Thursday, January 10, 2008

The 5 C's for a Team, from Nate McMillan (and 1)

Yes, another one of those lists... (one of the many ways that enumerate how relentlessly numbers-oriented our society is. Seems like everywhere you look, lists are being published of the Five This and the Ten That -- excuse me, that's the Top Five and the Top Ten.)

Still, this concise list of "the Five C's," five qualities for players on a winning team to focus on, rang all the right bells for me. I noticed this particular story, though, because these conceptual-vitamin C's come from a basketball coach I'm familiar with, whose team is overachievingly hot. And that mostly matters because all through his 12 years as a point guard on the Seattle Sonics, Nate McMillan really played the game "the right way."

McMillan has now been coaching the regional rival Portland Trailblazers (22-13) for two years, and his motto was voiced in a Portland Tribune story last month about their upstart success.

"Coach Nate McMillan cited an adherence to the 'five C’s' – calmness, clarity, consistency, connectedness and communication – as an example of the team’s progress. 'We started communicating better, and the result was, we raised our level of play and had a nice comeback,' McMillan said."





Beautiful. Touches all the bases -- excuse me, that should be, "moves the ball around to find the open man."

It's interesting to note that the first three really begin with the effort of the individual. Once those basic qualities are put in action by each of the team members, that's the point from where connection can start to come into play.

To that list, I'd only suggest adding Caring.

How do I justify that? Folks, I only need point to the other conference and historic Boston, where Exbibit A now reigns: Mr. Kevin Garnett is unquestionably the driving force behind the Celtics' current 29-4 record, not only league-leading but putting them as a team in some pretty rarified historical company. And it doesn't look like anybody could care more than he does.

The guy is so passionately motivated, and equally on each end of the floor, that his teammates just can't help getting inspired and energized by it, and, to put a technical hoops term on it, just play their butts off out there.

Yes, there are a couple other All-Stars on there, Pierce and Allen, and [blah blah team talk], but it is Garnett's evident passion and drive that's the difference between a good team and the great one they're playing as right now.

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Putting up a few more shots:

Nate McMillan was always one of those quiet "hustle guys" for the Sonics, the kind that the casual fan might not notice, but who would always seem to be coming up with key defensive plays, rebounds, loose balls -- the effort plays -- getting the ball to the stars for dramatic scores, while dropping in a few three pointers at crucial moments.

The consummate team player, he was a repeat on the all-NBA Defensive 2nd team (i.e., one of the top ten defenders -- dammit, there it is again!), and the Sonics' franchise leader in assists and steals when he retired in 1998, having spent his entire pro playing career in Seattle. By then he was known as Mr. Sonic, and the next year they retired his number, only the team's fourth up to then.
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There's nothing like a winning streak to support whatever philosophies the winners work by: as of today the Blazers just won nine of their last ten games; and this with a young, "rebuilding" team that no one expected to hear from this season. Especially when they got the #1 pick in the draft last year, but then the poor guy went down with an injury -- for the year).
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Let me ask an important question that's been on my mind with this:
why isn't there ever a Top Eight or Eleven or Seventeen of anything?
If it's always Ten, don't you suspect that they either add or drop one or two to make it fit? And then where do those missing elements wind up?
(Omigod, it might be that one left-behind Reason #11 that's been the missing link all this time!)
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Sports Illustrated article: "In his own words: Blazers coach Nate McMillan"
Related, here:
Dance vs. Hoops
(...for which I 've taken a lot of heat from dancers who, like, didn't get it. It's satire, people!)

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