We go through lots of challenges and adversities throughout every season of life.
It’s what we learn through the failures that make us a better leader.
Although we always want to have successes and celebrate them, we can’t overlook or forget the times we fall short.
Those are moments we need to reflect on constantly, so we can strategize in the future and really nail it the next time.
When we discover the right path, that’s when we can teach our lessons to others so they can avoid the pitfall.
Traditionally, in medieval times, a king would be the first person in the battle. He would show his men the right way to go – and knew he might not come back from his journey.
This willingness to take chances and not send other people to do their dirty work was how they were able to take command of massive groups of people and earn their respect.
A leader can’t be afraid to fail, and needs to be willing to show the way.
That’s why I’m excited to share some tips from someone who as been coaching for four decades: Coach Rick Pitino.
Coach Rick is a former American basketball coach. He’s been head coach of several teams in NCAA Division I and the NBA including Boston University, Providence College, The New York Knicks, University of Kentucky, The Boston Celtics, and University of Louisville. He is the only coach to lead three different schools to the final four.
In 2013, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is the author of the book Success is a Choice, he wrote an autobiography in 1988 called Born To Coach, and has a new book called My Story.
In this episode, we dive into what it takes to get the most out of someone’s abilities.
So get ready to learn how to be a better coach and a better leader on Episode 689.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 689, with Coach Rick Pitino.
Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now, let the class begin.
John Maxwell said, “A leader is one who knows the, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Today we’ve got a great coach on, his name is Coach Rick Patino, who is a former American Basketball coach, and he’s been a head coach of several teams in NCAA Division 1 and in the NBA, including Boston University, Providence College, the New York Knicks, the University of Kentucky, the Boston Celtics, and the University of Louisville.
He is the only coach to lead three different schools to a Final Four, which is massive and extremely hard to do. And in 2013 he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is the author of a book named, ‘Success Is A Choice’, and he did an autobiography in 1988 called, ‘Born To Coach’, and he’s got a new book out called, ‘My Story’.
And today we dive in about what it takes to get the most out of someone’s abilities as a coach. And this applies to whether you’re coaching someone as a teammate, you’re coaching someone in your business, at your work, whatever it may be. So, listen up, based on all ways of coaching.
Also, why delayed gratification is what we should be looking for, long term, over short term. What he enjoyed more, coaching in college versus the NBA, the greatest lessons we can learn through losing, and what he really learned through losing.
Also, how ego can get in the way of greatness, and the mental and emotional ability to rise above. Again, if you want to learn how to get the most out of people, then make sure you pay attention during this one.
Share it with your friends, tag me, @LewisHowes, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook; and the link is lewishowes.com/689. And let me know what you think.
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And, without further ado, let’s learn how to become a better coach and become a better leader, with Rick Pitino.
Welcome, everyone, back to The School of Greatness Podcast, we’ve got the legendary Coach Rick Pitino in the house! Good to see you, sir!
Coach Rick Pitino: Good to see you!
Lewis Howes: Very grateful that you’re here, and excited about all we’re going to talk about today. You’ve got an amazing story. You’ve been coaching for, is it four decades now?
Coach Rick Pitino: Right!
Lewis Howes: And is the stat correct that you’ve taken teams to the Final Four, over four decades, every decade, for four decades?
Coach Rick Pitino: I’ve taken three different universities to the Final Four, two different universities to the National Championship. They’re all different schools, although two are in Kentucky, and Providence College, a small school in Rhode Island.
They’re all different experiences, I’ve been to seven Final Fours, and each one has been unique.
Lewis Howes: Really? Does it ever get different? Does it ever feel easier, or are they all special?
Coach Rick Pitino: The last ones, you appreciate more. Because it’s gotten so big! You’re playing in front of 60/70 thousand people, covered all over the world. In the beginning, the first one I went to, wasn’t as big, but now it’s getting so big that the nerves after the sweet sixteen, really pick up.
Lewis Howes: You start feeling it, right? Yeah, and you were coaching when the three-point line was introduced. When was that? The 1980’s?
Coach Rick Pitino: 1987. We led the nation and, you’ll get a kick out of this, the first four Big East games we played, I think it was Luke Hanusek, Rollie Massimino, John Thompson, they didn’t make a three-point shot at all. They didn’t want to take it, they didn’t believe in it, they were totally against the rule.
I had a very mediocre team, and I said, “The one thing I can do, we’re going to lead the nation in three-point shooting.” We played the Russians in an exhibition game, and I said, “We’re going to take about twelve a game, and lead the nation.” I said, “Twelve to fifteen.” The Russians, they had an exhibition game because they’re used to the three-point line.
Lewis Howes: International players were already using it.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah. They took thirty-two in that game.
Lewis Howes: No way!
Coach Rick Pitino: So, I realised my analytics were way off, and I increased it. I said, “We have to take eighteen three’s a game, make seven or eight, and we’ll lead the nation.”
Lewis Howes: Wow!
Coach Rick Pitino: And a young man by the name of Billy Donovan, was an expert in not only passing it off to people to three-point line, but making it himself. And we led the nation that year, and it got us to the Final Four.
Lewis Howes: Where did you learn how to become such a great coach? Was there a mentor you had early on, or was it just by coaching and learning by tons of mistakes the first few years?
Coach Rick Pitino: That’s pretty much it, because I was a head coach at the age of twenty-four.
Lewis Howes: Really? I remember seeing that, and I was like, “Man! Right after college you were head coach!”
Coach Rick Pitino: I was Jim Boeheim’s first assistant, and then I got the head coaching job at Boston University at twenty-four, I was coaching players twenty-one and twenty-two years of age.
Lewis Howes: How is this possible? Because that wouldn’t happen today. Maybe like a thirty-one-year-old, maybe. And like, a D1 School, that’s really young!
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah. I got lucky, because my college coach was a great player at Boston University, and he recommended me. So, I got lucky with the job. It was all trial and error, not until I became the assistant coach of the New York Knicks.
Now, I learned all about the zone with Jim Boeheim, he was a great tactician, but I really learned basketball, from a scouting, motivational standpoint when I was assistant coach at Knicks with Hubie Brown. The two years I was with Hubie Brown, as his assistant with the Knicks, really was like going into a basketball library for two years.
Lewis Howes: Now, why the scouting, motivational side of things?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, the pros is all about scouting, it’s all about preparation, it’s all about motivating the pros, because they’re playing in 82 to 97 games, depending on the play-offs. And they’re fatigued. They’re constantly fatigued, and you’ve got to motivate them. What I call, “Find their motive and turn it into action.”
Because they’re all different. Patrick Ewing is much different to Mark Jackson. Mark Jackson’s much different than Charles Oakley. Charles Oakley was the physical presence on the team. And I remember calling Doug Collins and asking him about him, because we traded for him. And he said, “Coach, he’ll either kill you, or kill for you.”
So, Oak was going to be my best friend.
Lewis Howes: So, you’re more of a psychologist and anthropologist of understanding what makes people tick, as a coach?
Coach Rick Pitino: Very much so. I believe we all have our way of coaching. I’m a running, pressing coach, defence is a premium with us. But, to me, it’s all about getting the most out of someone’s abilities, and that’s the way I recruit. I don’t go, necessarily, after the top ten basketball players.
I go after guys, I learned a long time ago, Mario Gabelli, a financial investor in New York City, I went to him to try and invest Jamal Mashburn, one of my players’, money. Helen Mashburn asked me to find somebody to manage his money, and I visited Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Merril Lynch, at the time, and Mario Gabelli, Gabelli Assets, was the last person I visited in Rye, New York.
And I tried to sound intelligent, I was young back then, as a Kentucky coach, and I said, “Where do you get your talent from? University of Chicago? Harvard Business School? Wharton School?” He said, “Nah, not really,” and he took me to a back room, where everybody sat.
He said, “I look for PhD’s.” I said, “That’s strange, to look for PhD’s in your business.” He said, “Look, I look for Poor, Hungry and Driven people. I don’t care where they go to school.” And I changed it, to Passionate, Hungry and Driven people.
Lewis Howes: Oh, I like that!
Coach Rick Pitino: And I go after passionate, hungry, and driven athletes, who really want to pay the price to get somewhere. And then I put the team together.
Lewis Howes: How do you find that PhD? How do you find that in someone? Is it something they say? Is it the way they look at you? Is it the hunger they have?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well when I bring them in on a recruiting watch, I want them to just practice. We go really hard, and some players, right away, you can tell, they don’t want to work that hard.
Lewis Howes: Because if it’s not exciting to them, they’re out.
Coach Rick Pitino: They don’t want to work that hard. You can tell. You can check with other schools they’re interested in as well, and you watch practice and say, “Well, what do you think?” and they say, “Boy, you guys go really hard.”
When they say that, you know they’re not for you. When they say, “Boy, I really, really liked that intensity,” you know they’re for you.
