Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Basketball


Praise for Dr. Jack’s LEADERSHIP LESSONS

"I would run through a wall for Jack Ramsay."
—Billy Cunningham One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history

"Coach Ramsay has compiled a wonderful collection of insights and wisdom that ring true in both basketball and life."
—Gregg Popovich Coach, San Antonio Spurs, NBA Champions 1999, 2003

"There are only a few ‘teachers’ we all learn from and Dr. Jack is one of ...

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Praise for Dr. Jack’s LEADERSHIP LESSONS

"I would run through a wall for Jack Ramsay."
—Billy Cunningham One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history

"Coach Ramsay has compiled a wonderful collection of insights and wisdom that ring true in both basketball and life."
—Gregg Popovich Coach, San Antonio Spurs, NBA Champions 1999, 2003

"There are only a few ‘teachers’ we all learn from and Dr. Jack is one of them."
—Jim Calhoun Basketball Coach, University of Connecticut, NCAA Champions, 1999

"As a leader and coach, Dr. Jack always played above the rim, but his wisdom transcends basketball. In this book, he goes up strong and brings down the truth on leadership."
—Bill Walton Member, Basketball Hall of Fame

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ramsay, whose 20-year career as a professional coach included a stint with the NBA title-winning Portland Trail Blazers, is currently a pro basketball analyst for ESPN. Although billed as a guide to leadership strategies learned from professional experience as well as his observation of outstanding players and other coaches, this manual is more a recollection of the sport Ramsay knows and loves. Many of the author's tips, directed to those who want to lead both on and off the court, include the need to set clear goals, develop self-confidence, make firm decisions and accept responsibility-certainly not original and often hackneyed. The text becomes more interesting when Ramsay backs up his advice with anecdotes about such basketball greats as Pat Riley, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. He credits Bird's ability, for example, to make a successful adjustment from college to NBA basketball to innate self-confidence honed by repetitive practice drills. Magic Johnson's HIV diagnosis motivated the player to maintain job readiness by eating right and exercising regularly, a plan that Johnson credits with keeping his disease under control and has inspired Ramsay's own pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. In the end, these leadership bromides, leavened by basketball stories, will interest mainly fans of the sport. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471469292
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/5/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 423,940
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

DR. JACK RAMSAY is one of the most respected basketball minds of his generation, and one of the most successful coaches in basketball history; when he retired from coaching in 1989, his 864 wins were second all-time to the legendary Red Auerbach. He currently works as a pro basketball analyst for ESPN.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Hoop Journey: From Barn Door to the NBA 1
1 Lace'em Up: The Foundations of Success 19
2 Home Court Advantage: Teaching and Learning 41
3 Three-Pointer: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate 79
4 Taking Possession: Job Readiness 95
5 Fast Break: Maximizing Opportunities 117
6 Leadership Playbook: Accepting Responsibility 135
7 The Inside Man: Internal Leadership 171
8 The Game Plan: Making Decisions 189
9 At the Buzzer: How to Win, How to Lose 215
10 Transition Game: Succeeding on the Court of Life 227
Epilogue: The Triangle Defense: Family, Fun, Friends 263
Index 277
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First Chapter

Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Basketball

By Jack Ramsay

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-46929-7

Chapter One

Lace 'em Up

The Foundations of Success

The old locker room expression lace 'em up means "get ready to play!" For me during my playing days, that literally meant to pull my sneaker laces up tight and get ready to do battle. Tightly laced sneakers gave me the feeling of having a strong, solid base from which I could run faster, jump higher, and make quicker changes of direction.

In life, we all have to lace 'em up every day of our lives. Every day is "game day." There are no off-days or travel days, and there is no end of the season. No matter what we do in life-whether man or woman; homemaker or breadwinner; white- or blue-collar worker; craftsperson, tradesperson, or politician; artist or athlete; student or new graduate-we each have a job to do and we must be ready to give every day our best effort. To do that well, we must have a passion for what we do and strive to do it to the best of our ability. Lace 'em up tight!

Master coach, John Wooden, thought lacing one's shoes was so important that he always taught a session on the manner in which players should lace their sneakers. Coach Wooden felt that unless a player's feet were sound and secure, he couldn't be expected to perform the game's basic functions. When I coached the Trail Blazers, I noticed that Bill Walton, one of Wooden's prize pupils, always pulled his lacestighter just before practice began. He still adhered to Wooden's message: Lace 'em up tight!

Be Yourself

A foundational principle of success-in any endeavor-is to be yourself. Every person has his or her own personality, and though shaped by genetics, by environment, and by experience, essentially we are who we are. That is not to say we can't improve certain aspects of our personalities-such as making an effort to be more outgoing, less critical, or more cooperative. Self-improvement is certainly beneficial, and we should all strive to be the best person we can be-but by being ourselves. Trying to be someone else, no matter how admirable we may think that person is, just doesn't work. Others will easily see through that facade, and the result can be disastrous.

