League games begin for CSU Monterey. Next blog will be Tuesday.
The late Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly once said, “A pessimist is an optimist with experience.” Although outwardly Chuck was one of the great worriers - even when his great Pistons teams were the NBA’s most dominant team - in truth, Chuck Daly was a closet optimist. He was kind enough to allow our staff at the University of Toledo to travel north each year to watch the Pistons’ training camp. It was during the heyday of the “Bad Boys” and, while Chuck’s preseason media quotes were always guarded, he would let on to us during our visits that he felt his guys could win it all. Of course, back pedaling just a little, with the stipulation that everybody stayed healthy, they caught a few breaks here and there, etc.
As coach of the (original) Dream Team, he knew he had the best team, by far, in the Olympic Games. Outwardly, he might have shown some trepidation but, after the gold medal ceremony, he revealed one of his main goals: to never call a time out throughout the entire tournament. In reality, most coaches are optimists. I remember talking to a coach from another conference who had been at his job for five or six years with only limited success. During the final season his team had won one game. He shared with me his response to AD after hearing he was being terminated. He said that, while he understood why the action was being taken, his boss had made a big mistake because he was just about to turn the program around.
Long ago I heard a speaker say there were three types of people in the world: one type made things happen, the second type watched things happen and the third type sat around, saying, “What happened?” Nelson Mandela, who passed away yesterday after giving humanity 95 years on this earth, wasn’t just in the first group, he was its leader. One reason was his eternal optimism.
Warren Bennis, former head of the Leadership Institute at USC used to say a leader’s job is as a purveyor of hope. While that’s very well-stated, what’s left unsaid is how difficult that job is. Nelson Mandela not only gave people hope, but his actions illustrated the inner strength that a leader must also possess. Maybe his legacy is best said through one of his famous quotes:
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”