Prepare like Steve Kerr

Almost 30 years ago this month I was traveling around the country working basketball camps as I was trying to land my first college coaching job.

One of my favorite stops was Tucson, AZ where I worked two weeks at the University of Arizona’s basketball camp.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Coach Lute Olson, I thought it was cool to sit in his assistant coach Jesse Evan’s office to do a couple of phone interviews for jobs back in the Midwest, was blown away by some of the conversations I had with assistant coach Jim Rosborough, couldn’t stop laughing at the antics and jokes of Tony MacAndrews, and was blessed to spend time sharing the nightlife with the other young coaches at the camp who were looking to blaze a trail in the coaching profession.

But, none of those were my highlights.

My highlight was the late-night pickup games with current and former U of A players in the McKale Center. To be more specific….it was the first night I was on the floor with Steve Kerr.

He had been one of my favorite players when I was in high school because of his underdog story and the mental strength he leaned into as he dealt with so much adversity during his college career.

And… .Steve was an absolute riot.

I followed his career and was thrilled when he was a part of the Bulls’ second three-peat and I try to listen to him as much as I could when he was on TNT as a broadcaster.

Then, when Steve Kerr was named Head Coach of Golden State, I became a huge Warriors fan.

See I had already heard the stories inside the coaching circle about how Steve had prepared for that moment for many years.

How so?

At the age of 40, Steve parted ways with the Phoenix Suns, where he had served as the GM for three years and he became a broadcaster for TNT.

The new role provided Steve the opportunity to watch practices and shootarounds where he would quiz coaches in private meetings teams were required to hold with national broadcasters before games.

Sure, some folks were aware that he had an interest in a future as a head coach and did not seem to mind that he was preparing for that moment by stuffing notebooks with the information he learned in those sessions.

When you think about it… teams were helping him figure out how to beat them when his time came.

Steve would sit at home when he was not doing a game and take notes while watching NBA games on tv.

He would diagram plays and watch LeBron James and imagine himself preparing to face him in a playoff series. Steve analyzed potential assistant coaches for his staff (this is before he ever knew if or when he would be a head coach) in the league and paid close attention to how they handled delicate moments.

Now….pay close attention to this excerpt from his book, Steve Kerr- A Life

Kerr already had a natural dedication for preparation-habitual in pregame routine as a player, habitual in wanting to be the most experienced first-time coach in history-when he attended a sports leadership conference at the Aspen Institute in Colorado in the summer of 2013 and visited with Jeff Van Gundy. Write down everything, the former Knicks and Rockets coach advised Kerr. What you want to emulate, what you want to change, what you have learned along the way. Develop a philosophy and organize your thoughts. Ramping up efforts while closing in on his new dream, Kerr created a Word file on his laptop to continuously log details for later consideration.

When the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship in Steve’s first year as Head Coach, many thought that he just got lucky.

I have always believed that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Opportunity can show up in the form of adversity, or on the other side of a challenge, sometimes unexpectedly, or after the long grind of paying our proverbial dues.

However, the keyword in that sentence is not opportunity nor is it the word luck.

The keyword is preparation.

Preparation is not only intangible but it is also one of the five fundamentals of being a high-impact coach… a coach who makes a difference as they get others to believe they are capable of achieving things they never thought possible.

Preparation is what you do when you are committed and not just interested.

When you are interested in a leadership role you are pursuing the title, the so-called power, the position, and the next step up your career ladder.

When you are committed to leading you will do everything you can to study the art and science of leadership. You will study the best coaches in your industry and others, including athletics.

You will try to figure out how to pull out of your people what makes them tick so that you can put them in the best position possible to achieve massive success. You will push them outside their comfort zone as we know that is the only place that growth occurs.

Finally…..when you are committed you will support your people every step of the way.

This past week I have had several conversations wrapped around the work I do with young leaders and getting them up to speed on what it takes to be successful in their roles.

The fact of the matter is… they have not been properly prepared to lead when the opportunity presents itself.

Do they know how to make people feel valued? Do they know how to consistently communicate to their team members that they are doing important work? Do they know how to coach their people?

What about you?

Let me ask you some questions:

  • What does this letter mean to you?
  • What is the next position or role for you and how would you improve it?
  • How do you lock into your current role and execute while at the same time preparing for the next step in your journey?
  • Who could you and should you be studying right now?
  • What is your leadership/coaching philosophy?

Take the time to think through these questions and write down your answers.

Two thoughts I want to leave you with:

“Elite, high-impact coaches, do the best they can with what they have, to become the best they are capable of becoming.”

“I am _____________ because I choose to be.” (Fill in the blank!)

Have a great weekend!


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