Monday, February 15, 2010

Mind Matters Matter

A while back I bought Phil Jackson's book, Sacred Hoops, in a used book store. I am reading it now and to be clear I am only a little bit more than half way through it.

When the Knicks became good in the late 1960s and early 70s Jackson was a member of the team. Known for his defense and a very awkward looking jumpshot, Jackson was central to the team's successes during those years. When I lived in Buffalo in the mid 1970s I went to what was then called, The Buffalo Aud, to watch the Buffalo Braves play the Knicks. The Braves beat the Knicks that night and I can recall Jackson who seemed kind of lackadaisacal during the game, looking over to the coach Red Holtzman to ask if the team should take a time out. Holtzman waved away at him as if to say, "What's the point, You're not even trying." I don't think that game characterized Jackson's play regularly, but it is an interesting recollection given this book he has written about his coaching philosophy.

I believe that Jackson now leads Red Auerbach in terms of coaching teams that have won NBA championships. So one would think his book would contain some wisdom. So far he has written about techniques he has used to create team unity. They are atypical coaching methods involving meditation and visualization and references to Native American wisdom.

Often he will cite a moment in a game that supports a contention. A player steals a pass to secure a win after a session when he, the player, acknowledged the team based lessons identified in a prior practice session.

Jackson, I believe, is right on when he talks about team cohesion and the importance of seeing basketball as a team game and that winning is a product less of individual prowess but of team awareness.

However, the idea that the techniques are the keys to his success are tough to believe. All things being equal, I believe visualization, team meditation, respect for any spiritual teaching which emancipates one from constraining thoughts--all these techniques will make one team better than others.

Nevertheless, these techniques really work out terrific if you have Michael Jordan when you coach the Bulls, and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal when you coach the Lakers--and your opponents do not have such superstars. Then, I will opine, meditation really helps a lot. I would love to see Phil Jackson coach the New Jersey Nets, winners this season of 4 games out of the 50 plus they have played and try out his meditation techniques in practice. Then we would see how much mind matters matter.

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