From the Book Pile: Seven Seconds or Less

Jack McCallum. :07 Seconds or Less. New York. Touchstone, 2006. 320 pp. $19.99

D'Antoni & Nash

Sports Illustrated chief NBA writer, McCallum was allowed unprecedented access to the 2005-2006 Phoenix Suns.  McCallum, who has also provided in-depth looks at the 1990-91 Boston Celtics in Unfinished Business and 1992 Olympic team in Dream Team gives us a glimpse at coaching innovator, Mike D’Antonio, and his up-tempo offense that propelled Phoenix into the playoffs and helped Steve Nash win a surprising second MVP award.  It’s no coaching handbook on the up-tempo offense that helped transform the NBA, but it does provide a closer look at player/coach relationships, staff dynamics, and the everyday grind of professional basketball.

BASKETBALL – Good Shot, Better Shot . . . quickly!

Since I try to read a couple of books a week, books often stack up on my desk waiting to be read.  I’ve been intrigued by Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy for a while, but McCallum’s book has been in the pile, especially as all the principal characters have since moved on from the Suns.  As we started this season with a new group of players, I did a quick read as I looked for practical ways to input some of D’Antoni’s ideas.  I’m not completely there – I think I’m a little more comfortable with fifteen seconds or less, but I did find a couple of nuggets to consider in my coaching:

1.  Good Shot, Better Shot – I recently discussed shot selection in Good Shot, Bad Shot and helping players to take good shots, but can you do that in seven seconds?  D’Antoni stresses that there are good shots (shots before the defense sets up and occur before a turnover) and better shots – those that take one extra pass and one extra second to make.  I’ve already used that one with our team.

2.  Coaches Need to Keep Their Identity – D’Antoni’s staff had personality, differing opinions, and different styles.  I appreciate his willingness to allow for a diversity in spirit and player relationships.  I haven’t always experienced that.

3.  Today’s Coach Must Be Positive – D’Antoni showed an ability to push and press his players, without berating them and flying off the handle.  Basketball is often a grind and it requires a sense of humor to roll with the ups and downs and differing personalities.

LIFE & FAITH – Seven Seconds or Less

Here’s the real reason I wanted to write about this book.  God can use anything to get a message through to us and as I was reviewing D’Antoni’s philosophy, I was hearing something deeper.  The Seven Seconds or Less concept is a high energy, aggressive, and attacking style of play.  It picks up tempo and it requires quick adjustments.  While these days most of us are over-scheduled and living moment to moment, how could this help any of us?

Eddy Morgan, is the new baseball coach at Concordia, He’s Mr.Acronym!  And my favorite expression he uses is G.R.I.N.D. (Get Ready, It’s a New Day!)  That little seven second phrase helps me get going when things are dragging, like weeks of preseason practice with no games or day after day of shuttling the kids everywhere.  It’s a grind, but every day is new!  While I looked at the concept of playing faster, Seven Seconds in my personal life is really a call to slow down.  In seven seconds, I can turn my attitude around and in seven seconds, I can quickly connect with the ultimate power source in God.

MosesMoses knew something about the grind, too.  We tend to think of Charlton Heston leading the Israelites through the Red Sea, but just think about the GRIND the real Moses dealt with!  Wandering around, trying to lead a group of complaining people through the wilderness?  Talk about monotony!  These days, I fight the monotony of mid-life, which is right where Satan wants me.  Have I accomplished much in my life?  Am I using each day to show God’s love?  Am I bored?  C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters about “the long, dull, monotonous years . . are  excellent campaigning weather for the Devil.”  But, like Moses, all I need is a quick prayer, a quick connection with God.  In the middle of the wilderness, Moses prayed a remarkable prayer we now know as Psalm 90 which begins with this incredible little seven second gem

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (vv. 1-2)

That’s all I need – a quick little reminder that God is God and He always has been. For me, that breaks up the monotony.  That helps me get through the mid-life grind by acknowledging God’s purpose and design.  I have no right to be bored or frustrated with life.  That certainly is not why He created me!

My spiritual takeaway from the Seven Seconds or Less philosophy is to equip myself with short little prayers that I try to use throughout the day.  They may be from the Psalms, from a popular Christian song, or more personal like “God, help me love this person who is really frustrating me right now!”  My challenge to you? What can you do in Seven Seconds or Less?

And for basketball fans, here’s a quick flashback to how amazing Steve Nash was in 2005-2006 as depicted in the book.  It’s still incredible!