March Madness

March 19, 2018
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I love this time of year.  I love college basketball.  Not just for the sport but for the life lessons it teaches.

This year’s tournament didn’t disappoint and we’re only half-way through.

Virginia was ranked #1 in the nation.  For that honor, it received the “easiest” road to the finals.  So, if you were a betting person, you’d have bet the farm on Virginia to at least reach the Final Four.

If you were such a betting reason, you’d have lost your farm!

University of Maryland, Baltimore County didn’t even deserve to be in the contest.  They squeezed in by a “hail Mary” buzzer beater in their conference championship and as such, won a place at the “Big Dance.”

And yet, UMBC the 16th and lowest ranked team beat Virginia the number 1 overall seed.  They didn’t do it with a “hail Mary”, a Buzzer Beater, a long-shot, last minute effort.   They won by 20 points.  They annihilated Virginia in every way.

How can that happen?  No #16 seed has ever beaten a #1 seed in this tournament before.  The talent differential is just too great.  Virginia has highly recruited superstars, UMBC has kids who love playing.

Perhaps, that’s part of the reason UMBC won.  Perhaps, the UMBC kids loved just being there.   None of them saw this as a way to showcase their talent so some NBA scout would see them and offer them a big contract.   None of the UMBC kids had anything to prove.  They weren’t supposed to be there.

Neither was their coach, Ryan Odom.

Odom, the son of a coach (Dave Odom, S.Carolina, Wake Forest) never coached a Division 1 team before 2016.  He wouldn’t have made the top 50 coaches in anyone’s list.  Yet his team beat the best!

How does that happen?

College Basketball like dentistry is a team and not an individual sport.  Having a single “best player” can be neutralized.

In Basketball, such neutralization happens by changing defenses to stop a single individual.   A good coach not just prepares his players mentally and physically but adapts to the flowing inter-game circumstances by changing defenses, players and calling strategic time outs to thwart the opposing team’s momentum.

In College Basketball, the coach and strategy play huge and crucial roles.  This weekend, Coach Odom out-coached Coach Tony Bennett, also the son of a coach, who has spent 12 years as a Division 1 Head Coach.  His resume and experience totally outclassed Odom’s.

The lessons March Madness teaches and their relevance to Dentistry are many.

  • To win, you need teamwork.
  • Individual stars (dentists) can be neutralized by a poor team or a great defense (poor customer service or a “sales prevention department”).
  • You can’t control what others (the competition) do, only how you adapt and react.
  • Practice and education hone skills but leadership during the game is often what makes a winner.
  • Coaches sons and those with real life experience seem to excel more frequently, which is why hiring the right coach or consultant can make a real difference.
  • The ability to shift gears, adapt and react to the situation at hand contributes greatly to success, which is a why real-time coaching is so important as the rate of change increases.

I love March Madness.  It’s the only time I’m incommunicado.  Yet, I still found time to be with Laurie, my kids and grand kids over this weekend.

Kids choosing to attend UMBC used to be mocked as “U Made a Bad Choice”.  No it anymore!

March Madness teaches another lesson.  Keep your eye on the ball.  It’s not just dentistry, its life!


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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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