Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

When It Comes to Jeter, There’s No Argument

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

After watching the MLB All-Star game, I thought today’s blog just had to be about Derek Jeter. Since everybody and his uncle are going to be lauding The Captain, his performance and retirement, I wanted to pen (or whatever it’s called now) something with a little more personal touch. The following is a blog I posted on, appropriately, 7/11/11.

My mother’s side of our family was from Brooklyn. A couple of my older cousins took me to Ebbets Field when I was four years old. My father, a Yankees fan, always claimed I had been brainwashed. The family next door had three boys close to my age who loved the Yankees. As big fans of the Bronx Bombers as I was of the Dodgers. Between the ages of, say, 6-12, we had the normal types of arguments kids that age have. The ones which are based on emotion, whether the facts back your side or not. Duke was better than The Mick; nobody was better than Sandy.

Unlike the true fan, my interest faded when I started playing ball in high school. I immersed myself in my teams and, while I still followed the Dodgers, I was no longer a fanatic. The older I got, the less attention I paid toward my childhood favorites. Yet, I still hated the Yankees. To me, they just stood for . . . too much. Too much winning, too much money, too many stars, too much Steinbrenner.

My hatred waned when Joe Torre became the manager. I’d always liked Joe as a player - thought he was a classy guy and, later in my life, enjoyed reading his book. Plus, coaching basketball in college consumed my life. I just couldn’t find the time for any team other than the one which was providing me a living. Which is problem to be discussed at another time.

This stroll down memory lane has a point. I’ve been reflecting on how I think I would have felt had Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit when I was a kid. Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, forgetting how immature my thoughts and feelings were at that time but if ever there was a role model, a team player, a true good guy, Jeter is about as close a candidate as exists. Consider the social media of today and how Jeter has avoided the controversy most superstars of his ilk have been subjected to. Maybe Jeter isn’t squeaky clean but, remember, when I was a kid, Yankees fans were idolizing their guys in pinstripes - without any idea what Whitey, Mickey and Billy were doing in between games or after they ended. Sometimes, before they started.

200 hits/year is usually the standard for a great hitter. That means to get to 3000, a player would have to accomplish that for 15 years. And there has never been a hint of scandal on or off the field with Jeter. So maybe he is as good as he appears to be. Kids, or adults, can argue against the greatness of Derek Jeter, but they need to reminded:

“The worst part of an argument is when you get to the point where you realize you’re wrong.”

Wrap Up Quotes from Coaching U

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Rather than blogging about a person, observation or story, this post will sum up the powerful quotes I heard at the Coaching U event I attended last week. In case you missed yesterday’s blog, the final quote was the belief of the Navy Seals:

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

The following are some others you might want to use or, at least, think about:

From George Raveling, whose topic was building a better bench, a quote from Scottie Pippen:

“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”

One from Phil Jackson:

“85% of all NBA players are ‘role’ players.”

And, of course, one of George’s own:

“Don’t expect the gorilla to cooperate if you’re spanking him . . . insults don’t enhance influence!”

From Billy Donovan:

“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

Lawrence Frank offered a Bob Knight quote (what’s a coaching clinic without a mention of Bob Knight)?

“Coaching is getting players to do what they don’t want to do so that they can become the players they want to become.”

Shaka Smart gave the crowd a favorite of his, from the New England Patriots’ locker room wall (Belichick is also a clinic favorite):

“We don’t become you. You become us.”

Shaka also had a couple of his (VCU’s) program:

“We aggressively pursue greatness” and “We fully commit to aligning ourselves with the team.”

And from the master of deep thought, Kevin Eastman (event co-host and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers):

“He who angers you, owns you.”

“Fill up their tanks” and “Focus their lenses.”

“There’s a difference between ‘buy in’ and ‘give in.’ “

“Players need to understand the concept of ‘every’ - every game, every quarter, every possession.”

And his favorite:

“Go through life with big ears, big eyes and a small mouth.”

Why Some People Succeed While Others Don’t

Monday, July 14th, 2014

For 42 years I went to work as a teacher. My students were kids who were studying algebra, playing basketball or both. Early in my career I realized my instruction wasn’t math or hoops as much as it was life. One of my first bosses was George Raveling at Washington State who took his job as an educator as seriously as anyone I’ve ever met.

