Golden State Warriors

Swish: These Wharton Profs Show Us Three Business Lessons Learned From The Golden State Warriors

By Mario Moussa and Derek Newberry

On a balmy night in Oakland last October, the energy of the sell-out crowd at the Oracle Arena was flagging.

While the die-hard Golden State Warriors fans had high hopes for the season, their team had lost two of their first three pre-season games, and they were struggling to get momentum against the Houston Rockets early in the first quarter.

Trying to spark some life into his team, Steph Curry took the ball from Draymond Green at the top of the key and dribbled past four defenders on his way to what looked like an easy lay up.

At the last minute, he whipped a no-look pass to Brandon Rush for an open corner three.

It swished.

The crowd jumped to their feet. Players on the bench laughed and high-fived each other as a grinning Curry jogged up the court.

It is fitting that the play happened against the talent-rich Rockets, a team that, for many experts and insiders, represented the future of the NBA. But the Warriors may actually be the team of the future. Their current season has featured similar scenes of flawless teamwork that may well produce the best season in NBA history.

The top player passes up a good shot for a great shot, tossing the ball to a bench player with a better look, while the rest of the team cheers.

Just a few years ago, the Moneyball model of talent management seemed poised to sweep the NBA. Led by luminaries like Sam Hinkie, who instilled this approach in the Rockets before moving to the Sixers, front office executives have become increasingly focused on acquiring “undervalued assets” rather than worrying about intangibles like chemistry and character.

The Golden State Warriors are the ultimate team. Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

The Golden State Warriors are the ultimate team. Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

Now, as our own hometown Sixers are in the NBA basement and the Rockets are underperforming, the Warriors appear to be ushering in a new era of basketball.

The Warriors’ philosophy is deceptively simple, but it confirms what we know from our own research on collaboration at the Wharton School of Business: High-performing teams trump collections of talented individuals.

In a league driven by lone superstars and individually-focused metrics, the Warriors are succeeding by putting in place what we have found to be the three foundations common to all high-performing teams: goals, roles and norms.

Define simple, clear goals

In a recent interview, center Andrew Bogut recalls how shocked his teammates were when they started their first practice with coach Steve Kerr by doing basic passing drills that they hadn’t seen since high school: “Guys were kind of like, ‘Ugh, we don’t want to do these petty little drills,’ but after a couple of weeks I think guys understood what he was trying to relay onto us. And it was genius in a way, because it’s just instilling the little things.”

Kerr believed that an overcomplicated strategy had caused the team to lose sight of the basic fundamentals.

According to Bogut, he told them: “[if we] just turn it over four or five times less per game, we’re going to win a championship.”

The prediction proved to be true, and it came from an insight shared by all leaders of top teams:

The best goals aren’t about big, abstract visions, but small, manageable steps.

Turn the ball over a few less times. Make a few more passes.  Goals need to be clear and straightforward to be achievable, as Kerr himself has explained: “Run six or eight things really well, instead of 20 things in a mediocre fashion.” The Warriors’ success demonstrates the power of simplicity.

Define roles that work for individuals and for the team as a whole

When Kerr decided to bench Andre Iguodala and start Harrison Barnes last season, most people thought he was out of his mind.  Iguodala had been acquired by the team as a franchise player, not a $12 million a year bench warmer.

But Kerr believed Barnes had struggled after a promising rookie season because his confidence was hurt when he was moved to a reserve role in his second year.

Barnes needed the security of having a consistent role on the team, and he would improve by being forced to keep up with better players.

Iguodala would provide a solid veteran presence for the bench unit and a boost of energy later in games when starters rested.

Steph Curry is at the heart of the Golden State Warriors success. Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

Steph Curry is at the heart of the Golden State Warriors success. Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

As it happened, both players excelled in their roles. Barnes returned to form while Iguodala became a serious candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award, on their way to winning their first title in 40 years.

Kerr understood that team roles don’t work in isolation—their effectiveness depends on how they interconnect and this will be different for every group.

As the better player, it would normally make sense to have Iguodala in the starting role with Barnes on the bench, but given the team dynamic, Kerr had the insight to switch them.

Establish shared norms by building trusting relationships

From top to bottom, the Warriors organization has built a culture around trust and transparency, to the point where owner Joe Lacob installed glass walls throughout the team offices to reinforce his message of openness.

The trust the team has built starts with a shared set of norms that encourage everyone to voice their opinion.

