The Wisdom of Coaches
Top local coaches—from Ozzie Guillen and Tom Thibodeau to Oliver Purnell and Kelly Amonte Hiller—reveal sacred truths about perseverance, motivation, the importance of hard work, the value of failure, and more
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POSITION Senior adviser of hockey operations, Chicago Blackhawks
STATS Winningest coach in NHL history; led teams to nine Stanley Cup championships
I never wanted to work with someone who would give me lip service. I wanted healthy discussions.
You need a lot of help. Even now on teams, the coaching staff is probably more important than just the coach.
I wasn’t a pep-talk guy. I liked to have contact with the players, not to socialize, but all business. Players can’t be wondering what you’re thinking of them. I’d say, “Look, this is what you did the last month or ten games” and motivate that way. I reviewed performance.
I often wonder if a corporation that owns a franchise can ever be as successful [as an individual owner]. The guys at the bottom have to know who their leader is.
Some people like to motivate by pushing people to the limit. But I don’t think you have to do it any one way. I think you have to be yourself. I can’t emphasize that enough.
When I got older, I always asked myself, “How will I know when I don’t want to coach anymore?” In 2002, all of a sudden I thought, Hey, this is going to be my last year coaching. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t think you can fret over decisions like that. Just let it be.
I was more insistent about motivating the team when things were going well. I wanted to make sure we never underestimated the team that was down in the standings. That was the game I would put a lot of preparation into. Conversely, if we were playing against a top team, I’d lay off a little bit. You want the players to relax. In those situations, it’s a lot like golf: If you stand over the ball and think of five or six things you have to do, you’re probably not going to hit it as well.
Early in my career, I made a point of hanging around people who were successful, and I got lucky. I learned a lot. One thing that stuck with me: There’s nothing so uncertain as a sure thing.
I was always trying to be innovative. The guy who comes up with an idea or suggestion before the other guy has the edge.
Photography: Courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks