Not Reading Pitino is a Choice

Let me just say up-front that I like Boston Celtic basketball coach Rick Pitino. He is one of the best basketball coaches around, but, Coach, I have just one small request. Stop writing the books. Please.

Pitino's Success is a Choice is another in a string of sports/business books which include Pat Riley's The Winner Within, Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops, and Bill Parcells' Finding a Way to Win.

These coaches are no longer content to write merely about the X's and O's of sports. No, instead, they have a more important agenda. These books are about how to succeed in life, how to motivate the workforce, and how lessons learned from the world of sports can be applied to the world of business.

This is clearly unfortunate. Think about it. Do you really want your boss to use a coach as a role model?

"No, TWO-SIDED, you @#$%!!!! What the @#$% were you thinking you @#$%ing moron? Get back to your @#$%ing desk! Tammy, go in for Bob at the photocopier, and don't you @#$%ing screw up either, or I'll ship your ass outta here so fast you won't know what the @#$% hit you!"

Well, I suppose coaches do more than just yell. They also teach.

"Bob, you gotta work on this photocopying. It's dragging the whole office down. I want you to stay after work and practice the fundamentals, okay? Here make 500 copies of this collated on 3-hole paper. And if you get it right, then maybe I'll let you photocopy for real."

"Okay, Coach."

Something tells me that if enough supervisors take lessons from coaches, we'll probably all turn into Latrell Sprewells.

But the real problem is this: the lessons learned from the world of sports just can't be applied to the real world. (You remember the real world, Coach. You know, that complex thing where people don't play for a living.) The real world and sports have nothing in common. It would be just as efficient to have an accountant write a book about basketball.

"Chapter Six: How accounts payable knowledge can be applied to the execution of the fast break."

One of Pitino's favorite themes is the importance of motivation, and I have to hand it to him. He is an impressive motivator. After all, he somehow managed to motivate a publisher into publishing this crappy book in the first place. That right there is a major motivational coup in itself.

But I still don't understand what he can teach us about motivation. Just because Rick Pitino can motivate a seven foot basketball player who has been dreaming of the NBA all his life doesn't mean he can motivate some slacker in the mail room. "Come on. Let's win one for the team." simply won't cut it in the mail room. Sure, there may be a few Sprewells and Rodmans in the NBA, but for the most part NBA players are only upset when they are not allowed to do their job.

"Look, Coach, I'm a much better copier than Tammy. You've got to put me back on the machine. I've earned it." is not something you'll ever hear in the office. Trust me.

But then again, Coach Pitino wouldn't know about job malaise. Its very notion is completely alien to him. Here's a man who clearly loves his job. He is constantly babbling about staying late after work, working the weekends, and preparing for the next day's work the night before. And while at work, all the other distractions of life must be ignored.

"An athlete. . . wouldn't think of showing up for an eight o'clock game at seven fifty-five. . . . What you should be doing is arriving at work a half an hour earlier and getting all of your social conversations out of the way, getting your newspaper read and getting your coffee poured, so that when the workday starts you'll be ready. . . . When the workday is in progress that should be where all your energy is focused."

It's a lovely plan, but you have to wonder how many others will be at work a half hour early every day. "Hey, where is everyone? I have to get my social conversations out of the way before the workday is in progress. Guys?"

Even when you do succeed, Pitino won't let you relax. This is the same man who held a meeting with his coaches at seven in the morning the day after his Kentucky team won the national championship. Hard work is not only the impetus of his system. It may also be the reward.

Still, if you follow his "ten steps to overachieving in business and life," Pitino firmly believes you can accomplish practically anything. You can lose weight. You can grab that promotion. You can motivate lazy teenagers. ("You know the type: poor grades, earrings or noserings, dyed hair.") Hell, you can even write wise ass attacks on popular sports figures like Coach Pitino.

But, of course, successful wise ass attacks don't just come overnight. You have to earn your success through hard work, putting in those extra hours so that your wise ass attack on Coach Pitino can be the best wise ass attack on Coach Pitino ever.

And so as I reach the end of this article, we should remember that in wise ass attacks -- just as in basketball -- the time to put up your best effort is at the end. Sure, there may be more pressure writing the conclusion, but I know I cannot be afraid of that pressure. Instead, I must thrive on it. Yes, it's time to put my best foot forward and work extra hard to create an absolute zinger of an ending, an ending that's so completely entertaining and informative that --

Aw, screw it. I think I'll just go grab a beer instead. Wanna join me?

Copyright 1999 by Joe Lavin
Joe Lavin's Humor Column is published every Tuesday at:

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Submitted By: Joe Lavin
Apr 2, 1999 13:20

This joke is rated: PG