Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dumars: Be professional

Loved this story from new Pistons coach Michael Curry about Joe Dumars, his former teammate in Detroit:

“Joe’s not a guy who talked a lot. But he would say specific things and we understood him. I remember we had the team dinner before camp that year [1996] and had a segment to go over team rules. I’ve been on teams where that segment lasts an hour and a half. Joe stood up and said, ‘The rule we have is to be professional.’ That was it. Be professional. Everybody took that to heart. We had very few fines that year. I can’t even remember any. If it was 20 minutes before a flight was to leave and somebody wasn’t there, everybody was calling. ‘What happened? Are you OK?’ Everybody was so professional. And that’s all he said.”

[As a sidenote, the 1996-97 Pistons team that Dumars captained was coached by Doug Collins, who had been a candidate for the Bulls coaching job.]

For head coaches, the challenge is identifying the best player who is also the strongest leader so that players enforce the rules as the story above illustrates.

That's not to say you won't fine someone, especially early on to set an example.

I remember the first flight road trip when I was an assistant with Orlando, our leader was Derek Harper, a great guy and a 15-year vet. Derek was running late for the team flight. The flight attendant asked Coach Daly if he wanted to wait, saying that Derek had called and was on his way. Coach Daly said simply, "It's 3 p.m. Wheels up." He then leaned over to me and said, "I hate doing this but we have to."

The message was clear and it set the tone for the year.