I have always found that one of the most intriguing coaching questions is the one about systems of play. Namely, ‘Do you choose a system of play to fit your team, or do you impose a system on your team?’ Like every other coaching question there is not necessarily a clear answer and you could name examples where coaches have chosen one or the other answer with success. I personally tend to fall on the ‘fitting a system to your team’ side of the equation, although you must have a set of standard principles. In the NBA it is a hot topic right now because a coach famous for a particular system, Mike D’Antoni, has become coach of a team that clearly doesn’t have the right players for that system, Los Angeles Lakers, and are subsequenty losing quite a lot. I don’t know enough about basketball to have an informed opinion personally, but luckily Bill Simmons is available to inform me. He also falls on the side of ‘fit the system to your team’ side but much more amusingly.
Quote 1 –
“Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re a professional basketball coach and your system is telling you, “I should play Earl Clark more than Pau Gasol,” you need a new system.”
Quote 2 –
“There are two types of coaches …
1. A coach who looks at his players and says, “How can I put these guys in the best position for them to succeed?”
2. A coach who looks at his players and says, “How can I use these guys to make my system succeed?”
Now, think about the mind-set driving Coach No. 2: He’s basically saying, I’m here only because of my system. I can’t actually coach. If you give me the wrong players for my system, it doesn’t matter — I will keep using the system anyway, because Plan B would be coming up with a more inventive way to coach these guys. And I can’t do that. I’m not good enough. So if it’s OK with you, I’d like to go down in flames with my system.”
The VP of Common Sense** has spoken.
** One of Bill Simmons’ theories is the many of the decisions sporting franchises (clubs) make may make sense following some convoluted sport specific logic, but do not pass a simple common sense test. He therefore proposes that sporting clubs should have a ‘Vice President of Common Sense’ whose job it would be to review all decisions and veto the the ones that do not pass that common sense test.
I can’t find fault with his theory. It will never happen.