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  • Writer's picturePeter Miller

On the Sport and the Growing Good podcast, we learn from top leaders and competitors. What drives them? How do they go about their everyday work?

Naismith Hall of Famer Sidney Moncrief – a former Bucks all-star and assistant coach – joined us (2nd time on SGG!) to discuss leadership across different eras. He identified a critical shift in player-coach relations that occurred in the early 2000s and offered broad insights on leadership across diverse settings. We discussed:

1. How do relationships look in the NBA? In the 1980s: Corporate. “There were no relationships. You were told what to do. In the 2000s “there was a new source of empowerment among the players.” At that point, if you were an assistant coach, your sole purpose was to develop a relationship with players. “They were no longer doing what you told them to do because you were the leader. They wanted you to earn their trust.”

2. The impact of the rise of AAU.

3. One thing that has not changed in coaching: “Once players know that you care…right away, the trust goes up. And the respect goes up.” What matters most: caring, transparency, honesty, integrity.

4. Coaches showed care behind the scenes.

5. Principles are important in action, not just in what you say. Great coaches “walk the talk.” (Don Nelson. Del Harris, Rick Majerus, etc.)

6. Sidney’s “Cs of Leadership:” Competence, Character, Consistency, Communication.

7. The 1980s was the era of excess in the league – not an era of social consciousness. “We had conversations behind the scenes. But if you had those discussions in public…it would have been detrimental to your career.” It was easier to have those conversations in the 60s and 70s.

8. The importance of “Magic vs. Bird” in shifting from team to individual branding.

9. “Coaches play a major role in giving players a base for being game changers in society.”

10. “You should never be afraid of stepping outside of the box as a coach.”

11. Don Nelson understood that he needed to get the star players on board with ideas first. “He would come to us and ask for our opinions…Great players must be part of your internal team.”

12. “Being a social justice person.” Sidney’s thoughts on order and action in a sports context – a sensitive and complicated matter.

13. Could Coach Eddie Sutton coach the same way today? “He made some adjustments but his standards never changed.”

14. “GRIT:” Growth, resilience, intentionality, tenacity.

15. Body language. Reading cues.

16. Authenticity. “The worst thing as a leader is for people that you lead to not know who you are and what you stand for.”

17. “Empathy should have no age limit.”

18. Having a purpose.

19. The diversity in the game.

20. Principled coaches are “setting their players up to be social game changers in society, to accelerate their life’s purpose.”


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