From the book “Knight: My Story,” with Bob Hammel, Coach Bob Knight talks about the approach a coach should have with his/her team going into games. At LSU, we’ve always referred to this as “middle of the road” coaching. Keeping our team on an even keel. We don’t want them “to up” for so-called big games, or “not up” for games that the ordinary fan doesn’t deem as a big game. It is absolutely not about the score or the outcome. This is one of the things we’ve learned from Coach Knight and later emphasized from Coach Nick Saban. It’s not the result — it’s the process. When you get your team worried about the process…the fundamental execution of each possession –then the results will take care of themselves.
Here is what Coach Knight says in this regard:
Kids have to understand that you — you, the coach — arent’ going to be satisfied with just winning. Play can be sloppy, things can be poorly executed in games you win, but before you can be good and beat better teams, that kind of play has to be straightened out and eliminated. Kids will be satisfied with what you tolerate. If a coach tolerates mistakes, kids will be satisfied with mistakes.
There have been times I was more upset after we won than when we lost.
The most essential thing in a team’s being ready for a game is that the coach is ready — that the coach understands the importance of keeping everything on an even keel. Kids react in very, very funny ways to things that are said. From just the inflection in the coach’s voice, they can pick up, “This game isn’t very important,” or “This game is important.”
If you’re a pretty good team, you’re going to play some teams that aren’t nearly as good as you are. When that happened, I tried to be honest. I’d tell my players: “Hey, unless you guys just decide to go out and do nothing, there’s no way we should lose this game. This is a game that’s going to be determined by your attitude.”
You can’t make every game out like it’s the national championship game. But over the course of a season you’ve got to develop a sense of pride in performance. Winning isn’t just enough.
Winning is the last of all criteria that I think you should use to determine how well you’re playing. When the way you’ve won a game just isn’t good enough, you show your players why: you talk about turnovers, missed blockouts, fast-break points allowed, fouls committed — to show your team, “We just didn’t play well.”
You’re trying to get players to understand that how they play is a hell of a lot more important than whether or not they win.