Division-I basketball tournament.


When asked if he could have ever foreseen this turn of events, Aldrich gives CNBC Make It a simple reply: “No. Not at all.”

But he says it’s important that when you realize what your personal calling might be, you take action on it. “Sometimes it’s continuing to do the same thing that you’re doing, but with a different perspective,” Aldrich says. “And sometimes, it is a dramatic shift like mine. I would encourage [you] to really try to explore [that].”


With basketball, Aldrich says he finds a deeper meaning in mentoring and guiding young athletes, in a way that he hopes can shape their character both on and off the court.


“I’m a big believer that athletics reveals one’s character,” he says. “Teams and coaches have a unique ability to impact lives in ways that other mentors, parents, and authority figures don’t have.”


Ironically, that’s where lessons from Aldrich’s corporate career have come in handy. As a lawyer working with Fortune 500 clients, Aldrich says he got an up-close view of what made successful companies tick — or, in some cases, where they could improve.


Successful organizations typically emphasize traits like accountability and character, he says. Surrounding yourself with people who share your goals matters, too.


“It’s all about people,” Aldrich says. “We talk about being a development program. So we have to have coaches who are coaching because they want to invest in kids, not because they think Division-I basketball is really cool, or because they played [basketball] and it’s what they know. There has to be another level.”


Thanks to UMBC’s historic upset in the 2018 NCAA Tournament over Virginia, Aldrich says he knows the mindset to preach ahead of Thursday. “We’re not going to try to do anything heroic or unique,” he says. “What we’re going to do is try to be Longwood basketball to the best of our ability, and execute at the highest level.”


Credit to for this article which I got creative with to condense the length and focus on the teaching points. (you can read the full article here).

Lessons from Griff Aldrich

You see, money can afford us a lot of things, and sometimes fulfilling our passion and purpose is not one of them. For years I have wondered what it would look like if passion and purpose were on our personal board of advisers or if they were our accountability partners. 

Think about how you would lead, coach, and relentlessly pursue VICTORY. 

Would you have more bounce, energy, and resilience?

Would you lead in such a way that would do everything possible to make sure you truly knew your people, what made them tick, and then see to it that you put them in the best position possible to be wildly successful?

Would you care more?

Would you have more confidence in your decisions knowing you are doing the right things for the right reasons? 

How would this help you recruit and retain top talent? 

Coaching Practice

Ask yourself these two questions and then work through what mindset and behaviors it would take to do these to the best of your ability:

  1. Are you consistently investing in and developing your people?
  2. What do you have to do to take things to another level?


This was originally published as a weekly newsletter from Ed Molitor, with The Molitor Group. If you’d like to receive the weekly newsletter, follow this link to subscribe.