December 27, 2011
For more than a decade, the San Antonio Spurs have stayed near the top of the NBA on the strength of their professionalism and hard work. One of their inspirations during that time has been the following quote by the Danish-American social reformer and activist Jacob Riis: "When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."
The idea is a simple one: that if a team trusts it's process, eventually they'll get their desired outcome, even if it doesn't seem likely at any one point. It encapsulates Gregg Popovich's approach to the game and also helps explain why the Spurs have been so steady over the years. It even inspired the name of one of the most notable blogs covering the team.
In a league of copycats, many coaches have introduced the quote to their own teams, including Popovich disciple Mike Brown with the Los Angeles Lakers. But none have gone as far as new Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who literally keeps a giant boulder in his office. From the Associated Press:
A 1,300-pound boulder sits just inside the front door to the Toronto Raptors' dressing room, a reminder of the mentality Dwane Casey is trying to instill in his new team. Heading into what the Raptors coach is calling a "building" season, Casey has introduced a new motto: Pound the Rock.
"I knew we were going to be a work in progress, every time we walked on the floor we were going to have to have something to get us to think about … how we have to get better, we've got to work to get better," Casey said this week. "It's from a story about a stonecutter. Every time a stonecutter hits a rock it may not break. You may have to hit it 100 times but on that 101st time you hit it, now you crack the rock." [...]
Raptors employee Graeme McIntosh was sent out to find the stone that stands about 3 feet tall, snapping a photo on his phone and sending it to Casey for approval. The stone, which cost about $500, was then washed and shipped to Air Canada Centre.
It might seem ridiculous that the Raptors would put a real boulder in the locker room, but Jon Gruden put a large piece of granite in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' locker room during their Super Bowl season of 2002. While the Spurs have proven that it's possible to get the point across without a physical demonstration, it's nice that Casey made everything so clear. Metaphors can be tricky sometimes.
It's as yet unclear how much this motto will mean to the Raptors, but it's easy to admire their excitement in the early going. Plus, they made sure to buy local. I guess the NBA really does care about local communities.