Late at Night

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Over the past several days, you have seen 152,467 blog posts on Greg Smith's op-ed in the New York Times bemoaning the culture that had befallen Goldman-Sachs.  I'd much rather look at another, more positive culture - no, not Zappo's or Southwest - it's Michigan State basketball under Tom Izzo, yet again.

Over the past 15 years, MSU has reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament 10 times, with a possible 7th trip to the Final Four this year in that same time period.   One of the primary reasons for the success is predicated on a particular system that is adopted throughout the institution:
 “We just have a system down, and we use the same system but we tweak it here and there,” said Izzo, who breaks down film more like a football coach than a typical basketball coach. “I have a real confident belief that if we win the first game, that’s what I tell them: ‘You win the first game, I’ll get you through the second.’”
This devotion can be seen by some of the least appreciated members of the team - the student members.  Within minutes of the completion of the Big Ten Tournament, the student managers were in a van driving back to East Lansing to start putting together film of the opponents in the first weekend of the tournament for the coaches and players to watch:
Towels, water, errands and all the traditional manager duties are involved. But MSU also counts on its managers to record and dissect games of potential opponents — breaking them up into categories such as zone defense, man defense, made 2-pointers, missed 3-pointers, etc., and handing them off to (MSU Video Coordinator Jordan) Ott and the coaches for analysis.
After the victory on Thursday night over LIU-Brooklyn,  a similar process began:

While MSU’s coaches and primary players showered and prepared for media obligations, the team’s student managers created a basketball half-court in one of the Renaissance Downtown’s meeting rooms with duct tape. Assistant video manager and former Sexton head coach Doug Herner paced out the measurements, and a 3-point line, foul line, baseline and sidelines appeared on the carpeted floor. 

By the time Tom Izzo and his team arrived around 12:45, the walk-ons were ready to rehearse several plays of the Saint Louis offense at walking speed, with the regulars going through their defensive assignments. Then it was 1:15, bed time for the players and time for the coaches to really dig into some strategic nuances that might push No. 1 seed MSU (28-7) past No. 9 seed Saint Louis (26-7) in today’s NCAA Tournament third-round game at Nationwide Arena.

Finding individuals who are willing to take on this 40 hour a week task (plus extra during the postseason) at no pay is critical
Ott takes a month each fall to decide on his hires, for jobs that are not advertised. He wants people who are trustworthy, enthusiastic and hard-working. Love for basketball is a must.
However, there are long-term payoffs -  full time positions elsewhere:
When Auburn had a video opening a few years ago, its people called (MSU's Director of Basketball Operations Kevin) Pauga and asked which MSU managers didn't have jobs.

"That became their entire candidate pool," he said.

"The biggest compliment to those guys," MSU assistant coach Mike Garland said, is that when an NBA or college team has an opening, they always call MSU first. 'Who you got?'"
The real kicker in this story  is this...not only did current managers work on prepping the some 17 games of video they had on LIU-Brooklyn prior to last Thursday's match-up:
Some former managers even stopped by to help them start finding and logging game film into MSU’s computer system as soon as LIU-Brooklyn was announced as the Spartans’ first opponent.
Former employees...coming back...and no pay.

How many of your organizations can say they have alumni return to your place of employment to help out?

That's a true mark of a successful culture!



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