Like all coaches who have accomplished amazing results Riley had great talent, but not every coach who has great talent achieves amazing results. Riley was a great team builder. In 1986, the Lakers were eliminated in the conference playoffs. They had won two NBA championships in the previous four years and Riley was concerned the players had become complacent.
Following that 1986 season, Riley launched a new program that he called the Career Best Effort Program or CBE. The Lakers coach recorded data from basic categories on the stat sheet and effort hustle plays, applied a plus or a minus to each column, and then divided the total by minutes played. He calculated a rating for each player and asked them to improve their output by at least 1 percent over the course of the season. They were updated on their progress each week. If they succeeded, the season would become individually and collectively their Career Best Effort. The next two seasons the Lakers became the first NBA team to repeat as back to back champions in twenty years. Riley described the importance this way:
"Players can't excel in every area, but they can strive to better themselves in the areas that we value most for each individual. Then we can show them what they need to do to have their Career Best Effort."
As a master team builder Riley also preached against what he called "The Disease of Me."
In his book The Winner Within, Riley describes "The Disease of Me" as the overpowering belief in the importance of oneself. "The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they're part of the team is to sacrifice. It is so easy to become selfish in a team environment." The Disease of Me is ever present, but it can be anticipated and overcome. Riley lists the following symptoms of the disease:
- Inexperience in dealing with sudden success
- Chronic feelings of underappreciation
- Paranoia over being cheated out of one's rightful share
- Resentment against the competence of partners
- Personal effort mustered solely to outshine a teammate
- A leadership vacuum resulting from the formation of cliques and rivalries
- Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully
By using his Career Best Effort Program and using his list to coach against the Disease of Me Riley created a check list to prevent complacency and promote team work.