Lewis Howes: Interesting. You create an environment for them so they can experience something, then you ask them those couple of questions to see how they’re going to respond.
Coach Rick Pitino: Very much so.
Lewis Howes: Now, what if they seem hungry, and then two weeks in, a month in, they start to realise, “Wow! This is a lot more than I thought. I thought I wanted this drive, but you’re putting me through the wringer, Coach, and I’m dead here!”
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, a lot of them go through that, the freshmen. Freshmen are like rookies in the pros, and they look for ways out, because they don’t see gratification right away. And these young people today, they want it now. They don’t want to start at the bottom and work their way up, they want to start in the middle and get up in two weeks.
Lewis Howes: They want to score twenty-five on the first day, and they want to be dunkin’ from their free throw in the line, in the game, everything, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Exactly. And it’s the ‘entitled generation’ where everybody talks about the entitlement of this generation. So you have to show them where it’s going to take them. You have to point it out to them, “Look, this is where you’re going to get.”
Lewis Howes: How do you get people to buy into a system, or a belief of the whole season, as opposed to one game where you’re going to score a bunch. How do you instil that belief in them?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, a lot of them want to transfer right away, because they’re not getting, if they’re not starting right away…
Lewis Howes: In the playing time.
Coach Rick Pitino: And it’s more, it comes today, believe it or not, from the parents. The parents call and they say, “How come he’s not playing?” And he’s going to play and he’s going to be terrific, but it’s going to take a little time.
A perfect example is this young man I coached, Russ Smith. I called him, ‘Rusticulous’. Didn’t play as a freshman, he knew he wasn’t going to play as a freshman, because I told him, and he wanted a transfer right away.
And I said, “Well, I told you you weren’t going to play as a freshman. There are better people ahead of you.” And the dad, fortunately, knew me real well as the Knicks coach, and he said, “Russ, you’re not transferring,” and he asked me, “Is he going to play next year?” And I said, “Well, he’s going to have to change his practice habits if he wants to play.”
He changed. Now, nobody recruited him at a high school, no big time schools. Well, he ended up a first team college All-American, first team.
Lewis Howes: Wow! Sophomore, or later?
Coach Rick Pitino: His senior year, wins the National Championship, goes to China and scores 61 a game, in China. So, he had a fantastic career, played in two Final Fours, and won a National Championship, but he wanted to leave, as a freshman.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it’s a delayed gratification, is what we should be looking for.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, I think you have to understand the journey you’re about to take, and it’s the last stop is where you want to get to, but you’re going to have to work along the way.
Lewis Howes: What’s the speech you give, the first day everyone’s together? What’s the message you send to people about the season and the journey? Especially in college.
Coach Rick Pitino: I meet with them individually, first. And I tell them, “I’m going to get you to where you want to go.” And, most of them, it’s the NBA. And if it’s a realistic thing, I say, “I’m going to get you there, but you’re going to have to put the time and effort, because you’re not ready to get there.”
So, in between classes, I put them through the player development workout.
Lewis Howes: A physical workout?
Coach Rick Pitino: It’s forty-five minutes of offensive basketball. It’s what you need to become a pro. But you’re going to need it five days a week, for as many years as you need to get there.
Lewis Howes: Wow! This is before practice?
Coach Rick Pitino: Before. In between classes.
Lewis Howes: Just, like, ball handling skills?
Coach Rick Pitino: We’ll do shooting, three-point shooting; we’ll do one-on-one moves, with the ball, without the basketball – and by that I mean you move without the ball, you’ll catch it, you’ll rip it, you’ll ball fake it, you’ll shout fake – I’ll put you through all the drills necessary.
Lewis Howes: The fundamentals.
Coach Rick Pitino: The fundamentals of becoming a really well-rounded basketball player.
Lewis Howes: Not just an athletic phenom, which a lot of these guys are. They’re probably just athletic freaks.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah. Great athletes don’t necessarily make it any more in the pros, because now, centres, back when I started coaching Patrick Ewing, you had Akeem Olajuwon, you had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you had all the great centres in the game, from Moses Malone. Today those guys and Shaquille O’Neal is probably the last dominating one.
Today the six-eleven and seven footers are shooting threes.
Lewis Howes: Shooting threes, yeah.
Coach Rick Pitino: You know, you have cousins shooting threes, you have Durant at six-eleven shooting threes. So the game has changed dramatically and these guys, no matter how tall they are, they want to perimeter a game and that’s what you try and teach them.
Lewis Howes: Why do they want that? Because they want to score more?
Coach Rick Pitino: Because they watch it on television, they watch it on TV.
Lewis Howes: It’s not as physical, it’s not as demanding on the body, you’re not getting fouled every other play, probably.
Coach Rick Pitino: It’s more glamorous.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, right! And when was the last time you were coaching in the NBA? Was it 2000?
Coach Rick Pitino: The last time I was coaching in the NBA was seventeen years ago, with the Celtics, eighteen years ago, and that was a different experience than the Knicks. Because I took over a program that won fourteen games, got it to 36, 38, but I was unhappy. I was also president of the Boston Celtics, and that was my big mistake. I shouldn’t have taken on that dual role.
Lewis Howes: The president and the head coach.
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I wasn’t ready to be an administrator. I wasn’t ready to run an organisation, and it took away from my feelings as a coach. I was making trades based on saving money. And, as a coach, your job is to win. You can’t pay attention to those other things.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, you’ve got to be working with the president, saying, “This is what I need to win, give me this.”
Coach Rick Pitino: Right, not worrying about saving the owner money or the salary cap.
Lewis Howes: That’s challenging! Wow! What did you enjoy more, coaching college athletes, or professionals?
Coach Rick Pitino: It’s going to sound a little trite, but wherever we won is where I enjoyed!
Lewis Howes: I like that answer!
Coach Rick Pitino: Because we won with the Knicks, we won the Atlantic Division Championship. We won in Providence, Kentucky; Boston University; but we lost with the Celtics, so I didn’t enjoy the last part, because we lost.
When you build a winning culture, the team gets along better, everybody strives for the common goal of winning, and it all comes together when you win. Your relationships are better, with the players; when you lose it goes the other way on you. Especially with professional sports.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned through losing?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, failure is fertiliser, there’s no question about it, to help other things grow. And you understand the steps – where you make your mistakes, and what not to do going down the road.
I’ll give you an example, I coached this young man, Bill Cartwright, with the Knicks. Seven-foot centre, great guy, and we had to have him for this game. We’re on a huge winning streak with the Knicks, and I called him. He missed walk-through.
He said, “Coach, I’m sick, I’ve got to stay in bed, I’m hoping to make the game.” I said, “Hey, Billy, you’ve got to make this game. We need you.” And he said, “Coach, I just need to relax.” I said, “Okay.”
Then, all of a sudden, I told the trainer. I said, “Look, we need to get him in to get a shot from the doctor, to stop his stomach problems, get him in early and get him in.” And Bill wanted to rest. So, you have to be your own messenger.
I now sent the trainer to go to him, get him into the city – he’s got to travel from New Jersey into the city, forty-five minute drive – he wasn’t up to it, he wanted to stay in bed. He gets him into [the city], and my whole thing was to see the doctor, get the right medication to help him feel better for the game.
Lewis Howes: Give him a chance of making it.
Coach Rick Pitino: To get in the game. Bill took it as I didn’t believe him that he was sick, because I wasn’t my own messenger, I sent the trainer. Trainer now relays the message, “Hey, Bill. Coach wants you in the city right away, to see the doctor.”
He didn’t say why we needed him, “I needed you, Big Bill, to play the game,” and the whole bit. So now he gets there, and he’s upset. I couldn’t figure out why. Two games go by and I said, “Bill, what’s the problem? We’re not on the same page here.”
He said, “You didn’t believe that I was sick.”
“Of course I believed, and I had the doctor see you right away so you could play in this game.”
He said, “Well, that’s not the way I took it. I took it that you didn’t believe I was sick and you wanted me to go see the doctor because you didn’t believe it.”
So, you have to be your own messenger, especially in the pros. In the pros, if you have a problem, you can’t let it fester. You deal with it right away, and you don’t understand the communication, you’ve got to let them talk. You have to be a great listener to be a pro coach.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Coach Rick Pitino: You have to. Because the guy, he’s not playing and he wants to know why he’s not playing, you’ve got to be a listener and you’ve got to explain it to him. College you don’t necessarily have to do that.
Lewis Howes: You don’t have to listen too much?
Coach Rick Pitino: You’re sort of a little bit more authoritative. You’re the father figure.
Lewis Howes: It’s your way.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, but in the pros, there’s so many personalities and everyone’s got an opinion and you need them to play for you as well. So you’ve got to listen to them.
