Tony DeMeo

Sometimes Talent Can Kill a Team

Every coach wishes he had more talent. “If we just had more speed” or “if we just had more size,” I have heard those groans before and even uttered a few myself. But be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

I have witnessed winning programs be destroyed by a talented malcontent. Sure he had great speed & could catch anything in the air but his ego was so off the charts that the team concept went down the drain and a winning program become mediocre overnight. The disease of me is powerful indeed.

There are countless examples of the Me First Club. One glaring example is The NY Knicks. In their Golden Era 1969 – 1973 they were the model of teamwork & won two Championships led by Willis Reid & Walt Frazier. They had a great cast around them and were coached by a team first guy Red Holtzman. On that team was a back-up forward named Phil Jackson who was absorbing the formula Red was teaching.

Fast forward to 2012, the Knicks had redefined mediocrity for decades but now things finally seemed to be turned around. They had a bright young coach, Mike D’Antoni and some talented players they had a surprising catalyst named Jeremy Lin that led them to 7 straight wins & created a buzz called “Linsanity”. With Lin in the lineup the Knicks were 9-3 but Lin & D’Antoni’s style didn’t sit well with their talented star Carmelo Anthony. D’Antoni believed in team play & the pick & roll offense. Melo believed in isolating himself one on one. The Knicks sided with Melo & fired D’Antoni. They went with Melo’s style & back to mediocrity.

When Phil Jackson took over the Bulls, they had the talented Michael Jordan but in the 6 years with arguably the best player in the NBA, they had zero championships. Jackson sold Jordan on the Triangle Offense which got his teammates involved in scoring and the Bulls became a dynasty. So when talent is directed & incorporated in a team concept; great things happen. When talent has the “Me first” attitude it’s off to Palookaville.

I was always about using talent with a team concept. We called it “We Not Me” – it was “the team comes first” attitude. We were always complimented on how well our skill players blocked for one another. I believe that was a manifestation of the “We Not Me” attitude. We developed an offensive system where all the skill players shared the rock. This was a great way to develop morale while making us more difficult to defend. The result was a team that functioned at a high level of performance and won more games over our 6 years at the University of Charleston than any 6 years in the school’s history. In our first season at UC we had the greatest single season turnaround in the history of the conference. How did this happen? Simple – TEAMWORK.

Never, ever underestimate the value of synergy. The 1+1=3 model. The total is greater than the sum of the individual parts. To achieve this model you must reward team play. You must recruit team players and weed out divas & selfish players because no matter how talented, divas will bring you down. How many championships did Ocho Cinco win with the Bengals? How many coaches did strong-armed QB Jeff George get fired?

A great example of teamwork in college football are the service academies. Watching those teams play is watching synergy in action. Army’s great turnaround in 2017 was just an outstanding coaching job by Jeff Monken & his staff. They did it with a QB that couldn’t pass. Impossible in the era of The Spread Offense & RPOs but no one told the Cadets that. They finished 10-3 & won the Commander & Chief Trophy.

The guys that win championships are the guys that are willing to put their egos on a shelf, roll up their sleeves and get after it every day. I have a saying:

To Be #1 You Must Be One

You can take that saying to the bank.