Monday, November 12, 2012

Trusting Your Gut

Today was a Zone day as we approach our first game on Friday.  We figured it best to work on zone early in the week because we'll probably not see any this weekend, but must be prepared, just in case.  Plus, by working on zone stuff today, that frees us up on Wednesday and Thursday to polish our Man attack, press reactions, and dead ball sets.

We also have to start thinking about two other situations that could arise (and which we haven't had time to work on yet).  First, what if we get way ahead?  And second, what if the score is close late in the game?  So, we worked today in practice on our "lead protect" and "blowout" defense, which for us, this year, will be a simple 2-3 zone, a defense that we stole lock-stock-and-barrel from Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. 

And next week, our plan is to put in the Flex offense (just kidding!  Relax!) Anyway, we like the 2-3 because if we are protecting a small lead, it is a good, safe, plain vanilla zone that covers the arc well and keeps us in good rebounding position.  And it is also a good, safe defense that we can fall back into when we are blowing out an opponent (knock on wood) and need to call off the press. The 2-3 meets both these objectives for us this season!

Not every System coach agrees with this approach, however, and there seems to be some sentiment for just "blowing and going" full-bore until the final whistle, no matter what the score.  So what's the best plan?  I know this is an issue that concerns some new System coaches, having had a lot of questions from them over the years about what to do when the game is winding down and their team is protecting a small lead.  My answer, for better or worse, has always been the same:  "You're a coach... trust your gut.")

You might protest that this is an unfair answer, since most of System basketball actually contradicts what your gut may be telling you!  For example, in the first few weeks of our System experience, many of us would call off the press after giving up a few easy layups, if we were listening to our gut. 

But late game situations are different from what came before (in my opinion), and you might just decide to quit pressing, fall back into a packed zone on defense, and hold the ball on offense (if your friend, the gut, is telling you to do that.)

I hope this heretical opinion doesn't mean that the System Police are going to come and kick my door in, but when you think about it you have to admit that having one minute on the clock is different than having 32 minutes left.  What I mean by this is that the System approach is all about playing the percentages.  Over a full game, the law of averages are in your favor if you are adhering to the famous System "Formula for Success."  But with 60 seconds to play, anything can happen.  The law of averages doesn't necessarily apply because there aren't enough possessions for you to play the percentages in any meaningful way, so.... trust your gut.  If you want to play more conservatively and protect the lead by dropping back into a zone, do it. 

On the other hand, if you think that by continuing to attack with the press you will disrupt the opponent, possibly force a turnover and thereby give yourself the best chance to win, do that. 

But you won't get booted out of the System Club if you decide to play it safe.

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