Nick Nurse outlines part of his approach when he first became an NBA head coach:

I told myself when I first got the job that I would have six bullets to fire during the season, just six times that I would allow myself- in the midst of a lackluster practice, after a particularly sloppy game, or during a losing streak- to really rip into the team.

There’s a cliche’ about a coach “losing” his team- or “losing the locker room,” as it’s sometimes said. It’s a real thing. It can happen if you just chew on their asses from day one and never let up. At a certain point, players will feel like they’ve heard enough and just stop listening.

I don’t know for sure that’s what happened to me when I was coaching at Grand View, when I was still in my early twenties, but it’s always in the back of my mind. Those poor kids had to put up with a coach who yelled too much- who had no concept of the tempo and rhythms required and the uses of silence.

I didn’t keep close track of my six bullets (I certainly remember one during the playoffs, which I’ll get into later) but I’m fairly sure I never used them all. There was one other determination I made before the season about how I was going to handle my role. I decided I was not going to run any of the sessions where we looked at game tape.

I put an assistant coach in charge of the offense, another in charge of the defense, and a third in charge of special teams- meaning out-of-bounds plays, late-game plays, any other special situations. I rotated them every eight games to keep them objective. I didn’t want the offensive guy to be lobbying for someone who couldn’t guard anybody to get minutes, or the other way around.

The players had heard my voice a lot over the last five seasons, because I ran a lot of these meetings. I would eventually step forward and do the critiques- but not until the playoffs.

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