Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's the Situation?

Many years ago I ordered Bob Knight's first video.  I think it was called "Clinic I" and it was really good!  He explained many things in that video related to practice planning and teaching the game that made a lasting impact on me at the time (about 1984).

Anyway, one thing Coach Knight said in the video was, "We don't teach plays... we teach players HOW to play."  I never forgot that because it is at the heart of System basketball, which as you probably know is not real big on set plays and rigid structures.

And this is where it differs significantly from conventional basketball.  I went to a clinic several years ago in which a college coach was demonstrating his pick-and-roll offense.  He said at one point, "We have 80 specific plays that involve the pick and roll."

And he was serious!  80 plays??? Last year we had 3 plays, and when I found another play I wanted to run, I deleted one of the original 3 from the playbook.  Didn't think we could master 4 plays, I suppose.  Well, maybe we could have, but really, what's the point?  I disagree with Bob Knight about many things (after all, he is the Godfather of Ball-Control Basketball), but absolutely, 100% agree with him that our job is to teach players how to play!  But so many coaches confuse plays with playing.  To say nothing of the problem: how do you work on--and remember--80 plays?

So, the System doesn't rely much on plays, but rather on a basic structure, with options that flow from that structure, options which are chosen based on how players (particularly the PG) read the defense.  Same goes for System Defense.

What I'm getting at is this.  In the System you don't teach plays.  You don't even teach offenses or defenses in the conventional sense.  You teach situations.

What's a situation?  This term has traditionally referred to OB-under, OB-sideline, free throw, jump ball plays, and late game strategies.  In the System,  "Situation" can mean all those things, but more commonly refers to the following:

  1. Fast Break after a Score
  2. Fast Break after a Rebound
  3. Fast Break after a Steal
  4. Creating a quick shot after a Dead Ball ("referee handle").
  5. Creating a "second-chance three" after an offensive rebound
  1. Press after a Score
  2. Press after a Missed Shot
  3. Press after a Dead Ball (endline, sideline, underneath)
  4. Press when the opponent is trying to hold the ball on you
Your job, as a System coach, is to help your team master each of the above situations.  Why is a System situation so different from a conventional situation?  Because in the System, your team's success depends on their ability to instantly react and create an advantage when they transition from offense to defense, and vice-versa.  If they have to stop and think, you have no break.  You have no press.  Everything depends on pace and habit, so you've got to train them do the right thing in the right situation, at maximum speed, every time (run the floor, inbound the ball quickly, screen for the preferred shooter, trap the rebound on defense, etc, etc).  In conventional ball, by contrast, it usually doesn't make any difference whether you gained possession via a rebound or a score.  You aren't going to run anyway... you are going to call "Pick and Roll #74."

Well, today we introduced Defensive Situation #4:  Pressing and trapping an opponent running a spread/delay offense against us.  It is fun to see the players start to cut loose from the bonds of conventional defense before our very eyes, as we explain to them "There are no zones or individuals to cover.  You might be anywhere on the floor, relative to the ball.  You might need to rotate completely out of your original area, and as long as we are trapping the ball and denying the lag pass, it's all good!  There are no wrong answers here, with the exception of less-than-maximum effort."

The first day of "Defense Week" we worked on Situation #3 above, which is the easiest to execute because it starts with everyone standing still.  Yesterday we added Situation 2. 

See?  One brick at a time, and the wall goes up.  The concrete is still wet, so the wall isn't close to being solid.  Not yet.  Come back to situations regularly (especially offensive ones).  Eventually, the concrete hardens.

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