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It’s The Communication!

“It’s the economy.”

The phrase “The economy“, which James Carville had coined as a campaign strategist of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting President George H. W. Bush, has become a part of pop culture. It is a way of cutting through a sometimes complex world, to a simple answer or understanding. 25 years later we are still referring to this iconic phrase.

The NBA and James Carville may seem miles apart. They are not. Coaching in the NBA apparently is about the communication not the basketball IQ. All this time, I thought it was about picks and rolls, the draft, and figuring out how to out coach Pop (ovich).

I am a basketball fan and a Campy Russell fan. Campy is one of five Cavalier Living Legends). I have had the opportunity and honor to interview Campy once a year for more than a dozen years. He never fails to give me a pearl of wisdom about life and basketball.

When I interviewed him last week he gave me a pearl about my own profession, communication.

Who knew that was coming?

As a professed David Blatt fan, I felt it necessary to re-visit the firing of a year ago. Campy said he was fired for his communication skills, not his basketball IQ. He referenced the first CAVS win as the starting point.

If you go back to the first CAVS win of the David Blatt era, you may remember what happened. As is tradition, the team wanted to give the game ball to their coach for his first NBA win. You could say the team wanted to give their rookie coach, the team ball.

Coach Blatt refused it, saying he was not a rookie coach. He went on to recite his resume over and over again: won this title, won that title (no NBA title).

This dialogue went on all season between the team and coach, between the team and the media, between the coach and the media. Over and over again.

What could have been a bonding experience ended up being a divisive experience. I remember for months yelling at the TV every time this story was brought up, “you are a rookie NBA coach”. TRULY, it was his first year in the NBA which to most makes him a rookie coach.

As I tell my clients, the thinnest blade still has two sides.

I think his perceived arrogance served him well in many ways.

The word ROOKIE is just a word. It’s a word. The word isn’t a four letter word, the word didn’t kill anyone, and it’s just a word. How different things may have been if he could have accepted it? A rookie coach going to Game 6 of the NBA finals without two of his All-Stars would have been a great story!

What if he would have embraced it? What if he would have come to practice one day decked out as the ROOKIE KING splendid in robe and crown?

Getting the team to Game 6 WITHOUT K. Love and without Kyrie was masterful. But our success is rarely about competence. This is true whether you are an NBA coach, a CPA, or a teacher. It is about FIT. How do you fit the culture and how does the culture fit you?

Competence may play a part in getting you a job. Let’s face it; there are a lot of competent people. Are you able to communicate your competence? You might want to ask yourself if your communication style fits the culture.

Coach Lue, who replaced David Blatt, Campy says, is a truth teller and is direct. I asked him if it was true that Coach Lue told LeBron to shut up in a huddle. Campy simply answered, he is a truth teller and is direct. His answer was in the communication.

Leslie is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire. Read more posts by Leslie Ungar here.

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