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VOL. 125 | NO. 100 | Monday, May 24, 2010

ESPN’s Bilas Motivates Memphis Business Leaders

By Eric Smith

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Best known for his savvy basketball commentary, Jay Bilas spoke Friday morning about the parallels between a successful sports team and a successful business.

Bilas, a hoops analyst for ESPN and CBS Sports, delivered the keynote address at the Lipscomb & Pitts Breakfast Club, held at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

A practicing attorney whose father was a small-business owner, Bilas played basketball at Duke University for coach Mike Krzyzewski, one of the sport’s winningest, most successful coaches.

Bilas learned invaluable lessons about success first as a player and then as an assistant coach at Duke, where he helped guide the Blue Devils to national titles in 1991 and 1992.

Now Bilas applies those lessons as a lawyer and as a TV analyst, which affords him the chance to visit campuses around the country and see how coaches inspire their players and take them to new heights.

Through his athletic and professional career he learned the same principles that help a team win championships that can help a business win contracts and clients.

It all starts with leadership, Bilas said. That person – a company’s CEO or president – is the “guardian of an organization’s culture.”

The leaders need to put people first, care about every aspect of the organization and must believe in what they’re doing if they hope to achieve success, he said.

A successful business must also have standards, set goals, engage in honest communication, perform self-evaluation, treat everything it does as important and be unafraid of the consequences, Bilas added.

The speech hit home for the hundreds of business leaders who gathered for the monthly breakfast speaker series.

Bank of Bartlett president Harold Byrd said the message was especially poignant for him, a big-time basketball fan and leader of an area bank.

“His talk really resonated because you have to believe in what you’re doing and you have to transmit that to your employees,” Byrd said.

“Resonate” was a word others used to describe Bilas’ speech, often humorous as he cracked jokes throughout, but also serious as he depicted the coaches and mentors who made a difference in his life.

Johnny Pitts, owner and chief manager of Memphis-based Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance LLC, the event’s sponsor, also used that word when discussing Bilas’ keynote.

“What Jay said resonated not only in the sports community but in the business community,” Pitts said. “The same tenets in sports apply in business.”

University of Memphis men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner was on hand to introduce Bilas, whom Pastner called the “voice of college basketball” because of his prolific appearances on two networks during the season.

Pastner, himself a noted motivator whose speeches are well attended, said he picked up a lot of great tips that he can take back to the players he leads.

“The examples he was making,” he said, “I can translate to our team.”

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396