Being Prepared


Planning for Things that May Never Happen

March Madness has begun with conference tournaments around the country. The NCAA seedings will be announced Sunday night.

In a couple of weeks we’ll know if Gonzaga can finally win the ‘big one.’

One thing about March Madness, teams that prepare for situations that may never arise do a lot better than the teams that don’t – no matter what the seedings. The classic example of that was the National Championship game in 2016, Villanova - North Carolina.

You may remember – we know, after the last couple of years 2016 seems more like 1620 – that Villanova won on a three pointer with no time left. At the buzzer. The first time since 1983 the final was decided on a buzzer beater.

The scene – UNC, down three, tied the game on a ridiculous, hang-in-the-air-double-pump-leg-kick three pointer with 4.7 seconds left. Villanova called time out.

During the timeout, the ‘Nova players huddled around coach Jay Wright. He was curiously unanimated, barely touching his whiteboard. None of the players leaned in, no one spoke, no one did much of anything – except for the Wildcats' 6’11’’ senior star center, Daniel Ochefu. He left the huddle early to grab a referee and clean up a sweat spot at midcourt. At one point Ochefu took the mop from the ball boy and put his back into it.

He was mopping the floor while his teammates took to the court and started to set up for the final play of regulation. Meanwhile, Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery joked on the air about the giant cleaning the floor seemingly oblivious to what was going down.

He wasn’t.

He was making sure the spot was dry because that was the spot where he was supposed to set the pick that would brush off Ryan Arcidiacono’s defender and ensure he could drive over half-court to set up the shot that could win it. He was making sure neither of them slipped.

Once freed, Arcidiacono had several options as he dribbled toward the three point line, he chose to flip the ball off to Kris Jenkins who nailed the winning shot, all net.

This was not a play drawn up on the sideline during the timeout. In fact, it was a set play called ‘Nova.” It was designed for this exact scenario: between 4.5 and 5 seconds left with Villanova tied or trailing by two or three.

The play was designed in Jay Wright’s second year at Villanova, 2002, when it came over with a new assistant. Every team, every year, practiced ‘Nova.’ Wright made them run the play with 5 seconds on the clock hundreds of times in practice in all its variations. They ran it at the end of practice when everyone was tired and wanted to go home – just as they would be at the end of a draining game.

They had never used it in a game, circumstances were never right.

They suddenly were on April 4, 2016, and no one on Villanova had to take even a second to figure out what to do.

So . . . when we’re designing a contract or a business or estate plan or heading into a negotiation we plan – and are ready for – things that may never happen. Because it’s always better to take the time to be ready than having to make something up on the spot.