We won world championships in each of my last eight years on the bench. That meant there was always the obvious threat of overconfidence. So I had a standard speech I gave on opening day of training camp that went like this: "Gentlemen, you are the world champions. You've gone around all summer with your chests sticking out. You've heard all of the accolades. You've had a hell of a time. But now, unfortunately, everyone's going to be out to knock your jocks off. They're all going to be out to get you. Now if you want to let them get you, just try living off last year's reputation. I'm not asking you guys, 'What have you done for me lately?' It's not my club. It's your club. You are the champions. You have to decide how much that means to you and how much you're willing to play to go on being the champions. Because if that's what you want to do, if you want to keep this title and the good feeling that goes with it, you're going to have to go out there and meet all these challengers head on and tell them: 'You're damn right we're the champions, and if you want this title you're going to have to take it away from us!'" That was my opening salute, so to speak. Then I'd ask them to run their asses off, reminding them all the while: "Is this the year we get lazy? Is this the year we get soft? Is this the year we stop paying the price?" One way you can motivate a guy is by reminding him you have the power to ship him to a lousy organization, a place where he'll be treated as a chattel rather than being treated with respect, a place where there's no pride or feeling of belonging. Sometimes, in a kidding sense, yet intending to make a point, I'd walk by someone like Jim Loscutoff and whisper: "Keep it up Loscy, and you'll be playing in Minneapolis. It gets pretty cold there I'm told." But let's say you're the coach of a crappy organization - maybe that was the only job you could find - and most of your players have long term contracts. Now what do you do? How do you motivate in a situation like that? I'll admit it's easy. But there are ways. You could always eat a guy's contract and toss him out. First, however, you want to take him aside and talk with him. Your conversation might go like this: "Look, if you have no price and no feeling of accomplishment, other than the amount of money you're earning right now, you're making a serious mistake. If this is how you're gong to approach it, what do you think's going to happen once the contract expires and you've blown the dough? I'll tell you what's going to happen. Your career's going to be shot. We'll never give you another contract, and if we let you go everyone else is going to know that there's something wrong with you, regardless of your abilities. The word will go out that you're a troublemaker, bad for a ballclub's chemisty. You don't want that and I don't want to do it to you. "So, look, all I'm asking from you is that you give me your best effort for 82 games. That's all. Be dedicated enough to give me whatever you have. I understand there'll be times when you'll go up for a rebound and the ball will bounce over your hands. I know there'll be nights when you'll shoot the ball and it won't drop into the hold. I realize these things happen. But I also know that if you hustle and you're motivated and you play the strong D, we'll have a shot at winning that game. Everything else will fall into place. All you have to do is give me that honest effort. "So that's what I'm asking of you now. Give me that kind of dedication. If you can't or won't, I don't give a damn if we're the worst team in basketball; I'll eat that contract, or I'll get rid of you, providing I can find someone dumb enough to take you off my hands!" There are times, unfortunately, when you just have to give up on a player. We went through a tough period back in '77 and '78 with guys like Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe. They wouldn't have lasted a week with me. Tommy Heinsohn was coaching for us then and he did his best to reach them, but it was no use; they didn't care. So we let them go. Their attitudes were ruining the morale of the team. Wicks ended up playing a few more years with San Diego, but never amounted to anything, And Rowe never played again at all, even though he was only 29 when we dumped him. Some guys just aren't worth the trouble. One of the first agents I ever had to deal with came into my office one day with his client. This kid wasn't even a high draft choice, yet the agent started right in telling me how this guy was going to help us win another championship. I didn't say anything. I just sat back and let him do all the talking. Then he got down to the nitty gritty. They wanted so many extra dollars if the kid scored X number of points, and so many extra dollars if we won X number of games. That was enough for me. "Just a minute, Buster," I said. "If making our ballclub isn't enough incentive for this kid, I don't want him. Now get the hell out of here." They got up and left, and the next day they signed with another team. That was okay with me. If that was his attitude, he wasn't our kind of kid. Motivation has to start with the right kind of attitude.