4 slam-dunk tips for HR pros from Spurs’ NBA success

I’m a Wake Forest basketball fan from way back, so I’ve followed Tim Duncan’s professional career closely since 1998. All the sports fans out there are well aware by now that Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA title last night in convincing fashion over the Miami Heat. All the Spurs’ titles have come during Duncan’s career, and Duncan has only known one coach–Greg Popovich–since San Antonio selected him first in the 1997 NBA draft. shutterstock_173318291

The Spurs’ success since 1998 offers several tips and pointers for HR professionals. I list several below, in no particular order:

Continuity. The Spurs have maintained a remarkably consistent core during their 17-year run of success. They have had one coach, and Duncan has anchored the team in the middle the entire time. Early in their run, the Spurs built around Duncan and Hall of Famer David Robinson, a lifer in his own right. After Robinson retired, the Spurs’ core has included Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, also Spurs lifers with no plans to head anywhere.

Acceptance of change. The fluid motion offense that gutted the Miami Heat bears little resemblance to the more plodding offenses the Spurs ran earlier in their run. At that point, Duncan and Robinson controlled the paint, defense was king, and their ball movement was focused on passing through Duncan or Robinson in the post. Today, the Spurs employ a more up-tempo style that features Tony Parker’s lightning quickness.

Assimilation of new talent. While the core remains the same, the NBA salary cap forces all teams to make some hard roster decisions. The Spurs have thrived by grafting serviceable, hardworking under-the-radar players onto their roster’s core. However, they do so by being choosy about who they bring in–it’s generally recognized around the league that you are going to change to become a Spur; they won’t change just to land you.

Casting broad new for talent. I suppose you could file this one under “diversity.” The Spurs have players on their roster from the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, France, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, and Australia. This is not happenstance, nor is it done for its own sake. First, the Spurs’ style lends itself well to players who grew up in the international game. Second–and let’s face it–San Antonio is a fine place but not on par with endorsement-rich NBA cities like New York, Chicago, LA, or Miami. The Spurs have to look for folks who fit their style and are hungry for a chance to play in the league. They’ve done quite well, thank you very much.

Overall, then, you may look to the Spurs for your own purposes. Do you have core talent committed to the organization and your mission? Are these folks accepting of change? Similarly, when you bring in new talent can you get them to buy in to your way of doing things? Finally, are you looking in all–and I mean all–the right places to find the talent you need? It’s not easy, but here’s an example to all for how you can make it work.

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