Coach Rick Pitino: No question.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, wow. I wonder what happened with – not to comment on this – but with the Kawhi Leonard situation. Does he not communicate, or is he not…?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, he’s a quiet young man, from what I understand, but it all depends what age group you are. I remember asking Red Auerbach a big question, the legendary coach of the Celtics. I said, “Red, we’re losing, and these guys, they just don’t pay attention as well.”
He says this to me: he says, “You know what you should do? What I used to do when I coached Bill Russell and Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “You’re always sitting the guys down, diagramming plays, moving your magnetic pieces around, why don’t you let them stand up in the huddle and say, like I did, ‘Hey Cous, what do you think we should run? Havlicek what do you think we should run? Hey, Bill, what do you think we should run?’ Let them come up with the play.”
So, the next game we’re playing the Lakers at home, and so I’m going to try it. I sat the guys down, and I said, “Stand up,” and they were exhausted, because we had been in a great game. And I turned to Antoine Walker, who I had coached in college, Walter McCarty, Ron Mercer, three guys I had with Kentucky, are playing for me with the Celtics.
And I said, “Guys, what do you think we should run?” With our so many seconds left in the game, “What do you think we should run?”
Lewis Howes: Did their jaws drop? Because they’re like, “What are you asking us?”
Coach Rick Pitino: They didn’t answer me. They were staring at me. Finally, I said to Antoine, “Toine, what do you think we should run?” He says a profanity, which I won’t mention, he says, “Coach, you get paid to coach, we get paid to play. You come up with the damn play! We’re tired!”
So I called Red that night, and I said, “Red, you want to hear the answer they gave me?” He started laughing hysterically. He said, “Wait till they get a little older, they won’t shut up, they’ll all come up with different plays.”
Lewis Howes: They’ll all want to be the coach!
Coach Rick Pitino: “How the hell will we know? We’re tired. You come up with the play!”
Lewis Howes: Amazing! So the most challenging place was when you were losing?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, losing in the pros, because there’s so many things that go into it. When you lose in the pros and you’re out of the play-offs, they all go for stats. They want their stats, because it’s money time, and that’s what they’re based on, at that point.
They’re not going to make the play-offs, so if you’re not in the play-offs, they lose their interest and they want their stats.
Lewis Howes: They just want to shoot the ball, it’s not much of a team any more.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, winning is not as important, when you’re out of the play-offs.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. I’m curious, as a coach, you’re either a hero or the loser, and people are raving about you, or the next day they hate you. Right, as a city or an alumni, or whatever it may be. How have you learned to let go of what other people think about you, whether you’re winning or losing?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, today it’s difficult. My son is the head coach in Minnesota, and he gets on, he reads everything and his wife reads everything.
Lewis Howes: In the media, you mean?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yes. Well, you go on the internet and you could have, he’s in Minnesota, and you could have Wisconsin fans, Ohio State fans, Michigan State fans, get on the internet and just kill you. And it’s like injecting yourself with poison, almost. So, you’ve got to have blinders on. You can’t lose focus as a coach.
Your job is to motivate the team, put them in the best situation where they have a chance of winning, give them everything you can, from analytics to scouting, to preparation, to play development. Give them everything you can, and you can’t lose focus, you have to have blinders on.
If you pay attention to the internet, if you pay attention to what the media is saying, it opens up Pandora’s box, and it’s a big negative. And we have, right now, a president that reads everything and listens to everything, and watches everything, and then turns around and…
Lewis Howes: Responds, reacts, yeah.
Coach Rick Pitino: Responds. You just can’t be that way as a coach. You have to have blinders on, and focus on the game at hand, which is winning. The next game, play development. And if you don’t have that, if you start getting distracted like that, you lose your ability to win.
Lewis Howes: How did you learn how to not let it affect you emotionally, any time during the season, when you were on a winning streak or you were on a losing streak and everybody’s against you? How do you put the blinders on?
Coach Rick Pitino: Fortunately for me, it’s happened only once in my life, with the Boston Celtics. Outside of that we’ve won.
Lewis Howes: That’s got to be nice!
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, you don’t win right away, because you’re taking over programs that are down, and you understand that, and you explain to the fans, “This is what it’s going to take, this is the period of time,” and hopefully you come through earlier than expected, and that’s the key. But you tell them right up front, “This is what it’s going to take.”
Lewis Howes: “It’s going to take some time.”
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, it’s going to take a couple of years of recruiting, and then, if you get the one great player that turns it around quicker – because, in basketball, unlike football, the one player can turn it around for you.
You get Michael Jordan to come to the Bulls, you get Jamal Mashburn to got to Kentucky, you get the one guy, you get Le Bron to go back to Cleveland, and then it takes a couple of more players to get involved with that one player, and then you’ve got it turned around.
Lewis Howes: You’ve got a team, yeah. Mashburn, he was good!
Coach Rick Pitino: He was good, and he turned around the process right away, for us, which was good. Interesting footnote, Jamal Mashburn’s been my business partner for over thirty years.
Lewis Howes: No way!
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, we have a company called, ‘MAP’, which is Mashburn, Abar and Pitino, and we’ve been together for over thirty years.
Lewis Howes: No way! What do you guys do in that company?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, we own car dealerships together, that’s probably the biggest thing that we have. And a lot of other side businesses.
Lewis Howes: Amazing! And you’re involved in horse racing as well, is that right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, Jamal’s not involved in that. That’s a hobby with me. It’s a losing hobby.
Lewis Howes: It’s a fun hobby, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: It is!
Lewis Howes: You’re not going to win much money on that, because you’re spending so much on the investment, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, you don’t win much at all, it’s like going into a casino. You may want to play Blackjack or Craps for a half hour, but you’re going to lose.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Are you part of the Derby then?
Coach Rick Pitino: I was, until I left Lovell, I went to about twenty-four out of twenty-five straight Derbys. And I had two horses run in the Kentucky Derby.
Lewis Howes: Wow! Any one win?
Coach Rick Pitino: One finished fourth and then went on to finish second in the Preakness, second in the Belmont.
Lewis Howes: Wow, okay. Well, let’s talk about Louisville now, because you’ve got a book coming out, your story about what’s been happening in the last couple of years. Why did you leave Louisville?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I was fired.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, so that’s why you left.
Coach Rick Pitino: I didn’t want to leave. Basically what happened is this: A scam artist is trying to negotiate payments from Adidas and these other people in the room, and he’s trying to scam these people into giving him money, to try and buy these athletes.
Lewis Howes: You mean, trying to get Adidas to give him money to then pay to the athletes?
Coach Rick Pitino: Athletes’ parents.
Lewis Howes: Parents. Gotcha.
Coach Rick Pitino: So he mentions my name, as someone who is a big shot with Adidas, and, “We’ll call Pitino up and get him to call Adidas, and get us more money.” Well, he’s BS-ing them, because I would never go for any of that, but the Southern District of New York, they’re being wire tapped, the FBI is there, they’re the people he’s trying to scam, they obviously indict him and they mention my name, and also Jim Larrañaga, the coach of Miami.
And the Southern District of New York puts us in the complaint. Not a shred of evidence with us, just a scam artist mentioning our name. Well, we get called in, my athletic director, who’s the best in the game, gets fired, five minutes before me, I get fired, I’m there 16 years.
I’m asked to go back, they say, “Will you resign?” I said, “Of course not, I didn’t do anything wrong.” No explanation, not story or anything, I was told to clean out my office. I said, “Well, I have to speak to my team.”
And I had a very emotional meeting with my team, and by the time I went upstairs, they were changing the locks on my door.
Lewis Howes: No way! That quick!
Coach Rick Pitino: That quick. And I will say this, this is not the University that I loved. This was a new board of trustees. And what I go into in the book, is this board, this was all started at the governor’s level. He got rid of the board of trustees at Lovell that was very loyal to the AD and to myself and the athletic programs.
He put in a new group of trustees. I think, out of the twelve, thirteen people, only two had any affiliation with the University of Lovell, the rest were people like Papa John, the pizza guy, and then, totally foreign to athletics and to us.
And they just, “We’re bringing in different people, we’re doing it over, and you’re all gone.”
Lewis Howes: Wow! And there was no explanation, you didn’t get a chance to talk about it?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, other things happened, I have no problem with anybody who wants to change coaches. But don’t accuse me of something that I’m totally innocent of. If you want to change my coaching because of things that happened, I’m fine with that, perfectly fine with it.
A new CEO comes in and he wants to change the people working and he wants to bring in his own people, that’s fine. Do it in a dignified way, do it with class. Don’t do it the way they did it. So, the book explains. It’s called, ‘Pitino: My Story’.
There are a couple of scandals that we deal with. We talk about the shoe companies and their influence on the college business. It’s half memoir of my forty years in coaching, and it’s also dealing with the things I’ve had to deal with.
Lewis Howes: The business of college athletics and what’s happening in it. How much of the shoe companies play a major role in the young athletes’ lives?
