Friday, January 8, 2010

Value the basketball

I'm sure on several occasions this year John Reilly has told his team -- who is averaging an ugly 19.3 turnovers a game -- to value the basketball. I hope he used the same analogy that Bob Dukiet did 20 years ago with his Gannon team. Duke's words regarding turnovers are still lodged between my ears.

During one Gannon practice, after a barrage of turnovers by the first team, Duke grabbed the basketball and asked, "How would you treat the basketball if it was a $100 bill? Would you still be careless with it, or would you value it?" For the next several possessions after every turnover, Dukiet would yell, "There goes another $100!" He didn't have to yell very frequently. Once the players got in their head to "value the basketball," they thought twice before forcing a pass inside or chucking the ball crosscourt.

If Dukiet's $100 pricetag on the ball was applied to this year's Golden Knights, the GU program would be out nearly $20,000 through 10 games. (Add in cost of living from the early 1990s, and we're probably close to $30k!) I don't know if this year's Knights will ever get Reilly's passing game down. My junior and senior years at Gannon, some of my teammates never fully grasped the concept of breaking down the defense with passes.

Let me try to explain it better: You want your team to work the ball side-to-side in an attempt to move the defense and hope they break down. With every pass or ball fake, you read the defense looking for a crack. In time, a defender will jump to the wrong spot, not work hard to front the post again, or will lunge for a steal. So, the plan is to move the ball for 20-25 seconds to break down the defense. You're passing with a purpose -- reading the defense and looking for a breakdown. You don't force passes or penetration, and you don't just make a series of unaggressive passes waiting for the shot clock to wind down to 10. Excellent teams (like Gannon's Elite 8 teams from last year and 1989-90) understand the difference between passing with purpose and just moving the ball. Because that nuance is understood by only a small percentage of teams, lots of coaches don't even try to teach it. They run-and-gun, pick-and-roll, or install a slew of quick-hitting patterned plays.

Reilly will be patient and won't scrap his complex read-the-defense game plan. He's in it for the long haul, so he's showing patience with his new players by teaching them his motion offense and passing game. Will this team ever get it? Time will tell. Personally, I won't run out of patience. I just hope the team doesn't run out of $100 bills.

1 comment:

  1. Great post ... I recall Dukiet saying this time and time again.

    In their defense, this GU team seems pretty adept at forcing turnovers.

    Here's hoping to start the first home game of the decade with a win!

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