Phil Jackson, Lisa Leslie, and Bill Cartwright ’79 Share Lessons on Greatness at Silk Speaker Series

by Sara Rinaldi, Development Communications

USF students, alumni, friends, parents, and community members gathered during one of the university’s biggest weekends of the year, CelebrateUSF, to attend the popular Silk Speaker Series.

Over 1,000 attendees packed the Sobrato Center at the University of San Francisco to hear from basketball legends Phil Jackson, Lisa Leslie, and Bill Cartwright ’79.

The Silk Speaker Series, launched by USF trustee Jeff Silk ’87 and his wife Naomi, brings industry giants and key thought leaders on global affairs, the economy, and business to the university.

Lisa Leslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion, broadcaster and sports analyst, and reigning Coach of the Year of the BIG3 graced the stage as a speaker and facilitator.

Leslie shared about what she has learned about communication and the power of language — especially the language we use with ourselves. Leslie shared that her greatest mentor was her mother, a truck driver, who inspired her to believe in the power of quotes and visualization to reach her goals.  

The Silk Speaker Series also welcomed Phil Jackson, “the Zen Master,” an 11-time champion NBA coach with the Chicago Bulls and the LA Lakers, and Bill Cartwright. Cartwright is a USF alumnus and former Dons men’s basketball player, who played and coached for the Chicago Bulls.

Jackson and Cartwright discussed what it has taken them to reach playoffs, championships, and master teamwork.

“The hardest thing is that everyone wants to be the hero, everyone wants to play every minute,” said Cartwright. “But the most important part is playing your role at your best, so you can be the best teammate.”

Jackson shared his strategy on how to develop closeness and camaraderie on multi-game road trips with his team. He would choose books matched to the players, for the entire team to read through the different legs of their trips.

“I coached in transformational coaching,” said Jackson. “What I found most important is how you bring people together — in a team bonding type of way.”
Leslie, Jackson, and Cartwright had differing views on leadership, but they all agreed that connection was the most critical ingredient to team success.

“It’s not just about putting the ball in the basket — how do you treat people and how do you treat your teammates? It’s the importance of staying connected,” said Leslie.

New to the Silk Speaker Series? Read about some of our previous speakers.