Coach Rick Pitino: The shoe companies aren’t corrupt. I don’t want to sound like they’re corrupt. They go out and they pay Ohio State $200 million. They pay UCLA…
Lewis Howes: Nike, Adidas, Under Armour.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yes, Under Armour. They buy these franchises. The schools, universities, are their franchises. So they buy Lovell for $180 million.
Lewis Howes: For a certain amount of years, ten years, or something like that.
Coach Rick Pitino: Right, they buy Notre Dame, and that’s their franchise. So they’re investing $150 million, $200 million into this university, they get all the marketing products back. They get to market their name, and now everybody identifies Lovell as an Adidas school. So, Adidas wants Lovell to win.
So, at the lower level, Adidas, at the grass roots level, where the high school kids are, they’re paying these AAU programs, not $150 million, they’re paying them $50,000, these AAU programs now represent Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas, just like the colleges.
So, they’re being paid at the lower level, the colleges are being paid at the higher level, and any time you throw around that much money, their interests are in that company. So now, everybody wants the Adidas school to win, the Under Armour school to win, the Nike school to win, and it’s not about room, board, books, and tuition any more.
There’s a lot of money involved here, and that’s what the NCAA is dealing with right now. When this scandal broke, Adidas was paying these athletes and they were paying the athletes through these scam artists. And the scam artists won.
Lewis Howes: Because it was legal, it was more legal through a scam artist, I guess, because you couldn’t do it through a coach.
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, it’s not legal. You can’t funnel money to an athlete, period.
Lewis Howes: Any way, no matter how many steps it goes.
Coach Rick Pitino: It’s been going on, I never heard of it through shoe companies, I heard of it through agents. You hear stories, an agent got to a family, paying a family. But you have no proof of this, it’s just all gossip what you hear out there. But never did it come from the shoe company directly, until this scandal broke.
Lewis Howes: Really? So the shoe companies were starting to pay, or this one company was.
Coach Rick Pitino: Adidas.
Lewis Howes: Adidas was paying.
Coach Rick Pitino: Adidas, and it’s this one person, who right now got indicted, but I’m representing Adidas. What I did is against NCAA rules, but it’s not against my rules. His job is to go out and sign the best athletes and so he wasn’t doing it to benefit the University of Lovell, he was doing it to benefit Adidas.
Lewis Howes: Sure, wow. How have you been handling this over the last couple of years?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I’m a routine guy, so I’m used to getting up at 05h30, getting in the office at 06h30, doing my four individual instructions, getting my exercise at lunchtime, having a coaches’ meeting, having a practice, calling the recruits at night, and then, all of a sudden it comes crashing down and it’s gone. Forty-one years.
Lewis Howes: Sixteen years in the same school, too.
Coach Rick Pitino: Right, forty-one years in coaching, and it’s over, and you wake up the next morning, and it’s 05h30 and you have no place to go and nothing to do. You move to a different town.
It was very difficult, but bitterness gets you nowhere. We’re all given gifts, and it’s what you do with them, and bitterness is not a gift. So, I’m into motivation, and what I’m going to do now is, I’m going to go round to speak to about twenty colleges in September and October, watch them practice, motivate their teams.
Talk about what teams have to do to get to a Final Four, what sacrifices they must make, how you have to play for the name on the front, not the name on the back, for all of you to get where you want to go, and then talk about how, individually, they can get to where they want to go, if they put in the correct work.
And talk about the right analytics to them. It’s not just how many points you score per game that the pros are interested in. And talk to them about that with them, and start out with people I’ve coached in the game, like Patrick Ewing is in Georgetown, Mick Cronin, who was under me, is in Cincinnati and go visit those schools first. And then open it up to some other places.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, so that’s the path right now.
Coach Rick Pitino: That’s right now, the book’s going to come out on September 4th, do some things with that for a couple of weeks, and then I do a lot of motivational speaking to companies, but I’m really interested in learning as well, and while I motivate the players and the teams, I get to watch practice, discuss with the coaches afterwards what I liked and what I didn’t like, but also, I get to learn.
Because, when you’re coaching from twenty-four year of age, to sixty-four, you haven’t learned as much as you need to learn, so now I get to watch some other coaches.
Lewis Howes: What’s the thing you think that you need to learn the most?
Coach Rick Pitino: Different ways to do things. I have my system, our defences, our offences, and I get a chance to experience different offences and different defences and see what I like, see what I don’t like.
Lewis Howes: Gotcha. And do you still want to coach again?
Coach Rick Pitino: I’m not sure about that. I love teaching, I love motivating, but I’m not sure if I want to coach again. The way I left at Lovell, there’s a hurt inside that I can let go, but, living in Kentucky, I wanted to die in Kentucky.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Coach Rick Pitino: I really did. I loved living in Lexington, I loved living in Lovell, and it was part of my passion, and so it hurt. And I don’t know if I want to start, I’d have to have the right athletic director, the right goals.
You know, if somebody said, “You’re the guy for us. We want to go to a Final Four, but we want to do it the right way, and we believe in your system,” I may change my mind.
Lewis Howes: Oh, right, right, you never know.
Coach Rick Pitino: You don’t know if that opportunity is going to [come].
Lewis Howes: Hard to find that.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah.
Lewis Howes: Where are you living now?
Coach Rick Pitino: I live half the time in Miami. I’m out here, in the San Diego area for a month, and then I’m going to go to New York for four, five months.
Lewis Howes: Right, okay. You like Miami?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, it’s my home. I have two children there, so I get a chance to spend time with them. And that’s your legacy. Your children are your legacy.
Lewis Howes: That’s it, yeah!
Coach Rick Pitino: It’s not the amount of games you win.
Lewis Howes: That’s true, but you’ve had an incredible career, as a coach, too, so that’s a lot to be celebrated there.
What’s the difference, in your mind, between a great CEO, or a great player, or a great person, pursuing their dreams and someone who misses the mark of achieving greatness?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I know what stops greatness. Ego stops greatness. I call it ‘Edging Greatness Out’, EGO, and in a spiritual sense, ego is Edging God Out.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s good. I like that.
Coach Rick Pitino: Ego’s always is, I’m not talking about confidence. You have to be a confident person. But ego really gets you to think you’ve ‘arrived’, you think you know it all, you stop learning, you stop listening. Learning and listening are important for great leaders.
Great leaders have to listen and they have to continue to learn and surround themselves with people that are better than them. At least that type of humility, whether they are or not, you have to believe that they are when you hire them. That they have the ability to help you.
And I’ve have 31 college assistants move on to become head coaches. That’s because I hire people that I’ve learned from, really terrific coaches, and I’ve built the bridge and we’ve all crossed over that bridge together.
That’s a great legacy as well, but I listened to them. They wanted to listen to me, but I wanted to listen to them. And I think great leaders have to have that ability to listen, learn. And then you communicate from there.
And I look at the leaders we have right now in our country, and I’m not talking about the president, everybody else knocks him, so I’m not going to subscribe to that. I’m talking about, you can’t be a great leader unless you’re humble. You have to have humility, you have to be eager to learn, and you have to be willing to listen.
Those are the qualities you have to have to be a great leader. And then you have to be able to motivate your team.
Lewis Howes: How do you motivate?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I do it differently than some. I do it collectively, and I do it individually. I constantly meet with the people. So I get a sense of their purpose, I want to know what they’re all about, and that’s the way I can turn on their switch.
But, in order to do that, I call you in, I say, “Tell me what you’re thinking? Tell me where you are in your life? Tell me where you want to go?” And I sit back and I listen. I always say, “Listen four times to the amount you speak.”
And then I find out, in recruiting, especially, if I listen, what to say, and what not to say. And I always remember a great recruiting story. I was with Billy Donovan, he was my assistant at Kentucky, and we went on a recruiting trip.
And he kept saying to me, “Coach, we get this kid, we’re going to another Final Four!” We just came off a Final Four. “We gotta get this kid! We gotta get this kid!” His name was Deuce Ford, from Memphis. And I went in there and I started speaking about the Roman Empire of college basketball, Kentucky.
“The Roman Empire. Twenty-four thousand people every night. You don’t live in a dormitory in Kentucky, you live in the Wildcat Lodge. Fifty-six All-Americans. Greatest facilities ever. We’re on TV every single game. The Roman Empire.” And then, forty-five minutes later, I noticed that everybody had their legal pad out with questions on it, but I went non-stop, forty-five minutes, talking about this Roman Empire.
At the end I said, “Men, you must have questions. Dad or mom, you must have questions?” And they answered me one by one, high school coach and players, “No, coach, I had seven questions, you’ve answered them all.” Dad is, the same thing. The high school coach, “No, coach, you explained the style of play, how you’re going to play, how you’re going to use them, you’ve answered all my questions.”
Even the girlfriend of the athlete, she didn’t have a question. Nobody did! We walked out, and we got in the car, and Billy said, “Coach, that was brilliant! They bought into it!” I said, “No way, Billy. I blew it. How many years are we recruiting that young man?”
