The Frightening Truth About Why You Can’t Help Others To Get Better…

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My last college basketball coach wasn’t quite ready to be a coach. 

His name was Armon Gilliam. He’d been the 2nd pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, right after David Robinson. Scottie Pippen was drafted 3 picks after Gillaim. Kenny Smith (the TNT analyst with Ernie, Charles and Shaq) was right after Scottie. 

Armon played 13 years in the NBA. I know this for the same reason that any of my college teammates reading this knows it: every time Coach Gillaim got any kind of pushback from a player in practice, he had one pet retort. 

“I played thirteen years in the NBA!” In other words: shut up, you NCAA Division 3 peasant. I was a better player than you are, so I must be right. 

Coach Gillaim seemed to have his most fun in practice when he decided to put his shorts and high-tops on and actually participate in practice with us. 

Yes, this actually happened. The head coach of a college basketball team suited up and played in practice with his players. 

No, this is not normal. 

Armon Gilliam removed me from the program midway through my junior year. My senior year, 

I’d play lunchtime pickup games with some faculty guys… and Armon Gilliam. 

Oh yeah: Gillaim was 6’9”, 270 pounds. The tallest basketball player on our entire campus was our 6’6” 225 pound starting center. I always felt Gilliam’s participation in practice was mostly about him busting our asses thoroughly enough to ensure that we’d listen to him more when he wasn’t playing. That didn’t really work. 

Gilliam got fired after three seasons coaching at Penn State Altoona. Guess what he did after his coaching career ended? 

He went back to PLAYING. 

This was in the minor league ABA, for the local team based in Pittsburgh. Gilliam was far from washed (at least by ABA standards). He averaged 23 points and 9 rebounds per game. He won MVP of the ABA All-Star game. 

He was in his early 40s by this point (he’d retired from the NBA at 34) and was playing as if he never should have quit in the first place. 

Unfortunately, Gilliam died while — you guessed it — playing basketball at a local LA Fitness in 2011. He was 47. 


If you’re going to transition from being the center of attention to helping others become the centers of attention, from center stage to behind the scenes, here are two things you can’t do. 

1) Still want the most attention of anyone involved. You’ll never give your best to the people you’re helping if you’re competing with them for the spotlight. 

2) Not be done doing your thing on stage. Every time you see someone not doing it as well as you used to do it, you’ll fall back into the bad habit of doing it yourself. 

If you’re really ready to step away from being the star (or want to know if you are), listen to #1672: Transitioning From “Player” To “Coach” here: 

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