While his postings have been sparse of late Mr. Charm got off his ass yesterday and sent me a tweet to a link on Kentucky coach John Calipari. The article quoted Cal on his desire to run more random offense, and less set plays because “You can guard plays. You cannot guard players that can play.” This is very much in line with one of the credos of my coaching philosophy. I strive to teach my players how to play, not how to run plays.
There was a moment in my last game when one of my quick guards had the ball, and Brantley was playing man. After a switch, I had my guard at the top of the key against a brantley big, that looked more like a 30 year old prison guard than a JV player. I started jumping up and down and screaming for my guys to clear out. Advantage us. This was not a set play, but a spontaneous reaction to an obvious mismatch. This was game intelligence.
Truth be told, we have run very little set offense in our first two games, but have averaged 65.5 points per 32 minute game. We have created turnovers which has given us transition points. We have been aggressive in running the floor and throwing the ball ahead make or miss. The best opportunity to score is in these moments of transition when the defense is not back and settled. When you are preoccupied with calling set offense in these moments, the opportunity is lost.
Even if you do not create run out baskets, it’s important to stay fluid. There are principles to the fluidity. I favor a post player running to the rim, and two players filling the floor wide. This stretches the defense vertically and horizontally and opens the middle of the floor for the ball to be advanced. By stressing the defense in this manner, any deficiency can be exploited. The defense may defend the rim run, or stop the ball, or track the wide players, but it’s unlikely they will do all three on a consistent basis. With this basic structure, and without the burden of getting into a set play the ball can attack the weakness and the shot we will get is better than anything our set offense will generate.
At Oviedo, I grew incredibly frustrated with our head coach’s insistence on blowing plays dead in practice the second someone messed up a set play. Play would stop, correction made and we would plod along for another thirty seconds until the next whistle. In doing so, we did not condition our players to play the game. Sets will be blown, defenses will scout you and take you out of your comfortable offensive sets. The game is decided on what you do in response. It is important to integrate that into your practice., it is ignorant if you do not.
While I recongize the value of set offense and believe strongly in the Princeton offense, it must be viewed more as a means to play than playing itself. One of the things I enjoy most about the princeton offense is the spacing, built in ball reversals, and multitude of actions. I do not view the offense as strict sets, with designated counters. I believe you can take the various actions availabe in the offense and tailor them to your personnel. In teaching the offense, I try to emphasize to the players that the various actions, are intended to force the defense to move and make decisions, and to give you the players freedom to make decisions an play basketball. It is in those decisions that the offense can take on the random quality Coach Cal talks about.