I was watching the lowly New York Knicks last night and the TNT halftime show announcers were trying to explain why the Knicks were bad. Kenny Anderson and Charley Barkley were riffing on the team’s identity. They had none. Were they a defensive minded team? A half court team? Fast break team?
The fact is, as currently constructed, the NY Knicks are still in gestation. All the new players they brought in are okay, but none stars. So what’s the identity? Is it a player? When Carmelo Anthony was on the team, was he their identity? Can a team’s identity even be determined by one player? If you have LeBron, it can.
I think team identity is more like brand strategy. And that starts with the coach.
Teams like products are existential. They are what they are. Sure you can change the formula, but good coaches and brand managers, first have a plan, second they use what they’ve got. Coach K was the same coach with Zion Williamson, but he also adapted to the player. Brand managers can sweeten the soda a lil’ bit, but shouldn’t be changing the formulary upon a whim. They start with a plan.
Kenny Anderson and Charles Barkley like Knicks coach David Fizdale but without saying it, they implied the lack of identity starts with him.
This stuff isn’t random. Not in basketball, not in branding. A talented, informed and prepared coach, with a plan, is needed in both cases.