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    Meet The Crimson Coaches - Tommy Amaker
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    MLI Future Leaders Panel
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Learn More About Tommy Amaker

Leaders in every industry face the daily challenge of keeping employees motivated, productive and focused on achieving goals. Yet over the years, Tommy Amaker, Harvard University’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach, has perfected the art of strategically cultivating winning teams.

Since 2007, Amaker has taken Harvard’s basketball program to unprecedented heights, racking up seven Ivy League championships, four NCAA tournament appearances, and three NIT berths, molding the Crimson into an internationally recognized, powerhouse team of consistent achievers. Along the way, he has dedicated his time off the court to diversity and inclusion initiatives that focus on ensuring people of color get every opportunity to achieve their full career potential. Following a simple yet powerful philosophy of “Teach. Lead. Serve.,” Amaker encourages his players to “do well and do good,” to achieve the ultimate career goal of being productive and purposeful leaders in their communities.

“I have viewed my role as being more than just a coach,” says Amaker. “To me, the essence of what I do is teaching. My goal is to have a positive impact on lives and communities, not just on the basketball court but beyond the 94 x 50.”

An advisor and speaker with a gift for storytelling, Amaker happily shares his powerful playbook for winning with leaders from all walks of life, teaching them how to build more collaborative, innovative and productive teams that are motivated to achieve common goals.

Amaker’s approach to integrating social justice and leadership development into organizational programs landed him a position on the board of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), where he co-chairs the Committee on Racial Reconciliation. His work also caught the attention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which honored him as a 2020 Champion for Diversity and Inclusion. Amaker is a trusted advisor and Special Assistant to the Harvard President, an Executive Fellow with the Harvard Business School, and a Hauser Leader at the Hauser Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. He also plays an anchor role in the John McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative, which helps minority men and women forge paths into athletic administration, an area where representation is lacking.

Having been raised by a mother and many relatives who were long-time teachers, Coach Amaker is a big believer in the power of effective communication.

“To be a successful leader, you need to be able to communicate with different people in different times in different ways, to be able to adapt,” says Amaker. “Great people and great places do three things: teach, lead and serve.”

From team building and agility to resilience and competitive strategy, Amaker offers organizational leaders and teams a playbook for upping their game so they can outpace the competition and win.

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Coach Tommy Amaker is currently a Board of Overseers member for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston, an Executive Fellow at Harvard Business School, a Hauser Leader at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a Special Assistant to Harvard University President Larry Bacow. His basketball team, the Crimson, has advanced in the NCAA Tournament as a double-digit seed and received accolades from ESPN as one of the nation’s 25 best recruiting classes in 2008-2009 —the first such recognition for an Ivy League program.

 Amaker’s earlier credits include leading Duke University’s Blue Devils to four NCAA tournaments, including the 1986 national championship game. His playing career also includes a gold medal as part of the U.S. national team at the 1986 World Championships and a Henry Iba Corinthian Award as the nation’s top defensive player in 1987. His six-season stint as head coach at the University of Michigan included a 2004 NIT championship title, making him the youngest Black coach to ever win a national title (NIT or NCAA).

Tommy Amaker is available to advise your organization virtually and in-person through 1-on-1 or small group sessions, interactive learning experiences, workshops and keynote speeches through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Tommy Amaker was last modified: January 6th, 2023 by Justin Louis

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Authentic Leadership: The Art of the Turnaround

A setback is a setup for a comeback. Rejection leads to new direction. Failure is inevitable, and if you’re doing things right, it’s probably inevitable more than once. With these insights, Tommy Amaker, a former star college athlete and the Harvard Crimson’s all-time most winning basketball coach, demonstrates how our hardest moments – from being fired to a global pandemic – can be the most transformative, leading us to become more innovative, strategic and resilient. Through storytelling – and sharing examples of other publicized failures and comebacks, Coach Amaker teaches the art of authentic leadership including how to embrace failure, recover quickly, and bounce back stronger than before.

The Start-up Mindset: Pushing Progress from the Inside

Harvard University has been around for more than 380 years. But when Coach Tommy Amaker arrived, he had his own ideas about the men’s basketball program and assembled a team that could execute a new, more diverse and inclusive vision. For Coach, success is measured not just on the court, but beyond the 94 by 50. In this talk, Coach Amaker walks you through how to take a start-up mindset and apply it to established organizations, building relationships and a community of support that accelerates progress and inspires a continuous growth-mindset in any arena.

Teach. Lead. Serve: The Formula for a Winning Team

Good teams have good players, but great teams have great teammates. An expert on driving individual and group performance, Harvard basketball Coach Amaker shares his teacher-first approach for building two-way trust and two-way communication. Winning teams need effective, honest communication and need to come to the table without ego. When we lead by example, caring more about the good of the team than who gets the credit, it’s amazing what we can accomplish. In this talk, Coach Amaker teaches participants how to leverage their best skills as individuals for the greater good of an organization.

Play to Win: Why Culture Matters

Throughout his career, Tommy Amaker has seen leaders with a single-minded focus: winning. But as the coach of the Harvard men’s basketball team, he has found that the team’s work off the court is where the most progress is made, particularly when it comes to building trust and collaboration. His thoughtful, intentional approach to team building and continuous learning allows all players to feel supported. Hear from Coach about what it takes to foster an environment that values diversity of perspective and experience, and inspires individual and collective improvement.