NCC 89-ILLINOIS WESLEYAN 125
The moment of truth for most System coaches comes at one of two points in the season. The first is at about the 4th game of the year. Opponents have been perhaps caught by surprise in the first game or two. By the third game, a strong opponent has hammered you because they are prepared and more talented, and you are not yet very far along in the development of System instincts. The fourth game is more of the same, and many coaches at this point say, "This is embarrassing. The System isn't a cure-all, and I'd rather lose 65-47 than 110-79. I'm pulliing the plug." We are past that point.
The second moment of truth comes later in the season. You thought you'd been making progress, but along comes another superior opponent, this one with great quickness, smart players, and excellent passing skills, who feast on your defensive pressure. You lose 125-89 and are tempted to say, "This is embarrassing. The System isn't a cure-all, and this game proves we are never going to get it."
What will you do? Well, here I am, the author of a blog about introducing the System to a new program, and we are down by 57 in the second half. Here I am, someone who's had some degree of success with the System in past years, but we just shot 25% in the first half, while our opponent shot 66%. And my reaction to this moment of truth is...
Big deal. Of course this reaction is predicated on two things. First, I am not the head coach, so I'm under relatively little pressure. I do know how discouraged Michelle is at times like these, because I've been there, felt that. So I don't mean to minimize how tough it can be on a head coach when her team gets blown out. But the reality is that being the assistant is much less stressful.
Second, so far our fans and players have stayed positive, as far as I know. The players never quit, they just got into a bad rhythm for awhile and got run over in the first half. And it helps that we have some supportive parents who (again, as far as I know) understand we are a work in progress. So that makes things a little more bearable than they might otherwise be.
But really. Tonight was no big deal. How can I say that, given the score? Because I know the System, and I know what happens when a team starts to get it. And we are getting it! We scored 57 in the second half, played at System pace the entire game, shot the three without hesitation, made decisions we were incapable of making a month ago. Bottom line: We shot terrible in the first half against the defending national champs on their home court, while they shot out of their minds. But, we did 100 little things better and more instinctively (without having to think) than we did in November. That's a fact.
So, a good team made us look bad at times. Yet we went down swinging with 57 second half points. And we went down looking really good once we got back into a rhythm. The score was no big deal, kind of like giving up a layup... it's only a problem if you make it one. It's an opportunity if you understand that a layup means they are willing to run with you, and here's your chance to break back on them! The key to success is failure. Just ask Thomas Edision.
We still rebound schizophrenically, good one half awful the next (19% ORBs first half, 55% in the second... think that makes a difference???). When we figure out how to do that an entire game, we'll start playing with good teams. So rebounding's a problem. We are the Little Dutch Boy trying to plug 11 holes in the dike with only ten fingers. But we are fixing it. We are getting better. Meanwhile...
This was our moment of truth. Yes we got beat. Yes, we are better team for it. We are starting to play like a System team, and the payoff is coming.