Culture is one of the most over used and under executed words in our game today. Often, you hear it when teams win games or when things are good, with little structure or substance to it. But, the fact is, there are a multitude of dysfunctional teams who win games, and just because you win doesn't mean you have a strong culture. Shallow, meaningless wins and no true picture of long term success. A lot of times when there is turmoil, you hear things like "winning fixes a lot of things". But, to me that sounds like an excuse. That sounds like being a front runner. You just sweep problems under the rug instead of confronting them head on, just because you won a game? That's soft and superficial and will never lead to consistent success. I've always taught my teams that if you are a certain program when you win, you have to be that same program when you lose.
To me, culture is not the reason a team wins. Instead, it is a set of core values and behaviors a program executes daily - wins are just a byproduct of culture. I'd rather my team know our core values and bring them to life instead of living and dying by each win or loss. The most important thing I used to deliver to my team was the message that at the end of the day, all we have is each other. You will win games, you will lose heartbreakers but your loyalty to this program and love and trust for each other will never waiver. It will be strong in the good times and it will be what we lean on in the bad times. Because that's what culture is. It's a set way of how we do things here and it's everyone living up to that expectation and executing them in real life.
So, what are your program's core values? What does your team believe in and how do they execute that daily? Do you work on building culture as much as film, x's and o's or practice? My first year as a head coach, my players looked at me sideways when I told them the expectation is for them to do everything like champions - eat, sleep, dress, act, play and think. It was a complete shock to them compared to what they were used to. But, culture is bigger than small wins - it's building for long term success. We committed to building a foundation for our culture and never sacrificed correcting behavior for anything else. Halfway through the season our most talented player was dismissed from the team because of his poor attitude. But, we were adamant that everything we did, coaches included, served the program over the individual. Two years later, we won 17 games and we didn't have one full time coach, or a gym. True story...But, the wins didn't matter to us. What mattered was that we knew each other, truly. We knew where each of us came from, our struggles, what made us who we are and we created a bond turning a program known for losing into a program with winning habits and strong culture that led to unprecedented on court success.
You see, culture and teamwork remain the biggest advantage in competition today - yes, even more than talent and resources. If you think the answer is solely talent or X's and O's, I promise you it's not. Just listen to Simon Sinek talk about how the Navy SEALs choose their teams and the balance of performance and trust. Or read the Forbes article on Pat Connaughton & the Cultural Transformation of Notre Dame Basketball prior to their Elite 8 run. Or, look at the 5 Pillars of UVA Basketball. Just talent and resources aren't it. There's a bigger, deeper, more substantial picture and if you can tap into it and execute it, your program will soar to heights you've never seen before... for the long term.