It was George who introduced me to reading inspirational and self-help books, and listening to motivational speakers and audio books. So much can be learned from others - if you just keep an open mind. In fact knowledge can be acquired at an exponential rate. Throughout my professional moves (high school, nine colleges, followed by another high school) I would use power quotes and stories I’d heard (and experienced - one of my best skills is the ability to entertainingly tell stories).

The best way to do this is to not only read and listen but to constantly observe. I’ve been retired for two years but I still keep my eyes open (although they open a little later in the day than they used to). At the Coaching U event in Indianapolis last week, I heard longtime NBA coach, Lawrence Frank, make a statement during his presentation that struck a chord with me because it debunked a belief many people think is true. Lawrence gave everyone in attendance the paradigm of the Navy Seals which could benefit all of us. It explains why some people succeed at crunch time while others talk about it:

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

When What You Do Best and What You Love Happen to Coincide

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

This past Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a basketball coaching clinic event co-hosted by a couple of basketball dinosaurs, Kevin Eastman and Brendan Suhr. The description is meant as a comment. They have coached for a combined 80 or so years on the high school, college and professional levels. While that stat is what impresses the heck out of me (I did it for 35 years and when I look back on it, I have no idea how I managed to do it), what blows others away is that, between them, they have three NBA championship rings (Kevin as an assistant with the 2007-08 Celtics, Brendan in the same role with the Bad Boy Pistons of 1988-89 & 1989-90). They call it Coaching U and have been staging such events for six years. Suffice to say they understand what it takes to put on a first class show.

Somehow these guys manage to get not only the quality speakers other promoters only wish for, they get them in bunches. The cast for Tue-Wed was, in addition to the co-hosts, George Raveling (who invited me to be his guest), Shaka Smart, Lawrence Frank, Billy Donovan and Gregg Marshall. (The speakers for the July 15-16 session are just as formidable). Stop and think: Hall of Fame, Final Fours, NCAA National Champions, NBA Champions were all represented on this program and while all were sensational, this blog will discuss one coach in particular.

During the early to mid-1980s I worked at the University of Tennessee for a coach named Don DeVoe. For that particular era, Don was always mentioned as a guy who, if he was given a group of players he’d never seen before, and seven other coaches were given other groups of equal talent, and a tournament was held, Don’s guys would have as good or better a chance of winning a tournament. In today’s game, one such coach is Florida’s Billy Donovan.

This past Wednesday, Billy took five players from Indiana Wesleyan, the 2014 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Champions and, in 20 minutes taught them the Gators’ pick and roll offense. His comments were for the coaches in attendance but were directed to the players in such a manner that, incredible as it sounds, the five guys ran through the offense flawlessly. Every option, every set, every time. Some of the other speakers also worked with the players and did marvelous jobs, but none as seamlessly as Billy D.

As we watched, I made mention of this phenomena to George, who currently serves as the Director of International Basketball for Nike, and he just shook his head. “Jack, I saw him do the same thing at the U19 championships in Prague,” Rav said. “He hadn’t seen the team until they practiced (for two weeks) and won the tournament even though all the other teams were their country’s national team, composed of the best players in that age group. He’s amazing.”

Many people, including this writer, discuss how coaching salaries have reached unfathomable heights. Billy Donovan is making over $22 million for six years but, as incredible as it may seem, watching him work with those young college kids and see them respond to him so quickly and so impeccably, was infinitely more startling to me than his salary numbers.

To many, money is the ultimate reward. Make no mistake about it, I’m sure Billy (and his family) are thrilled he brings home a paycheck with all those zeroes but the fact that he is enjoying his work has to be fulfilling to him. Paraphrasing Bob Dylan:

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”


Free Agents, Glamor Locations and Winning Teams

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Unexpected out of town trip came up when former boss and lifetime (at least since 1973) friend, George Raveling, told me he was speaking at the Coaching U basketball clinic in Indianapolis, run by the LA Clippers VP Kevin Eastman and longtime NBA coach, Brendan Suhr. Rav told me he thought it would be a great opportunity for us to hang out - like the old times at Washington State and USC.