He said, “Two.” I said, “I blew it all in forty-five minutes!” He said, “Why?” I said, “I never listened. I never formed a bond with those people, I never built trust. All I did was speak about the Roman Empire.”
And I’ll never forget Billy’s response. He said, “Coach, you’re reading too many of those motivational books.” He said, “We’re fine. We’ve been leading with that kid for two years.” We didn’t make the cut. We didn’t even make his top five schools.
The next day, I went into Brownsville, Tennessee, and Billy said, “Coach, we’re going to cancel this one. This young man, Tony, is down to Memphis, Tennessee, and LSU. Let’s not go in, we’re not in his top five.” I said, “No, let’s go in.”
I walked in, two brothers who played division two basketball, mom, dad, girlfriend, high school coach. I walked in and I said, “Ma’am, I see by Tony’s application that he wants to go into communication. He can’t go into communication, he needs to be like his brothers, and go into business. He needs to learn all about business.”
She went on a five minute dissertation about that. I asked the two brothers a question. I said, “You know, a lot of schools are recruiting Tony as a two-guard, I’m going to play him as a combo-guard, a little point as well.”
They go into, “If he doesn’t learn to play to point, he’s never going to be a pro.” Each of them, they speak for ten minutes. I sit back and listen, and looking over at Billy, and he’s realising I didn’t talk about the facilities, I didn’t talk about the academics, I didn’t talk about individual instruction, nothing.
I asked the dad a question. He talked for five minutes. I took out my clipboard to the coach and said, “I watched your play last year, you ran a great three-point play for Tony. Can you diagram that play for me?” He diagrams the play.
An hour and a half have gone by and I haven’t talked about anything about the virtues of Kentucky, nothing! Billy points at his watch and says, “We’ve got to go.” We’ve got to catch a flight. And the mom looks at me and says, “You know, Coach, I have to apologise, I haven’t even offered you anything to drink or eat. We’re going to barbecue, would you like to stay?”
Now, we have to catch a flight. And Billy goes, “Uh…” I say, “We’d love to!” We stay another hour and a half, we miss our flight, we rent a car, we drive to Lexington, I think it was five hours, we drive from Brownsville, Tennessee, and Billy goes, “What was that all about? You didn’t talk about the weight room, you didn’t talk about the lodge, nothing!”
I said, “Blly, we’re at the University of Kentucky. They know all about us. All I did was, we’re in the hunt for that young man.”
The next weekend he visited with his entire family. Everybody in that room. The high school coach said it was the best visit they had out of thirteen schools that came in. All I did was listen, laugh, and find out what not to say in that meeting. Had the barbecue, had a meal.
Deuce Ford, the young man I lost out on, unfortunately blew out his ACL, transferred schools, was a good player at LSU, I think he went from Memphis to LSU, turned out okay, not a pro. Tony Delk, who went on that visit, who I listened to in that meeting, went on and won a National Championship and he was the MVP at six National Championships, played eleven years in the NBA.
All by walking in that room, and forming a bond, building a trust, by listening and finding out what not to say.
Lewis Howes: Wow! That’s a great story. And do you think the key to recruiting is listening?
Coach Rick Pitino: I think you have to find out what they’re looking for.
Lewis Howes: What makes them tick, what they’re excited about.
Coach Rick Pitino: If they want to play right away, if they want to be in a certain style, if they want to have the comfort of being able to get in a car for four hours, seeing their son play. You find out if distance is a factor. You find out all these things by listening.
So, when you walk out of that room, you know what you have to overcome, if distance is a factor, then you have to overcome that, you have to sell other things to the families. So you know where you stand by listening.
Lewis Howes: Was there ever a moment when you recruited someone, you got them to sign and they were coming, they already committed, they’re there, and, for whatever reason, you knew that you were off in the way that you communicated?
Not saying that you were out of integrity, or lied or anything, but you painted a picture or spoke into the things that maybe they weren’t thinking about, but you got them to commit, and then realised, “You know what? This probably isn’t going to work out.”
Because you didn’t either sell them, or speak into the thing that they wanted the most, and then it didn’t work out. Was there ever a time like that?
Coach Rick Pitino: I think sometimes you feel that when you say this: “Am I going to play as a freshman?” And I know I have two players, that are seniors, ahead of this young man, and I say, “You’re going to have the ability to challenge those two seniors and, if you’re better, you’re going to beat them down.”
But, deep down, I know they’re not going to beat him out. They know my system, they’ve played in my system. But I am being honest with saying, “You’ll have the chance to beat them out. And if you do, you’ll play.” But, deep down, I know, “You’re not going to beat them out.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Did anyone ever do that? Was there ever a guy, a freshman, that did beat them out? I mean, they came back and surprised you?
Coach Rick Pitino: No, because our system is very complicated. It’s based on a lot of defensive principles that you have to know, and maybe if you’re into January, you’re into league play, maybe you have a shot, because you’re going to get your playing time. But to beat those two guys out, it’s going to be difficult.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, they know the system.
Coach Rick Pitino: So much! It’s like a rookie quarterback in the NFL. Even though you have all the talent and all the skills to probably throw it harder, better than the guy ahead of you, he know all the schemes.
Lewis Howes: What’s more important? Recruiting, or having the right plays in a game?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, if you recruit great players, you’re going to have a great program. If you recruit great players that have a great work ethic, you’re going to have a great program. If you recruit great players with a poor work ethic, you’re going to probably be overrated. So you’ve got to get great players, who have a great work ethic.
If you can combine those two things, you’re going to make it, and you’re going to make it big! So recruiting is a big part of it, but you have to recruit people with a strong work ethic, in order to get where you want to go.
Lewis Howes: Was there ever a time in your coaching where you were in your own way, and you realise, “Man, I actually just need to get out of my way, and let these guys play.”?
Coach Rick Pitino: Sometimes you overcoach, and that could be a hindrance to your team.
Lewis Howes: And then they’re overthinking and they’re not just loose, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yes, very much so. And you could be, you want to prepare them, but I call it, “Pressure is your ally.” Everybody loves pressure! You wake up in the morning, you love pressure, you can’t wait to get going to the big game. You’re going to get the most out of your abilities, either as an athlete or a coach, you’re going to get the most out of it.
Stress is your enemy. You want no part of stress. So you’ve got to make sure you don’t stress your players out. You want to put pressure on them, but don’t stress them out.
Lewis Howes: How do you create pressure, and eliminate stress?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, when we take, you’re going to get ready to play Duke. It’s the Elite Eight game.
Lewis Howes: Big game!
Coach Rick Pitino: It is a big game, and this is going to Final Four. And if you start building Duke up to such a level where the players feel, now, you want to build them up so you realise that…
Lewis Howes: They play hard against them, yeah!
Coach Rick Pitino: You have to reach a certain level to beat this team, but you don’t want to build them up that much where players start to have what I call, ‘Darkness of doubt.’
Lewis Howes: Yeah, “We can never beat these guys.”
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, and that’s stress, there. So you have to build them up by showing them their abilities, “But this is what it’s going to take to beat them. We’re going to win this game, and this is what we have to do.” Don’t leave any doubt that, “We’re going to win this game.”
Lewis Howes: Wow!
Coach Rick Pitino: Remember the young man whose knee blew out. His shin blew out, Kevin Ware, right in the middle of a Duke game. His bone came out of his leg, almost like Joe Theismann, same injury.
Lewis Howes: When was this?
Coach Rick Pitino: This was 2013, when we won the Championships.
Lewis Howes: Is this when the guy landed and the leg came out?
Coach Rick Pitino: Exactly. Exactly.
Lewis Howes: Was that your player?
Coach Rick Pitino: That was my player.
Lewis Howes: That’s right! I remember now, because the floor came down a little bit over there, right? And he was right on the floor and you guys were on the bench.
Coach Rick Pitino: So, we’re all crying. We were at half-time with the scores tied, and I had to get my team back, because they were all crying, I was crying. We were in the locker room, and I said, “Look, we got to get ourselves together.” And I had to come up with a story, almost to distract my team, at this point.
And I said, “Guys, I’ve never mentioned this to you, but we’re within a day of twenty-five years ago, when Christian Laettner beat me with that shot, Duke-Kentucky. So, here we are playing Duke, twenty-five years ago, to the day,” and I’m telling them this story to get their minds off of Kevin Ware.
And I said, “I’ve never talked about that shot. It’s bothered me, but here we are playing the same team, twenty-five years later, for the Final Four, same thing at stake! How eerie is that?” Now they’re all looking at me.
I said, “But you know what, guys? They beat us with 2.3 seconds, when Grant Hill threw that pass to Christian Laettner, and he made that turnaround shot.” I said, “Now it’s tie score, and Kevin’s in that hospital, he’s going to be fine, but I need to erase Christian Laettner’s shot from my mind. There’s only one way.”
