By Arron MacDonald
Coach MacDonald shares some of his recommended reads for basketball players and coaches alike...
“It’s my child’s birthday soon, I wanted to get them something basketball-related.”
“What should I get them for Christmas?"
Most coaches I know get asked this kind of question frequently... player's partners, parents, friends and families speak to me in person, email me and drop me messages on social media, asking what they should buy the basketball addict in their life.
I appreciate that I'm trusted enough by people to give them an insight as to what I'd look at for them (and I highly recommend our store, by the way!), but there's one thing I always suggest people go for - which is a book.
It's often met with a quizzical look when I say this... I guess either people don't think I'm a reader, or that many basketball players are?
Regardless, I thought this was a great opportunity to share the books that I recommend most frequently...
Jon Gordon - The Energy Bus
I'm truly jealous of Jon Gordon's ability to convey an idea concisely, step-by-step and simply enough to be communicated to just about anybody. I simply cannot edit my messages in the same manner - it's a skill I haven't got yet.
The Energy Bus is the first of his books that I read, and I've implemented actions from it with several of the teams I've worked with, as well as sending copies to players who really struggled staying focused and positive.
I've recently been mentoring a former player of mine who's just begun their journey into coaching, and while there was a number of books that were recommended to them, I was amazed that this wasn't on the list! Every coach I've mentored or worked with has had a copy of this, and just like me, they've passed messages from The Energy Bus along to their teams.
Malcolm Gladwell - David & Goliath
Gladwell has written a number of my favourite books... I've got my good friend (and former coaching colleague at Ipswich) Joe Bentley to thank for sharing his work with me initially.
In David & Goliath, he zooms in on the misconception of underdogs, and the manner in which they've approached their challenge, whether that's been (current Sacramento Kings owner) Vivek Ranadive getting his daughter's under 12's basketball team into the National Championships, or the biblical tale of David & Goliath (which is explored in detail in the introduction), Gladwell shows how our perceptions of the situation significantly affect our expectations of the outcome of any competition.
James Kerr - Legacy
I've written about the lessons I've learnt from the All-Blacks a number of times.
While the recent Amazon series was a useful insight to how a team widely considered to be the greatest in world sport operates, I took far more from "Legacy" from a standpoint of team culture and player expectations.
It speaks volumes that this book appears on every Coach's recommended reading list.
Bill Simmons - The Book of Basketball
As a huge fan of Boston sports, I am naturally a huge mark for Simmons' work.
This book is not small, and is not a quick read, but really comes across more as a series of related long-form articles, split into a few chapters.
I'm a particular fan of his discussion around the greatest teams ever, his "Pyramid" Hall of Fame idea, discussing players like fine wines, and just that somebody has taken a deep-dive into what used to be the (occasionally heated) hoops discussions my friends and I would have over a few drinks on a night out.
Alex Ferguson - Leading
Sir Alex Ferguson is, in my opinion, the greatest sporting leader I have ever seen.
Between his focus and determination to achieve the "impossible dream" of toppling Liverpool, that he evolved over time and (unlike many of his contemporaries) was never "past his best" or out of touch is a lesson to all leaders.
The fan in me would have rather read a book of him recanting private stories from the locker room and training ground, though I respect him even more for keeping those things to himself.
Sam Walker - The Captain Class
I’m working through this at the moment... this gives a surprising insight into the similarities (and differences) between great teams across Sports and what truly drives winning.
David Halberstam - The Breaks of the Game
"Breaks" is a heart-wrenching look at Portland's Championship team, and what happened to the team after the ring was won...
If Sir Alex Ferguson's story of dynasty-building would let anyone think for a moment that this was easy, "Breaks" reminds us all that luck might be the single biggest factor in building successful teams.
Gary Mack - Mind Gym
As a younger player, I struggled MASSIVELY in keeping my emotions in-check from play-to-play. I got involved in trash talking, picking up unsportsmanlike and technical fouls (and the suspensions that follow those things) far too often.
A team-mate of mine, Stuart Malone, gave me a copy of Mind Gym... and I think I've passed on a dozen or more to my team-mates and players, there's even a copy I left for the basketball academy at Copleston harking back to my time at Ipswich.
"Mind Gym" is a series of teachable moments which can be used away from the court, in the build-up to a game, or the aftermath of it, to help athletes become mentally stronger.
Jon Gordon & Mike Smith - You Win in the Locker Room First
With how many of Jon Gordon's books I've read, I'm amazed that he's only popped-up twice...
In "Locker Room" he pairs with former NFL coach Mike Smith to specifically look at team-building... this is a must read for coaches and leaders everywhere.
Coach K - Beyond Basketball
Coaching, and leadership, is often seen as the "Art of Storytelling".
In Beyond Basketball, Coach K shares a collection of short stories and lessons in team-building and leadership, which ring true at any level and in any situation.
The stories have sufficient depth and detail to engage, but are short enough to remember and pass back to your players and team-mates.