As a lifelong athlete and somewhat obsessive sports fan, I am always fascinated with the NCAA tournament.  This year, like most, has been an amazing collection of twists and turns and Cinderella stories.

I went to the University of Arizona for a couple years, so that really is the team I follow the most.  Unfortunately, they lost in overtime to Wisconsin in one of the best college basketball games I have ever seen.  For those who aren’t so into it, the Final Four teams play next weekend in Texas to determine the national championship.  Those teams include Florida, UConn, Wisconsin, and Kentucky.

Watching Kentucky win a thriller over Michigan last night, I was struck by the parallels between what TeamBuilding ROI does and what these college coaches do.  In particular, the coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, is a team builder in the truest and  purest sense of the term.

The rules in College and the NBA dictate that a player may no longer go directly from high school into the pros.  He must spend at least one year in college before making the leap to the NBA, regardless of what the demand might be for his talents.  This is an interesting “right-to-work” discussion (How can you deny someone the right to pursue their career by a year?), but that is not the purpose of this blog.

Coach Calipari has unabashedly embraced the notion of taking NBA-level talent that cannot yet go to the next level and making them into a team.  They call this the “One And Done” philosophy of recruiting, as most Kentucky Freshmen stay there one year and try the luck in the NBA when they are done.

There are pros and cons to Calipari’s approach, to be sure.  He recruits some of the best players in the country to come there, but he really only has one season with them.  So watching him mold 18 year old kids over the course of 6 months into a cohesive unit is amazing.  He takes athletes that come from environments where they are clearly THE MAN and teaches them to defer, be team players, not worry about getting their points, and they thrive at KU.

Yes, Calipari has a somewhat dubious past in terms of recruiting violations, etc.  But you cannot deny the remarkable job he does within a very unique situation.  I watched KU play back in November, and while they had obvious talent, they were a mess.  Now, 4 months later, they are clearly firing on all cylinders.  They share responsibilities, pick each other up, play amazing team defense, and trust each other.  Sound like familiar tenets?  It’s team building, folks!

I will be watching along with millions of others next weekend.  Here’s to the best sporting event of the year!  Watch KU…they may not win it all, but they are a phenomenal example of what a team can do through hard work, sacrifice, and trust.  Swish!!!