Let me tell you a little story about me.
It was my junior year and I was co-captain of the Emerson College men's basketball team (the same team, incidentally, that produced Sam Presti and Rob Hennigan. Our career paths kinda went in different directions, huh? Anyway… ). The team, historically, had sucked. I mean, REALLY, sucked. Like Bobcats bad.
But that year was different. We had some star players and a nice mix of role players. I was pumped to be a captain and, when the schedule came out, I used it as a chance to motivate my guys. I quickly glanced at the 24 games on the sheet and I wrote on the board "This year's goal: 22-2."
I thought to myself, "that's a big number to work for. Everyone's going to be psyched to try for the school's first 20-win season." That's when the coach walked in.
He looked at the board, cocked his head, and turned to the group.
"Who wrote this?"
I was proud of the goal. I spoke up. "I did."
[Uncomfortably long pause]
He squinted at me. Then exploded.
Who the [very loud, emphatic expletive deleted] do you think we're going to lose to?!? Here… here's the schedule. You look at it and pick the two games you think we're going to lose and I won't play you in those games!!!"
I felt a foot tall. But the message was tattooed on my brain.
You never… EVER.. expect to lose. When you step onto that court, you have one goal in mind: win. If that's not your goal, then just sit down and hand out water to the rest of the guys. You can throw "be realistic" at me, players, and coaches all you want. They're not paid to be realistic. They're paid to win games. If they don't win games, people get fired, cut, or traded.
This brings me to Jason Terry, who is on a one-man campaign to guarantee to anyone who will listen that the Boston Celtics are going to raise their 18th banner when the 2013-14 season opens.
“If I looked at our team and what they accomplished last year – they’re one game away. They’re one game away from going back to the NBA finals, and I think they win it,” Terry told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton Thursday at the Reebok Headquarters in Canton.
“This year, put a little ‘Jet Fuel’ into the mix, and I think we have the team,” laughed a confident Terry.
JET's a confident guy. So confident, that he already got his Celtics championship tattoo. And that's ok. Because players don't think the same way fans do. They just don't.
Are the Celtics going to go 82-0 this season? Of course not. Everyone, including the players, know that is true. Assuming they will win 50-55 games this season, there are 27-32 losses on that schedule somewhere.
But good luck getting anything besides the death stare from Kevin Garnett when you ask him to pick out 27 losses. Go ask Kobe Bryant who HE expects to lose to this upcoming season, and I guarantee you he'll say "nobody."
I don't care if you're Bismack Biyombo. If you're asked about the "tough season coming up," you respond with "I go into every game expecting to win and trying to do everything I can to make that happen. If it turns out to be a tough season, we'll talk about it then. But I'm here to win games, and that's what I expect to do."
Yeah, that probably sounds like a crazy thing for a Bobcat to say, but as a coach, I'd be giddy hearing that from my player. And as a coach, I am sure Doc Rivers, while he might hope for some of it to be put a little differently, is thrilled to have a guy on the bench of Terry's caliber so confident in his team.
Confidence is infectious. And confidence raises your level of play. You know it from the way you operate in your own life. If you are confident in something you are doing at work, you bang that task out without hesitation, knowing full well that everyone knows you're killing it. You know that when you are out on a date and you are confident, you make the right moves and end up having a great night.
It is the same thing on the court. Confidence breeds success because confident players do things better, faster, and more precisely. The expectation that you are going to win is the basis of that confidence. And I would not want a team of players that did not go into the season saying they were good enough to win a title.