This past weekend the North Carolina Tar Heels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Oregon Ducks and Gonzaga Bulldogs all punched their ticket to the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four.  The question now becomes how do you succeed in the most high-pressure, high-stakes environment possible?  A look at past winners gives us a clue.

2013 champion Louisville Cardinals – all quotes and insights are courteous of the April 15, 2013 Sports Illustrated

  • The Ability To Overcome Adversity – Popular player Kevin Ware suffered a horrific broken leg so severe it illicited best wishes from Opray Winfrey, Kobe Bryant and First Lady Michelle Obama.
  • Humility – Head Coach Rick Pitino advised his team a lack of humility could doom the team.
  • Sincere Appreciation For Each Other – As the final seconds of the team’s championship victory over Michigan were ticking away, Pitino made his way down the bench embracing each player.  He credits this team with “renewing his love for coaching.”
  • Depth Of Leadership – The more leaders you have the greater your chance is for success.  Point guard Peyton Siva also served as the team’s unofficial counselor, de facto assistant coach, and positive buffer when Pitino got on the other players.

2014 champion Connecticut Huskies – all quotes and insights are courteous of the April 14, 2014 Sports Illustrated

  • Show People They Are Park Of Something Bigger Than Themselves – Head coach Kevin Ollie convinced new recruits that by working hard they were “planting seeds” for the program’s successful future.
  • Make The Most Of Every Moment Because You Don’t Know How Long It Will Last – For 13 years, Ollie was a journeyman player in the NBA playing for 12 teams.  He said, “I better know my scouting report, so maybe those two minutes (in a game) can lead to 10 minutes the next game – or another contract.  Any day the coach can say, ‘I don’t want you, Kevin.  You’re cut.’  And there I go to another city, another team.”
  • Maturity – One of the teams Ollie played for was the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Part of his job was to mentor a young rookie name LeBron James.  Later for the Oklahoma City Thunder signed him to mentor Kevin Durant.
  • Generosity.  A Focus Is On Making Others Successful. – Ollie does not sell himself.  He places all the focus on his players.
  • Great Coaching From Great Leaders – Thunder general manager Sam Presti said of Ollie, “What can be seen as a transient playing career has definitely contributed to what could be a very sustainable coaching career.”

2016 champion Villanova Wildcats – all quotes and insights are courteous of the April 11, 2016 Sports Illustrated

  • Resilience – Following a 2015 2nd round tournament exit, head coach Jay Wright said, “Inside this program, we won’t let this define us.”
  • Make Good Decisions – Junior Kris Jenkins said of teammate Ryan Arcidiacono, “Arch always makes the right decision.”
  • A Commitment To Continual Improvement – The 240 lb Jenkins arrived on campus weighing 280 lbs.  It took three years to lose the necessary weight to reach his full potential.
  • Sense And Seize Momentum – Coach Wright said, “This tournament isn’t about finding out the best team.  It’s about finding out who’s playing the hottest at this time.”
  • Veteran Leadership – Jenkins said, “Our seniors did a great job in leading us and making sure that we stayed on top of playing Villanova Basketball for 40 minutes.”
  • The Ability To Execute Under Pressure – This is the most important thing which separates teams and leaders who experience ultimate success.  Jenkins hit a 25-foot game winner as time expired.

Based upon this information, I am predicting North Carolina will be the 2017 National Champions.


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