From Pack Line to the Bottom Line: UVA Basketball Provides Lessons in Darden-Led Exec Ed Program
By Jay Hodgkins
After adding to his considerable coaching legacy by leading the Virginia Cavaliers to the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball championship, Tony Bennett’s patented Pack Line defense and Five Pillars of the Cavalier program are the envy of the college basketball world.
They’re also a source of inspiration and emulation for the corporate world.
Allan Myers, the largest civil construction company in the U.S. mid-Atlantic, has built its 80-plus-year history on a corporate culture that values developing leaders from within its own ranks. For 20 years, the company has hosted a leadership development program (LDP), which for the first time this year includes a business leadership component led by University of Virginia Darden School of Business faculty and Darden Executive Education.
With an LDP module on Darden’s Charlottesville Grounds in June on the heels of UVA’s basketball national championship, leaders at Allan Myers expressed interest in an opportunity to plug into one of the most successful programs and cultures in college athletics.
Fast forward about six months to December, and the 24-member cohort of the Allan Myers LDP was on the court in John Paul Jones Arena (JPJ), home of the Cavaliers, learning about the program’s foundational pillars and trademark defense.
The Pack Line Defense: A Business Lesson in Teamwork, Communication and Effort
Darden Executive Education partnered with UVA men’s basketball Director of Player Personnel Johnny Carpenter; Jontel Evans, a former first-team All-ACC defender, a four-year starter and the first recruit to sign to play for Bennett at Virginia; and UVA women’s basketball legend Ataira Franklin to coach the Allan Myers cohort on the principles of the Pack Line defense and the program’s Five Pillars.
Professors Lynn Isabella and Robert Carraway, the faculty leads for the LDP module, attended to help distill the learnings from UVA basketball’s foundation and apply them to lessons for strong corporate culture and leadership.
“Tony Bennett says before every game, ‘I don’t care if you win or lose. I care that you play to our standard,” Carpenter told the cohort from the Cavaliers’ official film room.
After two hours of lessons on the Pack Line, basketball drills, games, and a behind-the-scenes tour of JPJ that includes a walk through the home team’s locker room and Bennett’s office, Isabella and Carraway asked the cohort what surprised them the most about the experience.
“It surprised me that there’s a lot in common between the principles of Coach Bennett’s program and our company,” one member said. “They’re reflective of the values you have to have as a company to succeed.”
Prompted by Isabella to name what stood out about their experience playing the Pack Line defense, the cohort threw out a bevy of words with obvious connections to business practice: Teamwork, communication, supporting each other, hustle, effort and tenacity, to name a few.
With their application to corporate culture and servant leadership, the Five Pillars stood out to many in the cohort. “After working with Jontel, it’s clear that he believes in the Five Pillars and the program believes in the pillars,” one member of the LDP cohort said. “That made it easier for us to believe in the Five Pillars.”
A Unique Experience in First Year of New Custom Program
Partnering with Darden on its long-running leadership development program for the first time was a big decision for Allan Myers. Executive Vice President Bob Herbein, a member of the first LDP 20 years ago, said he believes the company’s 500 percent growth since 2000 and its ability to fill “a very high percentage” of leadership roles from within the company are reflections of the program’s success.
Yet, in an effort to make the successful program even better beyond the individual and personal leadership lessons the 18-month program imbued on its participants, there was a desire to add a business leadership component, which led to Darden.
“Darden is in our footprint. It has a great reputation. When we met with the Darden team, we felt really good about working with them and that they were listening,” Herbein said. “They were not going to do a cookie-cutter program, but work with us on something truly custom.”
Executive Vice President Aaron Myers (EMBA ’15), a Darden alumnus, introduced the company founded by his great grandfather to Darden. Myers also participated in the December LDP module, including the experience at JPJ.
“I went to business school at Darden and learned so much that I wanted to share the experience with our team,” Myers said. “Everything we’ve seen and experienced here [at JPJ] has been better than I could have imagined. It was a great way to kick off our time together. Everyone is having fun and I’ve seen a lot of teamwork.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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