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Episode 019 – David Chadwick: Pastor, Author and Former North Carolina Basketball Player

Posted on Nov 7, 2016 by in Podcast Episode | 0 comments


Leadership lessons from Dean Smith, applying faith-based principles while leading in a secular environment, the importance of failing and more!


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When you think about leaders throughout the history of sports, it wouldn’t take very long to get to University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball Coach Dean Smith. And today, we have a guest with us who not only played for Coach Smith, but has become an extraordinary leader in his own right.

David Chadwick is the senior pastor at Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, a church that has grown to over 6,000 congregants on multiple campuses since he first arrived in 1980.

He hosts a weekly radio show, and is also the author of: “It’s How You Play The Game – The 12 Leadership Principles of Dean Smith,” as well as his newest book: “Hearing the Voice of God.”

David and his wife Marilynn have three children and four grand-children.


  1. Let’s get the important things out of the way first: how do you expect the Tar Heels to do this season?
    1. Three starters back and three reserves back, so should be pretty good
    2. Freshman Tony Bradley is expected to be great
  2. We have a relatively young audience, many of whom didn’t have the opportunity to observe Dean Smith while he was still coaching. Can you tell us about him both as a man and as a coach?
    1. Began at UNC in 1962
    2. Lost a lot early; student body wanted him gone twice
    3. Brought in a great class in ’65, including the first African-American player at UNC and in the ACC – Charlie Scott; Coach felt program integration was important based on his Christian beliefs
    4. Led to three straight final fours in ’66-69
    5. The 70s were huge with great players before winning his first NCAA title in 1982 with Michael Jordan
    6. Won the title again in ’93, before retiring in ‘97
    7. ESPN studied the greatest coaches (all sports) between 1975 and 2000, and Dean Smith was #1
    8. Won more against Coach K than Coach K did against him
    9. Won 879 games, two national titles, Olympic Gold Medal (1976), NIT title
  3. Let’s talk about your book It’s How You Play The Game.
    1. Since we won’t have time to go into all 12 principles, could you mention each of them here at the top so our listeners know what we’re leaving out if they want to go get the book and fill in the gaps.
      1. Be loyal, Provide a family environment, Be a friend forever, Put the team before the individual, Be flexible with your vision, Get better, and the team gets better, Speak positive words, Pass on what you know, Be a person of good character, Make failure your friend, Know who really is in control, Commit yourself for the long haul
      2. Three overarching core principles
        1. People are first
        2. Mark 10:45 – “Son of man didn’t come to be served but to serve.”
        3. Coach Smith gave himself to his players
        4. Creating family environment
        5. Example with starting point guard accused of some trouble; Coach played him and kept him in the game even though he didn’t play well at all. Lost the game and was okay with that in order to build up that player.
      3. Be Loyal (p. 31-32) I was struck by Ademola Okulaja’s quote when talking about how Coach Smith would encourage players who were ready to go ahead and leave, even though the team would take a short term hit: “It’s different here…coaches really do put us number one…Many programs squeeze the players out like an orange and then throw them away. But there is respect and honor here…therefore, there is a certain obligation not to let each other down.” Talk if you would about that culture Ademola is highlighting.
        1. Coach Smith always said if IBM offered you $10M for three years I would say go and set yourself up for life, and then come back for your degree.
        2. He encouraged players to do what was best for them, even though it would hurt the team in the short term
        3. But that created loyalty from the players to the coach, and the team was better, and he was able to recruit other players
      4. Provide a family environment (p. 57) – Could you tell us a bit about the relationship between Coach Smith and Pat Sullivan, as it pertains to Pat’s father?
        1. Michael Jordan quote – “Other than my parents, there is no one bigger influence in my life than Coach Smith.”
        2. Pat’s father was an alcoholic and was not part of Pat’s life
        3. But when his father was going through a difficult time and Pat was struggling with whether to help him out, Coach Smith encouraged him to do so; to love his dad even if it wasn’t earned
    2. Put the team before the individual – In some ways this may seem to contradict some of the prior discussion about championing the wishes of the individual players (i.e. going pro early). Can you talk about how those two work together?
      1. Not a contradiction
