5 Keys to Building a Culture of Success

How do successful coaches do it? How can they win consistently and sometimes without even a rebuilding year?

Recent seasons have seen men's college basketball programs like Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina march on toward Final Four aspirations despite losing many of their players after just one or two seasons to the NBA.

How do they reload, and then get the new players to buy in so fast?

Kentucky coach John Calipari recently provided some insight on his website, CoachCal.com. In a recent post, he outlined his five keys for building a culture for success—creeds that have served him well in successful stints at Massachusetts, Memphis and now with the Kentucky Wildcats.

Here were his keys:

Players First

"Players first basically means creating a family," Calipari writes. He compares his players to his own children, saying that while we love them and respect them, "we have a job, which is to get them to learn and grow."

Unbreakable Work Ethic

Calipari is adamant that he promises nothing to the players he recruits, even the ones who are wanted by every big school in the country. When you don't hand anything to them on a silver platter, they know that whatever they want—playing time, shots, a starting role—it must be earned.

"A lot of them come in with the idea that they have to work," Calipari writes. "That's how that culture is built."

Burning Desire to Win

Calipari cites a conversation he had with former Manhattan coach (and current ESPN analyst) Fran Fraschilla about one of Calipari's teams at UMass.

Fraschilla said, "My players said it's like your team, if they lose, they're going to the electric chair." It's a need-to-win mindset that Calipari hopes all of his teams possess.

Devour Practice

Calipari acknowledges that there are some days when some of his players just won't feel like practicing. The key, he says, is to overcome that and "bring it every single day."

"Practice is where you break barriers daily," Calipari writes. "My best teams would just devour practices. They would set out to beat the practice every day."

Love of Team Before Self

Many coaches will agree with this—the best teams have players who don't care who scores the most points, who plays the most minutes, who starts and who doesn't.

Players like that are crucial to the success of a team.

"Each individual has to play for each other," Calipari writes. "They've got to become their brother's keeper."

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