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Pillars

Most Wahoo fans know that Tony Bennett brought with him a coaching system constructed by his father, Dick Bennett, that ultimately rests on five philosophical principles. The Bennetts call them "pillars", a term they evidently borrowed from the great hoops philosopher John Calipari, who only has 3 pillars because that's as high as his players can count unless there's a stack of hundred dollar bills on the table.

As is also well-known, the Bennetts are quite Christian and Dick Bennett formulated the five pillars from his study of the Bible. He read, studied and thought about it, and distilled things down to these five pillars. I'm not a Christian, but I do believe that there are principles that apply to all people, that are present in all rational philosophies of life, and that provide a framework for a quality life. The five pillars identified by the Bennetts and underlying their philosophy of coaching are such principles, and Christian or not, are worth contemplation.

The success of any common endeavor requires people working together, committing some part of themselves to achieving a goal other than their own personal goals. The more competitive the arena within which they seek those goals, the more of themselves must be committed to the effort. A community whose members embrace, comprehend, and embody these principles is far more likely to be successful than one that does not.

For a player who takes the pillars seriously, they can have a major impact on his life. Justin Anderson in his rookie season with the Mavericks reflected on what the pillars meant for him:

"He spoke to us about the five pillars – thankfulness, unity, passion, servanthood, and humility. He could break them down in 15 minutes and make you understand how those five pillars will apply to literally every single thing you do in your daily life. They teach you how to have respect for yourself and how to have respect for others. But, at the same time, they teach you not to be someone who lays down to anything. You have to be tough, you have to be passionate about what you do. You learn to grow up, to be responsible, and you learn how to carry yourself both on and off the court. I was fortunate enough to absorb it all in three years before I made the decision to move on to the NBA. Those pillars are going to be a major reason why, outside of my talent and ability, I think I can play in this league for a long time."

Clearly these are not the only important principles, and they could be stated in different ways, but each has its power. The pillars are:

Humility

"Don’t think too highly of yourself." -Bennett.

As Harold Deane put it to a team of Charlottesville 13-15-year-olds, "There's always a bigger dog in the next county over." No matter how good you are, there's always someone who can take you down. No matter how much you know, or what power you have, or what amazing things you can do, there's always so much more you can never know, greater power than you can ever wield, and so many more things you will never be able to do. The better you are, the more you need to be conscious of humility, because it's what keeps you doing the little things that made you great to begin with. It also makes you a better teammate to be around.

Great play requires humility. The play at the end of the Clemson (2016/3/1) game resulting in Hall's dunk shows how humility produces great play, and brings glory to the individual. Perrantes could have thought, "I got the screen, I should drive off it and take the big shot." He didn't. He gave it up to Gill who was open rolling down the lane.

Gill could have thought, "I'm the senior star and have a clear lane to the basket. They have to foul me to stop me, I should take the big shot." But he didn't. He gave it up to Hall who was uncontested cutting along the baseline.

Each man made the simple, humble play, and it resulted in a great play that brought glory to all of them.

In a Sabre article just before the loss to Cheatolina in the ACC Final, Bennett related this pillar to one of his team's greatest strengths: its versatility:

[Versatility] wouldn’t work if players didn’t accept that their roles may vary. Virginia coach Tony Bennett believes that is a key to make versatility equal actual playable depth.

“Our program, we base it on what we call pillars,” Bennett said. “The first one is humility. They don’t think too highly of themselves or too low. They have a true identity. I love guys that have humility like that. They’re willing to buy in and they’re passionate. That’s our second pillar. I could go through all of them. I love that they’re humble. I mean that. That’s a position of great strength. A lot of people think it’s a weakness. True humility is strength. These guys are humble in the right way. They play that. That’s where you start. We can go through adversity with them. We can go through success with them.”

Passion

"Don’t be lukewarm." -Bennett.

Passion. We call it energy. It's what gets you through when you just want it to be over. It's the love of the game.

Unity

"Basketball is one of the greatest team games there is because there can be individual talent, but boy, if the guys come together, they can be so good together. And they can overcome more talent or tough situations." -Bennett.

The best way to achieve our individual goals is to commit ourselves to the accomplishment of a common goal.

Servanthood

"Whatever your role is, be a servant to the team and make your teammates better." -Bennett.

This one is probably the toughest for a lot of players to take. When you're a stud and you come in expecting to be in the primary rotation, then you find yourself as a junior leading the scout team, that's got to be tough to take. I bet the last thing you want to hear is your coach telling you to be a servant to the team. "But I want to play, coach!"

But a lot of times, things just don't work out the way you wanted them to. Sucks. But if you continue to give to the group the best that you have, things will work out positively for you. Adapt. The better your group, the better it will be for you.

Thankfulness

"Be thankful certainly when there’s great success, but also be thankful for what you’ve learned through the hard times, because there’s great wisdom in those experiences." -Bennett.

I read some research recently from some university research team that used brain imaging to suggest that feeling grateful is good for your brain. It makes you feel better. When your life has gone to shit, thinking about the good things you do have, and being thankful for those, makes you feel better. And when you feel better, you are better able to do the things you need to do to succeed.

That's really the bottom line of the pillars, the foundation slab upon which they are erected: they are principles of success, of power.

The pillars are something that I think about in relation to my own life. I work as part of a team in a litigation law firm. Our job is to go into a competitive arena and win. We must work together. These principles apply just as much in the legal arena as in the sports.

Because I do think about them, expect for content to be added here, as I come across a quotation that applies, or think of something to add.

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