February 13, 2008

Fast and the Furious: In a sport historically slow to adapt to any but the slightest change, basketball programs at every level from high school to the NBA are embracing a whole new way of playing the game. Stranger yet, the architect of this change has never coached above Division ll.

posted by irunfromclones to basketball at 05:20 PM - 11 comments

There have been some interesting changes in coaching philosophies over recent years, but we are far from a paradigm shift. And this article spells it out pretty clearly. Its not surprising that coaches are willing to let innovators like Walberg bend their ears when it comes to offense. But defense? I'm not shocked by the articles change in tone, but it was pretty jarring to go from reading about the creative, energetic, experimental offense to:

"Opposing teams can play their own defensive trump cards, of course, and the most common gambit against Memphis's DDM attack has been to ditch man-to-man for zones and hybrid junk defenses, which clog the Tigers' driving lanes."
(Emphasis mine) But then again there are a handful of conflicting lines throughout the article:
"I've had very few original thoughts in my life," Hurley says, "but I'm smart enough to take from people who are successful and seem to have a greater view of the game. We got to a point where kids spent more time in the weight room than out on the court working on skills. [Dribble-drive] gets you working on skills. You can move your center around. It doesn't have to be mud-wrestling where just the stronger, more physical, more athletic kids win."
And yet:
Because there were no screens and attackers were spaced so far apart, the formation opened yawning gaps for penetrators, as long as they had the talent to beat their defenders and the smarts to read defenses on the fly. "I wish I had chosen a fancier name than AASAA, but I wanted kids to understand that it was attack-attack-skip-attack-attack," says Walberg. "What am I trying to say? Get to the rim. It's basically here we come." All of Walberg's teams hear the same slogan (we like three-pointers, but we love layups), and shot charts reveal that the teams take almost no midrange jumpers.
The subject matter is obviously more complex than I'm making it out to be, but these details jumped out at me. Very interesting read.

posted by lilnemo at 06:30 PM on February 13, 2008

And so, using a pepper shaker as the basket, white sugar packets as offensive players and pink Sweet'n Low packets as defenders... If you've ever coached before, this speaks to you...

posted by smithers at 11:07 PM on February 13, 2008

Wow, this looks almost like total football, pioneered by the Dutch (and Ajax) teams in the 70s, I believe. This is going to make me watch March Madness with great interest. Heck, this is going to make me watch March Madness.

posted by worldcup2002 at 11:25 PM on February 13, 2008

Do be fair, Memphis is good this year because their players are ridiculously talented. Any team with a point guard like Derrick Rose is going to be ranked, and his supporting cast is fabulous, regardless of the offense. All of these various offensive schemes were drawn up for undermanned or undersized teams in order to even the competition. Princeton, the offense I am most familiar with, relies on tons of patience in order to wear down your opponents concentration on defense and to limit the number of possetions to make sure they can't run away from you. There a handful of teams that use a version of it now, but with varying degrees of success. Georgetown, a team with first class atheletes and size used it to get to last year's Final 4, while coaches like Belien at WVU (now at Michigan), Sendek at NC St. (now ASU), and Stallings at Vanderbilt have also been able to adapt the offense to more talented teams. On the other hand, you have teams like Northwestern, who couldn't win a game in the Big 10 if the refs were bought off, and Belein's current team, Michigan, who are also just plainly hiddeous. Point is, with all of these schemes, if you don't have top talent, you are unlikely to be all that good, no matter what system you come up with. Even at Princeton, while Carril was an innovator, the talent he brought was consistently better than that of any other Ivy League school. Coach Cal has done a solid job at Memphis and UMass, but I would say his biggest acheivement has been recruiting, not some kind of offensive revolution. With out Marcus Camby, his UMass teams would have been pedestrian, and without quick, top rated guards like Rose and CDR, and highly talented low post players like Dozier and Dorsey, AASAA would not likely make Memphis better than anyone else.

posted by Chargdres at 08:56 AM on February 14, 2008

Interesting read. Its nice to see basketball offensive philosophies move back towards actual basketball skills (Driving and Shooting) and away from the sort of grind it out "thug-ball" style that has been pretty pervasive (I became very familiar with it during Huggins' years at Cincinnati). It strikes me as similar (not just because it was mentioned in the article) to the style of ball international teams have been using to kick our asses in the Olympics and the World Championships lately.

posted by srw12 at 10:57 AM on February 14, 2008

If you've ever coached before, this speaks to you... Or played, or refereed, or loved the game ...

posted by Spitztengle at 11:16 AM on February 14, 2008

DDM is definitely a fun style to watch. I thought for sure the article would talk about the Warriors. Monta Ellis is a prime example. He put up about 40 points against the Suns last night by mostly just taking the ball to the rim every time he touched it.

posted by chamo at 12:34 PM on February 14, 2008

or refereed Hey Spitz, I only included a referee if there was a slice of lemon or a bottle of vinegar on the table. ;)

posted by smithers at 12:56 PM on February 14, 2008

Great read, what an interesting story...

posted by sfts2 at 02:40 PM on February 14, 2008

Isaiah Thomas, when asked why he had played Eddy Curry for only 9:18 vs the Celtics last night, replied that it was the Celtics offense that dictated it. He also said that as the game becomes more open, the big men are tending to disappear.

posted by Howard_T at 04:33 PM on February 14, 2008

And so, using a pepper shaker as the basket, white sugar packets as offensive players and pink Sweet'n Low packets as defenders... wouldn't the white sugar packets be on the bench? I kid..I kid...

posted by bdaddy at 09:32 PM on February 14, 2008

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