Magic: The Psychology of a Winner
the day of the draft. John Gabriel, General Manager
of the Orlando Magic walks around the War Room,
hands in his pockets, nodding to Doc Rivers, his
coach, smiling, looking over the walls full of
blueprints. They both feel they've done everything
to prepare for the unknown. The unexpected is to
be expected. On one large blackboard he reviews
his plans. Next to it is another board with contingency
plans. Next to that is a board that's just been
prepared, with a contingency plan for his contingency
prepare for draft day all year long," Gabriel
relates. "It's a very systematic day, where
every situation that could possibly come up has
been considered and each person involved has a
distinct function and position. There is even a
priority list of people to pick up the phone when
"And integral to our game
plan are the insights we receive about
players from Caliper," says Gabriel. "As
we make our final phone calls, we look
for any red flags that Caliper might
alert us to, which could cause us either
to back off a player; or if I have two
players who are parallel, Caliper's insights
can help us choose which player best
fits the team's needs."
"In the pros, talent alone isn't enough," says Herb Greenberg, Ph.D.,
President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper. "Managers and coaches
can certainly assess talent. The questions that keep them up at night, though,
have to do with the players' heads and hearts. Will they have the inner fire
needed to drive them to over-achieve? Will they be good in the clutch? Are they
injury prone? Are they too selfish to be team players? Are they aggressive enough,
without having to foul out? Will they concentrate on improving weak areas? And,
how coachable are they?"
answer these questions, over a dozen professional
sports teams turn to Caliper for advice, including:
the Orlando Magic, the San Antonio Spurs, the Milwaukee
Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, the Los Angeles Clippers,
the Denver Nuggets, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the
Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago
White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, the Detroit Tigers,
the Houston Astros, the Anaheim Angels and the
New York Islanders.
According to Greenberg, self-discipline, competitiveness and a positive
sense of one's self are the qualities that make up what he calls "the
psychology of the winner."
Self-esteem helps an athlete deal with missed shots, setbacks and slumps. "For
athletes who believe in themselves, failure is viewed as just part of
the game. Lacking self-esteem, failure can bring an athlete's career
to a grinding halt," according to Greenberg.
"Competitiveness," he adds, "is the burning desire to take the
last buzzer-beating shot or face the best hitter with the bases loaded. Competitive
athletes are driven to win - each moment they're in the game.
"And self-discipline is the inner desire that causes an athlete to get to
practice early, to stay in top condition during the off-season, to devote the
extra hours needed to continuously improve."
Gabriel says, "There were extremely talented players I've wanted
to draft, but decided not to because Caliper's consultants told me they
didn't have the self-discipline, competitiveness and self-esteem needed
to make it in the pros."
Greenberg explains, "The odds of making it in the pros are enormous.
Just consider: There are about 20,000 college basketball payers, of whom
less than 400 get to appear in showcase scrimmages leading to the selection
of players for the National Basketball Association draft. Virtually all
are leading scorers, team captains, even all-Americans. From this extremely
talented group, 54 are drafted, and perhaps another half-dozen are signed
as free agents.
"So, three-tenths of one percent of the 20,000 college athletes are eventually
chosen each year for the NBA. Of this elite 60, just a choice few have solid
NBA careers, let alone go on to become stars."
"To beat the odds," Greenberg says, "your enormous talent has
to be matched by a consuming inner motivation. Without self-discipline, competitiveness
and self-esteem, we've seen players with awesome abilities never make it off
According to Gabriel, "It's crucial to know everything there is
to know about a player. In our interview process, we try to delve into
as much information as possible, but it's so difficult to pinpoint the
players who are right for you. The scope of the information Caliper provides,
gives us a basic understanding of a player that, quite honestly, we just
can't get by ourselves."
Gabriel recalls a time when he was looking at a very talented player,
who, he says, "possessed the physical capabilities from here to
the moon. But we learned he had a troubled past and a lack of discipline." Caliper
confirmed some of these concerns, but also showed that this player had
a willingness to be coached, the inner drive to succeed and good self-esteem. "The
insights we were able to gain from our Caliper consultant convinced us
that we could work with this player, and taking that chance paid off
Gabriel adds, "Coaches and managers are continually looking for
athletes who have the mental toughness to take them to a higher level
An independent study of the players Caliper has assessed for the draft
was conducted by four experts: Harry Weltman, former General Manager
for the Cleveland Cavaliers; Donny Walsh, President of the Indiana Pacers;
Gene Shue, former Coach for the Philadelphia 76ers; and Pete Newell,
former General Manager for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Greenberg shares some striking statistics from this study, representing
the more than 5,000 athletes Caliper has assessed for over 20 professional
teams throughout the past decade: Most notably, professional basketball
players recommended by Caliper scored 909 points per season, compared
to only 376 for those who lacked these qualities and were not recommend.
The recommended players rebounded 320 times, compared with 160; blocked
51 shots, compared to 23; assisted 207 times, compared with 91; and averaged
77 steals, compared to 33.
Gabriel emphasizes, "We need to know as much as possible - not just
who these players are now, but who they are going to be. That's where
Caliper gives us a competitive edge."
He adds, "Finding the right players is
key, because the NBA has contracts that are fully guaranteed
for as long as seven years. That's an enormous commitment
for us. In professional basketball, we get locked in
for what seems to be forever. So, we really have to know
what we're doing when we go after a player. Caliper's
personality profiles and consultants are able to identify
the qualities that can push a talented player over the
top. That's extremely important to us.
"Our job is to find a way to put championship rings on peoples' fingers.
We're responsible for this incredibly fun aspect of finding talented players
and bringing them together as a team - all under the umbrella of proper business
practices." He concludes, "Some of the best moves you can make are
the ones you don't make. At the end of the day, Caliper is one of my most valuable
players. Caliper has saved me millions of dollars by advising me not to draft
players who later went on to other teams and failed."