Eric Musselman is the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Arkansas. Prior to his time at Arkansas, he was a head coach in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. He’s also spent time as the national coach for the Dominican Republic National Team and The Venezuela National Team.

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  • Learn from others. Muss shared many examples of times he’s gone to other practices to watch and learn. He prefers to watch how and NFL runs practice and he’s modeled his practices after NFL teams. And sends his coaches to do the same. This is something we should do in corporate America. Connect with leaders at other companies and visit them. Watch their meetings, their 1 on 1s, and embed yourself in their culture for a few days. 
    • When Muss got fired as the coach of the Golden State Warriors, he was offered office space (from Mike Lombardi) at the Oakland Raiders facility. While there, he learned the ins and outs of running a professional program and has modeled a lot of his system from that experience.
  • Leadership “Must-Haves” to be on his staff:
    • Loyalty
    • Will to win
    • Specialty area of expertise
  • Meetings: PREPARE a lot. Grab their attention. Keep them on their toes with surprises. All of these things can be done in business meetings… BUT it takes time and effort to do it well.
  • Muss’s life philosophy is to be a constant learner AND a great communicator. He takes pages of notes with him to the gym every morning and reads, takes notes, and highlights the entire time. Then he synthesizes what he’s learned and shares it with his team. We all can do this. Again, it takes intentional effort, but it’s worth it.
  • At the beginning of each practice, he does a “classroom” session with his team. He teaches a life lesson or a lesson on basketball.
  • Family Coaching Legacy – Musselman’s father Bill was also an NBA head coach and they were the first father-son combination to become head coaches in the NBA. His sons work with him at Arkansas.
  • “Muss is a magician with how he communicates with referees.” He works to build a genuine relationship with them.
  • His coaching staff has metrics they produce that help him engineer how playing time and combinations of players on the floor can produce a win.
  • His practices are legendary. Like a well-oiled machine. Everyone has a role. And they are open to the public.
    • If a player isn’t in a drill, he better be on the sideline dribbling or practicing his game in some way. Always improving, always working.
  • Muss has a reputation for being the college coach who can get you to the NBA. He is extremely well-connected in the NBA. If a kid wants to enter the draft, Muss will do his homework to see where he thinks he’ll get drafted, and then sit down with the kid and his parents to give him feedback.
  • He revolutionized the use of the transfer portal and is extremely organized when a new prospect pops up.
  • On his blog, Musselman wrote about the importance of matching an offense to the “team’s makeup.” Depending on the roster, a half-court offense might make more sense. In other cases, a team may be better suited for an “open offense.” According to Musselman, the idea is to allow players to “play to their strengths.”
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Time Stamps

00:26 – Lessons Beyond Basketball

05:40 – The Intention of Practice

13:43 – Stay Loose on Gameday

17:22 – Advice from Coach

25:31 – Managing Emotions with Officials

27:04 – Is External Motivation Enough?

35:52 – Takeaways as an NBA Head Coach

43:50 – Muss’ Morning Routine

47:13 – Collaborate Outside Your Organization

53:20 – Build Great Leaders Around You

56:12 – Commonalities of Sustained Excellence

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode #300: AJ & Keith Hawk – How To Instill Work Ethic & Curiosity In Your Children

Episode #303General Stanley McChrystal – The New Definition Of Leadership