Saturday, April 9, 2011

Systematic debate

This past season has been one that has garnered many awards and recognitions both individually and for our team. We really tried to put an emphasis on doing something special. I think this is important because you may not always win a championship but you can definitely look back and point to being part of something special. One special accomplishment that I am especially proud of is our scoring output. We averaged nearly 65 points per game as a team. Adjusted to an NBA game this would be the equivalent of scoring about 98 points per game without the virtue of a shot clock to speed up our opponents along with not playing a single overtime game. To put further describe this acheivement, this is better than 12 current NBA teams. We had four 80 point games and one game in Kanab where we scored 91. The scoring total is exciting. Even more exciting is the fact that I did not call out a single play. I've detailed my love for the triangle offense, however I will go into more detail here regarding how we were able to accomplish this and also what it has helped me accomplish individually in my house and with my family.
I grew up in a basketball program where each possession we had, we would turn and look at our coach who would call out a play and we would run it. It was highly successful and very interesting to watch my high school coach dictate what could only be described as an epic chess match with his opponent. We would get three and four page scouting reports that our coach had spent hours writing and probably three times more scouting and watching game film. I remember practices where our coach would skip out of conditioning at the end of practice to leave and watch one of our upcoming opponents play. We were well prepared because he was. Each game we had a new set of plays or package of plays that we knew would break down our opponent. I was impressed with my coach's preparation and always felt like he knew our opponents better than the opposing coach did.
Fast forward to my first year as a head coach. I was doing my student teaching, which can only be described as indentured servitud. It was forty hours of free labor per week. I worked my other job, mostly graves, and due in large part to only having one functional gym, we were practicing late. One sunday I left for work at 2:30 pm and finally returned home around 10 pm the next tuesday. I was doing as my coach did, trading game film and driving when possible as far as two hours one way to scout out an opponent while typing up three and four page scouting reports at 2 am on a grave on my blackberry. While much of this was necessary, I decided that I needed to prioritize my time a little better because I felt I was missing out on my family while making sure to not miss a single region opponent within a 100 mile radius. One game I missed out on drafting a scouting report. In my defense I was sleep deprived, over worked and I hadn't slept in my own bed since the Reagan administration. I was nervous that my players would lose confidence in me, lose confidence in our game plan but mostly I worried we'd lose the game. In an effort to salvage what I thought was my young coaching credibility, I jotted down a paper that included 3 offensive keys 3 defensive keys and the phrase "trust yourself, trust your teammates, trust your system." This was by no means brought about by inspiration but more persperation. Regardless, the result was our most lopsided victory of the season. After this game, as most of us coahes do, I adopted this as a superstition and junked the four page scouting reports. We won 9 of our last 11 games.
While there were many factors into our season's turn around, not the least of which was the development of a point guard who finally allowed everyone to play more natural positions, I am convinced this change of philosophy has something to do with it. In th off-season I was able to sit and think of what I wanted to change. Number 1 on my list was to be able to spend more time with my family. The only way this was possible was by cutting down my scouting and game preparation. I knew this would have to be counterbalanced with an improved emphasis on improving ourselves and belief in our system both defensively and offensively.
While in the first year we used the triangle most the time, we had a few plays and sets that we used to get into our offense. I decided to junk these and rely %100 on the triangle. Against man or zone: triangle offense. Against half-court traps and full court presses: triangle concepts. This forced me to really start to understand the concepts and ideas within the offense. Rather than entry sets, we started teaching our point guards to simply count how many players were on each side and to form our offense in 7 seconds or less, an idea stolen from Mike D'Antoni. What resulted this season was a 19-6 record with 13 of those 19 victories being by 20 or more. We did not run a single play or set, I did not call out any sets. Occaisionally we would call a timeout or during a quarter break, put certain players in certain spots to utilize talents but never called out a single play.
I have become a firm believer in systems rather than sets. My weapon of choice is the high post offense, while others choose motion or flex whic can be debated in another forum. Incorporating a system of play provides:
1. Less time scouting. If you can teach players to read the defense and break the game down into "if/then" statements, scouting becomes less involved.
2. Teaches kids to make basketball plays rather than run basketball plays. Systems will help kids to be able to play beyond the current level and adapt to other styles.
4. It allows less time for teaching plays and more time to teach skills and improve individual ability.
5. Teaches players to improve decision making. I don't know how many times I have seen a kid miss an open teammate, because that's not part of the play. Even worse is when kids make the right read and having the coach chew them out for not running the play. Both of these instances stymie team and individual development.
6. Having a system that is based on reads eliminates calling plays for a specific player which in turn eliminates jealousy. I have seen in my program and in others this happen frequently. Kids aren't stupid and parents aren't stupid. They know that when coach says box, then johnny gets a double screen for a 3 or when coach pats his head, johnny gets an iso at the top of the key. What follows is the inevitable conversation with each of johnny's teammate's parents wondering why their son doesn't get plays ran for each other. A system eliminates this problem. 7. Along those same lines this has eliminated my need to define roles. This is a huge debate in basketball where coaches have argued over the best way to tell their worst players to stop shooting. I honestly haven't had that issue and I attribute that to both having great parents in my program but also to having a system that dictates whoever is open should shoot. Now this is not to say that I allow my worst 3 point shooter to hoist up 3's. We use practice as well as timeouts to dictate who we want in each spot in our offense. I know that whatever specific team we are playing runs a style of defense that opens up a certain aspect of our offense and I can game plan accordingly by putting our best players in spots where they will get open. While some may say I am arguing semantics, this small difference means the world to being able to manufacture chemisty and squash jealousy.
This has been a long post buy I believe in this very strongly.

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