Pepperdine Basketball Team Coach’s Leadership Style


Pepperdine Basketball Team needs a perfect replacement for coach Lorenzo Romar who has moved to an NBA team. The team has maintained a good performance over the years under Lorenzo, and replacing him may be a big challenge. The current predicament that the team faces has been complicated by an offer made by one of the alumni of the school. The offer of $100 million is tied to a condition that the team has to hire either Coach K or Coach Knight. The two veteran coaches have demonstrated their skills and capabilities in various basketball teams in the country for decades.

The school risks losing the donation if they settle on a different coach. The generous donation may help this team to maintain or even improve its current performance if the right coach is recruited. However, there is the risk of creating precedence for future donors to make conditions that the institution has to follow. The athletic director can choose Coach K, Coach Knight, or any other coach, in which case, the donation would be lost. The researcher made a critical assessment of the situation before making arriving at a recommendation that the school has to embrace.

Analysis of Coach K’s Leadership Style

Coach K has distinguished himself as a successful leader who understands the needs of his team and is capable of finding unique solutions to challenges that they face. The primary principle of leadership that governs the leadership style of Coach K is what he defines as ‘leading by heart’. The coach loves his work and the entire community of Duke University. He views his work as a divine calling that demands all his attention, effort, and commitment. When offered $ 40 million to join one of the most famous teams in the country, the Los Angeles Lakers, he rejects the offer primarily because of his love for the team. It is a unique demonstration of his commitment and fidelity to his work and employer. He is not easily swayed by financial benefits to abandoning the trusted team.

One of the leadership styles that he has demonstrated on this team is coaching. Coaching leadership entails recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of team members, and their motivation to help them improve (Snook et al., 2005a). This is demonstrated in his approach to treating players as family members. He gives every team member personalized attention to help identify the challenges that they face. He then focuses on finding a solution that is unique to each player. He has embraced the fatherly figure, always keen to understand problems that his players face at home, in school, and within the team. The strategy has enabled him to build a strong bond with the players.

Strict adherence to rules and regulation define the governance approach of Coach K. Having served in the military, he understands and appreciates the significance of setting rules and ensuring that everyone follows them strictly. He believes that rules are not only meant to be followed by the players but also the coach, who is the leader. This approach has earned respect among players and the entire community. The case also demonstrates that Coach K uses transformational leadership principles, always determined to help his players improve their skills continuously. He believes that continuous improvement is the only way of achieving sustainable growth for this team.

Coach K uses situational leadership in his role as the head of his current team. He is capable of assessing the current situation, then he develops a unique way of solving them. He does not restrict his leadership responsibilities to the pitch, as shown in the case. He is determined to make Duke University a better place for all its stakeholders. This sense of responsibility saw him take an additional role in this institution as a member of the board in the education faculty. Besides these unique attributes, the coach has avoided the controversy that may taint his image among the team members and the community at large.

Analysis of Coach Knight’s Leadership Style

Coach Knight is a veteran basketball coach who has been at the helm of the Indiana University basketball team. Just like Coach K, he started his career in the United States military. A strict leader who is always focused on achieving tight targets earning him the title ‘The General’, Knight has led this team to many victories, including three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships (Snook et al., 2005a). He is a respected coach in the country not only because of his age and experience but also because of the number of other successful coaches he has mentored over the years, including Coach K.

Passion for success is one of the leadership styles that Coach Knight has been using. Once the target is set, he does everything within his power to ensure that it realizes it. In what he describes as ‘the will to win’ this leader knows how to motivate his team to face stronger opponents and achieve victory. He believes that success is a mentality that one has to develop. He constantly reminds his players that having the needed skills is not enough if one lacks willpower. He uses a coaching leadership style to help individual players to overcome their unique challenges.

Coach Knight has a persona that is a magnet for controversy, which affects his image as a successful coach. The case shows that he has a problem managing his anger, and can easily be violent. This weakness led to his dismissal from the school because of the fear that he could physically assault a player or other students. Another weakness I consider critical is his aggression towards black leaders. Racial intolerance is a major weakness in modern American society.

Hiring Recommendation

Based on the above analysis, it is strongly recommended that Coach K should be considered for the new position. He has demonstrated his fidelity to his players and his current employer. He is a rational person who is capable of controlling his emotions. The non-violent approach to solving problems is critical when handling adolescent students who may sometimes be rude for no apparent reason. The Analysis shows that this coach is racially tolerant and capable of managing diversity which is common at Pepperdine. He will be able to work easily with the team because he has experience working with college-level basketball teams. Most importantly, Coach K values working in institutions of higher learning as opposed to professional NBA teams. When offered a lucrative contract, coupled with the fact that he will be working in the same environment as he currently is, Coach K may accept the offer.


Snook, S., Perlow, L., & Delacey, B. (2005a). Coach Knight: The will to win. Harvard Business School, 9(43), 1-12.

Snook, S., Perlow, L., & Delacey, B. (2005b). Coach K: A matter of the heart. Harvard Business School, 9(44), 1-12.

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BusinessEssay. "Pepperdine Basketball Team Coach’s Leadership Style." October 1, 2022.