For Kerr, it began with one-on-one conversations he had with the team after he was hired.  He impressed his players by visiting each one individually, even flying out to Australia for Andrew Bogut, and explaining to them how he thought they would fit into his strategy.

In fact, it was this process of sitting down face to face, being transparent, and asking for feedback that convinced Iguodala to go along with being moved to the bench.

This norm of honesty is reinforced in everything Kerr does, as Green noted in a recent interview: “Earlier this season I yelled at him during the game…[Later] he said, ‘Nah, you’re fine. I love your passion; why would I try to stop that? That makes you the player who you are.”

Transparency infuses the entire organization, as Lacob himself is known for inviting dissenting opinions from his staff, rather than running the team like a dictatorship as many owners do.  By creating shared norms, the Warriors have built a high level of trust that makes their signature style of unselfish play possible, even on a team with big egos.

Kerr once described his coaching philosophy as being 90% team environment, 10% strategy.

At a time when the dominant trend in the NBA has been about analyzing players as individual assets, the Warriors are creating a counter-revolution based on group dynamics. As Lacob told writer Bruce Schoenfeld: “It’s not just Steph Curry. It’s architecting a team, a style of play, the way they all play together.”

It starts with putting the right foundations in place for collective success.

As they head toward a historic season by multiple measures, the Warriors are bringing the team back to basketball.

Dr. Mario Moussa and Dr. Derek Newberry are the authors of Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance. They both teach at the Wharton School of Business. For more information on their work, visit,

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Here’s How The Warriors Turned Steph Curry Into A Well Rested Bionic Superhuman

Before blossoming into the greatest shooter the sport has ever known, Steph Curry was defined by his fragile ankles.

Over the course of his first 3 NBA seasons, Curry missed 66 games, most of that coming after his initial operation, as he sprained his ankle five times while playing in 26 games the following year.

If his 2012 surgery failed, he was faced with the bleak prospect of inserting tendons from a cadaver into his ankle in the hopes that they would function better than the ones nature provided for him.

Luckily for Curry, the NBA, and anyone who ever wished that Steve Nash and Pete Maravich would have an And1 basketball baby, his last surgery is looking like it could be his last ankle surgery.

Steph’s problems were actually a pretty easy fix, as they were due to a mess of scar tissue, bone spurs, chips, and cartilage filling his joints “like crab meat.”

Dr. Richard Ferkel essentially vacuumed it all out, and the next face of the NBA was reborn.

“I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but rehabbing for two years. I feel like I’m never going to be able to play again. This ankle thing is not gonna be my life.”


Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

Curry took advantage of as many resources as he could to fuel his 2nd chance in the NBA. Before every game now, Curry straps on his Zamst ankle braces (designed for post-sprain activity) and a pair of Under Armour sneakers created specifically for his feet.

Every team is looking for an edge somewhere in keeping players healthy and consistent. It is an accepted fact that this is the new market inefficiency in sports. But few organizations pursue this avenue with the vigor and resources of the Warriors.

They hired Australian sports science guru Lachland Penfold this offseason, and according to owner Joe Lacob, the goal is to “have like, a video game fatigue meter. A guy like Lachland will be able to go up to Bob and Steve [Kerr] and say, ‘Guys, he’s at a 77, and our threshold is 75 for Safe to Play.'”

The NBA’s new SportVU cameras that track and measure almost any movement on the court have combined with the GPS trackers the team wears in practice to give the Warriors unprecedented insight into their players’ health and its relation to their game.

The Warriors place a premium on their players’ mental acuity as well. Steve Kerr has made it a team goal to reduce personal stress, and the Warriors run complex drills to test their nervous system, as Curry described in an interview with Tech Insider:

“We overload our sensory system, nervous system, in our training with different lights. There are little beams that we have on the wall, and I’ll be doing dribble moves and reading the lights that are associated with different moves. Different colors mean to do a different move, and you have to make that decision in a split second and still have control of the ball.”

What do Steve Kerr, Chip Kelly, the Vancouver Canucks, and Jason Bourne all agree on? As the line from Robert Ludlum’s famous 1990 book goes: “Rest is a weapon.”


Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

Before Kelly even arrived in Philadelphia three years ago, the Vancouver Canucks signed a deal in 2009 with Fatigue Science.

No professional squad has a more brutal travel schedule than the northwesternmost team in North America; the Canucks traveled one third of the distance to the moon en route to their 2011 Stanley Cup Finals loss, so it’s only natural that they would be interested in the effects of sleep, or the lack thereof, on the body.

