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Friday, February 9, 2018

Pursuing Excellence On and Off the Court

Keywords: Process, skill, decision journal, priorities, Brad Stevens

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

We don't control outcomes; we control our process. 

Excellence has origins. Read what "knowledge workers" teach, like Michael Mauboussin, a smartest guy in the room type. What advice would he dispense to his younger self? "I would probably suggest the motto of the Royal Society – “nullius in verba” – which roughly translates to “take nobody’s word for it.” Basically, the founders were urging their colleagues to avoid deferring to authority and to verify statements by considering facts."

In addition to studying valuation in markets, he examines how decisions affect results. Mauboussin explains that outcomes aren't all skill. "Any mental model has to overcome our natural tendency to think causally—that is, that good outcomes are the result of good skill and bad outcomes reflect bad skill." In chess, outcomes are close to unity regarding skill. In professional sports, NBA outcomes are only about 12 percent based on luck. In the NHL, it's over half. 

The best basketball players excel in their vision, decisions, and execution. Mauboussin discusses maintaining a 'decision journal'. "A decision journal is actually very simple to do in principle, but requires some discipline to maintain. The idea is whenever you are making a consequential decision, write down what you decided, why you decided as you did, what you expect to happen, and if you’re so inclined, how you feel mentally and physically." 

Brad Stevens shared some 'translatable' excellence observations:

In 11 years, he never had a player in the program that worked his tail off on the defensive end that wasn’t a great teammate/student (Comment: work ethic translates). 

First step to proper positioning is your transition defenseStay in front of the basketball.
Protect the basket. Pick up the basketball. Find good shooters. (Comment: the core concept is no easy baskets or hard twos.)

Are you prioritizing what’s important? (Comment: at the developmental level, stopping transition, direct drives, putbacks, and give-and-go actions dominate. Teach to the test.) 

Use lots of 4 on 4 work in practice. (We do our O-D-O offense/defense/offense simulations using three groups of four; we also play 4 on 4 no dribble to force player movement)

Long-term goals include developing players' character and basketball maturity. We teach players to think, not what to think about the world. Examine information critically on and off the court...back to nullius in verba. Parents share their ethos about how the world works, while coaches teach the game and accountable, compassionate teamwork. 

Know what matters. Practice what matters. Control what we can. We're constantly asking ourselves, "what does our team need now?" "What can we do better today?" 


Celtics got a key hoop in overtime as Jaylen Brown slipped the cross screen. NBA teams switch continually and Brown's quickness can create a mismatch. 

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