Not a question you really think about hearing I know.  I was in line waiting for my burrito to finish up recently when I drifted off.  I was likely thinking about some offense or defense or maybe not thinking at all when the man beside me said, “Is that your burrito coach?”  Yep, it was mine alright.  What struck me in this simple interaction is that I had no idea who he was.  I wasn’t wearing anything that said I was a coach, he just knew who I was.  This is so often the situation and I think it’s important for us to remember that we are always “on” when we’re out.  When people know who you are and that you’re in a position that comes with expectations the antennas go up. May we never give people a reason to remember us negatively.  You never know who’s beside you getting a burrito.

I just wanted to make a few observations on Villanova’s incredible run through the tournament.  You have to admire the recent run of the Wildcats, especially the last 3 years.  To hear a lot of commentators speak it’s the introduction of “positionless basketball” to the college game.  4 out 1 in and even 5 out spacing!!  Who’d have thought?

Well, it turns out a lot of people would’ve thought.  Not sure Pete Carril was the first to pull his big away from the rim opening up the paint, but we’ve seen this before.  The realization that having a big clog the block for .7 PPP when he does catch it is no way to win ball games.  If you’ve got one that can average over 1 PPP that the opposing coach will continue to allow to catch and work 1-1, more power to you!  If they can pass vs traps and stunting, that’s even better!

Before we all go out and put in Jay Wright’s offense the first available opportunity, we can look at some more general elements of their approach that can work in a variety of schemes.  (Nothing wrong with putting in Nova’s 4 out-1 in, of course, I’ve still go the original VHS from his Hofstra days!)

  1. The money’s in the mismatch.  Not posting your 5 doesn’t mean not playing in the post.  How many times did Brunson back his 6’0 defender down and make a driveway post up move?  More than their 5 caught it back to the basket I’d guess.  Same concept with Spellman draining 3’s over Azabuke.  (He only shot 2 in the title game.  Didn’t need to.)
  2.  The discipline of freedom: Nova’s guys play with incredible confidence.  We’ve all seen guys with an abundance of confidence, however, that have no business taking the type of shots or volume of shots that they do.  Nova’s guys play like guys who have practice those shots and frequently make them.  They take them within the flow and rarely took a bad shot twice in a row.
  3. The ball goes where it should when it should:  Open man gets the ball.  One more.  Whatever you want to call it, having 4 legitimate threats off the ball at all times is the hardest thing to guard in basketball.  They pass it just before it becomes obvious to the defense who is coming open.  Bad teams either don’t pass it or they pass just after the average fan sees it.  It’s too late then.  This is usually followed by an insincere and oft-repeated “my bad.”
  4. Unselfishness + Skill + Execution=Winning.  It always looked like Villanova’s team went in to games looking for what would work, not hunting stats.  Leading scorer could be any of them.  Let the game come to you.  Let your opponent’s mistakes open opportunities rather than slamming your head against their strengths.
  5. Defense not attached to offense: When you have a team worried about shot volume, points, who did and didn’t get the ball, defense suffers.  You can’t lock any one up, box out, rotate for charges, communicate when you are processing the crushing emotions of someone else besides you shooting on the other end…Nova came to guard regardless of who was shooting or how they shot individually.  They ended up 11th in the country on KenPom defensively.  Scoring is a whole lot easier when you don’t have to inbound all night.

Those are just a few of the things I saw and enjoyed from this year’s champions. Loved watching Michigan share it as well and would’ve been happy with either one lifting the trophy Monday night.  There’s been a lot written about Villanova’s approach these past couple weeks and it’s great stuff.  Remember that our X’s and O’s cant do what they do if they won’t do what they do.  The will and the won’t comes before the can and the can’t no matter what we run.

It’s no mystery that I’m a big John Beilein fan.  I’ve loved watching his teams play all the way back to the Pittsnogle days.  He does it as well as anyone with humility and class.  A great example of this humility was demonstrated this weekend after their run to the Big 10 Title.  The commentator asks what has been the key to their much improved defense.  Beilein responds with, “I stopped coaching it so much.”

At first I thought he was speaking of keeping it simple.  Less variety and more demanding of execution.  Then he moved on to how he’d delegated much of that task to assistants.  He realized that his strength has a counterpart.  His teams have always been among the top in offensive efficiency.  He admitted that when watching practice his mind evaluates the offense as both teams attack.  Just a great illustration of someone knowing what he’s great at and having the wisdom to hand off the things he’s not.  We could all learn a lot from this example.

I included the Youtube clip of the interview.

How do you approach your off-season, learning season, personal growth time, etc.? I can never go 60 to 0 at the end of the year. I enjoy helping friends who may still be playing, watching the game, and preparing for the next step almost right away.  After some rest and re-connection with loved ones the grind starts back up. If you are like me, you can find yourself jumping from topic to topic without finishing things well before moving on. Following a zone offense rabbit trail while you’re supposed to be learning about and thinking about man can lead you back to the beginning without a lot done in either direction. I’ve put together a week by week calendar for the post season of topics of study and growth for myself. I’ve already had to snap myself back on target more than I’d like to admit.  It’s important to remain flexible in pursuing what grabs our attention but some discipline in our study will yield better results.  Having an outline will also help direct our thoughts in the first place.  If your mind likes to wander like mine and you’ve not done so yet, give yourself some guidelines and guardrails as you start the long work of making yourself better for the next season.2 trails

When doubt jumps on and wants to go for a ride; push back.

When you gave it your best but were still denied; push back.

When your best made plans fall just a little bit short and to blaming and excuses you want to resort; push back.

See we are not here to carried along wherever fate takes us though the current is strong. We are here to PUSH BACK.

Are you kidding me?  Yeah…I can lift 5 lbs. Picture this: we’re in the weight room.  You have spotter.  They throw 5 on each side. You knock out a 55 lb bench (impressive). If they asked you can you lift 5 more?  You’d undoubtedly say yes.  As we add weight, eventually the answer becomes no.  5lbs at a time, we take on more than we can handle. Be it time or capacity, there are limits.  Be honest with yourself.  Each individual addition of work is added to what you already have or should have on your plate. No one would walk in to a weight room and say…”I can do all of this…” It’s easy to commit to the unseen hours far beyond our capacity to lift it.  Think about yourself under that bar when you pick things up and put things down.  We are limited whether we acknowledge it or not.

5 lb

“What offense are you going to run?”

I remember asking this of another coach years back. 

“UConn.,” he responded. 

I asked what the play involved: ballscreens, flare, pindown, what?

His answer?  “I don’t know, I just know every time the head coach called it we scored.”

This guy was in love with the “what” and he didn’t even know what the “what” was.  I think that many times coaches can fall in love with a what when really what makes something work is who. This can also run the other direction. We can think the “who” is the reason for a play’s success when really any number of players in that position would perform largely the same way. If we don’t properly evaluate the real reason something succeeds or fails then we can’t replicate or redirect. Is it a what thing or a who thing?  An important question to keep in mind!

Don’t fall in love with a play when it’s about who does it.

Don’t fall in love with a who when it’s a play thing.