A 2012 Harvard Study placed Fatigue Science’s armbands on orthopedic surgical residents and found that they averaged 5.3 hours of sleep per week, and because of this, the risk of medical error increased by 22%. Significant fatigue basically has the same effect on the body as being drunk.

Kelly has said that he believes that “an elite athlete needs between 10-12 hours [of sleep] a night.”

He was a college football pioneer in so many ways at Oregon, and he was practically the only college coach who was seriously investing in sport science.

As Chris Brown wrote for Grantland in 2014 about the basis of Kelly’s research (which was conducted on Australian-rules football):

“Many of those studies used heart rate, GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscope monitors worn by players in practice to determine how to train for peak game-day performance and how to prevent injuries. These studies also tracked the movements that players made in games so teams could mold practices and training to what players did on an individualized and position-by-position basis.”

The Eagles were 18th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost to injury metric the year before Kelly arrived.

They invested a ton of money in his programs, placed trackers on their players’ wrists in practice, and finished 1st and 2nd in his subsequent seasons. Kelly has since been fired from the Eagles and is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan used to show up for work before sunrise. But things have changed for him.

“I thought that showed dedication and work ethic. I don’t do that anymore, because I realized it is more important to be rested and ready than it is to beat everybody to work.”

Pete Carroll has long embraced the importance of sleep, and the Seahawks now schedule their travel and training schedules to maximize their players’ sleep efficiency.

Richard Sherman has become one of Carroll’s acolytes on this issue, emphasizing how the head coach’s focus on good sleep was central to their Championship season of 2014 in an open letter for Sports Illustrated.

The pace of innovation in sports is accelerating. The Moneyball Era opened the floodgates for a reevaluation of everything.

Once available only to elite athletes, this technology that monitors players’ health and performance and helps explain their inextricably linked relationship is becoming more widespread and affordable.

If these advances could help alter the course of Steph Curry’s career, and thus, the history of the NBA, imagine the possibilities they could create in neighborhoods across the country.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Previewing The Warriors/Cavs Finals Rematch On Christmas Day

By Nick Hickman

Once again it seems that the NBA has assumed the roll of Ol’ Saint Nick this holiday season. The league is scheduled to deliver five premier matchups split between ESPN and ABC. Highlighting the showcase this year will be the game at Oakland’s Oracle Arena in which LeBron James and his finally healthy squad seek revenge.

The game at 5 p.m. ET on ABC is the first rematch of the Cavaliers and Warriors since last year’s NBA Finals, a series that ended in a 4-2 Warriors victory.

WATCH: A recap of the 2015 NBA finals

It was also a series heavily plagued with injuries. The ‘Big 3’ that was formed only months earlier first lost Kevin Love in a series against the Celtics and then Kyrie Irving in Game 1 of the Finals. The blows only served to heighten the workload for LeBron James, a factor that became increasingly apparent as the series wore on. LeBron averaged 35.8 points and 8.8 assists but it wasn’t enough against the high-powered and fast paced Golden State Warriors.

This year’s matchup promises dynamics far different. While Kevin Love has steadily averaged 23 points per game this season, last Sunday marked the highly anticipated return of Kyrie Irving in a 108-86 win against the 76ers- which is nothing really to boast about. Still, it would appear that the Cavalier machine that we’ve all been waiting for is finally back, oiled up and ready to go.

Eagerly awaiting them at Oracle Arena will be the team that hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy last year, the Golden State Warriors, a 26-1 team who also wields the leagues reigning MVP in Steph Curry. While the Cavaliers have been focused on getting healthy and restoring their roster, Curry hasn’t missed a beat.

Instead, the sharp shooter is making an enticing argument for this year’s MVP while leading the league in scoring at 31.8 per game. Additionally, the Warriors have watched as forward Draymond Green has propelled himself into the conversations of the league’s elite. Green is averaging a near triple double this season with 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.

However, while Cleveland has illustrated the types of struggles associated with injuries, this time around it may actually be Golden State who is burdened by the injury bug. Warriors forward Harrison Barnes has been out with a sprained ankle since November 27 and will not play on Christmas.

Golden State will miss Barnes who up until his injury had been averaging 13.4 points and 5 rebounds a game. More importantly, however, is the reality that Barnes averaged 30.1 minuets for the Warriors and was a key staple on the defensive side of the floor. The injury will force Golden State to make adjustments, in turn exposing potential opportunities to the Cavaliers.

