“We don’t give back. We become a part of.” – Coach Bob MacKinnon
Sports are a large part of the fabric of Frisco these days. There are professional teams here. There are rec leagues here. There are weekend warriors and soccer moms and enough water bottles and ice packs and high-fives to make the Olympics accept the silver medal.
So perhaps you don’t know much about basketball or the Texas Legends or Coach Bob MacKinnon, but you’ve probably played a sport at some point in your life. You might have a kid or kids playing sports right now. Maybe it’s not even a sport but a skill of some sort that requires coaching, mentoring, tutoring, and guidance.
Do you remember your favorite coach? Do you recall your favorite teacher? Think on that for a while as you eagerly read on.
Coach Bob: The Man
“What it says is I’ve had great players.” – Coach Bob MacKinnon
Legends head coach Bob MacKinnon hit a milestone with a Legends victory January 16th of this year. The win was his 200th as a G-League head coach.
I mentioned it in my last article, and it was discussed in a recent Facebook Live interview. It wasn’t overly celebrated, I didn’t hear about it on national sports media outlets, and it feels like Coach MacKinnon is completely fine with that.
Wins are fun. It’s why you play the game. But there are other ways to calculate success, which is probably why when asked about such a record it’s immediately deflected into crediting the players he’s coached and the front offices he’s worked with.
“It’s always been development first, community second,” MacKinnon proclaims, “and then we worry about the wins and things like that afterward.” On the surface, that doesn’t sound like the attitude that leads you to rack up victories as a coach, but maybe that’s precisely what makes it work.
Are you still thinking back to one of your favorite coaches? What was his or her primary focus?
Coach Bob: The Myth
“[He] said, ‘Coach, you know, if not for what you did with me, I never would’ve played in the NBA.” – Coach Bob MacKinnon
Coach MacKinnon has a sweet tooth and a sour tooth, but they put their differences aside for the common good. Fish consistently protest his catch-and-release policy. He once finished a 50-ounce steak and instead of a t-shirt, he received the rest of the cow. And the cow was honored.
That might not be entirely accurate, but for someone who’s had such a lengthy dossier of development and dominance, you’d think there would be so much information about him. No. There’s not. Google him. The first thing I found was his father, also a former basketball coach.
MacKinnon’s Wikipedia page has fewer words than he has G-League victories, and that’s only slightly less of an exaggeration than the paragraph previous to this one.
So how does a coach who has G-League accolades like Meryl Streep has Oscar nominations feel so mythical, so unknown? Well, maybe that’s precisely what makes it work.
How’s that recollection of your favorite mentor coming along? What was her or his primary focus?
Coach Bob: The Legend
“It’s the greatest feeling. It’s never like, ‘Ah, I’m losing him [to the NBA].’ It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is like the greatest thing.” – Coach Bob MacKinnon
MacKinnon has another G-League milestone; probably one he’s even more proud of than his 200-plus games in the win column. He has coached the most G-League players to be called up to the NBA.
Every player in the G-League has a dream to make the NBA. It takes a coach focused on developing the player and investing in the player and helping the player fulfill that dream to provide that opportunity.
“That’s the most satisfying thing to me,” MacKinnon says proudly. “I think that’s why I’ve kind of found my niche here being in this league.”
So, it begs the question: What is a win? What is a victory? Is it having the most points at the end of the game? Well, yeah. That’s the concept. But isn’t it also about making a positive impact on those you’re coaching? Isn’t it watching those you coach fulfill his or her highest potential? Isn’t maybe that precisely what makes it work?
Have you thought of your favorite teacher by now? What was his or her primary focus?
Coach Bob: The Developer
“We’re big on development. We’re trying to develop these players.” – Coach Bob MacKinnon
My favorite coach was my dad because, duh. So let’s take him out of the mix due to bias and the fact that he didn’t get me to the NBA. It’s a stain on his record for sure. My second favorite coach was my high school cross-country coach (because when you realize you suck at basketball, you just go run an insane distance and hope everyone else gives up before you do).
He was my coach for my ninth- and tenth-grade years and his coaching style was simple. When you cross that finish line and you still feel like you could go another mile, then you didn’t run hard enough.
In other words, you give everything you have in the time afforded you. Was it about running a 5K? Yeah. Was it a metaphor for life? Sure. Was it something he read on a daily affirmation calendar he kept on his desk? I can neither confirm or deny that. But it stuck with me.
More times than not you wear the words and wisdom of an influential coach or mentor more than you remember the game plans and grueling practices. Maybe that’s precisely what makes it work.
Speaking of words and wisdom, now think about your favorite coach. I feel like I’ve given you ample time to recollect. Look back on Coach MacKinnon’s quotes from our recent Facebook Live interview:
“We’re big on development. We’re trying to develop these players.”
“It’s the greatest feeling. It’s never like, ‘Ah, I’m losing him [to the NBA].’ It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is like the greatest thing.”
“[He] said, ‘Coach, you know, if not for what you did with me, I never would’ve played in the NBA.”
“What it says is I’ve had great players.”
“We don’t give back. We become a part of.”
The last quote is the one that resonates for me because out of context it can sound a little off. We don’t give back? Who says that? Coach MacKinnon is speaking about the community in this instance. Not that he and the players and the whole Texas Legends organization don’t give back to the community because they incredibly do that.
It’s about the optics though. They don’t look at it as “giving back.” They look at it as being a part of. It’s an integration. It’s an investment. It’s a partnership. And that speaks volumes as to why this coach or any coach on someone’s life endures for years and years after the playing and practicing and preparing subsides.
Coach MacKinnon doesn’t give back to his players. He becomes a part of them. And that’s what makes a successful, memorable, life-altering coach/mentor/teacher. That’s precisely what makes it work.
There are a few more home games left in the 2018-2019 season for the Texas Legends, and if you haven’t made it out to a game, do yourself a favor and check them out.
If you have been to a game, then you probably already know why I want the Frisco community and anyone near the Frisco community to come out and support this team. On second thought, in the words of Coach Bob, don’t just support the Texas Legends. Become a part of.
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