Greetings from somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico. Tough road trip with one win in seven games but always lessons too learn. Routine on the road matters so much to me, especially with the rigors of working nonstop during the baseball season, but sometimes breaking the rhythm can lead to positive results or new experiences.
So as I left the Tampa area six hours before work to drive four hours roundtrip to Orlando earlier this week, I felt anticipation and excitement about the journey. No, there would be no stop at the Magic Kingdom, but a conversation with the man who ran the Orlando Magic basketball team awaited.
Pat Williams drafted future NBA hall of famers Charles Barkley in Philadelphia and Shaquille in Orlando. He’s built championships although admits being the father of 19 children (he and his wife adopted 14 kids over the years) presented greater challenges than winning titles. “At one point we had 16 teenagers at the same time for one year. That’s the year I realized why some animals eat their young,” Williams told me.
A connection through my networking led me to Pat. Thanks Kelly Scanlon for the intro although this wasn’t my first meeting with him. I can remember as a young kid living in the Philadelphia area and Williams once coaching third base against my little league team. An 11-year old doesn’t forget the general manager of his favorite basketball team showing up on the diamond.
Not that he would remember this moment 35 years later, but Williams summed up our “reunion” by saying, “We make these contacts way back in the past and they always seem to come and intertwine into our lives later.”
Bottom line, Pat Williams was an ideal podcast guest for me because he’s experienced so much in life and done so through the lens of sports. He speaks to businesses and groups all over the world and he’s written more than one hundred books, including one on Walt Disney and others on legendary basketball coach John Wooden. Of Wooden, he told me that the coach said the secret to his success at UCLA was, “Talent, talent, talent.”
Williams told me that talented people can be very creative and demanding. Because of that, organizations sometimes shy away from talent and take the easy road. “They would rather have a team of plain vanilla rather than have a lot of fudge ripple and Cherry Garcia and so forth but without talent you’re not going to make it.”
I could have talked to him for hours but here are three keys to acquiring the right kind of talent according to the 78-year old Williams.
1) Is the talent coachable and teachable? Do they have a coachable and teachable heart? Coaches wonder if a kid will listen and take instruction. How will they respond to a teaching moment? This applies to any employee in business, not just to athletes.
2) Does this person understand his or her role and will they accept the role. For example, in basketball, Williams says you only really need more than two scorers but if all five players are intent on being the scorer, it won’t work. And a coach can only really play three off the bench, so players nine, ten, eleven and twelve on a roster can absolutely destroy their team. They can kill the team if they don’t understand and accept their role.
3) What kind of of a teammate will the player be? Will he fit into the culture? He said former NBA executive Jerry West used to ask when drafting players if they would fit into the Laker culture. Williams passed on a story about Jameer Nelson, the Orlando Magic point guard for ten seasons. Nelson once said his only goal in basketball was to be the best teammate anybody ever had. Williams believes that quote should be passed on to every sports organization in the country, every business, every military unit and every church.
Pat’s a firm believer in this kind of thing, telling me, “We should always be on the lookout for good quotes, good anecdotes. Good little clips with stories. The world is not made up of atoms Joel. It’s made up of stories.”
I look forward to sharing more of Pat Williams’ story in the coming days in my podcast. As we fly home to Kansas City, I consider my life further enriched thanks to a worthwhile drive to Orlando.