      2. Overarching core value is people are first, but then also the team is first
      3. If he gives loyalty to the individual, they know it is there, and then they play harder than ever for the team
      4. Empowering the individuals create such a loyalty among the players that they play harder for him and go through a brick wall
      5. (follow-up) re: taking standing by your players to far?
        1. Leads to third overarching core value – character first
        2. Believes that a person’s name is more valuable than anything else
        3. Must honor God before anything else
        4. Not afraid to fail
        5. Extreme humility
        6. Would never operate in a way that would impugn his character or his faith in God that would make God look bad; so when confronted with those tough situations, he would work it out in a way to support his player but do so in an open/honest way; this would teach the player to operate with character as well
      6. Make failure your friend – Talk a bit about how Coach Smith viewed failure, but also if you could share some of the personal story you tell in the book about the transition you attempted at your church.
        1. In third overarching core value of character first, he though one of the ways character was formed was through failure
        2. Believed failure only bad if you didn’t get back up and learn from it
        3. 1964 team – question was whether Coach Smith would make it through the season. He said your reputation is what other people think of you; your character is what you think of yourself; Coach Smith then went home and read “Beyond Ourselves” by Catherine Marshall. Much of life is out of our control
        4. When he realized he couldn’t control how others thought of his coaching, it was profound, and all he could do was trust God through failures, and trust the results would come.
        5. And think about that it was 18 years from 1964 to his first national title in 1982…so that is long time of living by faith and through failures before seeing the ultimate goal achieved.
        6. When David led his church through a transition:
          1. Hear your people, learn from them, keep moving forward
          2. Celebrate the process once completed
          3. Make failure your friend; only a problem if you refuse to get up again
      7. Know who really is in control
        1. This may be a tough one for many of our Type A leaders out there. Walk us through what this looks like.
        2. Focus on process and not outcomes
        3. Day-in/day-out disciplines, principles and choices
        4. If you do the right thing over and over again, trust God with the outcome
        5. Avoid the snare to compare
    3. How should our faith impact or influence how we lead, particularly in a secular organization?
      1. Jesus is the example
      2. If you are one of his followers, we are called to follow/imitate him
      3. Mark 10: 35-45 – when James and Mark asked to sit at his right hand; Jesus told them to serve
        1. John 13: 1-13 – when disciples are arguing over who is the greatest; Jesus came in and washed their feet (served them)
      4. Jesus submitting himself to his Father by coming to earth as a human man in order to serve
      5. Our call is to use our position to serve people and help them to be the fullness of Christ in their positions and their jobs as best you can; to wash their feet; to discover their gift and help them succeed in that gift
      6. They will then want to work hard for you to help the organization be the best it can be
    4. You have a new book out Hearing the Voice of God. Why did you write the book and what can we expect from it?
      1. Purpose is to use the gospel of John as a daily devotional to hear the voice of God
      2. Best way to know whether God is speaking to you is through his Word
      3. Divided the book into a four month devotional
      4. Reflection of David’s heart
      5. Help people sit down and listen to God each day.
    5. Do you have any habits or routines that have been key to your success?
      1. Daily protocol that builds healthy habits
      2. Habit of hope in your heart is key
      3. David’s morning routine
        1. Exercise/job – just 30 minutes means a lot
        2. Quiet time – 30 minutes with the Lord; reading scripture; what is this saying? What is it saying specifically to me?
        3. Breakfast
        4. This creates physical, spiritual and mental health
        5. (follow up – Daniel asking about whether David is the ringer on the staff basketball team)
    6. Where can people go to learn more about you and where can they pick up the books?
      2. Books
        1. It’s How You Play The Game: The 12 Leadership Principles of Dean Smith
        2. Hearing the Voice of God
        3. Eight Great Ways To Honor Your Wife
        4. Eight Great Ways To Honor Your Husband

Thank Yous/Acknowledgements:

  1. Antioch Live/Clear Day Media Groupmusic
    1. More here.
  2. Jonathan Davis – production
  3. Clint Musslewhite voice over
  4. Ken Lorenz – a mentor and friend who introduced me to David Chadwick and facilitated today’s interview!




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