The Basketball Podcast: EP84 Michael Lombardi on Thinking Differently

RELEASE DATE : 11/03/2020

In this week’s coaching conversation, Gridiron Genius author, and NFL Insider for The Athletic, Michael Lombardi joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss thinking differently as a coach. Lombardi shares what he learned working with coaching legends Bill Walsh of the 49ers, Al Davis of the Raiders, and Bill Belichick of the Patriots, among others, during his three decades in football.

Lombardi was most recently an internal consultant for Bill Belichick in the New England Patriots’ front office. After thirty years working for the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, and the Cleveland Browns (where he was general manager for two years). He writes a column for The Athletic and has his own podcast, The GM SHUFFLE on the Cadence Podcast Network.

In Gridiron Genius Michael Lombardi provides the blueprint that makes a successful organization click and win–and the mistakes unsuccessful organizations make that keep them on the losing side time and again. He reveals what makes football organizations tick at the championship level. 

He discusses how very few coaches understand the philosophies, attention to detail, and massive commitment that defined NFL juggernauts like the 49ers and the Patriots. The best organizations are not just employing players, they are building something bigger. Gridiron Genius will explain how the best leaders evaluate, acquire, and utilize personnel in ways other minds won’t even contemplate.

Michael Lombardi

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Michael Lombardi Quotes:

“As coaches, we’re all paid to think divergently.”

“Every time people give you a solution there’s always an A or B. That’s false duality – two solutions to a problem. The great coaches find out where there are 5, 6, 7 or 8 possible solutions to look into.”

“[Bill] Walsh used to say all the time . . ‘If we’re all thinking alike, no one’s thinking.’”

“In sports . . staying in the moment and going to the next play is one of the big things we teach . . we can’t change the bad play . . don’t let your past mistakes . . hurt you twice.”

[Advice to young coaches] “I think you have to try to spend . . time understanding how to build culture.”

“He [Shaka Senghor] started studying great leaders, he started studying great cultures and how they build those cultures and what it takes to build those cultures and how you, as a leader, must act in those cultures.”

“We spend so much time studying Xs and Os . . we don’t ever spend enough time on culture . . the secret sauce . . is ultimately culture.”

“I think the number one thing is they [great coaches] are honest. When you’re honest and have personal freedom, you don’t mind confrontation. You don’t have any trouble telling people the hard conversations.”

“Respect comes from knowledge. Respect comes from your willingness to make him better. And to make him better you have to tell him the truth . . They want you to do the things you have to do to help them become better.”

“When the media says something about you, they have no interest in you doing better – they’re criticizing you; when I say something about you, I want you to do better – I’m coaching you.”

“We’re in such a rush to go on to the next thing . . If we don’t understand the problems that we’re dealing with [now], how can we ever fix them?”

“We can’t change competitiveness . .what we can change is your work habits.”

“The first thing you have to do [when putting together a staff] is that putting together a staff is like putting together a band . . you need different people to do different things that have different skill sets. If they’re all like you, you probably aren’t going to play very good music.”

“Building a staff is no different . . than a draft. The FBI doesn’t search for serial killers in the phone book. They build a profile . . You, as an up and coming head coach, have got to build a profile for every single position you’re going to hire down to the ball boy.”

“We all get caught up in how we have to win . . the great coaches always reverse engineer it. How do we avoid losing before we win?”

“The first thing you have to have is a [set of] core principles of what you must be really good at that allow you not to lose the game.”

“You have to make practice execution become game reality. You’ve got to make practice really hard . . We’re not going out there to have perfect plays, we’re going out there to have game-like conditions.”

“Do the things in practice that are going to help you win, not make you look good.”

“Culture is a living and breathing document that has to maintained on an every single day basis and your actions of how you, as a leader, behave within the culture determine the culture.”

“What’s our creed? What is our code of conduct? That’s our culture. And then everybody has to adhere to the culture. No one is bigger than the culture, no one is allowed to be absolved from the culture.”

Michael Lombardi Selected Links from the Podcast:

Daily Coach 

Brad Stevens

John Irving

Bill Walsh

Bill Belichick 

New England Patriots


Marcus Aurelius

Ben Horowitz

What You Do Is Who You Are

Shaka Senghor

John Wooden

Larry Brown

George McGinnis

Al Attles

Jeff Bezos

David Crosby

Michael Lombardi Breakdown:

1:00 – Introduction
2:40 – Divergent Thinking For Coaches
4:00 – False Duality
5:30 – Blackbeard Mentality
7:00 – Philosophy of Stoicism
8:30 – Personal Freedom as a Coach
10:30 – His advice to young coaches
12:00 – Being Honest
16:00 – Being Wrong and Playing Harder
19:00 – Coaches Handling Wins and Losses the Same Way
21:00 – Ego Mirror
23:00 – Advice for Character Assessment
25:00 – Changing Someone
27:00 – Assessing Competitiveness
28:00 – Staff Organization
31:00 – Inverse Theory
36:00 – Coaches in the Practice
40:00 – Culture
44:00 – Volume
46:00 – David Crosby Theory
47:00 – Conclusion

Michael Lombardi:



The Daily Coach:

Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Winning Championships and Building Dynasties in the NFL

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