"One player's selfish attitude can poison a locker room and make it hard, if not impossible, to establish team work." -Dean Smith
Rajon Rondo's Dallas meltdown wasn't one or two plays, but a series of mental and physical breakdowns.
Diva. Prima donna. Selfishness. One player or executive can ruin a team. You know the African proverb, "it takes a village to raise a child, but one child can destroy a village." You don't want the label of "me-first", "locker room cancer", or "Donald Sterling".
Adding a 'bad teammate' to a stable environment resembles adding sodium metal to water. Sodium in water combines to form sodium hydroxide (lye), hydrogen gas, and releases heat, which may cause an explosion.
How do you coaches know? Dan Tudor, of Tudor Collegiate Strategies remarks, "one of the things coaches mention to me might surprise families: They look to see how the prospect treats his or her parents when they visit the school. Are they polite, courteous and respectful towards them? College coaches look for that, because they are wanting mature, respectful student-athletes as a part of their program."
Roy Williams observes how a player treats his teammates while under duress.
Quinn McDowell discusses 'toxic leadership' at Coaching Toolbox. John Wooden explained, "don't whine, complain, or make excuses" and "never criticize a teammate." Teamwork fails when personal agendas supersede the team. This results in fragmentation, cliques, blame, lack of accountability, and poor body language. "Seniority systems" are another obstacle to team harmony.
Teamwork failure shows up with poor shot selection, unwillingness to pass, poor defensive effort, leaking out without blocking out, lack of communication and more. Nobody wants to play with "ball hogs", "huns", or "dogs".
Alan Williams wrote Teammates Matter about his experiences as a walk-on at Wake Forest. When a new coach arrived, he had to try out again. He describes how his teammates came to his tryout to support him.
Great teammates give conditional support. Cal rugby coach Jack Clark notes, "When you start looking at people who are really successful, who are part of successful organizations, the last thing they are is unconditional. We’re pretty highly conditional here." Supporting "the right way" builds strong cultures.
Good teammates demand 'more' from each other...seeking the challenge. "Iron sharpens iron."
Coaching younger players, I haven't had much experience with selfish players. Dan Pink, author of Drive, describes motivation under the rubric of autonomy (self-determination), mastery, and purpose. Problem players are most likely to have autonomy issues (self-regulation, coachability). They may be playing for extrinsic factors (e.g. stats, recognition) instead of team.
Ultimately coaches wrestle with the "Oprah" decision, "am I better with him or without him?" When they find a 'cancer' they excise it. If they feel they can rehabilitate the player, they literally or figuratively place him on probation. Very few coaches sacrifice team culture for one player.
I tell players, "you don't play for the city, the school, your parents, your friends, or especially for me. You play for each other. Everyone can't be a great player, but everyone can be a great teammate."