I think we are going to introduce a new defense to our team next week. We will call it the Comfort Zone, and it will be an 0-5 alignment: nobody guarding the ball, and five defenders in the lane playing for the rebound. Should be very, very easy to master.
Pardon the sarcasm... I couldn't help myself. Though we were pleased with our improvement in Wednesday's game, after watching the video tonight after practice it's clear to me that we still don't understand System intensity... we still want to be comfortable. But eventually, I hope and believe, we will get it, even though at this point the statistics verify what I'm seeing on the video. The fact that we are averaging 32% ORBs and 28 defensive turnovers in our first three games is living proof that we are not yet playing hard.
At Olivet, we had a mantra, a team motto that I stole from Dean Smith, then slightly revised to fit my beliefs about what it takes to be a winning team: Play Hard, Play Cool, Play Together, Have Fun!
Play Cool means play with composure, under control but at maximum speed, no trash talk, no worrying about officials' calls, etc. Play Together means we are a team and will be unselfish, which sometimes means: If you are a shooter, you darned well better quit worrying about your field goal percentage and shoot the ball. Never pass up an open rhythm-shot under the misguided impression that this makes you a team player... to do so is, by our definition, selfish. Play Together means that everyone must do their job for the good of the team. So, Rebounders: rebound. Screeners: screen. And Shooters: shoot!
Have Fun reflects my belief that enjoyment of the game is the greatest motivator! All teams go through "down times" but when we lose our zip and sparkle for more than a day or two, we need to be asking "Why?" and fix it.
Which brings me to Play Hard. Every time we broke a huddle at ONU our team said "PLAY HARD!" Every game as we left the locker room before taking the floor, each player reached up and slapped the door frame, where we had painted the words, PLAY HARD! It's that important.
Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because the System is designed around the concept of playing fast that your team will play fast. "The System won't work unless YOU work" is another of our mantras. I know this sounds obvious, but I'm telling you, it's not obvious to some players! They might think that all they have to do is shoot 50 threes and run something called a fast break and they are playing System ball. Ain't necessarily so!
If your team seems to be struggling, try the following experiment. Watch a video of your team for five minutes. Then pop in a video of a good System team. See anything different? I'll bet the first thing you notice is how much faster and more intense the good System team plays.
Honestly, I am amazed that despite playing 40 second shifts, it hasn't dawned on our players yet that there is no need to pace themselves! But that's what they are doing... playing at a conventional basketball pace for 40 seconds at a time.
There is nothing more central to System success than plain, old-fashioned effort. Your team can do everything else right, but if they don't play hard, nothing works. At NCC, so far our best defense is still the Comfort Zone.
I truly believe this team is going to get it eventually. But if we are still playing the Comfort Zone in January, we'll be in trouble, because as long as we insist on being comfortable, we'll never get in the Zone.