Northwestern and @coach_collins go back to basics

This past summer, Northwestern University hired Chris Collins as their new head basketball coach. Collins has quite a challenge ahead of him. He was hired to turn around a program that has been a perennial loser. Collins, like most new coaches, wasted little time getting started. Summer workouts began immediately. The focus of these workouts was, as one player put it, “surprisingly fundamental.” Yes, that’s right, the emphasis for this Division 1 college basketball team was on the fundamentals. That may seem odd for a team of accomplished athletes. But it is a great reminder of the importance of mastering the basics.

Similarly, another Division 1 basketball coach whose team had lost several consecutive games last season decided it was time for his team to go back to basics. They practiced the fundamentals of basketball, emphasizing repetition and quickness. This coach knew that for the team to get better, each player had to get better at his individual role. When each player gets better at the fundamentals, the team, collectively, gets better. This coach even referred to the Papa John’s pizza shop slogan, reminding his team, “Better ingredients, better pizza.”  This holds true for our teams just as it does for our favorite recipes – the better the input, the better the output.  The better our team members, the better the results they produce.

As leaders, it’s easy for us to focus on strategy, the long-term, the vision, and the big picture. And certainly, these are important things for leaders to emphasize. But these big picture initiatives cannot compensate for poor fundamentals. If the fundamentals, the basics, are not mastered, it will be hard to succeed at the big picture strategy.

Don’t forget about the fundamentals. Like Northwestern, sometimes you have to go back to basics to make sure the foundation is in place. This solid foundation, built on sound fundamentals, will prepare the way for long term strategic success.

Thanks for reading,
Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
Blog –
Facebook – JVEarleConsulting
Book – 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football,


2 thoughts on “Northwestern and @coach_collins go back to basics

  1. Coach John wooden used to spend time at the beginning of every season at UCLA teaching his players how to tie their shoes properly. If he ever saw a player in a game with their shoes untied, they were benched. Every little detail matters.

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