Eric Snow Q + A
Vet talks coaching, leadership, success and LeBron.
by Kyle Stack
Leadership is a word often tossed around with ease by athletes yet is rarely maximized on a daily basis. Eric Snow understands leadership, and it’s why he’s continued to be recognized for possessing that quality even after his NBA career ended following the ‘07-08 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Snow elaborated on his concept of leadership by penning his first book — Leading High Performers: The Ultimate Guide to Being a Fast, Fluid and Flexible Leader. In the book, Snow analyzes the leadership characteristics that helped him maintain a successful 13-year NBA career, which included NBA Finals appearances for three teams — the Seattle Supersonics, Philadelphia 76ers and Cavaliers.
Now an analyst for NBA TV, Snow wrote this book not only for athletes but for people looking to enhance their opportunities for success in any walk of life.
SLAMonline caught up with him at the NBA Store in New York City, where he was signing autographs for Leading High Performers.
SLAM: When did you know you wanted to write this book?
ES: I actually had most of it finished when I was still playing. I knew I wanted to write a book, basically, for my children and for generations after me who can have something to reference me.
SLAM: When you were a rookie, did you see envision yourself as a revered veteran player who would write a book on leadership?
ES: Not at all. At the end of my career in Philadelphia and the beginning of my career in Cleveland, I started asking myself what I could leave as far as a legacy and how I could help other people’s lives. So that’s when I started formulating those thoughts.
SLAM: You arrived in the NBA during the mid-’90s and the league has undergone many changes since then. How have the leadership responsibilities of an NBA point guard shifted with it?
ES: I don’t think it’s changed very much. I think that nowadays the point guards that do a great deal of the leadership also take more of the burden of the scoring responsibility. That’s probably what has changed more than anything. At the same point, they still have to lead, set the example for teammates, they have to coach on the floor and they have to communicate. They have to show people they care and have to develop trust.
They have to do the same things but it’s just that some of them have to take on more of an offensive burden.
SLAM: You played for some great coaches, including Jud Heathcote at Michigan State, George Karl with the SuperSonics and Larry Brown with the 76ers. What is one facet you took away from each of their styles and added to your sense of leadership?
ES: With Jud Heathcote, it was about believing in what you can’t see. How do you attain something that you want but can’t really see? It was more about developing a confidence in your game and sticking with what you put into it.
With George Karl, it was the ability to stay focused, be challenged and get through all types of obstacles.
With Larry Brown, it was how you can impact other people’s lives. That’s ultimately what it was always about. Being able to go out there and no matter what, trying to help somebody else.
Mike Brown [Snow's coach with the Cavaliers] was always about cementing without a doubt that you can attain something nobody else thought you could accomplish. He is a good friend of mine who accomplished a lot of great things.
SLAM: It seems like Coach Heathcote’s philosophy is a lot to take in for a college-aged person.
ES: I didn’t grasp it until I was gone, that’s the thing about it. What he coached and taught me wasn’t something I realized was there until later in my life.
SLAM: Do you see your leadership qualities better suited as an basketball executive or as a coach?
ES: I think I can perform either role, but I think the more concrete feel is in coaching. It’s more day-to-day and you have more interaction with players on a daily basis. From that standpoint, you can reach them a little more. Whereas being an executive, you don’t interact with players quite as much.
SLAM: Is there a particular coaching strategy that bugs you whenever you watch NBA or college games?
ES: No, because everyone has their own strategies. There is only a wrong way to do something when it doesn’t work. [Laughs] So, I don’t think I’ve said ‘I wouldn’t do that’ to any coaching decision.
SLAM: Do you have a preference for the pros or college?
ES: Nope. [Smiles]
SLAM: You became a teammate of LeBron James during his second season, in ’04-05. What was your first piece of advice to him?
ES: It was to develop a move and a counter. Whatever his go-to move was going to be. I couldn’t teach him what move to go to but I could teach him that when people take that away and you have a counter, you become pretty much unstoppable.
SLAM: What one quality of his game has he done the best job of refining from the first time you played with him?
ES: He’s an exceptional athlete and he uses his athletic ability to his strength. He puts so much pressure on people that even when he’s not shooting well, he puts so much pressure on the team. His feel for the game is ultimately what makes him as great as he is. People mention his athletic ability but it may be his feel for the game that makes him great, moreso than his athleticism.
SLAM: You say you maintain a line of contact with the Michigan State basketball program. What post-college advice do you give to the players?
ES: Finding your passion in life, being able to really diagnose what it is that you want to do in life and working hard at it. If you can do those things and say you”re going to be the best person you can be and to work hard and graduate from school, there are so many opportunities even if basketball doesn’t happen [beyond college]. Some people seem to think that if you’re a student-athlete and you don’t go to the professional ranks, then you’re a failure. You still played, you graduated, you’re still successful.
SLAM: What message do you hope people take away from your book?
ES: How important it is to impact another person’s life.