How do elite teams manage to stay on the summit season after season?
How do they fight complacency when they know they’re far superior to most of their opponents?
How do they stay sharp so that when that rare stiff challenge does arrive, they’re prepared for it?
Perhaps no one knows these challenges better than Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. Since taking over the gig in 2014, he’s guided the team to an absurd .811 winning percentage in regular-season games. The Warriors have made the NBA Finals in all four years of Kerr’s tenure to date, winning three rings.
With a roster stocked with all-world talent like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green (plus a soon-to-be-healthy DeMarcus Cousins), the Warriors have enough talent to field two Championship contenders. Kerr spoke about how he is still able to push such a talented team in the above video for the Positive Coaching Alliance.
“Our team has had great success in the last few years; we obviously have great talent. We can win games playing poorly. It’s not going to do us any good, and it’s not fun. Even winning—we’re at the point in our evolution as a team, and we know this is a run that’s not going to last forever, but we know that we’re good enough to win without playing well. But that’s not fun. What’s fun is setting your own standard and reaching that standard as often as you can and really playing well,” Kerr says.
It’s not just lip service. Kerr is not afraid to rip his team after a disappointing effort, even if they emerge with a victory, nor is he above benching his starters when their play isn’t up to the standards he’s set for the team.
“The previous five, six, seven, eight plays maybe were an utter disaster. Completely mindless basketball. They made some big shots, but we were handing them the ball on a silver platter—We escaped. But it shouldn’t have been that hard,” Kerr told CBS after a sloppy game against the Dallas Mavericks last January when the Warriors needed a game-winning 3 from Steph Curry to escape with the win.
Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, another man tasked with leading an über-talented team, is well-known for this. He once told reporters he was “almost embarrassed (he) didn’t do a better job for (his) team” after a game the Crimson Tide won by four touchdowns.
Kerr also tries to emphasize that the better the Warriors play, the more the rotational players—particularly the young guys—will be able to get in. This further incentivizes the starters to play hard for their teammates and also provides a formula for long-term success. “I try to sell to our guys, our starters, I say, ‘The more you play well, the more I can play the rookies and the guys who don’t get a chance as often.’ And that’s something that I use for motivation, as well,” Kerr says.
How do you stay at the top once you get there?
You create standards for excellence that you hold your team to at every moment. You compete with yourself. You refuse to settle. Led by Kerr, the Warriors have done this, and it’s helped them avoid underachieving like so many super teams that came before them.
To find this full resource and over 2,000 others from Positive Coaching Alliance, head over to pcadevzone.org.
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