December 15, 2020

20 Top Highlights from The Winner Within

Sam Caucci

The best managers are leaders, and the best leaders are coaches.

So what do you do if you want to be a great manager? Well, stop wasting your time reading management books by people that have never done it before and pick up a book by a former coach that knows what it takes to create a dynasty.

You will find the perfect roadmap on how to be a truly remarkable coach in Pat Riley’s New York Times bestseller, “The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players.”

Growing up a New York Knicks fan, I was obviously a fan of Coach Riley. Coincidentally, his book was also one of the first leadership books I was given by my former coach. I come back to it constantly.

If you don’t watch basketball you might not be in the know on Coach Riley. Take it from me: he knows his stuff. Coach Riley is renowned as one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time. He has won five NBA championships as a head coach, was named NBA Coach of the Year three times, and has reached the NBA finals in six different decades. He’s even the first person to win a championship as a player, as an assistant coach, as a head coach, and as an executive.


Whenever I read a great book, I put together my biggest highlights to reference and come back to in order to make sure I really pull the core message out of the book and put it into action day to day. I usually only share my highlights with our team at 1Huddle, but if you have read this far then I’m willing to share them with you too.

So read on for 20 of my top highlights from Pat Riley’s “The Winner Within,” which has just been added to our on-demand game shop at 1Huddle.

And after you read my top highlights, I’ll give you a chance to access “The Winner Within” game that covers all of my biggest notes, highlights, and takeaways.

Here we go…

  1. Teamwork is the essence of life.
  2. We have a crisis of self-serving leadership, which Coach Riley calls the “Disease of Me.” The Disease of Me happens when people become more focused on themselves and their own self-interest than in the good of others and the common good. Think about members of a team who put their personal agenda ahead of organizational success. Those are the ones afflicted with the “Disease of Me.”
  3. When the “Disease of Me” afflicts the strongest members of a team, or even its coaches, they develop an overpowering belief in their own importance.
  4. When a successful organization becomes infected with the “Disease of Me,” people who create 20 percent of the results will begin believing they deserve 80 percent of the rewards.
  5. Unless you learn to manage the after effects of winning, the forces that led your team to the top will turn around and destroy you.
  6. You are either IN or you’re OUT. There’s no such thing as life in-between.
  7. “We must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately.” – Benjamin Franklin on signing the Declaration of Independence
  8. Ultimately, a team belongs to the people who get the job done. The leader exists to serve them, to create an environment in which their talents can flourish, and that is the coach’s or leader’s obligation to “the Covenant”.
  9. “Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.” – Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, authors of the bookLeaders: Strategies for Taking Charge, which uses an illuminating study of corporate America’s most critical issue—leadership—to reveal key principles every manager should know.
  10. Positive peer pressure intensifies any team’s performance and brings it closer to the peak.
  11. Giving yourself permission to lose guarantees a loss.
  12. People who are negatively conditioned accept defeat. People who are positively conditioned don’t.
  13. The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they’re part of the team is to sacrifice: “It’s so easy to become selfish in a team environment…You must give up something in the immediate present –comfort, ease, recognition, quick rewards– to attract something even better in the future; a full heart and sense that you did something which counted.  Without sacrifice, you’ll never know your team’s potential, or your own.
  14. A player who is ‘ready’ but not actually prepared increases risk and is a liability to the team.
  15. Dynasties don’t choke, but freezing up at the critical moment is what runners-up do best.
  16. Repeated choking is the essence of defeatism, which is the acceptance of defeat without struggle. Losing becomes a part of your identity. You begin playing to avoid a loss, rather than playing to score a win.
  17. Complacency is the last hurdle any winner and any team must overcome before attaining greatness. Complacency is the “Success Disease“—it takes root when you’re feeling good about who you are and what you’ve achieved.
  18. Complacency also leads to excuses for failure and acceptance of it: “When a great team loses through complacency, it will constantly search for new and more intricate explanations to explain away defeat. After a while it becomes more innovative in thinking up how to lose than thinking up how to win.”
  19. A trademark of the True Warrior, which Coach Riley also calls the Showtime Warrior, is that inner clock and the overarching view of all the games within the big game. The True Warrior is someone who knows how to get the job done at the moment of truth.
  20. Nothing is forever. The core of any success will crack, but when the core cracks “The Winner Within” doesn’t lose all gains. They just have to keep going. Like Coach Riley said: “After a glorious victory in a grand war, the hardest battle to fight is the first little skirmish of the next campaign.”

These are my biggest highlights from “The Winner Within.”

But there is a lot more to this book. It is a must-read for rising coaches that explores how to put the right team together, how to get the most out of your people, how to handle challenges and struggle, and how to build a culture that perseveres through the hard stuff.

Now, these are just a few of my top highlights. Since this isn’t 6th grade, I assume you’re willing to go a bit further to really get the most out of Coach Riley’s message. That’s why I have a challenge for you…email me your favorite highlight and why, and I will send you access to our latest game on the book The Winner Within. It has these 20 highlights plus all the biggest takeaways, and it’s in a game!

Email me at And if you are currently a 1Huddle client and want to add “The Winner Within” to your game library, just email your customer success manager to get the game added today.

Now, back to work!

Sam Caucci, Founder & CEO at 1Huddle

You might also like... View more