How To Coach: The NBA Finals

The NBA Finals are entering the end. After over two months of playoffs we can see the end clearly – the Denver Nuggets will win. Furthermore, that is as it should be. They are the best team and have a seasoned coach and approach.  Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned. Specifically on how to coach.

These lessons can be applied to all of life’s endeavors. Moreover, to all professional coaches. Including the ubiquitous Life coach, spiritual guru, pastor, and even presidential candidate.

What caught my attention this morning, after the Nuggets took a dominating three to one lead, were the words and determination of the Miami Heat’s coach, Eric Spoelstra. “Spo” is widely regarded as one of the best coaches ever – getting the maximum out of his players.

Eric Spoelstra, master coach

Let’s get into it.

Be Delusional

That’s right! That’s the secret to success. However, you must believe it! You must believe in what you are saying (and thinking) despite all contrary evidence. Focus on the positive evidence, not the negative. This is also known as the POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING.

In Psychology it’s known as the Pygmalion Effect. In other words, ‘I see only what I want to see.’ Does it work? Occasionally. Just enough to invoke the partial reinforcement effect.

The ‘We got them just where we want them’ trope

Was Spo’s message to the inquiring members of the press. (See it here.) Of course he didn’t say that. He merely implied it. “Our guys love to compete”, he said. “Our guys love this kind of deal.” The coach went on to say that that’s how – the hard way – they got to where there are. In other words, ‘Against all odds’ is when they play their best.

In addition, Spo used the bad luck trope. You know, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.”

The coaching trick (snake oil) is getting his players to believe it. In other words – the Placebo Effect.

Great coaches are great salesman.

The Experts

aren’t buying it. They’re looking at all the evidence. That evidence says the Heat lose and the Nuggets win Monday night (6/12/2023) in Denver.

Isiah Thomas, a two-time champion, said, “Denver’s just better. They really have an answer for everything Miami’s trying to do. Denver’s at a higher level.” Denver has demonstrated, says Thomas, that “Everything you [Miami] can do, we [Denver] can do better.”

However, Kenny Smith, one who did come back from down three one, gives hope with this truth. “You have to have a division of delusion. You have to be delusional.”

“Yeah, but you had The Dream.”

[Meaning, HaKeem Olajuwon, nicknamed “The Dream”, and argued to be the best big man to ever play the game.]

Steven A. Smith, longtime basketball analist, is “disgusted” with the play of the Heat.

Steven A. Smith is not buying the snake oil

Smith believes his own eyes and not the lies of the coach.

In Conclusion

I believe the experts (this time) and not the master coach, Spoelstra. Coach Spo has a job to do and he’s the best at coaching up players to perform at their best. Nevertheless, most of the time there is a regression to the mean and the best team wins.

That’s one reason I love high-level sports competition. It is excellence and beauty and true. Most of the time.

Denver wins!


Deion Sanders, AKA Prime Time, became the new head football coach for the University of Colorado this year. He made, never before, wholesale changes. And against all odds, won his first game Friday night. His post-game interview is worth a watch, as his pre-game pep talk to the players.

Deion Sanders at his post-game interview.
The confident coach, Prime Time

What he instills in his (hand-picked) players is belief. His confidence, excellence, and dedication just oozes out of his pores.

It is the power of positive thinking.

[Of course, the raw material has to be there. You can’t make a short man tall.]

3 thoughts on “How To Coach: The NBA Finals

  1. Hey Mark, hope you enjoyed the title. I was cheering for the Nuggets all the way.

    Seems to me that Spo’s approach worked…at least for a while. They had no business beating Milwaukee or Boston in the East. And they had me spooked after they won game 2 in Denver, even though it was clear the Nuggets were the better team.

  2. Hey Mark, hope you enjoyed the title. I was rooting for the Nuggets all the way, remembering the good times I’ve had in Denver.

    Seems to me that Spo’s approach worked…at least for a while. They had no business beating Milwaukee or Boston. Which is why they had me spooked, especially after they beat the Nuggets in game 2, despite the fact that they had no business beating Denver either. The talent won out eventually though, and I think Coach Malone had a pretty solid approach as well.

    1. Hey Mike, boy did I ever. I, too, was sweating it out, Monday. There was a fantastic parade downtown this morning. It’s up on YouTube.
      Thanks for checking in, buddy.

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