Mike Giuffrida: Gregg Popovich Coaching
Mike Giuffrida: Belonging to a Team, Belonging to a Family
Mike Giuffrida recently picked up a book called Culture Code, written by Daniel Coyle. The book looks into the role of culture in the most successful organizations around the world, whether they’re basketball teams, startup businesses like Zappos, or even military groups like the Navy Seals. Although it’s not a sports book, per se, Giuffrida is really enjoying it so far.
The particular chapter Mike Giuffrida is interested in is called, How to Build Belonging. In it, Coyle takes a close look at an investigation conducted by Neil Pain to determine who was the best NBA coach of the modern era. Paine basically used a scientific approach to determine which NBA team performed the best when they had “no business winning” if you judged the team on the players’ stats alone. In other words, you could say that Paine was looking for the team that most exhibited the quality of being more than just the sum of its parts.
To make a long story short, Paine chose the San Antonio Spurs, coached by Gregg Popovich.
In Culture Code, Coyle portrays Popovich as this hard core, temperamental authoritarian who puts the fear of God in you, but he also shows a side of the sixty-eight-year-old coach that’s overtly fatherly, and almost obsessively interested in the thoughts of his players and coaching staff.
Popovich is known to things like recommend his favourite restaurant, and then turn around and make reservations for you and your girlfriend or wife. He would screen CNN documentaries in the locker room and ask his players what they thought about equal voting rights or the story of Martin Luther King. Before selecting Tim Duncan as the first overall pick in the 1997 draft, Popovich flew to Duncan’s home in the U.S. Virgin Islands and spent four days just hanging out, talking about anything but basketball. He just genuinely wanted to get to know Duncan and see if he was a good fit.
Turning his team into a family enabled Popovich to demand more from each and every player. In their minds, the players trained as a family, they ate meals as a family, they had discussions as a family, and they won or lost games as a family. What would you do if your family depended on you to pass the ball instead of shooting it in the last play of the game? For Mike Giuffrida, the best part of team sports isn’t victory, but camaraderie.