Thursday, October 9, 2008

If each guy gets better, the team gets better

Thanks to Jim Carr at Rutgers for the heads-up on Dave D'Alessandro's article about Nets coach Lawrence Frank.

According to the article, Coach Frank, who has the Jerry West quote -- "You can't get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good" -- hanging in the Nets' locker room this preseason, is expected to win while developing his young players.

"Developing young players is an imperative," team president Rod Thorn said. "But it's true: We want to win as many as we can. Do they go hand in hand? That, we'll have to see. But some of our better players are very young."

As D'Alessandro points out:

"Typically, those are mutually exclusive aims; no team with so many young guys finds success too quickly, and most coaches who fail to achieve one of these objectives find themselves looking for another job. The dynamic is different here, however. At 37, Frank is not only entrenched in his job -- only four other NBA head coaches have a longer tenure with their current teams -- he also has a strong voice in helping management frame the agenda."

Said Coach Frank:

"The mandate is to win games. Now, how can you do that and still develop players? No one said it's easy. We may lose a couple of battles to win the war. Or do you collect as many wins as you can and incorporate those new pieces when they're ready? It's a hard, hard thing.

But at the end of the day, a coach really serves his players. You lead them and hold them accountable. So winning must be the first priority. Individual development is important, without a doubt, but it all goes along: If each guy gets better, the team gets better.

What I'm saying is, the guys you play have to earn it. They can be rookies, second-year players, or eighth-year players. It has to be based on merit, or you're not being honest with your team."

The article also gives some good insight into Coach Frank's style and work ethic:

"Toward such ends, the coach is at work at dawn each morning, runs his practices - he even literally runs laps with the losers after scrimmages -- and repeatedly reminds his players to follow the rules spelled out by three giant posters on the gym wall. They hang below a central theme headlined 'Three Building Blocks To Success,' and list a number of basic truths entitled 'Our Culture,' 'How We Play,' and 'Our Core Beliefs.'

The end of Frank's day also follows a pattern. He's up until well past midnight, usually watching some 'lousy, nonsense movie I've seen 300 times,' or reading something that reaffirms what his 16-hour workday is about.

This week, it's 'The Winner's Manual,' a book by Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. He said it was recommended to him by none other than John Maxwell, the Dalai Lama of those who espouse aphorisms of leadership and life skills. It's the only genre Frank reads.

"He's a great believer, in everything he says," center Josh Boone said. "And that's what I appreciate about him, really. He loves the game, he wants players to get better. That's all you ask for as a player -- that a coach doesn't lose faith in you, and pushes you. Whether we like the way he does it, that's not the point. The point is, he's trying to get us to another level."