Regardless of whatever circumstances are at play, the Warriors and Cavaliers are sure to offer up a Christmas treat. Despite injuries, the Warriors have eleven players that have played in at least twenty games already this season and will have no problem with mixing and matching to find the right formula.

On the other side sits James and a Cavalier team that wants nothing more than to assert their dominance on the hottest team in sports. The result will be a showdown appropriate for next year’s wish list.

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

History: Putting The Golden State Warriors Winning Streak In Historic Context

By Eric Quinones

Last Saturday, the defending champions of the NBA, the Golden State Warriors tasted defeat in a regular season game for the first time in 29 games. This amazing winning run dates back to the last four regular season games of last season. The Warriors also started this season 24 and 0 which is the best start for any NBA franchise in the history of the league.

During the streak, the Warriors passed the previous second-best streak, which was held by the Miami Heat who won 27 games in a row during the 2012-13 campaign. The Warriors came up 5 games short of tying the all-time winning streak record held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers who won 33 games in a row.

Despite the loss, the Warriors also have a chance to surpass the best regular season team record of all time held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who went 72 – 10.

WATCH: Top 24 plays of the Warriors season so far.

Stephen Curry has led the onslaught of the Bay Area squad. He once again is the early favorite to be the MVP this season as he’s averaging 32.3 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, along with 6 assists. His 32.3 points per game is leading the league, and right now he is playing as if he’s the best player on the planet.

But this streak didn’t just happen because of one player; it was a collective group effort night in and night out. The Warriors lead the league in scoring, averaging 115.3 points per game.

They are 4th in the league in rebounds per game and they are 1st in the league in assists as a team.

Their defense isn’t the best, but they get the timely stops when needed- led by Draymond Green who was on the All NBA Defensive first team last season. And let’s be real here, to beat the Warriors you have to bring your A+ game, and on most nights you have to score 115 points to do so which most teams don’t have the ability to do.

WATCH: Inside the Warriors Ground.

The streak is over, but the team undoubtedly does have its eye on the 72 win mark that the 1995-96 Bulls own. The Warriors are 25 – 1 and have 56 games remaining on their regular season schedule. If they want to surpass the 72 win mark, they would have to go 48 – 8 for the rest of the season.

While the streak is over, you would have to be crazy to not watch this team play.

The Golden State Warriors are on a special run. I suggest that every basketball fan enjoys it while it’s here. It’s a rare but amazing run that might not be seen for another decade.

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

So When When Will The Warriors Finally Lose A Game?

The Golden State Warriors have started the season 19-0. They own the record for the best start to an NBA season. They are the defending champions and they have the reigning league MVP.

But every team has to lose some time, right?


Well, in a bit of news that won’t shock many and will rouse the haters, if Golden State doesn’t lose soon, they are going to go to celebrate New Year’s still perfect.

How soon are we talking? The next six games.

The Warriors just started a 7-game road trip with a gutsy 106-103 win over the Utah Jazz. They were trailing in that game as late as a minute left in the 4th quarter before Steph Curry started doing Steph Curry things, nailing a three over Rodney Hood in a play that you have probably already seen at least four times.

But it’s not just Curry.

Draymond Green, owner of two triple-doubles already this season, laid out a 20/9/7 line.

Not to mention that the Warriors did this without Harrison Barnes, a key component in the small-ball offense that no team has been able to stop so far this season.

However, all that being said, Golden State is not going 82-0. That is crazy talk. But if the Warriors are going to end 2015 at anything other than 32-0, which team is going to hand them a loss?

Well, as previously mentioned, Golden State is currently on a road trip. And they are playing a few teams that gave them problems earlier in the season. They defeated Toronto 115-110, and they needed overtime to put away the Nets. However, you have to look a little further down to find the team with the best odds.

And that team is the Indiana Pacers. Granted, they are on their own West Coast trip this week, but they have two full days off before they play the Warriors on Dec. 8.

The Pacers also have the comeback player of the year so far in Paul George. George is playing the best basketball of his career, and he certainly has the ability to out-score Curry. The Pacers would have to play defense like the 2013-2014 version of the team, but it’s not impossible.

If Golden State gets by Indiana, the next game to look at for their first loss would be when they face LeBron and the Cavaliers on Christmas Day. You can never count out King James against any opponent, after all.

Get past the Cavs on Christmas? Then the discussion has to turn to 72-10.

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)

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