By Anthony Mandella
When Pat Baldwin accepted the role of University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee’s head men’s basketball coach in June, he also accepted big changes and big challenges.
He was a first-time head coach. He was also in a new community, with new players and a new staff. He knew it was imperative to establish one thing with everyone – trust. And he knew people would watch to gauge his approach.
“They want to see how much you grind, how much you put into the day-to-day things that you need to get done,” Baldwin says.
“We’re about putting in the effort to get it done, and I think we built up that trust. We haven’t swayed from one thing that we talked about initially, and that’s very important.”
Baldwin’s ability to forge tight bonds is paying off for the Panthers. UWM is poised to finish in the top half of the Horizon League’s regular-season standings. It’s a big step forward, because a year ago, UWM won just four regular season conference games and was last in the league standings.
Building a culture of trust and teamwork has been a staple of Baldwin’s career, and good results have followed.
He came to UWM after four years as assistant coach at his alma mater, Northwestern University. One season before Baldwin joined the Northwestern coaching staff, the team had a 4-14 conference record. But in 2017, the strong relationships he’d built with players and coaches helped Northwestern make its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
The key, Baldwin says, is keeping his message consistent, whether it be with assistant coaches or players, or even people outside the program. In doing so, he’s created a system of faith and belief in each other that has allowed everyone to grow.
It’s a lesson that resonates far beyond the basketball court. When people know they can believe in you and what you’re saying, it’s a recipe for success no matter the endeavor. Whether it’s maintaining a loving family life, getting involved with the community or trying to win ballgames, if your message remains the same, you and your actions become trustworthy to those around you.
“For us to survive, we need the support of other people,” Baldwin says. “If we’re saying one thing and doing another, I think that disintegrates that relationship that you have with your community, your team, your family, all of those things.”
But even the most consistent messages won’t matter if you and those around you don’t believe in the collective goal.
“If you’re doing something, it has to mean something to you,” Baldwin says. “Whatever you do, do your role and try to star in your role. If you have that mindset, a lot of good things can happen to you.”
When everyone takes that approach, Baldwin says, the results add up. You get a group of trustworthy people, with each person contributing in a way that benefits the team, community or individual.
“We have this phrase within our basketball team that it’s not your shot, it’s our shot,” Baldwin says. “From that standpoint, I think that you can be bolstered or uplifted by a group of people behind you, supporting you, giving you that nudge and that push telling you that you can be great at anything that you do. I think that’s really important.”
Wherever he has coached, Baldwin has seen how such teamwork can make all the difference. “Find those like-minded individuals that you can surround yourself with,” Baldwin says, “and get to where you want to be.”