May 08, 2009

How David Beats Goliath: Malcolm Gladwell uses a 7th grade girls basketball team, a computer-driven war games entrant, Lawrence of Arabia and David to illustrate that effort often trumps ability, if the underdogs refuse to play on Goliath's terms. In other words, why don't more bball teams use a full court press the entire game?

posted by billsaysthis to general at 06:27 PM - 9 comments

Excellent read Bill. Especially loved the wargames part.

The only winning move is... to sink your own ships.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 10:18 AM on May 09, 2009

Man, That was a GREAT article! Thanks Bill!

posted by firecop at 10:59 AM on May 09, 2009

great article and interesting read.

Article aside (which seems to focus on how you can beat a stronger opponent by focusing on unconventional means), my real question is why the coach of a 12 year old girl basketball team felt the "winning" part was so important, so he resorted to this new philosophy just to compete? I can understand the importance of "by all means necessary" to T.E. Laurence, but to a self-proclaimed "little league of basketball"? Beating Goliath was more important than teaching the ordinary fundamentals? (even if it means LOSING while teaching those fundamentals?) There's a big difference between Pittino doing it with college kids and this guy doing it against 12 year old girl summer league who may just be learning to dribble.

I tend to agree with the opposing coaches that were getting angry. At 12 years old, all I would be interested in my kids learning to dribble/pass/shoot (the win/losses at that age are secondary). And regardless if this team personally chose not to focus on those principals...they were not affording the other team that opportunity either by contesting every inbound pass, which is selfish in my mind.

For example, I had a kid on my sons soccer team who was head and shoulders above the other kids talent-wise. When he was out there on offense he would score 6 or 8 goals and the other team would never even get the ball across mid-field. Now we could have kept him on offense and the other team never would have learned anything (not dribbling, not passing, etc...because this kid would take it away and go score), but instead the coaches would put him back on defense after awhile so everyone got to practice THE GAME.

posted by bdaddy at 11:53 AM on May 09, 2009

I don't think he resorted to the full-court press just to win, he did it because he believed that it made no sense to do otherwise. He came to the game of basketball with a fresh set of eyes. This reminds me of Moneyball, with Billy Beane realizing that baseball can be won with batters who avoid getting the third out as long as possible, not just batters who produce runs and RBIs.

It might not have been fun on his opponents to be pressed all the time, but teaching kids to beat the press and to apply the press are fundamentals too.

Malcolm Gladwell's an amazing writer. The way he ties stuff together from all over the place is pure genius. How did he even hear about Eurisko? I was playing Traveller back then and I never heard about that tournament.

posted by rcade at 12:50 PM on May 09, 2009

Being taught to dribble/pass/shoot is nice, but while that was happening at one end, at the other Ranadiv was teaching his team a lesson that would extend beyond the basketball court - that there are some apparent chasms in talent that can be bridged with effort, desire and unconventional thinking.

The opposing coaches have [total number of games] - [number of games against Redwood] in which to teach their players nothing but fundamentals. Beyond that, the smart among them would see several chances to learn against Redwood - first to play against the press, to think about what to do and to not panic when your routine is disturbed and, better yet, they'd be able to take their better players into the locker room after the game and say "you're better than those guys and yet they won... why do you think that happened?"

Or they could throw a chair.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 01:45 PM on May 09, 2009

If I had learned how to beat a full-court press in my youth, I might not have been so quick to quit basketball and tried out in high school. That's a valuable skill. I had the ball control skills of Uwe Blab.

posted by rcade at 03:35 PM on May 09, 2009

I was impressed with Ranadive's analysis that teams essentially wasted half the game time and gave opponents free space to set up their offense.

@bdaddy: Should teams not play defense at all? If they should play some defense, and the court is 94 feet long, why should they not defend the whole court? I've always wondered why the team in a game with the lesser offense (relatively speaking) does not press more to minimize the disadvantage.

posted by billsaysthis at 05:29 PM on May 09, 2009

It might not have been fun on his opponents to be pressed all the time, but teaching kids to beat the press and to apply the press are fundamentals too.

I agree. But these 12 year old girls who had probably never even SEEN a full court press, now get the fun of trying to learn that particular fundamental on the fly, for a full game, all the while being humiliated because they can't even get the ball past midcourt. Sounds like a blast! Just what I'd expect for my money in a summer basketball program!

It'd be like 5 year olds playing flag football who play against teams who only run the ball suddenly coming to a game where the opposing coach has 5 wides and is running the run-and-shoot. They wouldn't know what to do, it's nothing you've ever practiced before, and it certainly wouldn't be any fun/learning activity to try to adjust on the fly.

posted by bdaddy at 01:46 PM on May 10, 2009

Gladwell has an update on his blog and the comments section is definitely worth a read.

posted by rumple at 05:27 PM on May 14, 2009

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