And they’re all looking at me, and I said, “We need to go out there right now, and not only beat Duke at the buzzer, we need to go out there a kick Duke’s ass by twenty, twenty-five points. We need to go out there and just lay it on them!”
So, now, I’ve got their attention, and now they’re fired up. And then I said, “And then we’re going to go to the hospital and go visit Kevin, and we’re going to take him to the Final Four. Let’s go get this!” And we went crazy in the locker room, and we went out there and beat them by twenty points.
Lewis Howes: Oh my gosh! Wow!
Coach Rick Pitino: By the way, I didn’t erase Christian Laettner’s shot, it’s still in my mind, but we went out there and beat them by twenty points.
Lewis Howes: Wow! That’s an inspiring story! Well, I think, also, I remember that now. Gosh! I forgot that it was your team. I remember that, and just being so sad for that player, because, number one, it was terrifying, it was scary to watch, but just like, “Man, he was doing so well, going to the Final Four,” but it was great to see the team rally behind that.
It was probably, it almost gave a bigger boost to them, as well. Like, “We’ve got to play for our teammate right now,” right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah. No question. But we had to erase, because we were all around him.
Lewis Howes: Oh, my gosh! It was right by your bench.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, I went to lift him up and then I looked at it. And now, the trainer threw a towel over it and everybody was crying, everybody was sick and everyone had to get their mind off of that sight and that experience.
Lewis Howes: How did you get out of that?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I knew Kevin was going to be fine, but it was traumatic. It was something I had never seen before.
Lewis Howes: It was on TV, national television.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, I’ve seen ACLs, and I’ve…
Lewis Howes: Not a bone popping out of…
Coach Rick Pitino: Out of your skin, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Oh my gosh! That was crazy! It was right in front of the bench.
Coach Rick Pitino: Right there.
Lewis Howes: That is a crazy experience. Have you ever seen anything else crazier than that moment?
Coach Rick Pitino: No.
Lewis Howes: On the basketball court, was there anything else?
Coach Rick Pitino: I’ve had players blow out their ACL, I mean, you’ve seen that, but nothing in that big a game, in that big a moment.
Lewis Howes: That type of injury.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, and it was funny, because the NCAA took that championship away, and they took the banner down. And I tell my players, my players now are suing the NCAA for defamation for taking the banner down.
Lewis Howes: Good for them!
Coach Rick Pitino: I said, “Guys, sue them, that’s fine. But, understand, a championship cannot be erased, or taken away. They can take a banner down, they can take the money away, but they can’t take your championship away. Yeah, so that’s part of history. Don’t ever lose that.” So, we talk about it all the time.
Lewis Howes: That’s great. How does that affect you, when they took it away?
Coach Rick Pitino: It’s unjust, because what went on in that dormitory was ugly, because it was my brother-in-law’s dormitory. I named it after him when I lost him in 9-11, and it was, what went on in that dormitory was not right. It was repulsive, but it was one person doing it, behind closed doors.
To this day people say, “Oh, this person knew, and this person knew.” Six of my players on the basketball team did not know it was going on. My nephew, the son of Billy Minatti, who I lost in 9-11, they did not know what was going on. My assistant coaches said they did not know it was going on, and I did not know it was going on.
Security in the dormitory did not know it was going on. But it was wrong, and we had to pay a price, but not a championship.
Lewis Howes: Why is the whole championship taken away?
Coach Rick Pitino: Because they think, they said it was an extra benefit, which is absurd, it was a strip party, and it dealt with sex and it had nothing to do with performance. They weren’t taking steroids, it’s not performance enhancing in any way.
It’s an act that should never have taken place.
Lewis Howes: Sure, but not taking away a championship.
Coach Rick Pitino: No.
Lewis Howes: Guys can get kicked out.
Coach Rick Pitino: No question about it, but it’s, the NCAA, which I’m part of, is run by committees, and this committee said, “These acts are repulsive. We’re taking as much as we can away from you.”
And it’s absurd, you can’t take championships away from kids who have earned it and deserved it. You can’t do that. And I keep telling my players all the time,”You didn’t lose it, they took the banner down, but always remember that. You’re champions, you’ve earned it, you did the work on the court, that’s the way it is.”
Lewis Howes: “You didn’t take money or something like that.” Yeah.
Coach Rick Pitino: No.
Lewis Howes: What are your thoughts on paying student athletes, at the big schools? Whether football, basketball?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, they are paid. They get their college scholarship, then, on top of that, if their families can’t afford it, they get a Pell grant. They can get up to $8,000 besides their scholarship.
Lewis Howes: A year? Through grant money?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yes. Now, Billions of dollars are made with the NCAA tournaments throughout the years, billions. And the NCAA is just giving a scholarship and that. So, here’s why family is cheap.
So, I’m a family, and I’m from a poor family, I’m a great athlete. And I believe there is less than 10% of cheating that is going on in college athletics. Less than 10%, in my opinion, throughout my forty years of experience.
Lewis Howes: All sports?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, let’s just talk basketball, for now. I think it’s less than 10%. So, what happens is, somebody goes to the family, an agent goes to the family and says, “Look, here’s $100,000/here’s $50,000, you can go see your son play. Take flights and go see your son play, and I want you to sign with me, after it’s done.”
So they know it’s wrong. Why would they take it and jeopardise…? Well, they say, “The school’s making millions of dollars, using my son. I can’t even get on a plane and go see him play. So I’m going to take it.” And they take it. Not thinking they’re ever going to get caught, and they go with that agent.
But that’s what happens in the game. Well, the golden goose is going to get killed, because now the pros, in 2020, they’re going to take away the one year.
Lewis Howes: Right, so you don’t have to go to college.
Coach Rick Pitino: You don’t have to go to college, so you’re going to go from high school…
Lewis Howes: To the pros.
Coach Rick Pitino: Now, here’s the dilemma, though. The high school kid, today, is getting a great education. You see the college kids that go for one year, they take online courses, they’re out in even months, they’re not getting an education.
They go to Duke, they go to Kentucky, they go to Lovell, they go to UCLA, for less than a year. They’re not getting a college education.
Lewis Howes: Right, you’re taking the basic classes, just getting by.
Coach Rick Pitino: And they’re getting online, and their interests are the NBA. But the high school kid has to get sixteen core requirements, and a certain grade point average, to go to college and get a scholarship. So he’s being educated at the high school level.
Lewis Howes: To get into college. But once you know that you’re going to the pros, you stop trying.
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, here’s the dilemma. I’m a freshman now, in high school, and I overrate my abilities, “I’m going to be a pro. I’m not going to study. I’m not worried about these classes any more, I’m going right to the pros. On top of it, if I don’t make the pros, I’m going to go to the G-League, the minor league system, so I’m not going to go any more.”
So, the colleges are killing the golden goose. They’re now going to get marginal basketball players, and who’s going to pay millions of dollars to these schools in the NCAA tournament?
Lewis Howes: If they’re not producing all-stars.
Coach Rick Pitino: Everybody’s going to the pros.
Lewis Howes: True.
Coach Rick Pitino: So, it’s going to be a watered down product, but the colleges, they have to react and be proactive, but they’re not. The NCAA’s not proactive. What they should do now, is, I should be able to pay you. Let you go market yourself, like the Olympic model.
So, let Rick Pitino, Lewis, let’s go market ourselves, we do commercials, we do signings, and we go out there and we make money while we’re in college, like any other student can do.
Lewis Howes: In the Olympics.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah. So, I want to go market myself, I want to do a commercial on TV, while I’m in college playing ball. And I make $50,000. Fine. Now, the wrestler can’t do that, but I can do it. So, while I’m in college, I’m making money, and I’m not in a rush to get to the NBA.
So you have to, and Condoleezza Rice said that, they should be able to market themselves, and that’s one of the proposals she came up with. Colleges are not proactive enough to let that happen.
Lewis Howes: Why is that?
Coach Rick Pitino: They’re going to kill the golden goose, because they got away with the one-and-done. But now, if kids go right away to the pros, college is going be watered down, and TV is not going to pay the NCAA millions of dollars any more.
Lewis Howes: So, if they don’t have the best players, they’re gone.
Coach Rick Pitino: They’re gone! Le Bron, Colby, they’re gone! The great ones go right away. And then, the ones that aren’t great, but they think they’re great, they immediately say, “I’m going pro, I’m not going to study.” They’re not going to be able to get accepted into college.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, or go in the minor leagues or whatever.
Coach Rick Pitino: It’s called the G-League.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, and just work there and develop for two years.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, like going to college. There was one player this year that committed to Syracuse and instead of going to Syracuse, he went to the G-League.
Lewis Howes: Really? For one year?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yup! One year.
Lewis Howes: So you don’t have to go to college, you just have to be one year removed from high school.
Coach Rick Pitino: Right, but college has always been a good feeder program for the NBA.
