Coach K

by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter

The following is an excerpt from a recent Washington Post article by Barry Svrluga on the retirement of Coach K from the Duke men’s basketball program.  My friends from Duke will love this – my NC Tarheel friends, not so much.  But there are lessons here for our churches too.

“Coach K’s greatness was never his system. It was his willingness to evolve.  On the eve of the last of his 36 NCAA tournaments as a coach, the defining characteristic of Mike Krzyzewski is that he fits no mold…

He has more wins than anyone…Krzyzewski is a chameleon not so rooted in a stubborn, bedrock philosophy that he fears innovation…There’s wisdom in understanding the need for transformation, even for someone who already has proved himself among the best in his profession…circumstances can’t stay constant for more than four decades…He has unbelievable understanding of what you have to do and say in working with people… Part of leadership, though, is a person’s willingness — his confidence — to change and adapt…

Krzyzewski has also been smart enough to know that he can’t just bark at the system and make it conform. He has always molded his methods to meet the moment. That’s not inconsistency. It’s evolution…

Consider this transition: Krzyzewski’s shift from demanding graduation (of his players) to pursuing players who stay for a season before bolting for the NBA can be read as a double standard. It’s not. It’s an adaptation to a broader shift in what kind of college experience best serves the most talented teenage players…Krzyzewski changed and adapted to an environment that had shifted. A generation earlier, maybe the best way to serve a player who entered his program was to make sure he got his Duke degree and was prepared for a career, whether basketball worked out or not. But over the past decade, the best way to serve those players was to teach them good fundamentals and habits, give them freedom to maximize their talents on the court…and prepare them for their future…That includes resisting the easy path as you age, railing about the way things used to be while refusing to acknowledge how they are.”

Beloved Community, that’s evolutionary leadership.  Adaptive change.

So how might we exercise evolutionary leadership in our church?  How might we lead through adaptive change in the way we profess our faith outside the walls of our church?  In the way we exercise our mission, and our worship?  Are we “railing about the way things used to be”, or are we walking where God is walking in our churches, in our communities, in our lives – today? 

Beloved Community, if you want to grow as a church – what you used to do or used to have or insist is the “proper” way to worship won’t help you.  It’s time to acknowledge what needs to be done to bring the Word to a weary world today.  First – churches grow because the congregation grows the church – not your pastor, not your programs and not the preschools or non-profits you host.  It’s the people.  The relationships you form.  The conversations you have.  The care and prayer you offer. The invitations you make.

Are you willing to walk with your Lord wherever He leads you, as a church?  Or are you keeping the church stuck through human desires?

The articles goes on to talk about a time when the author witnessed Coach K, at the half-time of a tough game, talking to his players.  He didn’t yell.  He didn’t scold.  He pointed to each player and went around the circle, his voice rising. “You’re good. You’re good. You’re good! You’re good! You’re good!!”.  And he changed his strategy. He did it by reading the room, understanding that leading is also serving, and not digging in his heels but opening his mind.

They went on to win.