Basketball and the Night Watch.
The And One Game
One of the most important lessons I ever learned in basketball, I learned by sticking around on a Sunday to listen to Hubie Brown speak at the Nike Clinic in Las Vegas. Normally, I left first thing Sunday morning because I always had to work the next day and wanted to get home in time to rest up. The motto for Las Vegas is, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." But what usually stays in Vegas is your money and your health. Back in the days, the Clinic was mainly a three day drunk. It was nice though, to have the basketball sessions to break it up.
If I were speaking to a newbie, the first thing I would tell him or her about clinics is that you don't need to listen to everybody and you don't have to write everything down. Not all them sumbitches have anything of value to say. Big Time college basketball is a lot like your own association, some of them coaches are worthy of being called Coach, and some ain't. It ain't equal, no matter what they tell you. If you go and sit there everyday for every session, you're just showing people that you ain't the brightest bulb in the world. Fact is, sometimes you can learn just as much about basketball with the thinking that goes into figuring out whether to raise an Ace high playing Texas Hold'em. All you're going to get from sitting at a clinic all day is a callus on your ass and bad case of writer's cramp.
If you come away from a clinic with one good insight that helps your program, it was a good clinic. If you come away with two or three, it was great clinic, and if you win some money, that's icing on the cake. The best thing about clinics is the networking that goes on. Its hard to turn down someone asking for a favor, when they've seen you wearing a trashcan on your head urinating on metal sculpture painted to look like a cactus.
The only two coaches, I've ever heard who could make me violate my own injunction against writing everything they say down, were Hubie Brown and the late, great Don Meyer. Both of them dudes could spray out helpful ideas faster than Eminem could spew out nonsensical rhymes (that dude could say more dumb shit in a minute than a typical Baby Boomer could come up with in a week). Hell, Hubie's throw aways were usually better than anything and everything anybody else said at the clinic. I came away from that session with two things that changed the way I looked at basketball. He was the first person I ever heard say that a good rule of thumb was to always make more free throws than the other team shoots. Think about it. It makes a great deal sense. It summarizes the idea that you want to get fouled, and, at the same time, you don't want to foul. It seems kind of simplistic I know, but I also know a lot of coaches who haven't figured out its simple truth. In fact, I just read a story where Jim Boeheim said about Syracuse's recent loss to North Carolina, that they had done everything they could do to win. Later, he said his team had only shot three free-throws compared to North Carolina's twenty-three foul shots. Got news for you, Jimmy, you didn't do everything. You should have stuck around to listen to Hubie too.
Coach Brown was the first coach who I ever heard talk about the importance of controlling the pace of the game, to make sure the pace fits what you were doing and not favor the opponent. These two points became the core of my approach to the game. From that point on, I always emphasized the need to be able to get to the rack and to draw fouls. If we came away empty on a couple of trips down, we would go inside, or attack the rim trying to create the and one situation.
In turn, this would also help us control the pace. Whenever we went to the foul line, I would wait until right before the ref handed the shooter the ball, and then sub. That way, when we made the free throw, the clock would stop while the substitution was made, and we could not only get into whatever defense we were running, but it helped put us into control of the clock. Usually, we would press because pressing forces the other team to react to what we were doing and gave us another way to dictate the pace. We often released someone long on the shot (cherry pick) because that would force their defense to get back quickly and helped us to decide the pace that the game would be played at, and if we went up against a team that transitioned well, we would keep an extra defender back to guard our basket and slow down the early break with the idea being, we run; you don't.
It's pretty hard nowadays to teach these concepts because everybody and their dog just wants to shoot the most threes. I'm learning to love the three pointer though, and I wish that we always shot the ball well enough to not have attack the basket in order to draw fouls. The way I see it though is like although I keep a tire jack in my trunk, I hope I don't ever have to use it. But if I do get a flat, I'm going to be awful glad it's there.
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