Lewis Howes: Absolutely! You’re playing every day, you’re in big arenas, yeah.
Coach Rick Pitino: But now they’re going to lose that.
Lewis Howes: Wow! So if you were in charge of the NCAA, and you had the decision to change it in a moment, with how the rules to either players marketing themselves and making money on their own, or paying, beyond the grants, what would you do?
Coach Rick Pitino: I wouldn’t pay athletes, I would let them sell themselves. I would let them make commercials, I would let them do signings, autograph signings. And here’s the problem that they’re going to get into down the road. So, Lovell’s an Adidas school. But what happens if the young man wants to wear Nike?
So, you’re going to say, “Okay, you got to go buy your Nike shoes then. They’re not for free.” But the contract says your players have to wear Adidas.
Lewis Howes: Crazy!
Coach Rick Pitino: But the kid wants to wear Nike. They haven’t run into that yet, and that’s an interesting [thing], the athlete has no rights when it comes to that. It’ll be interesting to see them say, “No, I want to do my own Nike deal. And Nike will pay me.”
It hasn’t gotten to that, yet, but I do think they should be able to sell their likeness, I think they should be able to do commercials, and basically stay in college longer, then.
Lewis Howes: Right, because you can’t sell your likeness in college, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: You can’t do anything. You can’t do a commercial, you can’t…
Lewis Howes: Can you get a job?
Coach Rick Pitino: You can get a job.
Lewis Howes: But there’s no time for a job!
Coach Rick Pitino: Exactly!
Lewis Howes: Your full time job is training. And then you don’t get paid for that. That’s where the challenge is, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Right.
Lewis Howes: Man!
Coach Rick Pitino: So, Olympic athletes, they can go out there, right? And make money?
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Sponsorships, other things like that, yeah.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, so why can’t the college athlete? That’s the answer to keeping your talent, and being proactive, is letting them do that.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. How do you support your mental health when going through kind of a bitter experience in life. How do you support your emotional and mental health to rise above everything that’s happened?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, my children didn’t want me to write this book. They said, “Let it go, Dad, let it go.”
Lewis Howes: That’s hard.
Coach Rick Pitino: And I said, “No, you know, I’m going to write the book, because I’m going to tell the truth.” Everything in this book is the truth. As a head coach for thirty-plus years, I have never given an athlete an illegal inducement. I don’t believe in it.
I think it’s difficult to get people to work hard, when you’re giving something illegally, because they always have something on you, and you really can’t be a leader of men that way. That’s my belief. So, I’ve never done it that way, and here I’m being accused of cheating.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s tough.
Coach Rick Pitino: And it’s wrong. So you have to fight for your reputation.
Lewis Howes: Absolutely.
Coach Rick Pitino: And I’ll leave no stone unturned to fight for my reputation. Because I know I’m 100% innocent. Now, did I hire the wrong people? I take ownership for that. I take ownership.
I’ve taken a lot of bows throughout the years for the assistant coaches who go on to be head coaches and I’ve gotten a lot of credit for my tree of coaches, so I have to take the good with the bad. I’ve also hired two coaches I shouldn’t have hired.
Lewis Howes: Why were they hired?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, one was a player of mine, and I still believe in him. Something happened, something went wrong and I don’t know what it was. He was involved with the strippers and bringing women into that dormitory.
He had great parents, he worked his butt off for me, he was a terrific young man. Something went wrong. Somebody got to that young man, and derailed him. And it’s sad. It’s sad for me, as his mentor, his leader, that he went the wrong way, and my heart breaks for him, and his parents. But he was taught to do the right things by his parents and me.
The other young man was taught to do things the right way, now he got fired, and he actually didn’t get accused of doing anything illegal, he was fired for being at the wrong place, and being part of something that could have gone the wrong way.
So, I take ownership for that. I hired them, and they didn’t do things the right way. And any time you’re the employer, you’re the boss, and the buck stops with you. So, I am responsible for them, but they were taught to do it the right way, and I know that.
So, that’s why I’ll fight.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Forty years of hiring people, there’s going to be a couple of people who make mistakes and do the wrong things.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yes. And they’re big mistakes, that cost a lot of people. You know, when something like that goes down, there are so many – the trainer’s family, the equipment manager, so many support people and their families with children – get hurt.
It’s not me, I’ve been coaching forty-something years and the other people I feel so bad for, and the program. You know, I love the University of Lovell, and I see the program get hurt, it really bothers me.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it’s tough. Because it’s only a few people that really made the situation worse for you, but the community as a whole, the people that you know there, I’m sure you still have a good feeling about, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Oh, very much so, and the city. It’s where I wanted to live, but as you look at it today, on one side you have the Southern District of New York, and the FBI, that mentioned my name. That’s an awful thing to do without any evidence.
And when you look at, “Well, why did you do that?” When my lawyers said to them, they went and said, “You left this man blown up on the side of the road, and he coached the right way,” you know what their response was?
“We deal with collateral damage all the time.” And I’m not saying that the prosecutors are corrupt, or the FBI is corrupt, I’m saying, what are they doing trying to nail assistant coaches? This is the FBI. Do you know what it costs to wire tap someone today?
Lewis Howes: No idea.
Coach Rick Pitino: It can wind up millions of dollars. Because they have to – so, if you’re in a conversation with someone, you’re doing something illegal, and now you’re in a conversation with your girlfriend or your wife, they have to turn it off. It’s called minimising.
They also have to hire a private company to do the wire tapping, they don’t do it themselves, the FBI. They hire a company to do it. So they suddenly have to, this company now will contact the FBI and say, “I have something,” they’ll immediately listen in.
But if he’s on the phone with his girlfriend, they have to minimise, shut it off. It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they were wire tapping these assistant coaches and these scam artists for two or three years!
Lewis Howes: Wow!
Coach Rick Pitino: We’re wasting the skills of the FBI on assistant coaches in college basketball? This is what we’re trying to do? With all the problems we have in this country right now?
Lewis Howes: Crazy! It’s crazy!
Coach Rick Pitino: What was it, Colorado that, what’s going on there? I mean, that’s what the FBI should be involved in, not nailing assistant coaches for giving kids money.
Lewis Howes: Well, I want to end on a positive note. I have a few questions left for you, if that’s okay.
Coach Rick Pitino: Sure.
Lewis Howes: Well, let’s just say it’s a championship game for you. You’ve got a new team, you’re with a new school. You’re not sure if this is going to be your last year, maybe you’ll coach a few more years, but you’re not sure.
Either way, you’ve got two minutes before the game starts. Your team has worked hard for you the whole year, they’ve done everything you’ve asked for. They’ve made some mistakes and some guys you’ve had to discipline over the season, but they’ve come back together, they’ve rallied together and they’re at the championship.
What would you say in those minute to two minutes before the game?
Coach Rick Pitino: Before the game, before we take the floor?
Lewis Howes: Before the game. You’ve already done warm-ups and everything, whatever it may be, now this is your time.
Coach Rick Pitino: We’ve already gone back in the locker room, we’ve said our team prayer.
Lewis Howes: Yes.
Coach Rick Pitino: I would tell them how proud I am of them. I know the struggles, I know the work it took to get to where we are today. But now it’s time to win it all. I’d say, “It’s not time for the silver medal. It’s not time for the bronze medal. It’s time for the gold. It’s time for us to stand on that podium, on that top level, and put that gold medal around our neck.
“It’s time to win the championship. It’s your time. Go our there and play as if it’s your time. Enjoy every minute of this basketball game, because when it’s over you’re going to be champions, and I want you to remember every minute of this game.
“I don’t want you to just think about standing on the [podium], I want you to cherish every minute of this game, and go out and win it. And let’s go stand on that podium together and put that gold around our neck.”
Lewis Howes: Mm! I get the chills! Love that!
Coach Rick Pitino: And I hope I get that moment again. I miss it so much, being in the locker room, so I try to channel it in different directions now.
Lewis Howes: Sure. It’s not the same, but yeah.
Coach Rick Pitino: The thing I miss most about coaching, after forty-one years, it’s the ability to help the young athletes get to where they want to go. We don’t win games, coaches don’t win games, we prepare, we coach, we may set up the play, for that player to take that shot, but we don’t make the shot.
We can set the play up, the athlete makes the shot. So I miss those moments, very much so.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. How are you able to recreate that? Are you helping to mentor young athletes still, into going into the pros, or other things that you can do to help people?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I spent a year right now, writing this book and doing other things, but this year I’m going to go out there and try to help other programs, help ex-assistant coaches. And spend a year travelling, watching, observing, and, as I said earlier, learning and listening.
But I follow about thirty different programs right now. My son’s the head coach in Minnesota, so I follow every minute of every game. I try not to get too involved with him right now, because he wants me to be his dad not…
Lewis Howes: Not the coach of him, yeah, yeah! And, has it tainted your love for the game at all?
Coach Rick Pitino: No, my passion is greater than ever.