Bruce Ogilvie, one of the pioneers in sports psychology, who worked with the Trail Blazers all the years I was with that organization, called it having a transparent personality. He listed it as one of the primary traits for success for those in authority. "Be who you are," Bruce said. "You may be Mr. Nice Guy or you may be an SOB, but you must be that person all of the time."

Develop Self-Confidence; Set Goals

Self-confidence goes hand in glove with being yourself. Confidence is tangible and must be sincere. It is the product of knowing what the task is and that you can accomplish it. It comes from successfully completing the task over and over again. False confidence will ultimately reveal itself, whereas true self-confidence is constant and won't evaporate under pressure.

In life, confidence comes from feeling secure about your relationships with family, friends, and associates; your job; your leisure-time activities; and your religious faith. Those characteristics are not innate; they are the products of good nurturing, careful guidance, and the will to achieve. There is a resultant satisfaction with the present and a sound basis for continuing that lifestyle or improving on it in the future. You can meet head-on the inevitable problems that arise, with a strong expectation of solution. You can approach each day with interest and energy. Faced with dissatisfaction with their station in life, confident people analyze the situation, make logical plans to improve it, then go to work to achieve their goals.

The legendary Larry Bird was well known for his thorough and regular practice regimen. I recall bringing my team into the Boston Garden two hours before a Celtics game and hearing the swish of the net and an occasional bounce of the ball as we walked down the corridor to the visitors' locker room. One of my rookie players asked what was going on. Without looking, I told him that it was Larry Bird getting ready for the game. We stopped and could see the dimly lit court through a tunnel in the evenly spaced sections of seats. There was one player shooting and a ball boy retrieving. It was Bird-the best shooter in the game at the time-honing his skills for yet another test. He always followed the same routine-starting inside the free-throw line, concentrating on his form, then moving out, eventually to three-point range, working from one side of the floor to the other. He rarely missed from any distance. He performed that ritual before just about every game he played and acquired the utmost confidence in his shooting ability.

The Boston Celtics took Larry Joe Bird as the sixth pick in the first round of the 1978 NBA Draft when he was a junior at Indiana State, knowing that he was returning to play his senior year and wouldn't play for them until the 1979-1980 season-or possibly not at all. NBA rules governing the signing of underclassmen stipulated that the Celtics had until the date of the following draft to sign Bird to a contract. If they didn't sign him, they lost their rights to him and Bird went into the pool of players eligible for that draft. The Celts signed Bird-a decision, like the one to acquire Bill Russell from St. Louis in 1956-that turned out to be among the wisest in the storied history of the Boston franchise.

In the year they waited for Bird to finish his college career (1978-1979), the Celtics finished 29 and 53-dead last in the Atlantic division. The following year, Bird's first season with the team, the Celtics won a league-best 61 games, finished first in their division, and reached the Conference Finals before losing to Philadelphia. The personnel was essentially the same-except for the addition of Bird and Coach Bill Fitch. Bird averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds that season, was selected Rookie of the Year, and was named to the All-NBA First Team. In the next season, Boston added Robert Parish and Kevin McHale to the roster and won the NBA championship. The front line of Bird, McHale, and Parish became the best in the NBA. Later additions of Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge to the backcourt gave the Celtics one of the greatest starting lineups of all time. Bill Walton, the former Trail Blazer center, although hampered by injuries, also joined the Celtics roster in 1985 and helped Boston to one of its finest seasons.

Making the transition from college ball to the NBA is difficult for most players (some highly touted prospects never make it). But Bird made the adjustment easily. I asked him when he knew that he could play in the league. He said, "It was before training camp. Some of the veterans were having workouts-Dave Cowens, Tiny Archibald, Rick Robey, and some others. They were good players, but the first time I played with those guys, I made the plays I wanted to make. I knew right then that I belonged."

Bird had a great career with the Celts. During his 13-year tenure in Boston, the team won three championships and made it to the Finals two other times, but lost. He made the All-NBA First Team nine consecutive times and was the league's Most Valuable Player three times. He's known as Larry Legend in Boston for good reason.

Bird always demonstrated enormous self-confidence and made a habit of winning close games with last-second shots. He did it several times to my Portland team. In one such game at Boston, the lead changed constantly in the last period. It came down to which team would make the last field goal. Clyde Drexler put the Blazers up by one, with about four seconds left in the game. Boston took a timeout. I assigned two defenders, Jerome Kersey and Steve Colter, to play Bird, with the purpose of denying him the ball. On the inbounds pass attempt, Kersey deflected the ball out of bounds. It was still Boston's ball, but with only two seconds remaining. This time Bird positioned himself, leaning over the sideline to take the pass from Dennis Johnson (Bird knew no defender was permitted to touch the pass from Johnson). Once he had the ball in his hands, he turned toward the baseline and lofted an arching shot from the deep corner. The shot hit nothing but net. I stood watching with awe and amazement while the Celtics celebrated their win.

I asked him recently if he remembered that game. "Oh yeah. I remember it well. I knew that I'd get the shot off. Two seconds is plenty of time, and when I turned I got a good look at the basket. And it wasn't from behind the board like some people said. I kind of fell to the baseline after I shot it. But I had a good look." He smiled as he recalled the moment. I'm still in awe. Where did that confidence come from?

