MULTIPLE OFFENSES 2.0 (THE BETA SEASON)
MULTIPLE OFFENSES 2.0 (THE BETA SEASON)
(Author here: RIP/DFW—I took the time to write this down in request for a small tutorial on BAD BALL recently by the ever estimable @HighEliteMajor. I realized I had said most of what I had to say about BAD BALL in isolation previously, so I decided to clarify it by placing it in a broader context. One more point to make clear before jumping off—I have not exhausted all the types of offense in use in my analysis. Rather I have cherry picked among them that seemed most useful in characterizing the major varieties of offensive attack.)
Several board rats saying they didn’t see Bad Ball in the Vandy game made me realize two things: 1.) Bill Self is evolving the schemes that my concepts refer to; and 2.) my definitions of Good Ball and Bad Ball are still to squishy to be useful.
@HighEliteMajor kindly asked me to clarify, so I will try with the caveat that the scheme IS evolving.
To get at useful concepts, I first have to define offense in basketball, second, define two broad categories of offense in basketball, third, establish Self’s High-Low, Carolina Passing Offense (SHLCPO) in a context of categories of basketball offense; and fourth distinguish between the two categories of SHLCPO that Self seems to me to be evolving towards.
To reduce the burden on readers, I am going to minimize my usual digressions into basketball history and just try to specify things as they appear to me now, rather than explore the evolutionary origins and trends, as is my predisposition on this sort of thing. I reckon most have read my takes at one time or another on the origins and trends of offense over the last century of basketball. For those that have not, i apologize for the absence of historical context in this post. Perhaps sometime subsequently, I will try to distill some of that.
HALF COURT BASKETBALL OFFENSE DEFINED:
Planned movement on a floor intended to increase the probability and productivity of scoring attempts on a possession modulated for relevant time constraints at any given period of a game. Basketball offense comes in two kinds: planned and serendipitous.
HALF-COURT PLANNED AND ALL-COURT SERENDIPITOUS OFFENSE:
Half court planned offense maybe highly choreographed, or intentionally free lance, or somewhere on a spectrum in between.The key to planned half court offense is the players coming down the floor with a purposeful means of scoring—choreographed, or free lanced—in mind.
All court serendipitous offense is scoring off undetermined opportunities, like rebounds, steals, slip and falls, etc. In serendipitous offense, you, the offensive player do not determine the offensive rebound, or the turnover, and can only with modest probability determine a steal. Note: even in serendipitous offense players are given some rules about how to fill lanes on a break, and rules about when to pull up and run offense, and rules about whether to dribble the ball on a rebound, or to just take it back up.
The distinction is made to characterize when a team is running its half court offense to score, and when it is simply reacting to a random break, while doing so, or while defending, or while in transition.
TWO CATEGORIES OF OFFENSIVE MOVEMENT: PLAYER AND BALL
The court dimensions are fixed. Rim and back board locations are fixed. All that can move are player and ball. At one extreme, every player can stand in a fixed formation, and pass the ball around. At the other extreme, the ball can stay at a fixed location and the team can run through taking a handoff of the ball. Actual offenses blend these extremes, but usually lean more to one, or more to the other.
DEGREE OF PRE-SPECIFICATION OF BALL AND PLAYER MOVEMENT: TIGHTLY SPECIFIED, LOOSELY SPECIFIED AND FREE LANCED
While realizing that degree of pre-specification actually exists on a broad, fluid spectrum, lets talk about tight and loose pre-specification, and full-on free lancing.
CHOREOGRAPHED VERSUS RULED SPECIFIED MOVEMENT OF PLAYERS AND BALL
Choreographed refers to pre-specified movement of players and/or ball indicating where and how players and ball are to move and be moved around the floor to increase the probability of scoring in the desired time period in the desired amount. Choreographed offense sets up in a formation, and run a pre-conceived pattern of movement of players and ball. Movement may be tightly, or loosely specified.
Rule specified refers to players running a mixture of tightly or loosely choreographed, or largely free lanced offensive movement based on rules. Rules are if-then-else logics. If the defensive players are in this defense, then run this option, else run that option. If the defensive players are hedging and helping this direction, then run this option, else run that option. And so on.
Most offenses are a mixture of both, but all offenses so far can be located on a spectrum somewhere between choreographed extremes and somewhere between rule driven extremes.
FOUR FUNDAMENTAL OFFENSES
- BALL MOVEMENT OFFENSES:
Passing offenses use ball movement to move defenders into positions they cannot recover from in time as the ball continues to move to a new player at a new location. Passing offenses move the ball around a perimeter and wing to high post to wing to trigger side to side defensive movement so that one or two passes in the other direction lead to a player with sufficient open space around him (impact space) to shoot, or drive for a shot. The impact space can also be achieved by in-out ball motion contracting a defense, so that either the defense is late getting to adequate defense of the block, or, alternatively, late getting to adequate defense of the three point shooting area. Late defensive arrival to proper defensive position yields a scoring opportunity. Timely arrival yields a kick out (pass outwards) to shooters on the perimeter. The purest example so far of a ball ball movement offense is a pure High-Low Post Offense devised by Henry Iba for the 1964 Olympic team, adopted and modified by Dean Smith and Larry Brown, and now widely used today with the foremost practitioner being Bill Self. In the pure High-Low Post Offense no screens are set, the three perimeter players stay in their perimeter diamond pattern, while two post men rotate both high and low, and rotate side to side across the lane to get open for feeding the post in and kicking the ball from post back out to wing, or point, or opposite wing. Passing, or ball movement, creates the impact spaces for shooting and driving.
