Basketball Season

The Carolina Way

Dean Smith


Reviewed by Marion D. Aldridge         

I have been listening to a Book on CD by Dean Smith.  I confess my reluctance to learn anything from Dean Smith.  As a Clemson grad, I grew tired of his teams beating us year after year after year after year after year after year.  Later, I learned he is a fine Christian man. I listened as I drove, so what is below are not direct quotations, but the insights I have gained from this great coach and teacher.


1)    Process is emphasized rather than winning.  Do what you are supposed to do and winning will often be a natural result. Do the fundamentals well.  Example: Shoot free throws at the wall instead of the basket.  The goal for this exercise is not whether the ball goes through the hoop, but whether you gripped the ball correctly, whether you gave the ball the right spin, etc.

2)    The team was Smith’s focus.  Even if the Governor wanted to speak to the team before a game, he was denied access.  Smith also said “Team goals supersede individual goals during the season.”  When it is not basketball season, individual goals are most important. 

3)    The Total Package is important.  Defense, Hustle, Attitude.  Spiritual, Mental, Physical.  Athletics and Academics.

4)    Intangibles are important:  e.g., Poise, Team Chemistry

5)    Information is important.  Keep stats.

6)    The right information is important.  Points scored by individual players may be the most popular stat to the casual fan, but the coach is looking for other information: Did the players take high percentage shots?  How many assists did a player have?

7)    Rituals are good.  The same pattern before every free throw; the team standing when a player came off the court; pointing at the player who made the assist that allowed someone else to score.

8)    Work hard.  Work smart.  Work together.  Also, Play hard.  Play smart.  Play together.

9)    Losing is not the end of the world (even if it is the end of this season).

10) Analyze.  Evaluate.

11) Forgive/Get over it/Move on

12) Teaching is important. 

13) Learning is specific:  You don’t tell a player to hustle more or that he needs to want to win more.  You need to give him a specific task to accomplish.

14) Have personal and team goals you can control.  Some things are out of your control:  talent, bad calls, bad luck, a player’s experience, and injuries.

15) Flexible agendas are good.  Both words are important.  Have an agenda.  Make sure it is flexible.

16) Players and employees need to see a “performance gap.”  “People won’t change their behavior until they change their beliefs.  They’ll change their beliefs when they see they’ll come out better by changing.”

17) Break the routine.  Play volleyball instead of basketball at one practice.  Let the players coach the team on another date. 

18) Hard work brings success which brings confidence and high expectations.  False praise is counterproductive.  Smith’s teams expected to score the winning goals even if they were behind in the last few seconds.  They had done it many times before.

19) Let your experienced leadership help out.  Seniority should be respected.  Create mentoring and coaching opportunities for experienced individuals.

20) Self-control and group-control is better than boss control.  “The best and most effective discipline is self-discipline.”

21) Recognizing only the number one person or team is an uninformed and unrealistic mind set.

22) For a team:  Long-term organizational goals must have priority over short-term personal goals.

23) Pay attention to the so-called “little people,” the managers, trainers, third-team players, secretaries.  The team is not limited to the marquis players.

24) Life is bigger than what you do.  Coach Smith made his players memorize a “Thought for the Day,” having nothing to do with basketball, every day.  If they did not know it, they ran laps.

25) Every enterprise has many stakeholders:  in the case of basketball, the team members, the fans, the University of North Carolina’s faculty, etc.

26) Discipline must be fair, consistent and show no favorites.

27) The “marketplace” will enforce discipline on the entire team if the coach fails to enforce discipline on individuals. 

28) A good question to keep asking is, “How can I make you successful?”

Categories: Basketball, Faith/Spirituality, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Basketball Season

  1. JEarl

    Impressed by his innovative motivation…especially liked this emphasis on recognizing the “little people” who are responsible for most of our success

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