Issue 43

UTD Coaching News

Teamwork, Perseverance, and Basketball


By Judy Feld, MCC, Assoc. Director, ACTP Graduate Certificate Coaching Program

The Dallas Mavericks made us proud!  After 31 years as a basketball franchise they brought the NBA Championship trophy home to Dallas, along with the MVP award for Dirk Nowitzki.  North Texas basketball fans were on the edge of our seats as we watched six games of great basketball. Everyone is talking about the big question, “How did they pull this off?” Coach Rick Carlisle has a lot to say about this team he calls a “true team”—and he’s finally smiling.  As another kind of coach I’d like to draw some parallels between the Mavs’ performance and what coaches observe in well-functioning teams in corporations and organizations.  And, when things are working well, I’m not sure there are really two different kinds of coaching. The Mavs’ coach is a coach—in every sense.


Many complex factors are necessary for  a winning sports team—and a winning work team.  I’d like to simplify a bit and focus on two of those factors: teamwork and perseverance. Perhaps we’ll also take a slight detour to notice sportsmanship, grace and respect.  All good examples for our kids—and for corporate denizens as well.


It takes a lot of perseverance (and grace and calmness) for 38-year-old Jason Kidd, a Hall of Fame level point guard, to consistently hold teams together for 17 years in the NBA until he won his first championship with the team that drafted him in 1994 (and didn’t keep him for long).

It takes a lot of perseverance for Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki to maintain the clarity and certainty that the Dallas Mavericks could beat the feared (and favored) Miami Heat after they (the only two current Mavs from the 2006 team) experienced that humiliating loss to Miami in the NBA finals in 2006.

And Dirk—the personification of perseverance—had a disastrous first half in that deciding game 6, but he kept on shooting and made the big difference in the 4th quarter—when it counted.  And in almost every 4th quarter in the season and in the playoffs.  He doesn’t give up—even with 102 degrees temperature and an injured finger. He’s one of the all-time greats, and one of the last players to leave the court on practice days, late at night,  always perfecting those amazing off-balance shots. Even when nobody is watching.

Coach's Resources and Quotes
Caroline Miller, in her well-researched, popular and enjoyable book Creating Your Best Life defines grit as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals" and points to the difference it can make in reaching long-term goals in the chapter "You Gotta Have Grit."

You can request my article: "The Road to Resilience©" (D-8), at

 “Edison failed 10, 000 times before he made the electric light. Do not be discouraged if you fail a few times.”
-- Napoleon Hill

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination."
--Tommy Lasorda

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of determination."
-­ Vince Lombardi

What are the ingredients of a highly-functioning team—in business and in basketball? In my work with teams in corporations and organizations I often refer to the definition from The Wisdom Of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith, a classic from 1993:

"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable."

  • Every member is accountable for his actions within the team.
  • Team and individual functional roles and responsibilities are well-defined.
  • Processes are defined to ensure that each team member can assist in making the others successful
  • There is high commitment and trust among the team members.
  • Team members take ownership of their work products.

When a team is successful, each area has been fully addressed and is being fulfilled by team members. That certainly fits the Dallas Mavericks in this 2011 championship season.  Here are some quotes from some of the Mavericks (as reported in the Dallas Morning News):

Jason Terry: “Before the playoffs the other teams all said, ‘We want to play the Mavericks’, and I thought, ‘You do?’ I had confidence in my teammates and myself.”

Shawn Marion : “We’ve got a hell of a lot of talent…we’ve got a lot of guys on this team that are in the history books already. That’s not the question. We came together, and we played for each other. That’s why this championship is so sweet.’’

J.J. Barea: “Oh yeah, there’s a lot of talent, and we all knew it. We knew at the beginning of the season we had the talent to do it. We just had to put the pieces together, and we had to play harder than the other team did every night.”

Jason Kidd: “That’s what helped us win all year, our basketball IQ because we’re not going to out jump anybody and we’re not going to outrun anybody…it was just being able to use our experiences.”

Tyson Chandler: "A team (with players) that had been bounced around, traded, people forgot about them. And we come together and we win a title."

Dirk Nowitski (on how they did it): “It was Tyson Chandler’s ‘positive energy,’ not to mention he’s the best center the Mavs ever had.”



And a word from Larry Bird [Hall of Famer Larry Bird talked about his good friend and former teammate Rick Carlisle winning an NBA title with the Mavericks]:

"I think team basketball always beats individuals if you stay together. You're never going to have the perfect games, but when it comes down to the end of games, ball movement always beats individual scoring one-on-one. I just thought Dallas played as well as they could possibly play, and they were led by Dirk. When they couldn't score, he scored for them. I mean, that had to have been a joy for Rick to coach that team."

Coach Carlisle has referred to the Mavericks as a team in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  That’s leverage—as good as any Archimedes discovered and defined.  Here’s what I said about leverage in the April 2009 issue of the CoachNet Strategy Letter:

I love leverage--it's my favorite approach to business-building [and team-building]. Successful entrepreneurs [and successful basketball teams] use principles of leverage to ensure success. For some actual, useful examples you can request my article "Entrepreneurial Advice From Archimedes (B-3)" from the article library at

The victory parade was yesterday, in downtown Dallas—paid for by Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban.  He exhibited grace and leadership—in his support of the team, his conduct in the playoffs, and his generous gesture to the team’s original owner, Don Carter.

This has been an interesting week, with clients from all over the world wanting to discuss the Dallas Mavericks’ victory. A great example of teamwork and perseverance.

Judy Feld, MCC, was the 2003 ICF President.  She has been a full-time executive and professional coach since 1995 and the co-founder of the Executive and Professional Coaching Program in the School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas  She teaches “Foundations and Structures of Coaching”; “The Business of Coaching”; and “Strategic Alliances for Coaches.”Feld is the co-author of SmartMatch Alliances ources-smartmatch.html and a mentor to innovative coaches



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