Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dick Bennett's Evil Twin

Several years ago I read a book about former Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett, one of those behind the scenes" chronicles of a big time basketball program.  The author sat in on meetings, watched practices and games, and gave a great picture of what made Coach Bennett tick. 

The most interesting passage concerned Bennett's response to a loss in which his team got beat something like 63-49.  Most coaches would have come to the next day's coach's meeting to pronounce "We have to improve our offense!"  Instead, he focused entirely on the defensive problems of giving up 63 points.  Why? Because Dick Bennett saw the basketball world through a defensive prism.  His philosophy was grounded on defense and when things went wrong, he always looked to his defense for answers.

We gave up 105 and 85 points in the last two games.  My first thought after the second game was, "Wow, we should have won after holding an opponent to 85... what's wrong with our offense?"

Sure, there are things you can do to adjust your defense, but you'll never adjust it enough to compensate for a lack of scoring.  Just remember that the System was first created in response to one very simple question:  "How can we (i.e. Grinnell in the early 1990's) score as many points as possible?"  Not "How can we win more games."  Not "How can we stop the other team?" 

The Grinnell System starts with a simple assumption, that defense is only important as a means to an end:  scoring points.  If you accept that concept, and truly buy into it, that doesn't make you a bad coach.  It just means you have a clear philosophy, one which is no more "wrong" than the philosophy that when we lose 63-49, "our problem is our defense."   It's just a perspective, not a character flaw. 

We play Augustana tonight.  Maybe we'll win. Maybe we won't.  But we'll score more than 75 points this time!  We gave up 85 last game and came to practice the next two days determined to fix our offensive problems.

We are Dick Bennett's Evil Twin.

No comments:

Post a Comment