One thing about being retired, I’m now (pretty much) my own boss. My use of the qualifier is because any such sojourn still has to be OK’d by my wife (some things don’t change with retirement). Jane, still jet-lagged from our recent trips to Hawaii (in May) and France (last month), gave her blessing, so I’m off for a week in Indy and looking forward to spending quality time with George - and, more than likely, some old coaching friends.

This blog will return next Saturday, July 12.

Brian Windhorst, who’s got to be the most unlikely looking basketball insider ever, was sharing his information (which is as right on as any other of his kind in TV, radio or print media). His topic was the current NBA free agent market. Windhorst made the statement, “You’re not going to get free agents in Milwaukee.” Certainly, he wasn’t speaking about only Milwaukee. In its current condition, Detroit wouldn’t seem to be a magical destination for any free agents, either. And those two franchises have plenty of company in terms of locations that would be considered “undesirable” by today’s free agents. It’s almost like the big city franchises bully their smaller brethren.What the little guys have going for them is 4% of more is better than 4% of less so agents can talk their clients into filling out rosters everywhere. Just not the highly sought after ones.

If Windhorst’s statement is truly the case – and one would be hard pressed to argue in favor of the opposing view – how, then, can such cities ever expect to win? Not win a championship, but just post a winning record? Wouldn’t players look at those places as depressing work sites? Even if their “work” is “play?” Especially when there are a number of other franchises that are located in cities that these millionaires would feel much more comfortable spending a good portion of their disposable income. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Chicago. Note that many of the NBA’s most successful franchises call those places home.

The redeeming fact for all of the small market clubs, free agency be damned, is that this past season, three of this year’s final four teams competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy were from small market cities. The Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and World Champion San Antonio Spurs wound up the only teams standing – along with not-so-giant-a-market (but wonderful place to live) Miami. Each of the first three used different strategies to make them successful and no one would be surprised if the trio were battling in June 2015 (depending on how this year’s free agent market shakes out, of course).

While the Pacers, Thunder and Spurs have employed different strategies to be – and remain – successful, if only one word was allowed to describe their methods, that word would probably be relationships. That’s certainly an oversimplification but it’s the one common thread that seems to bind these franchises. 

However, the NBA cynic (of whom we have an overflowing abundance) would feel the antithesis about relationships that Anthony D’Angelo expresses about them:

“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.”

Free Agent Salaries All Depend on the Starting Point

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

On the drive home from North LA a few days ago, I was listening to Sirius XM channel 217, the NBA station, to hear what was happening with the free agent market. Justin Termine, a sports talk show host who is vying for the title of “most obnoxious radio personality” (his chance of being #1 significantly increases every time he opens his mouth), compared the “value” of every NBA free agent whose name came up to what the Cleveland Cavaliers offered the Utah Jazz’s restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. The Cavs’ offer sheet is a four-year, $63 million starting at roughly $14 million. If the Jazz want to keep Hayward, they’ll be forced to match that offer.

Every name that followed elicited the same response from Termine. One such example was, “If Hayward is worth that kind of money, what does Chris Bosh command?” The identical question was posed by “Termine” (as he refers to himself) independent of whichever NBA player’s name was mentioned. It never occurred to him that the same comparison could be done but, as opposed to Hayward’s potential salary, using Tim Duncan’s salary, e.g. “If Tim Duncan is paid $10 million/year, how much can Chris Bosh expect to get on the open market?”

Obviously, the answers would vary greatly depending on which player was used for a comparison. As far as what determines NBA offer sheets and salaries, there are a multitude of factors. Among them are a team’s need, the owner’s willingness to spend (or not to), who the organization’s decision-maker is, how much cap space is available, whether one team is trying to squeeze the free agent’s current team (in the case of restricted free agents), what trades are planned (at that time and in the future) as well as other reasons known only to the individual front offices.

Sure, it would be easier if there was a certain player every team was in agreement was being paid exactly what he deserved and he could be as the measuring stick. Negotiations would be simple. “Here’s what ‘measuring stick’ is getting, what does this guy realistically deserve?” Even then, the difficulty comes with what the team gets after their latest acquisition signs on.

George Karl wrote a book, what now seems like centuries ago, when he was the head coach of the Seattle Supersonics. In it, one of the analogies he makes deals with players’ salaries. He tells of a survey that was done in which people were asked the question, “What would be the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?” 75% of the people said they would retire.

