Some treat it like a national holiday.  Meetings get cancelled.  People head home early.  Traditions abound.

One of my traditions for Duke-Carolina Day is to re-visit the story of that especially famous game back in 1974.  Not just because it’s famous, but also because of its benefit for people in business who are frequently faced with tough goals and deadlines.   Many managers, teams and individuals give up or stop too soon.  I’ve certainly done it many times. Pushing to the end (and preparing for it) is both an art and a science.  Well demonstrated in the story below.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of talking with former Carolina basketball player and coach, Phil Ford.  We were looking  lessons from basketball that could be applied in business.  It was fascinating.  So many parallels, so many instructional and inspirational lessons, that the interview became the basis for a mini-audio e-book for business.

At one point during the interview, when we were talking about the importance of preparation and practice, I asked Phil about that famous aforementioned game. At the time, he had committed to Carolina but was still a senior in high school and was watching it at home on television.  With only seventeen seconds left in the game, Carolina  was losing by eight points.   Most everyone thought it was over.  Phil certainly did.   In fact, he turned off the television and went outside to wash his father’s car. 

While he was outside, Carolina fought back to within two points.  And then…..with only  three seconds left in the game, Walter Davis (look for #24 in picture below) took an at-the-buzzer-shot from 25 feet away. 

He made it!    There was no three point shot then.  So the game was tied.

Phil came back into the house and watched Carolina win during overtime.

Phil said that the players could pull off amazing things like that in extremely high pressure situations because of practice where  Coach Dean Smith would say something like, “Okay- let’s pretend it’s the last 5 minutes.”  He would put the time and the score on the clock and they would play from there. The whole thing would be videotaped and critiqued.
Phil said he couldn’t think of one thing that happened in a basketball game that they hadn’t gone over in practice.  
Coach Smith prepared the team with a vision and a plan.   The plan was practiced.  Over and over.  So that in a game, during a time out, when everyone else thought it was over,  Coach Smith reminded the team of the many times they had run through the exact same situation before,  giving the team belief and confidence that they could push through. 
It didn’t always result in a victory but without the final push (and the prep for it); there would have been no chance.
Practice, rehearsal, role plays, videotapes, critiques…good for business and basketball.

Let’s hope our team has done enough of it for tonight.

And then – what about you and your team?   What kinds of things do you do to prepare and be ready to push if needed?

Photo: From The Dean’s List.  Used with permission from author, Art Chansky.