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Beating the Odds

Why Jeremy Lin Is a Coach’s Nightmare

Jeremy Lin has become a dream for the NBA and the New York Knicks, but he’s a nightmare for coaches.

That’s because Lin and his performance with the Knicks force all of us to wonder what we may be overlooking on our own team.

Since joining the Knicks, Lin has brought skill and energy to a squad in dire need of both. Who knows how many other Lins are out there, ready to bust out if only given a chance?

We’ll never know, because too often our minds are already made up. That’s one of the messages of the book and movie “Moneyball,” namely, the eye is an inadequate tool with which to judge. So is the mind, when it is bogged down with preconceptions.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble,” said Mark Twain. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Tons of people had their minds made up against Lin. Stanford and UCLA passed on him. He went undrafted by the NBA in 2010, then was waived by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. Even the Knicks saw Lin as an extra player until circumstances forced them to see what he could do.

“The greatest deception which men incur proceeds from their opinions,” said Leonardo da Vinci.

The best leaders are those who make sure they find the skill and energy around them. Anson Dorrance, legendary coach of the North Carolina women’s soccer team, uses a “competitive cauldron” to let all his players show what they can do.
“Competition is key to developing players,” Dorrance says. “The only practice environment in which you truly develop a player is a competitive arena.”

Besides creating a cauldron, leaders must work harder to look past what they see. They must be on guard against having their minds made up. Here’s an example from the judicial system.

A man in our office recently showed up with his handlebar mustache shaved off. When asked what happened, he replied that he shaved it to prepare for a hearing on a lawsuit. He said research shows that people with facial hair receive substantially lower awards. So he shaved it for the hearing, and will grow it right back. He took advantage of the fact that courts have a preconceived views!
Dorrance discusses preconceived notions in his book “The Vision of a Champion.”

“One of the most unfortunate things I see when identifying youth players is the girl who is told over the years how great she is,” Dorrance says. “By the time she’s a high school freshman, she starts to believe it. By her senior year, she’s fizzled out. Then there’s her counterpart: the girl waiting in the wings who quietly and with determination decides she’s going to make something of herself. Invariably, this humble, hardworking girl is the one who becomes the real player.”
Lin, clearly, belongs to the second group. Maybe he is not a coach’s nightmare after all. He’s just the thing to wake us all up.
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2 comments for “Why Jeremy Lin Is a Coach’s Nightmare”

  1. “Who knows how many other Lins are out there, ready to bust out if only given a chance?”

    That’s why Lin is such a great story. It’s universal! Translates into any language, beyond sports into business, everywhere.

    I’m rooting for him. Me and many others.

    Posted by Frank Verde | February 11, 2012, 5:52 pm
  2. Me, too!

    Posted by Coach Tully | February 11, 2012, 5:55 pm

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