LTC needs to be like Mike

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

I was worried I wouldn't appear too excited about the Christmas present. Because I wasn't.

Another book. About Michael Jordan. I haven't read them all but I had spent time with plenty. Besides, this one I hadn't heard of and it was a whopper — more than 700 pages.

Why would anyone who lives in the Chicago area ever need 700 more pages of Michael Jordan? We all soaked up his inimitable wonder — and ungracious Hall of Fame acceptance speech, among other blemishes — for years. His time in the limelight has rightfully faded, if not his place as the greatest NBA player of all time. One can witness any edited moment of his glory days with the help of YouTube.

Well, 260 pages in, I can attest that author Roland Lazenby does not waste the reader's time. The book, “Michael Jordan The Life,” has become my literary bowl of M&M's. A couple of times a day, or whenever I'm able, I'm compelled to consume more.

What does this have to do with long-term care? It's a point that Lazenby and dozens of interviewees etch into the brain: You don't have to be the biggest to be the best. Anecdote after anecdote, basketball insiders and normal people, remind that it was Jordan's will to succeed and intense competitiveness that propelled him beyond mere all-star status.

At 6-foot-6, he was solidly in the mid-range of height among NBA players. His weight nothing remarkable toward either end of the spectrum.

But his determination to be the best was simply unmatched. He would work out constantly, study opponents and get any edge he could. He would even trash talk or embarrass teammates in practice to raise their game and thereby also provide himself competition to help improve.

A favorite part of the book tells how then-Bulls Coach Kevin Loughery would split the squad into two teams at the end of practices to scrimmage to 10 points. Loughery would change the rosters every time. The squad that scored 10 points first would get to finish practice; the loser would have to run 10 laps.

Jordan — no matter who he was teamed with — never had to run the 10 laps that season.

One time, in fact, his team led 8-0 when Loughery made him switch squads. The ticked-off Jordan went on to score the first nine points for his new team, which eventually won, of course.

That doesn't come from being the biggest.

Over the past six months, long-term care observers have seen several prominent instances of “bigger isn't necessarily better” blow up. There was Rick Matros' very public roasting of the huge Genesis chain his own healthcare REIT was intent on selling off. Then there's been Brookdale's rocky and uninspiring efforts to build a national senior care brand that led to pink slips for the top execs in recent weeks.

And just this week, there's been HCR ManorCare's filing for bankruptcy and agreeing to be acquired by its landlord after having missed rent payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

To paraphrase Matros, the big guys just don't have the advantages any more.

Successful large operators, of course, will argue that size is not an automatic disqualifier. Nor should it be.

But they better still be competing, adding new facets to their game, striving to stay competitive. No, striving to be more than merely competitive.

Big can be a nice bonus. But it isn't an answer unto itself.

Just ask the numerous 7-footers Michael Jordan and his wagging tongue dunked on during his playing days.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.