CAVS Coach Lue: Truth teller and Direct

I am a basketball fan and a Campy Russell fan. I’m not sure in which order. 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. 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!

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 it 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. You might want to ask yourself if your communication style fits the culture.

Coach Lue, Campy says, is a truth teller and is direct. The last game notwithstanding, his communication style appears to FIT the culture.

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