Frank Haith Talks Leadership

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

There was no parade for Frank Haith after he was hired as University of Missouri basketball coach in April 2011. At the time, Missouri fans expected a high-profile hire like Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter, not a coach mired in an NCAA scandal  and coming off a 4-12 season at Miami. But Haith exceeded all expectations in his first year, leading Mizzou to a 30-5 season and winning Associated Press Coach of the Year. On Thursday at the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business, Haith talked about his leadership philosophy.

Haith Rule 1: Understand what you can’t control and have faith in what you can control

Haith said he didn’t let Mizzou fan’s outrage discourage him. In fact, he said he used their anger as motivation.

“I was not angry at all,” he said. “I was excited about their (the fans) enthusiasm.”

Haith acknowledged that when he arrived, many of the players felt “hurt” because of Mike Anderson’s departure to Arkansas. Haith couldn’t fix those feelings, but he worked quickly to get the players to buy into his methods and leadership ability. He reached out to the team and told them how the program would be run. Almost all of the players decided to stay.

“I only worry about what I can control,” he told the business students. “I was confident in myself.”

Haith Rule 2: Build trust

The first thing Haith did when he came to MU was build trust. He brought in two Navy Seals to run his team through a series of trust building exercises. In one exercise, athletes had to remove sweatsuits with the help of their teammates in 12 feet of water. Some of the players couldn’t swim. Ricardo Ratliffe for example, couldn’t swim and he had a tough time trusting because of family issues, according to Haith. But by the end of the year, Ratliffe had complete trust in his teammates and that affected how the team played on the court, the coach said.

For example, Haith said if Phil Pressey was running a fast break, he knew Kim English would be waiting for a pass in the corner.

Haith Rule 3: Be consistent

Haith is a calm and collected guy. His voice doesn’t oscillate like many other basketball coaches. Instead, he strives to lead by example.

“My style as a coach, I’m not a yeller or a screamer,” he said. “I’m a teacher. I stay consistent with my preparation and that follows down.”

Haith strives to stay consistent because he wants his players to follow his example. He believes that in a basketball game, shooting percentages and rebounding rates can fluctuate, but his players can always out-work their opponents if they maintain a consistently high effort.

“We have to be consistent in the effort game… taking charges, getting loose balls and blocking out,” Haith said. “We may not shoot great every night but we can win the effort game.”

Haith Rule 4: Be open and warm

Haith isn’t a pushy leader. He said that when he was growing up, he had a basketball coach who was like a father to him and he strives to fill that role in his players’ lives.

“You’re going to see my heart and I’m going to see yours,” Haith said.

Haith Rule 5: Family work life balance is very important

Haith said the support of his family helped him overcome adversity and lead Mizzou to a successful season.

“Faith and family gave me the strength to endure and focus every day,” he said.

Haith Rule 6: Recruit others to lead when you’re not around

Haith makes players take an oath before the season. They must promise not to harm the team with negativity and always stay positive. They must pledge to overcome adversity. The oath helps the team function, but in order for it to be successful the players must live the oath even when Haith isn’t around. On last year’s team Kim English communicated Haith’s message when he wasn’t around.

“Kim came a long way in just one year,” Haith said. “He became a locker room guy. He had the same feel communicating to the team (as Haith). Leadership doesn’t just happen in the locker room; it also happens in the restaurants,” Haith added.

Haith Rule 7: Success is rented, not owned

Haith believes strongly that one good season isn’t enough to stop pushing yourself.

“Success is not owned,” he said. “It is rented and you have to pay rent every day. I spend a lot of time watching other teams. Great coaches always steal from one another. If you think you know everything you will get beat.”


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