Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's Not What You Think

NCC 96- Benedictine 91
93 FGAs (goal 90)
60 Threes (goal 45)
42% ORB (goal 40%)
33 TOs (goal 33)
+16 Shots (goal +15)

My first year coaching the System in 2004-05 was an education.  I felt like I was starting all over.  I was starting all over.  So much of what I thought I knew about basketball was being challenged by the wise System coaches I learned from: David Arseneault, Gary Smith, Bob Belf, Bunky Harkleroad, Ron Rohn, and many others whose posts I read each day on the RunandGun chatgroup.

So much of what I thought I knew about basketball was wrong.  It wouldn't have been wrong had I been coaching a conventional game, but it was wrong for the System game.  What "wrong" things did I believe? 
  • That giving up layups matters. 
  • That you should focus most of your time on developing your halfcourt offense and defense.
  • That offensive rebounding is just one (relatively minor) aspect of the game. 
  • That the shooter should always crash the boards. 
  • That patience and working the ball are the keys for an efficient, productive offense. 
  • That taking a quick three in transition is unwise.
  • That fouling the driver to prevent an easy basket is no big deal. 
  • That forcing a team towards our basket is suicidal.
  • That scouting opponents is the foundation of defensive success.
  • That failure to box out is the reason opponents outrebound you.

The System focuses on other things, things which ought to be obvious, but for some reason are not obvious to everybody.  It focuses on the "Formula for Success," the five goals listed above (and please note for the time being that not one of these goals has anything to do with boxing out... more on this in a moment.)   Today, for the first time at NCC, we met every goal.  Five for five.  We scored 57 points in the second half, and knocked down 17 threes (both are new school records).

What you cannot see above is that we got outrebounded badly (again) in the first half, which led to an argument among the coaching staff at halftime.  "We have to box out!"  That was the consensus of four of our five coaches.  I'm embarrassed to say I was the lone hold out.  Embarrassed because I don't enjoy being the killjoy, and I don't like contradicting my fellow coaches.  They are smart people who know basketball.  But I know System basketball, and I know that the key to rebounding is effort and hustle and a commitment to getting to the ball.   And I know that focusing on a technique (boxing out) rather than on an attitude ("I'm going after that rebound!") is ultimately self-defeating.

Dennis Rodman wasn't the best rebounder in the NBA in the 1990's because he was the biggest or the quickest. He was the best because he had a burning desire to get to every loose ball.  EVERY loose ball.  He was a great rebounder because rebounding was his priority.

If you are going to coach System basketball, you had better start by assuming that most of your initial instincts are wrong.  Or at least need to be questioned.  When an opponent breaks your press and scores, is your first instinct to become more conservative?  When your offense is not scoring consistently, do you start thinking about some cool plays you can run, "just until they get back on track"?  When your team fails to rebound well, do you assume it's because you aren't boxing out?  Well, maybe you're right.  Maybe you aren't boxing out worth a flip, but that not why you are rebounding poorly.

Today, we played real System ball for the first time.  We didn't box out any better in the second half than we did in the first, yet we dominated the boards on both ends of the court.  Offensive rebounding and defensive turnovers are the two most critical stats in System basketball.  Why?  Because turnovers and rebounds lead to extra shots, and getting extra shots is what makes the System work. Is it any coincidence that the key to these two stats is effort?  Not pre-planned rotatations.  Not perfect technique.  Not boxing out.  Your players can have the best technique in the conference, but if they lack one other essential quality, they couldn't get a rebound if it hit them on the head.

What is that one essential quality?  It's not what you think.  It's not technique, it's heart.

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