Remember Linsanity? That movement that took New York by storm for the length of 13 Knicks games back in February?
Please let the aftermath be a shining example of how not to develop your people and your teams.
The Knicks were a team built around superstar Carmelo Anthony (and his $18M+ annual salary) and Amare Stoudemire (with an equally ginormous salary). The team was muddling along through the early portion of the season at 9-15 until Anthony suffered an injury in a game against the Utah Jazz. With Stoudemire already out of action, little-used reserve guard Jeremy Lin took the reins of the team and led them on a streak of eight straight wins, sparking the Linsanity craze.
When Anthony returned to action the Knicks sputtered again. Jeremy Lin was still getting his share of playing time but clearly the focal point was Anthony and under his on-court direction the team went through a six-game losing streak. Lin’s shots were reduced and the team’s offense never really got back into sync with Anthony and Lin both in the lineup. The team was in such dysfunction that coach Mike D’Antoni resigned not long after “Linsanity” and was replaced by Mike Woodson. In March Lin was lost for the season with a knee injury, and while Anthony and Stoudemire led the team into the playoffs the spark was no longer there and they lost in the first round.
After the season the Knicks had the opportunity to match a contract offer sheet made to Lin by the Houston Rockets. Anthony referred to the contract offered to Lin as “ridiculous.” In addition, team president of basketball operations Donnie Walsh, the man that constructed the team, resigned to take a similar position with the Indiana Pacers.
Believe it or not, this was the short version of the Knicks saga. Between being a disruptive force in a team doing well in his absence, laying the groundwork for having a coach you don’t like resign, and speaking poorly on behalf of a former teammate who only wanted to win, Carmelo Anthony has certainly failed to surround himself with an atmosphere conducive to teamwork, cooperation, cohesion, and winning. He has a lot of pull within the organization because of his salary, but wouldn’t it be more beneficial if the team higher-ups (like owner James Dolan and formerly Donnie Walsh) had a strong team blueprint that they followed for success instead of giving into the demands and complaints of the team superstar?
Principle #9 from The Toyota Way states “Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.” By not having a team philosophy and organizational leaders that thoroughly understood and lived it, the Knicks were already behind. That said, the on-court success is the tail that wags the dog – an organization can win a championship on the court despite having significant dysfunction in the front office (although it’s not likely and certainly wasn’t the case here.)
The Knicks showed they were better off with Anthony out of the lineup and Jeremy Lin running the show. He made everyone around him better. He took a lot of shots when Anthony was off the court, but the team results speak for themselves.
“Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.”
Jeremy Lin better understood the flow of coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense and how to make it succeed. Coach D’Antoni provided the on-court blueprint and Jeremy Lin followed it to the tune of eight straight victories. Carmelo Anthony didn’t follow it and it showed.
A philosophy that is taught by leaders that believe in it and followed by people and teams has a stronger chance for success than a set of people and teams pulling in different directions than their leader.