George’s comment that followed was classic (and since he said it, salaries have skyrocketed). “With what these guys are making, it’s like they hit the lottery.

I wonder how many of them retired?”

Defining Roles Leads to Spurs’ Success

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Leaving for LA and some more sessions with shooting guru Mike Penberthy. Plus, Alex will get to play with the college and pro guys who stop by Mike’s gym.

This blog will return Saturday, July 5th - so you’ll have something to do over the holiday weekend.

Now that the San Antonio Spurs won the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and did it so convincingly, everybody wants to know what their secret is. What’s so unfortunate is that the “secret” to their success is built upon years of practice. Head coach Gregg Popovich often uses the term “good to great,” talking about what type of shots that an extra pass would lead to. “Good to Great” is also the title of the book by Jim Collins that was the rage of the business world when it came out in 2001 (and obviously one Pop has read - probably more than once). The premise of taking a good company to great is getting the right people on the “bus,” the wrong people off of it and getting the right people in the right seats.

Why the Spurs have been so successful (one 2013 rebound away from a three-peat) is due to selecting the “right” - not always the “best” - people to make up the team, getting the wrong people off of it (although I can’t give examples of any) and having the right people in the right spots. Beyond that, it’s about getting buy in from an entire organization. The way the Spurs play is the antithesis of the way the game is played by nearly every team in the United States, i.e. high school, junior college, four year college and, especially, summer basketball. Possibly, that’s why the Spurs have only three players on its roster who were born in the U.S.

The style used by most every summer coach is, for lack of a better term, the “star system.” Team basketball is eschewed so that individuals are highlighted. Or so that individuals can highlight themselves. This flies in the face of what the Spurs believe. In the 6/23/14 issue of Sports Illustrated there’s an article on the champs in which Boris Diaw, who was waived two years ago by the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats, suggested to the coaches that they hold morning “passarounds” as opposed to the usual morning shootarounds. While San Antonio hasn’t gone that far, they do have 5 on 5 drills in which players aren’t allowed to dribble. It would take some of today’s great scholastic and collegiate players quite a while if that rule was implemented.

It’s not just having shooters that makes the Spurs’ offense so effective but players who have a variety of skills. Not all have to be able to knock down threes, some are required to score inside, others to penetrate (whether to score, kick out or pass to a post player or a cutter), and still others to screen and rebound. The key to San Antonio’s success is not only the style they use but the understanding the players have of what their particular role is. Which is not as easy as it sounds when egos are involved.

Of course, everybody loves a winner and the Spurs are the latest winner. But as another winner, Scottie Pippen (someone who would know), said:

“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”


 

A True Example of Finding Humor Most Any Situation

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Anytime you travel to another country, you’re not only excited about the trip but also a little wary. As I’ve mentioned in a couple recent blogs, Alex, Jane and I went on a 10-day excursion to Tourcoing, France for the 20 & under World basketball tournament. Alex was part of a 10 man squad that was to compete against teams from Turkey, Germany, Montenegro, Israel, Great Britain, Croatia and, of course, France. Each team (that needed one) was assigned an interpreter. In addition, our club had a basketball coach from France who was heavily involved at the grass routes level of basketball there, had several contacts in the U.S. (including our head coach) and, most importantly, was an overall gracious and caring person. His name was Jean-Pierre (I imagine it still is) and the fact he understood the landscape (political and otherwise) and was nearly as fluent in English as the rest of our party was - in English - was extremely helpful. I had taken six years of French, counting junior high, high school and college and tried to get by, but his presence turned out to be quite reassuring.

Tourcoing is a small city. Over here I’ve heard similar areas referred to as “burgs,” to give you a visual of our surroundings. Our plan to go to Paris at least once during our stay got squelched when we learned of a train strike. Jane and I managed to take the tram to Lille one evening which, while it wasn’t home to the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, would definitely be considered a city here.

We leaned on Jean-Pierre quite a bit as he was always with us. In fact, his room was directly across the hall from Jane’s and mine. We became fast friends. One reason was he was interested in “stories from the U.S.” and “stories” are something I have in abundance.

