Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Tom Keegan: Trusting teammates hallmark of winners

Flanked by their national championship trophies, Kansas coach Bill Self, left, Sasha Kaun, center, and Russell Robinson bask in the spotlight the morning after beating Memphis for the national championship in San Antonio.

Flanked by their national championship trophies, Kansas coach Bill Self, left, Sasha Kaun, center, and Russell Robinson bask in the spotlight the morning after beating Memphis for the national championship in San Antonio.


Steve Kerr knows what it takes to win an NBA championship.

He won one as a player when Michael Jordan drove into the lane and hit him with a pass on the perimeter for an open shot in 1997, Game 6 against the Utah Jazz.

Kerr won one a year ago as a coach with the Golden State Warriors.

So when Doris Burke asked Kerr what his team needed to do in the final 12 minutes, she was asking someone who knew the answer.

“Trust each other,” Kerr said. “We got a little away from that in the third quarter. Keep moving the ball and good stuff happens.”

Kerr no doubt hammered home the trust-each-other point to his players in the huddle before the fourth quarter started. They defied his instruction, slipped into solo mode, and became the first team to take a 3-1 series lead and lose the NBA Finals. In the final 12 minutes, MVP Steph Curry made 1 of 6 shots and committed a French pastry turnover.

The more talented the player, the more difficult it is to put trust in less talented players. Today’s NBA players only remember the Michael Jordan who rattled off six championships. They don’t remember the ball hog who didn’t win his first championship until his seventh season.

It wasn’t until Phil Jackson convinced Jordan to trust his teammates that the Bulls won championships.

No way a younger Jordan passes the ball to Kerr on the perimeter for the game-winner.

Kerr wasn’t the first to sound the trust-your-teammates theme during the postseason.

We’ll never know whether the Oklahoma City Thunder could have beaten the Cavs. We only know that the Thunder took a 3-1 series lead on Golden State and lost three in a row to the Warriors. In the wake of that, Charles Barkley, the most entertaining, candid commentator in any sport, pinpointed what it was going to take for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to win a championship. They need to learn to trust their teammates, Barkley said.

Throughout this year’s entertaining NBA playoffs, watching players respond to inner voices telling them to dominate, it occurred to me that Kansas coach Bill Self’s stock must be rising in the eyes of NBA executives. He’s terrific at making players trust each other. It also occurred to me that leaving his great gig to coach an NBA team must become less appealing to him every time he sees pros go solo. Don’t forget, Thunder coach Billy Donovan had a knack for making players trust teammates at Florida, too. NBA players don’t listen to their coaches the way college athletes do.


Suzi Marshall 3 years, 9 months ago

I thought the Warriors did a much better job sharing the ball than Cleveland. Irving (10-23) and James (9-24) played a two man game. The only play that Cleveland looked like a 'sharing' team was on Irving's drive late in the 4th and passing back to a trailing James. James did have 11 assists while Irving only had 1. However, you are right, GS's Green, with 9 assists, to go along with his 11-15 shooting. Other than James and Green, everything else was Hero Ball played by both teams.

Mick Allen 3 years, 9 months ago

Good article Tom. The outcome made Coach look quite prophetic. Before the championship series Coach said he thought the Cavs would win. Even when down 3 to 1, he stayed with his pick. As should come as a surprise to no one, he said in justifying his pick, he gave us the "Fool's Gold" comment and in a later article he opined that "You live by the 3, you die by the 3". As is customary, he was proven right. Even though personnel wise we will have a line up that could run the Warriors open up the court, swing the ball and push it up offense, no one should expect us to shoot 25 to 30 3s a game. He has his back to the basket pivot men and hopefully strength at the 4 position. It will be high low,look inside first mentality that has served him so well. I do think last year that he gave our perimeter players more freedom to look for the 3 and I believe that will continue.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 9 months ago

Excellent comments from two different angles. I just hope that Mr. Keegan's closing remarks in the article hold true.

Hopefully, Coach Self will stay at KU for the remainder of his coaching career. His mark on college basketball is already great, but if he finishes his career at KU, he could go down as one of the 5 most significant coaches of all time, maybe almost up there with the legendary Phog. The only problem would be what to name after him since we already have Naismith Court in Phog Allen Field House, which Jay Bilas refers to as the "shrine of college basketball."

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 9 months ago

Also, have you ever seen 3 more genuine smiles than what is in the picture that leads this article? Kudos to the "photography art" department.

Mike Barnhart 3 years, 9 months ago

90 percent of the KU basketball fans I know, can't stand the NBA. Count me in the majority. In my eyes, it's lazy basketball: Walk the ball across mid court, toss it to your superstar, then go stand somewhere else and listen to the organ music while he goes one-on-one.

I get it, three games a week for eight months in a row is a drag for older guys but don't ask me to watch it!

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 9 months ago

I watch the NBA when the playoffs start. Regular season games are awful.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 9 months ago

I watched Curry and the Warriors play all year, and I don't think we'll ever truly know how healthy Curry was in the Finals. He wasn't able to do a lot of the things he could do all year long, so I don't think it was as much a case of solo ball as it was that the team wasn't healthy (including Bogut not being able to play the last 2 3/4 games) -- the opposite of what happened last year when it was Cleveland that wasn't healthy.

Throw in LeBron playing a last three games for the ages and you have your Cleveland title. But even with all of that, the Warriors were tied in Game 7 with under a minute to go. So if just a couple more things had gone their way, they could have pulled it out.

I will give you the stupid turnovers though; that's something they did all year long, even when they were winning boatloads of games.

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