by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, November 17, 2009

As a fan of all things “The Sports Guy,” I recently picked up Bill Simmons new book, “The Book of Basketball” which details his fascination with the NBA. One of the early chapters focuses on “The Secret” of basketball, which Simmons learned from Isiah Thomas at a topless pool in Vegas.

What is "the Secret?"

According to Isiah, “The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball.”

Isiah details the impact of creating the right team in The Franchise by Cameron Stauth:

“It’s not about physical skills. Goes far beyond that. When I first came here, McCloskey took a lot of heat for drafting a small guy. But he knew that the only way our team would rise to the top would be by mental skills, not size or talent. He knew the only way we would acquire those skills was by watching the Celtics and Lakers, because those were the teams winning year in and year out. I also looked at Seattle, who won one year, and Houston, who got to the Finals one year. They both self-destructed the net year. So how come? I read Pat Riley’s book Show Time and he talks about “the disease of more.” A team wins it one year and the next year every player wants more minutes, more money, more shots. And it kills them. Our team has been up at the Championship level four years now. We could have easily self-destructed. So I read what Riley was saying, and I learned. I didn’t want what happened to Seattle and Houston to happen to us. But it’s hard not to be selfish. The art if winning is complicated by statistics, which for us becomes money. Well, you gotta fight that, find a way around it. And, I think we have. If we win this, we’ll be the first team in history to win it without a single player averaging 20 points. First team. Ever. We got 12 guys who are totally committed to winning. Every night we found a different person to win it for us.”

For years, the Detroit Pistons struggled to beat the Celtics and Lakers until Jack McCloskey, Pistons GM, made a controversial in-season trade of Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre. Simmons writes “Maybe Dantley was a better player than Aguirre, but Aguirre was a better fit for the 1989 Pistons. If they didn’t make that deal, they wouldn’t have won the championship. It was a people trade, not a basketball trade.”

Simmons identified three characteristics about successful teams that went beyond talent:

  1. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else.
  2. They won because their players sacrificed to make everyone else happy
  3. They won as long as everyone remained on the same page

Team Chemistry

Clearly, Simmons feels chemistry is crucial to the success of the team.

A recent SHRM poll “Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts for Job Seekers,” finds that a majority of HR professionals use chemistry as a major determinant in the hiring decision.

A closer look shows that 15 percent of HR professionals polled say “chemistry” is 75 percent of the final hire decision while 39 percent of those polled report chemistry is 50 percent of the final decision.”

The Questions

How does one determine that chemistry? Can one easily find those willing to know their role and value team success over their own self-serving interests, particularly in a job interview?

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