Four of the other teams were staying in the same hotel we were, including Israel. Since the United States is a big draw in France (kind of like the Yankees, the team people love to hate), our first three “pool” games were played at 6:30, right before the home team would play. On the night France played Israel, Jean-Pierre told me he wanted to give me a heads up. After our game, outside the arena, there was going to be an anti-Israeli demonstration by Palestinians living in the area. The fact that I’m Jewish lent a little more intrigue to the story, although the demonstrators had no idea I was anything but a part of the U.S. contingent. When I asked him what he thought we should do (Jane and I always went to dinner after each one of our games), he told me there shouldn’t be a problem, he just wanted to make me aware. He reiterated that we had no real reason to worry.

We lost the game but Alex had played pretty well. As with every game he plays, afterward my mind is usually thinking of what he’d done right, what he’d done wrong and the feedback I planned on giving him. As we got near the exit, I could hear a guy on a microphone. One reason the situation wasn’t as frightening as it might have been was that, at this time of year (or maybe all the time, I didn’t ask), it doesn’t get dark until after midnight (Jane and I marveled at this - and that it got light again about 4:30 am). Once we got outside, the guy with the mic could be heard yelling, “Boycott,” while the crowd would respond with “Israel!” Crowd might be overstating the situation. There were five people in the adjacent parking lot (where the guy with the mic was) and two people on the concourse level of the building. That was the attendance for the demonstration- eight participants. Not to minimize the content of their message, but I’d seen more people at a juicer demonstration at Costco. There were five times as many people there, congregating on the concourse and down below just to chat - or have a cigarette (apparently, our Surgeon General’s report didn’t make it to the other side of the Atlantic).

When I saw Jean-Pierre later that night I said to him, “Jean-Pierre, you told me there was going to be a demonstration tonight. There were eight people there! That’s the best they could do? Eight people?” We shared a laugh and he said he just wanted to warn me. I told him I sincerely appreciated his letting me know but what a (pleasant) shock it was finding the situation as it existed.

All along, I should have thinking about Will Smith’s quote (undoubtedly, from one of his movies):

“Danger is very real, but fear is just a train of thought.”


What Matters, What Doesn’t in Team Sports

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

After the media onslaught when the San Antonio Spurs beat OKC in six games for the Western Conference championship, so much was made of Tim Duncan’s remarks regarding the Finals. “It’s unbelievable to regain the focus after that devastating loss last year,” said the player dubbed “Old Man Riverwalk,” as he clutched the Western Conference trophy, “but we’re back here and we’re excited about it. We got four more to win. We’ll do it this time.” Later on, he admitted, “We’re happy that it’s the Heat. We’ll be ready for them. . . we’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still.”

The media reaction was . . . well, it was conveyed immediately to San Antonio’s opponents to, hopefully, start a series of incendiary remarks between the Heat and the Spurs. If you haven’t realized it yet, that is one of the main ploys of the media, which only makes sense, because if they succeed, the stories more or less write themselves. I mean, why do all the work when the players, many of whom have no idea they’re being played, are only too glad to do the work for you? In this case, however, the best response the members of the fourth estate could elicit from Miami was a completely honest and appropriate quote from LeBron James. “His comments don’t bother me,” said James. “Once you get on the floor, you’ve got to play. We want them, too.” So it means playing is more important than talking?

Boo. That means the guys covering the games would actually have to work. For this Finals, the work turned out to be, time-wise, a great deal less than anticipated, as the Spurs made short order of the men from South Beach, winning the series in five games. So much for Tim Duncan’s bulletin board material. Fans who consider that kind of “smack” to be relevant to the outcome of the game (as long as it’s not in poor taste), don’t understand (elite) athletes or athletics, for that matter. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the best team wins (especially in a best-of-seven series) and the reasons they do so are talent, unselfishness, discipline and preparation, i.e. coaching. A little luck doesn’t hurt the cause, either (especially in the case of injuries and, maybe a key call or two). Of course, there have been upsets but in those cases, all of the above apply, with the exception of talent (which is why it’s regarded as an upset).

The coaches must be on the same page and the game plan must be repeated over and over - so the players are on that same page as well. It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds. Since so many of SportsCenter’s Top 10 highlights revolve around individual moves and high flyers, finding unselfish players is proving more and more difficult. I can’t recall even one of the numerous San Antonio possessions in which the ball was passed more than five times making that Top 10 list. Yet, if someone had asked any of the Miami defenders to rate the degree of difficulty between 1 and 10 (1 very easy, 10 extremely hard) that it took to defend such a possession, let’s just say no one should be surprised if the answer would be at, or very near, double figures.

