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The Foundation Episode 2: The Development of a Winning Culture

The Northwestern Wildcats released a four part series called "The Foundation". A docu-mini series that followed Coach Chris Collins and the Wildcats throughout their summer work. Today we break down the second of the four installments like a hyper caffeinated NU Grad Student.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Navy. Seal. Workouts. I don't know who the first coach was to throw their players through an armed forces gauntlet, but I would really like to shake their hand. This team building trend is always a fire starter and so damn amusing to watch. But beyond the pure entertainment value, it's interesting to see how players push not only themselves but the players around them to higher levels of mental and physical ability. How they (eventually) let their egos slip away with the waves. How prideful they become in their "family". How they can accomplish so much more together, than by themselves.

Forgive me if that sounds like some sort of coaches babel, but it's true. There are times after an eight hour day sitting in a chair talking to business owners where I can barely push myself to run/walk 20 minutes on a treadmill (with a TV) at Planet Fitness. I couldn't even imagine being woken up at the crack of dawn to go lay in shin-deep water while lifting a 12-foot tree trunk over and over and over again as polluted Lake Michigan H2O splashed into my eyes, nose, ears and mouth.

But it always seems like the players (after the fact, when they have a minute to settle down, ice their bodies and reflect) really do love this.

From senior Tre Demps: "You're out here with your brothers and you're out here accomplishing something with family members... and I think in life there's not too many more special opportunities than that. And those are times that you'll talk about years from now."

Sophomore Bryant McIntosh: "Basically their job was to physically put so much on us that we just felt like we couldn't do anymore. And I felt like I couldn't do any more push-ups. Couldn't do any more sit-ups. You find a way. Embrace it and just keep going.

"I definitely think it was a great learning experience and it brought us closer together as a team when you go through that adversity of, you know, all of us just dead tired, can't do anymore reps and we have to. We have to find a way and knowing we can count on one another that in a game when we're just exhausted. Ya know, two overtimes. Ya know we're going to fight through it and find a way."

There is something to be said for experiencing these type of mental lows while still pushing out these ultimate physical highs as a unit. You don't want to let the guy next to you down. You can't let the guy next to you down. And that type of thinking matters in basketball. It's all a mental game. And getting a group of kids to dig that deep and forcing them to push all selfish motivations aside is extremely important for a program like Northwestern.

Because when you have a unified ideal around the locker room that benefits the greater good of the team (with the best players buying into it) it soon becomes a culture. And every great program has some sort of unified belief/culture/persona.

That and usually a great coach.

And boy is Chris Collins coming off well in these videos. He has a purpose with everything he says. With every work out his players perform. You can see the wheels starting to turn and with just a little luck, Northwestern could be a force-in-the-making.

And it all starts with Collins' dismantling of his players preconceived ideas of what their ceilings are.

There is a wall that every person, in every profession has to climb over or run through to get better at what they do. And by forcing his players to meet those limits early (all the while providing them all with a necessary boost and/or hammer) to get over/through them, he's raising the floor of what this upcoming season can be and completely obliterating whatever ceiling was on the program.

It's all love

A few more things I loved from Episode 2:

  • Bryant McIntosh and his time with Steph Curry at his "Select Camp". Talk about a major confidence booster.
  • The "evolution" of Tre Demps. Apparently he's been putting in coaches-hours in the gym. "There wasn't a more dedicated guy that we had from day one than he was," Collins said towards the end of this episode.
  • He also mentions how they need Demps to be one of the top players in the Big Ten and that he's primed to have a big senior year. Watch out.
  • And since we are on the 5th year senior, congrats to the new Mr. and Mrs. Demps on their marriage this past June. It kind of melted my heart a little when I saw he put all of his teammates in the family section of his wedding. Pretty cool.
  • "The development of a winning culture". Preach Collins.