This is my first season coaching in the Irish Premier League and while it is an absolute privilege to be entrusted with such a task, we have been unfortunate to get off to a bad start. We just played our seventh league game earlier and came away with a loss. One win, in seven games.
Not quite according to the plans that I set. I spent all my summer making plans and constantly thinking about what we could use to our strengths and what weaknesses we had that we needed to overcome. I drew plays, took notes, asked questions and watched game film. I knew the team and the players as I had been the assistant coach with the program for the past three years.
Even though I learned a lot in those three years, it is still a different ball game when you are the head coach. All of a sudden, you are the person who’s entirely responsible with the basketball program and all that goes with it. A lot more is involved than what you had originally anticipated.
With that being said, I am grateful to work with and coach a group of talented and committed players that have placed their complete trust in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. It isn’t easy to continue to believe and stay positive in your coach or the system when you’ve lost six of seven games. It isn’t easy to stay positive and to work together as one for a common cause, but that is what the team is doing. They’re staying together, placing their trust in their coaches and their team-mates and getting better each week.
That is what champions do. They commit to a cause, work on it and are patient as it develops into something bigger that stands the test of time. I’m not delusional, maybe just occasionally, but seriously, I’m not that naive to think that I was going to come in, wave my magic wand and everything would be perfect.
No; this was always going to be a tough year, as the players adjusted to slight changes in the team dynamics and culture. This was always going to be a tough year as the players got challenged to a new way of thinking.
Everybody who knows basketball, knows that John Wooden won 10 National Championships in a period of 12 years, going undefeated in four different seasons. Very few people know that he coached for 16 seasons at UCLA before he won his first National Championship. It took John Wooden 16 years to work with his teams, learning the game, understanding his system, perfecting his offense. It took tremendous patience from the players and the school to continue to trust the process. Persistence for 16 years led to the UCLA powerhouse being born.
Mike Krzyzewski, a true leader and all time winning coach in NCAA history with over 900 wins is known everywhere for the powerhouse that he has created in the Duke Blue Devils and in his work with the USA National Team. But Duke wasn’t always the success story that there are now. Coach K took over as head coach in 1980 and for the next three season, Duke had losing seasons. But when you lose and stay together as a team, when you lose and can still keep your head up and remain positive and still trust the people around you, you get winners. Duke continued to improve and are the team they are today.
We are a young team and we are still growing, each day improving. This season is not over, in fact, we’re not even half way there yet, but I understand that it is a process and I have to continuously sell this to my players. We will get better, we will improve, we will become champions. It’s about the journey that we take together as a team; it’s about the lessons we learn on our journey; it’s about the challenges in overcoming this lessons; it’s about the relationships formed in these challenging times.
It won’t be easy, but it’ll definitely be worth it. Embrace the Challenge.