Thoughts from Great Coaches

Part 1 by Creighton Burns

In this article, I am going to make a group of lists and thoughts that I have gleaned from reading books by Nick Saban, John Wooden, Dean Smith, Coach K, Bo Schembechler, Rick Pitino, and Gary Barnett. Every book I have ever read has given me something to think about, or put to use in my coaching preparation and duties.

Click here to read Part 2 of this Article

They will be in no particular order.

From Nick Saban, in his book, “How Good do You Want To Be?”

Championships Goals:

1) Be a Team — Together Everyone Accomplishes More.

2) Work to dominate your opponent.

3) Positively affect your teammates.

4) Take individual responsibility for self-determination.

5) Be champions on and off the field!

Notice there is not one word about winning! Yet his team at the time, LSU, won the national championship.

From Rick Pitino, in his book “Lead to Succeed.”


1) Think Pass, before shot.

2) Think defense before offense.

3) Think team before self.

4) Be on time.

5) Exhibit Great Work Ethic.

6) Be happy after a win — even if you did not play.

From John Wooden, in his book “12 Lessons In Leadership.”

Little Things Make Big Things Happen:

1) There are no little things; only an accumulation of little things that must be done well.

2) Details are like rivets in the wing of an airplane. Remove enough of them and the wings will fall off.

3) Success starts from the ground up. Understand the relationship between “socks” and success.

4) Talent must be nourished in an environment of high performance standards. Sloppiness breeds sloppiness. When it comes to details, teach good habits.

From Gary Barnett, in his book, “High Hopes.”

His Philosophy:

1) Coaching is about taking people where they cannot take themselves.

2) Every player deserves a coach who believes in him.

3) Winning is about getting everybody to play with one heartbeat.

His Mission:

1) Relentless pursue and win the Big Ten Championship.

2) Appreciate and embrace cultural diversity.

3) Achieve and exemplary foundation of leadership and academic success.

The Mission was based on the following:

1) The values of family, successful attitudes ad team chemistry.

2) Believe in honesty, integrity, strength of character, care, and confidence.

3) Embrace a commitment to excellence, loyalty, selflessness, trust, and humility.

4) Teach team to overcome adversity, establish priorities, set goals, and value diversity.

John Wooden’s 10 National Championships were summed up on a very simple, but elegant formula:

10 = C + F + U which meant (Conditioning + Fundamentals + Unity)

From Dean Smith in his Book, “The Carolina Way,” said it this way:

Play Hard, Play Smart and Play Together!

Play Hard meant to play with effort, determination and courage.

Play Smart was meant with good execution, and poise and treating each possession as if it were the only one in the game.

Play Together meant playing unselfishly, trusting your teammates and doing everything possible not to let your teammates down.

From Bo Schembechler, in his book, “Bo’s Lasting Lessons.”


1) ”Early is on time, and on time is late!”

1) “There is NO substitute for hard work!’

3) “You know what the right thing to do is — so just do it!”

4) “Those who stay will be champions!”

5) “When you are the leader, you are the organization!”

Team Rules

1) Have respect for others.

2) Honesty will be the hallmark of everything we do.

3) You are responsible for your grades.

4) Keep outsiders on the outside!

5) The team, The team, The team — you will look like a team, act like a team and play like a team.

Team Goals — Coach Schembechler always let his seniors set the team goals.

1) No complaints! was the number one goal on the last two teams Schembechler coached.

“If you are the leader, you need to learn the history of your organization, respect it, and teach it. — Bo Schembechler

From Mike Krzyzewski, in his book, “Leading With The Heart.”

Preseason Planning Guide


1) Getting Organized

a. Time Management

b. Academics

c. Rules

d. Support System

e. A Handshake Deal

2) Building the Team

a. Talent

b. Trusting Relationships

c. A Winning Attitude

d. Finding the Heart


1)  Commitment

2) Excellence


1) Establishing Discipline

a. Respect for Authority

b. Honesty and Integrity

c. Personal Responsibility

d. Discipline Defined

2) Dynamic Leadership

a. Define Your Own Success

b. Planning and Preparation

c. Shared goals

d. Every Season is a Journey

Coach K’s Rule

“Don’t do anything that is detrimental to yourself. Because if it is detrimental to you, it will be detrimental to our team and to Duke University.”

“When teaching always remember this simple phrase: “You hear , you forget. you see, you remember. You do, you understand.”

Coach K’s Formula for Success

1) Hard Work

2) Communication

3) Preparation

4) Practice

5) Focus

As you have read the above thoughts and philosophies and ideas from a great group of coaches, notice how must they echo each other. hopefully each of you has found something to think on as we go through the planning period, in preparation for the next season.

Click here to read Part 2 of this Article

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