Well, here we go.
Have you ever said to yourself, "I wish I knew then what I know now?" Well, I wish I'd known in 2004 what I know now about how to install the System from scratch. I was flying blind back then, and although I'd done my best to educate myself, there was just no way to understand what I was in for.
Now I understand. After eight years and over 250 games, I have a pretty decent grasp of the trials and pitfalls of making the System work, and I want to help you avoid the mistakes I made in my first year. So, my intention with this blog is to take you through a season with the System, showing you my thought processes as we implement it in a completely new situation as I take on a new role as assistant women's basketball coach at North Central College!
Many of you have either bought my DVDs (Attack Basketball) or the book I co-authored with my friend Gary Smith (Coaching the System: A Complete Guide to Basketball's Most Explosive Style of Play), but have continuted to ask questions that generally revolved around the topic: Now What? I'm hopeful that as you read my ruminations in the coming months while we recreate the System in a new program, you'll get a better idea of the thinking and methods related to System success.
First, a little background.
As you may already know, I spent eight years coaching System basketball at Olivet Nazarene University, where I retired last spring. One reason I gave up coaching was because I was starting to resonate with what Vince Lombardi had said many years ago: something to the effect that maintaining a winning program is a lot tougher--and less satisfying--than building one. I found myself getting even more impatient than usual last season, despite having a great team and a successful year: 27 wins, top 10 ranking, conference title, etc. But something inside was saying "It's time for something new." And if I was serious about making a change, I told myself, then maybe the best time to make it is when you are on top (certainly beats the alternative!) I even joked occasionally that I wanted to quit with a good enough record so that people would know I didn't get fired.
But this summer I started to miss it. Surprise, surprise! No, I was not having second thoughts about leaving ONU; I loved my time there and was very satisfied with what we'd accomplished, but there were no challenges left. I did miss the Xs and Os, though. My wife Pam told me that as early as last May she knew I wasn't done, after she saw me get out the napkins at a restaurant and start diagramming plays. I don't miss the pressure or the grind of being a head coach (not yet, anyway), but I did miss the teaching.
Anyway, when my friend Michelle Roof at North Central asked if I'd be interested in helping her at NCC this year, I eventually agreed. Originally, I thought I'd just be her assistant in coaching a conventional, half-court style. Pam and I were planning to move to Naperville soon anyway, to be nearer to family, and I just wanted to be around the game. And since I didn't want to jump right back into the head coach's chair, with all the accompanying pressure, NCC seemed like a perfect fit for me right now. But the more Michelle and I talked, the more we agreed that it would make no sense for me to come to NCC if we weren't going to put in the System!
Michelle started here coaching career as an assistant at Grinnell, and even came to our clinic at ONU back in 2005, which is where we first met. She was already very knowledgable and intrigued by the style, although reluctant at first (as I was in 2004!) to coaching something this radical and different. Since she was on the verge of giving it a try anyway, and I was eager and available to help, that was all it took for her to make the plunge. As anyone who's coached System ball knows, making the decision to actually do it takes a lot of courage, because the style makes you question so much of what you thought you knew about the game! But Michelle is "all in," and now that we've made the decision to work together, she has jumped in with both feet! Hopefully we won't make the mistakes this time around that I made in 2004-05... and I made them all!
So let's get started. I'll make every effort to post every day, share with you what I'm thinking about the process of installing run and gun basketball in a completely new environment. I may even post practice plans if I can figure out how to cut and paste! Mostly, I'll be thinking out loud about what it takes to "Coach the System," and I hope that having you perched on my shoulder will benefit you in your efforts with your own team.
So tune in tomorrow, and let the adventure begin!