3 Lessons from College Basketball Championship Coaches

When March Madness rolls around, the characteristics of championship teams are on display. I’m grateful to have interviewed some incredible coaches on my podcast, Game Changers with Molly Fletcher, including these three college basketball championship coaches. Here are three lessons I’ve learned from my conversations with University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, and University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.

  1. If you’re not a little bit selfish, you’ll never be great.– Geno Auriemma

High performers want more for themselves than most people. Geno Auriemma doesn’t shy away from this. He tells his players you need to be selfish, BUT that selfishness has to come within the context of the team. That means wanting to win every game and wanting to dominate as a team. Geno coaches his stars to shine within the context of the team. Otherwise, he says, you’re just a good player on a bad team and no one will know whether you can be a good player on a good team. Why does that matter? Because at the next level- whether in sports or in business- people want to know if you can function on a winning team, where everyone else is as good as you. Not everyone can.

Listen to the full episode: Geno Auriemma on Winning (And Winning Some More)

  1. A player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team. – Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo says that his best teams have been the ones that are player-coached. Have you ever been part of a team where everything is top-down leadership? Where motivation comes in the form of extrinsic incentives instead of intrinsic desires? Where accountability is something to be enforced from above? Chances are, that team didn’t get very far. The championship teams are the ones that hold each other accountable, that aren’t afraid to give each other feedback, and that are motivated to do great things together. If the coach is driving the bus and the players are just along for the ride, the team is likely headed for an early exit.

Listen to the full episode: Tom Izzo on Maximizing Your Team’s Potential

  1. Challenges are opportunities in disguise. – Dawn Staley

Dawn Staley built a national championship program at the University of South Carolina from scratch. What appealed to her about the job? The challenge. Dawn views challenges as tests that you have to take personally and professionally in order to better yourself. Part of what she relished about taking the job was the opportunity to compete against legendary coaches in the conference like Pat Summitt at Tennessee. When you re-frame a challenge as an opportunity, you never know what you can accomplish. At South Carolina, Dawn has won a national championship, led the country in attendance, and coached the #1 draft pick in the WNBA.

Listen to the full episode: Dawn Staley on Building A Championship Culture

The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company’s Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating, so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.