From Nick Nurse’s book “Rapture.”
In my Raptors office, I have an elephant on my desk. My assistant, Geni Melville, picked it up on the street in Toronto. It’s made of some kind of bronze and is the so-called elephant in the room – a visual reminder of the need to have hard conversations and face things head on.
Say I have a player in my office who wants more minutes, but he doesn’t shoot a high enough percentage to help us when he’s out there. He takes too many difficult shots, stops the offense because he doesn’t move the ball, doesn’t pass it.
Well, say hi to the elephant. I have to say to him: You want to get on the floor? You want to get paid? This is what you have to do.
I’m not doing the team or this guy any good if I sugarcoat it just to make him feel better. If I do that, he goes back out there and does the same dumb stuff, we probably lose a game, and he ends up back on the bench.
I’ve been around coaches who do not want to have the hard conversations. What happens is the problem mushrooms. If you get an injury or two and need the player and he screws up again – which he will definitely do if you don’t try to change him – you end up with a bunch of other guys pissed of that you didn’t coach him properly. You started off with one problem and now you have ten.
The important thing is when I have my elephant-in-the-room moments, I don’t want it to be a one-way conversation. That’s a big thing I learned from my upbringing. I don’t want to be the only one in the room talking.
When the other person has his say, there’s a good chance I’ll learns something. Maybe I’m giving him the wrong prompts. I’m telling him one thing but he’s hearing something else.
There’s no way that I could coach in the modern NBA with my father’s my-way-or-the-highway approach, nor would I want to. I am not my players’ boss in a traditional sense. For one thing, even some end-of-the-bench guys make more money than I do (and I’m very well paid by an normal standard) and a couple of the stars literally make ten times my salary.
But even if I was their boss, I’d want to hear their views – and probably especially when they disagree with me. The NBA has moved in that direction. The world has.