Legendary Duke Blue Devils mens basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski once said, “The single most important ingredient after you get talent is internal leadership.  It’s not the coaches as much as one single person or people on the team who set higher standards than that team would normally set for itself.”

The following are 6 Lessons we glean Coach K’s statement:

  1. Great leaders needs talent to be successful.  John Wooden said, “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”  Coach Lou Holtz added, “I’ve coached teams with good players and I’ve coached teams with bad players.  I’m a better coach when I have good players!”
  2. Internal Leadership is the most important ingredient to success.  It is the people the leader surrounds himself or herself with that determines their success.
  3. Coaches need internal leadership to multiply their message to those who would have not normally buy into the message.
  4. Internal Leadership can come from one person or a group of people.  The more quality leaders you have the more successful you will be as an organization.
  5. Internal leadership must set high standards.  Jeff Van Gundy said, “Your best player has to set a tone of intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.”
  6. Internal leadership must set high standards that the team would not normally set.

Speaking of talent, here is another thought – smart leaders believe their eyes.  Do not sanitize a situation.  If an individual on your team is not producing, do not make excuses for them.  Admit it and then address the issue.

On March 25th I dedicated two hours to watch the only college basketball game I saw in its entirety during the 2016-17 season.  UCLA, led by Lonzo Ball, was playing Kentucky, led by De’Aaron Fox, were playing in the NCAA tournament.  This was a match-up of two high-school All-American point guards who were both projected lottery picks.  Ball was already widely-known and the potential overall top pick.  What I saw surprised me.

Fox scored 39 points on 13 of 20 shooting.  Ball scored 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting and had 0 (Yes 0) assists.  I had just a basic knowledge of college basketball but I watched with my own eyes Fox completely outplay Ball.  Fox was the fastest player on the court and completely unguardable.  In addition, Ball seemed to lack urgency and looked passive the entire game.  Even though I later heard people attribute Ball’s performance to system fit, style of game, and overall body of work, my eyes were telling me Fox dominated Ball and was the much better player.

On June 22nd, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Ball as expected with the 2nd pick in the NBA Draft.  Fox later went 5th to the Sacramento Kings.  Ball was reportedly out of shape for a pre-draft workout with the Lakers.  Fox was widely praised for his maturity.  These two will now match up multiple times each year so time will tell who will eventually be the better player.  I’m putting my money on Fox.  Read what he said in a June 26th Sports Illustrated article:

“You gotta be a dog.  Don’t back down from anyone.  You gotta be one of the guys that people don’t want to play against – and those are the guys people want to play with.”

Fox goes on, “Teams ask me what I can bring to the table: good guy, leadership, playmaking offensively and defensively.  Then they ask, ‘What are you gonna do if we put the ball in your hands?’  I’m going to take over the game.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be scoring.  Just always attacking.  Always.  People don’t wanna guard somebody that’s gonna attack them on literally every possession.  They want to take plays off on defense.  They don’t want someone guarding them that actually wants to guard.  If you have somebody coming at you, every single possession, you can’t get that break.”

As shown in the video above (especially the highlight at the 1:26 mark), Fox finished with 18 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals in his Summer League debut.  Ball finished 1 for 11 shooting in his summer league debut.  Experts are saying it is no big deal.  It’s just summer league.

It may be time to believe your eyes.


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