"When I was in high school (Springs Valley High School, Indiana) I could do everything but shoot. In my sophomore year, we were playing in a Christmas tournament and were winning the game by a few points at halftime. I thought I was playing all right, but my coach, Jim Jones, said to me, 'If you don't start scoring, you're not going to play for me.' I wanted to play, so I started shooting more. I felt that if my coach had that much confidence in me, I should have confidence in myself. I think that's where that started." He carried that confidence through high school, college, and into the NBA.

Bird remembers an incident prior to the three-point shoot-out contest in 1986, when he asked the other contestants, "Which one of you guys is coming in second?" He admits, "There was a little gamesmanship in that, but they [the other contestants] weren't full-time players; they didn't take big shots with the game on the line in front of 20,000 people. I was used to taking those shots. I knew if I could get by the first round, I'd win it." And that's what he did.

Another of countless demonstrations that show how confidence paid off for Bird came in a last-second game situation when K. C. Jones was the Celtics coach. "Case" drew up a play on his clipboard that involved several screens for the game-winning shot. Bird, standing on the edge of the huddle, looked at the Xs and Os that K. C. had just finished drawing, took his towel, erased the play, and said, "Just give me the ball." According to Bird, at least part of that tale is apocryphal: He denies erasing K. C. Jones's play from the coach's playboard at the end of the game timeout. "I did say, 'Just get me the ball.' But I didn't erase the board. You know how it is: When you draw up a play with one or two options, and you end up not getting the ball to the player who's supposed to shoot it? Well, I wanted to be sure the ball got in my hands."

And once the ball was in his hands, things almost always turned out right for the Celtics.

In sports, confidence comes from successful repetition in practice under simulated game conditions. That base enables the performer to feel comfortable participating in live games. Competence there leads to success in critical game situations. Practice should provide individual and team competition in all the drillwork, with time taken to focus on end-of-game situations. Real game conditions cannot be truly duplicated, but simulations help players to get ready, and then each successful game performance fortifies the confidence base.

Hundreds of big, game-turning plays linger in your mind when you've coached over 35 years, but some stick out more than others. I recall one such play that occurred when St. Joseph's played in the Queen City Tournament (Buffalo, New York) during the Christmas holidays in 1961. We met the tournament host, Canisius, after we had both lost to first-round opponents. The game was close throughout, and in the final seconds, my point guard, Jim Lynam (later an NBA coach), was fouled driving to the basket. We trailed by a point at the time, so the free throws were critical. Bob MacKinnon, the Canisius coach, took a timeout to put more pressure on Jim. During that period, I talked to my team about what to do if we were ahead or behind after the free throws, but didn't say anything to Lynam directly. He was well aware of the importance of his upcoming shots. As the horn sounded to resume play, he looked me in the eye and said, "Don't worry coach, I'll make them both." And, against the din created by the partisan home fans, he calmly netted both shots that enabled his team to win. Jim knew he could make those shots. He had done it in practice countless times; and he had done it in other games.

When I coached Philadelphia, Billy Cunningham had developed into an unstoppable scorer with excellent poise, and I had come to rely on him to score down the stretch of close games. He seldom failed to deliver. Billy always saw the big picture. I recall a game in Seattle when the Sonics had rookie Gar Heard defending Cunningham. At a timeout in the first half, Billy said, "Coach, we're going good right now, but if we need a hoop later on, I can take that kid [Heard] every time." Later in the game, he did what he said he'd do.

Bob McAdoo was another extremely confident player. Mac was a scoring machine when we were both with the Buffalo Braves (now the LA Clippers). He had great range, a lightning-quick first step when driving to the hoop or back-cutting his man, and an accurate turnaround jumper from the low post. He was too fast for centers and big forwards, and jumped over smaller defenders. He led the NBA in scoring three straight years and was the league's MVP in 1975.

In Buffalo's opening round of the 1976 NBA playoffs against Philadelphia, the series was tied at a game each, and the deciding game was in Philly. We trailed by 2 points in the closing seconds when McAdoo was fouled taking a short jumper in the basket area. As he took the ball at the free-throw line from referee Jake O'Donnell, he noticed the backboard was swaying side to side. A Sixers' fan was pulling on one of the support cables attached to the backboard and was causing the board-and basket-to move laterally.

Jake spotted the overzealous rooter, ordered him to stop-which he did-then gave the ball back to McAdoo with orders to shoot. But even though the fan had ceased pulling on the cable, the board was still swaying. Mac looked at Jake, who again signaled for him to shoot. So McAdoo eyed the moving target, hit it twice to send the game into overtime, where the Braves won to advance to the next round.

What was there about Jim Lynam, Billy Cunningham, Bob McAdoo, and Larry Bird that made them such successful clutch performers? They were all fierce competitors who relished game-deciding situations. They all had an intense desire to win, and each exuded self-confidence.

Inspire Confidence in Others

Once you have confidence, it behooves you to inspire it in others.


Excerpted from Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Basketball by Jack Ramsay Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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