Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Advice for choosing a VP (or first assistant)

With rookie coaches now in place in Miami, Chicago and Detroit, a story on the front-page of today's USA Today about how a Presidential nominee can select the best Vice President might be a good framework for head coaches to follow when looking for a top assistant.

According to the article:

- "Dream" tickets rarely work: In these cases, there tend to be problems with loyalty. Further, the President "ought to have a man with the vice president that he trusts and likes and can work with him." Great advice for coaches, as well.

- Find someone who complements you: For example, older nominees might look for younger running mates (and vice versa). It's why I hired my former college coach, Hank Egan, as my first assistant when I was with the Warriors.

- Agree on the job description: Like the VP, a first assistant should be a trusted adviser, but outline -- clearly -- what he (or she) will be responsible for up front.

- It's not about being buddies: The relationship between a President and his VP or a head coach and his top assistant isn't like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Batman and Robin. It's more like a CEO picking a COO. You need someone you can work with... and you need someone who is a potential successor in the event of a crisis or calamity."

Former VP Walter Mondale puts it in perspective:

"It may be the most important decision [Presidential nominees] make... and it's the one thing they basically control. But it's risky because if you make a mistake, a serious mistake, it's like a bad marriage. Only you can't get a divorce."