There are t-shirts that have T-E-A-M spelled vertically on the back with the, now, familiar slogan T-Together E-Everyone A-Achieves M-More. In today’s world sometimes it seems as though the acronym stands for:

T-Today

E-Everyone

A-Applauds

M-Me



Is There a Chance American Basketball Coaches Change Their Philosophy?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Finally back from Tourcoing, in Northern France (pronounced Tour-quon’ - I think) and the 20 & under World Basketball Tournament. Our younger son, Alex, was a member of the U.S. team who, in their first game in Pool A erased a two-point halftime deficit to go up 11 with 7 minutes to go in the fourth quarter against Turkey (the team that would be the eventual runner-up to the home team). A couple of back-to-back threes by Turkey (within about 30 seconds of each other - one as the buzzer of the 24-second shot clock sounded) - put the U.S. guys on their heels and we eventually lost. This annual tourney has been going on the quite a while (this year marked its 25th edition). However, for the first time, the European teams used their 20 & under national teams, i.e. teams that had been practicing as a group.

As a former coach, I felt I had landed in the Bizarro World of Basketball. Like most basketball fans, since college hoops ended, I’ve been watching the NBA. Every game I witnessed in Tourcoing was similar to NBA contests. Our U.S. club was like the prototypical NBA team (not named the Spurs), i.e. offensively, we tried to either get the ball to a post up player or run pick & roll. The Americans, due to travel problems, had only one practice. Most of the kids on the team had a basic understanding of that type of offense. To attempt to install an offense like the Spurs in one practice would have been ludicrous. Every other team in the tourney, though, played the opposite - like the Spurs (of course, at a much lower skill level). Before I upset all the European readers - and who knows how many millions thousands hundreds tens (maybe) of them exist, let me explain that was a compliment. And - as basketball purists would have it - we finished last (8th out of 8).

Scoring was a problem (we were in the low 70s every game - 4 quarters, 10 minutes each) but of infinitely greater concern was trying to defend the offenses of the European teams, e.g. the one used by the Spurs to school the Miami Heat (and every other team they played on their way to an NBA-best regular season record - and their 5th NBA title). But for four missed FTs in Game 2, they might have swept the Heat. And, but for a couple missed FTs, a couple late missed point blank shots - and, of greater importance, one less rebound - San Antonio would now be the two-time defending champs with six championships.

With that result fresh in mind, will coaches in America at least look into changing their offensive philosophy? Coaches, except for the elite, love to play the copy cat game. It is certainly impressive to see a team, in a game involving a 24-second clock, pass the ball up to eight times on a possession. The Spurs’ O seemed to be indefensible as the ball always arrived one step (if not more) ahead of the defenders. A shot that might have been contested wasn’t taken. Instead, it was passed to an open teammate for what looked like “practice jumpers,” e.g. those taken in warm ups. On occasion even a player with an open shot would pass the ball because his teammate had a better one.

Now, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking the offense is the answer. Every perimeter player must have the ability to knock down those shots. The Spurs just make it look easy - very similar to listening and watching someone like George Lehman or Dave Hopla lecture on shooting. At the end of their demonstration you feel like you can walk onto the court and start knocking down shot after shot. Until you try. In the just completed Finals, the Heat had several open looks that didn’t go down as they had the past two years. However, if a team will swing the ball or will play inside-out or use skip passes, they’ll get open shots. Then their guys have to make them. The pick-and-roll must continue to be incorporated into an offense because that is the most difficult way to guard a ballhandler - as long as it’s not just a two-man play. Having all five guys involved makes for tougher rotations and cause close outs, creating opportunities for better shots. Combining P&Rs with European style ball movement makes for a more difficult offense as the defense is forced to guard the entire court.

Nothing is that easy. Today’s players aren’t used to running that type of system and with kids starting younger and younger, often with inexperienced, volunteer coaches, it’s easy to see the advantage European youngsters have with their system.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with copying another style. It’s not like plagiarism. In fact, if you can get it across better than whomever you “stole” it from, people will give you credit. As my late mentor, John Savage, one of the finest speakers in the insurance industry used to say:

“I’m not proud. I steal from the best.”