Lewis Howes: Really?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yes. That’s the good thing about it. I can’t let the Southern District of New York, a board of trustees at Lovell, sour me. I can’t do that. I’ve got to let bitterness go. I know there’s good people who believe they’re doing the right things, and if I’m collateral damage, I’m collateral damage. I’ll live with that, but I’ve got to get on with my life in a positive way.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. And who would you say are the one or two most influential mentors in your life right now?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, like I said, I started at twenty-four, so I’ve taken a different path than most people. There are people in the game I respect so much. I have great respect for Bill Belechick in football. I love what he does, the actual coaching, the teaching part.
I love what he does. I love how he creates that winner with the Patriots every single year. So there are so many college coaches out there that I admire, so many pro coaches I admire. Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs, I love the job that he does with that team. Because he runs great things, offensively and defensively.
I love the way the Warriors play, I love to watch them. I would pay to watch Steph Curry play, and Durant. I like their games, very much. And the college coaches I admire, there are so many of them I admire. Even in the League, I admire them.
I have a lot of favourites out there. I don’t necessarily have any mentors because I’m sixty-five, you know.
Lewis Howes: Yeah! Any, maybe younger mentors, you know? There may be somebody younger.
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah! I’m going to find out this fall who they are!
Lewis Howes: On your rounds! Who were the players in your last ten years, that you played against in college, who have shocked you or surprised you in the pros? Like, you know, they were good, but, man! They exceeded your thoughts about how they would do.
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, I think Steph Curry’s one. I mean, I didn’t expect him to…
Lewis Howes: Probably every coach thought that, right?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yeah, we knew he’s a good player.
Lewis Howes: Did you play against him?
Coach Rick Pitino: No, just watched him on TV at Davidson, we didn’t play against him. But there are athletes out there – we played against Shaquille in college, and I had a very mediocre team, and he had three NBA players on his team, and we beat them. It was my first year at Kenucky.
And I knew Shaquille would be good, didn’t know he’d be that good. You know, there’s so many guys that there’s so much talk about the greatest of all time. And Michael and Le Bron, everybody talks about which one’s better.
Lewis Howes: I’m a Ohio guy, so you know where I’m going.
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, they always go with the most, the contemporary one, the current one. So, Le Bron is one of the greatest physical specimens I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. Awesome talent. Michael’s one of the most graceful specimens I’ve ever seen on a basketball court, and I could never say which one is better.
I’ve been in the League with both of them, and I can’t say which one’s better. They are both athletes, great specimens, graceful, powerful, both are highly intelligent basketball players. They have it all. They have the intelligence, they have the athleticism, they have it all.
But, I would put another guy in the same category with both of them.
Lewis Howes: Who’s that?
Coach Rick Pitino: That’s Magic Johnson. See, I was coaching at a time with Magic. I’ve seen Magic play. He’s six-nine legit, and when Kareem got hurt, Magic moved from the point to the centre position, and carried his team to a championship playing the five spot. So, how many… Now, Le Bron’s probably capable of that, but Michael’s not.
Michael can’t play the centre position. So, I would put those three together as the greatest of all time, and that’s not to take away from the greatest winner of all time, Bill Russell, or Kareem, or any of those guys, Kobe. Kobe’s awesome.
But, to me, those guys are dead even. The three of those guys are dead even, in my estimation.
Lewis Howes: Now Le Bron’s with Magic?
Coach Rick Pitino: Yes!
Lewis Howes: What’s your thoughts on that?
Coach Rick Pitino: I think Le Bron is going to make the Lakers a big winner. But he needs help, because he’s in the West. See, Le Bron could do it in the East.
Lewis Howes: But you need a lot of help. The Warriors and Houston.
Coach Rick Pitino: He’s going to need a lot of help. I don’t think, as great as he is, I don’t think he can surpass Houston. Definitely don’t think he can surpass Golden State.
Lewis Howes: Wow!
Coach Rick Pitino: But I think everybody knows that. Who are they going to get to play alongside of him? But, at least it’s going to be exciting for Laker fans.
Lewis Howes: Wow, amazing! This is a question I ask, at the end, to everyone. It’s called, The Three Truths. So, I’d like you to imagine it’s your last day on Earth. You’ve lived to as long as you want, but, eventually you’ve got to call it quits. And you’ve achieved everything you want to achieve.
As a coach, as a father, as a human, you do what you want, and you have no regrets. You do it all. But, for whatever reason, all the books that you’ve written and the speeches you’ve done, and conversations you had, you’ve got to take it all with you when you leave Earth.
But you get to write down on a piece of paper, the three things you know to be true about all your lessons and experiences of life. And this is what people would have to remember you by, in physical form, right? This piece of paper, three lessons, three truths, what would you say are yours?
Coach Rick Pitino: To leave, to leave behind?
Lewis Howes: Yeah, this would be like the message you leave behind, three different lessons that you would share, from what you’ve learned, your experiences, the things you know to be true, that you want other people to know.
Coach Rick Pitino: Number one would be, “Nothing can take the place of family.” Family is always first. That when you leave, your love for your family is number one. No question about that.
The second thing I would leave is that you’re never going to reach any goal that you want to reach, without a strong work ethic. You can’t cheat your work ethic. It has to be, it has to be your common denominator.
And the third message I probably would leave behind is, “It’s not worth it unless you’re humble about it.” Humility is really, really the number one gift that you get, and if you’re not humble about it, it’s never going to be worthwhile.
So, those are probably three things that stick out right away. Spontaneously.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, that’s great! I want to acknowledge you for a moment, before I ask you the final question, Coach, for your humility. For your ability to share, for your ability to learn, to listen, and for giving so far – I think you’re going to coach again, so, for me – giving four decades of your life, so far, to educating young human beings into becoming better humans.
Obviously you’re coaching basketball, but you’re teaching life and how to be a better human being, and it’s incredible the amount of people you’ve impacted over the decades. And I hope that I’m able to impact as many people the way you have as well, so I acknowledge you for all that you’ve done. The inspiration that you are.
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, thank you.
Lewis Howes: Your book is out very soon, but you guys can pre-order it right now. You can go to Amazon, you can go to Barnes & Noble. It’ll be out soon, but you can pre-order it. Are you on social media by any chance? Are you on?
Coach Rick Pitino: I’m going to have a podcast myself during basketball season, talking just basketball.
Lewis Howes: Awesome!
Coach Rick Pitino: Talking how teams are progressing and have coaches on and try to update it each week with different coaches, from the past as well as the present.
Lewis Howes: That’ll be inspiring! I’m sure people will love that. What else can we do? How else can we support you, besides get the book? Is there anything else we can do?
Coach Rick Pitino: No, I just, the book, for me, is just to tell the truth about, not only the good things, but the bad things. I want the truth to be told, the right way. And that’s the most important thing. That’s why I call it, ‘My Story’, because it is my story.
Lewis Howes: I like it! I like it! Well, make sure you guys pick up a copy of the book, we’ll check out the podcast when it’s out. We’ll have this all linked up. But the final question is: Whats your definition of greatness?
Coach Rick Pitino: Well, greatness for a coach is different than greatness for a business person, or greatness for an athlete. My definition of greatness is, when you can lift others up around you to levels that maybe they didn’t think they could get to. That’s greatness.
You have to define it as a coach, and, as a coach, it’s about lifting others up around you. And that’s what a coach does.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Coach, I appreciate it! Thanks so much for being here.
Coach Rick Pitino: Thanks for having me.
* * *
Lewis Howes: There you have it, my friends! I hope you enjoyed this episode, lewishowes.com/689, for the full show notes, video interview and all the other information about how to connect with Coach Rick Pitino.
Again, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” said John Maxwell.
And we go through lots of different challenges and adversities through every season of life, and it’s what we learn through the challenges, through the failures, which make us a better leader, in our lives, in our relationships, in our health, in our businesses, in our careers, and that’s what this is all about. It’s constantly elevating our game to reach our ultimate potential and continue to elevate each step along the way.
If you enjoyed this, let me know, @LewisHowes over on social media.
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And we’ve got some massive interviews and episodes coming up. So many of you are telling me what you’ve enjoyed about these past interviews and episodes, the one with Dr Joe Dispenza has been a huge hit recently; the one with Humble the Poet; the one with Leslie Odom Jr; we’ve also had the one on managing anxiety and overcoming overwhelm, that’s been a huge hit for so many people.
So, if this is your first time here, make sure to check out some of the previous episodes over the last couple of weeks, and so many episodes that we’ve got here. We’re constantly elevating and bringing this to another level for you. We’ve got some big interviews and episodes coming soon.
And, also, our annual event, The Summit of Greatness! Come see me in person, and see some incredible inspiring speakers who are coming from around the world. We’ve got thousands of people coming as well, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you are welcome.
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And, as always, you know what time it is: It’s time to go out there and do something great!