The Unreleased Ron Adams #3: How players and coaches handle pressure

From right after Game 2 of the 2019 Finals

Ron Adams is the legendary assistant coach whom Steve Kerr brought with him when he began with the Warriors. I’ve always enjoyed his scholarly and thoughtful discussions of basketball. Here’s a little intro to coach Adams if you need one:

The Story So Far

The series of exclusive, unreleased Ron Adams chats so far:

This was from an exclusive interview I had with Coach Ron Adams right after Game 2 of the 2019 Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.

How Players Handle Pressure

Eric Apricot: I want to ask about pressure. People always talk about pressure on the players. Do you have any advice that you give players? Or do you let them work it out themselves?

Ron Adams: That’s a hard one. We never discuss that aspect. It’s a given. Some players handle it better than others. You know, it’s something that you work on doing. All of us.

As a coach, I’m older so it’s a little bit different for me, because I kind of don’t get as uptight as I used to. Although I can, but it’s different.

And also, like in this setting [smack in the middle of their 5th consecutive NBA Finals] we’ve done well for so long that we have a good feel of routine, and even during the real low spots you know who you are, and you can bounce back and do stuff, so there’s some confidence in that. Yeah, a big part of it is handling the pressure.

And I don’t know if the pressure is greater on the court or in the social media. So you have a completely different dimension now players have to handle. Because a lot of the guys seemingly like to read about the criticisms coming to play. So I don’t know if that helps them relax or not.

How Coaches Handle Pressure

Eric Apricot: Do you feel pressure as a coach on the sidelines?

Ron Adams: I do. I feel the pressure of wanting to help my team succeed. The other external pressure, this pressure…

In this league if you’re going to ride the emotional rollercoaster of “I’m really happy with my win”, “I really feel terrible when I lose”… it’s pretty difficult. Because it’s just one line, you feel gratified when when you win, can’t get too low when you lose because it’s always the next game. You have to keep that balance, because it’s a healthy balance and this league is an up and down league. It’s competitive and the margin for error is thin. 

Eric Apricot: Do you have a personal way of handling pressure in the moment?

Ron Adams: Trying just to focus on the game and see what’s happening in the game, being able to tell players the right things at the right time. Again, it’s easier for me now. I will try to be objective about the game, and analyze the game that’s taking place.

Then all the preparation after, and the film work and so on, to make the game simple. To break it down in simple fashion so that you can impart that to the guys because you can’t do… you want it simple and concise and reassuring. 

More on Pressure

Here is Steph and Daveed Diggs(!) talking about performing under pressure.

Here is a great video from NBA’s Open Court where a group of great players talk about their most pressure filled moments.

Finally, I love Ron Adams’s description of the ideal way for coaches to talk to the players: “simple and concise and reassuring”. Poetic and precise.


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