- PLAYER MOVEMENT OFFENSES: CLOSED AND OPEN SYSTEMS
Scripted player movement, often away from the ball, as well as near it, in the forms of cuts over one or more screens, and screens on the ball, unfold in a more or less scripted series, and can be characterized as fundamentally player movement driven offenses. In purest form, all players move through a prescribed series of positions and tasks on the floor usually with some requirement of timing of player movement and ball arrival at a scoring opportunity. Early single post offenses and some double post offenses used tightly, or loosely scripted player movements around a post. Bruce Drake’s Oklahoma Shuffle was perhaps the purest extrapolation of player movement offense, where in all players but the post man, and even in some schemes the post man, too, became involved in cycling from position to position in a fixed formation. It was as close to a mechanistic offense as has been widely used in the game. Dean Smith ran it extensively until 1964 at North Carolina, before shifting to what he called multiple offense combining Iba’s High Low with routines from the Oklahoma Shuffle. It is a closed system in the sense that if not shot were taken, an offensive player would eventually wind up back at his initial position and the offense with repeat without need for a reset.
Another closed system offense are the motion offenses run today by Coach K tracking back to Bob Knight, and probably from Knight back to other coaches he studied and borrowed from including, but hardly limited to Fred Taylor, Henry Iba, and Claire Bee. Knight’s motion offense is heavily driven by rule driven options of action at each node on the essentially closed circuit of ball and player movement around the floor.
Yet another variation on the closed system player movement offense is Bob Huggins’ offense which appears to cycle through a series of decreasing radius cuts and increasingly densities/frequencies of picks until one player breaks to the basket and another breaks away to the perimeter and the the player with the ball gets a choice of enabling scoring opportunity inside, or outside, or of driving it himself. I haven’t studied it closely enough to swear by my description. Huggins might well explain it quite differently, but from the outside looking in, when Huggins runs what I call his dense pack, physical offense of tooth rattling screens, that’s my best shot at describing its basic character and dynamic.
At the other extreme is what I would call an open system offense. It maybe tightly scripted, as in the traditional Princeton offense that tracks to Pete Carril and to his coach. The team sets up in a formation, then the players run the a completely scripted six plays each play having a few rule driven options, in which regardless of the option chose, if the shot is not taken the next play is cycled into. I characterize it as an open system, because at the end of the six plays the offense usually evidences being reset and the six play sequence is repeated. The offense is not an infinitely repeatable do loop, to borrow a term from computer programming, as the offenses described above appear to be.
A less tightly scripted example of the open system offense is Dribble Drive Offense, used by John Calipari. Calipari called it Princeton on steroids for awhile, and he was correct. It largely originates with one player or another moving to set a ball screen. The player with the ball then chooses among options with rules and if a shot is not taken, the ball goes to the next sequenced to start at the next destination of the passed ball. The dribble drive actually combines some of rule driven motion offense with the play sequencing of the Princeton. But whereas the Princeton emphasizes tightly timed screening to create open shots, the Dribble Drive uses ball screening to trigger impact plays by superior athletes. When the shot is not there, and the next sequenced play inside is not there, then the ball kicks and reverses very much as in the High Low Passing Offense, where in usually a mirrored sequence of plays are run from the back side. This kinship with the High Low Offense is hardly surprising as Calipari got his under Larry Brown,as did Self, then running his variation on the Carolina Passing Offense (aka High Low with Oklahoma Shuffle routines inserted intermittently).
- MULTIPLE OFFENSES: PLAYING SOME OF THE ABOVE IN DIFFERENT SITUATIONS
As far as I can tell so far, the earliest reference in book form to multiple offenses was in Dean Smith’s book of that title; that is not to say that Smith was the first to combine offenses, just that he was the first I have found to write a book explaining doing so. Multiple offenses can be devised out of single formations and run on principles of ball movement, or on player movement, or they can literally consist of running several different fundamentally different offenses. Smith’s use of the term is worth relying on. He said he ran a Carolina Passing Offense. He mixed in some Oklahoma Shuffle routines. And he ran a spread offense called a four corner offense where in the point guard moved the ball on the dribble while all the other players assumed mostly fixed positions until one or more broke to the basket at some point. He said they could and liked to run all the offenses out of the same initial formation. Other times they varied the formations and ran the same offense. The idea was to minimize what his players had to learn, while maximizing how much opposing defenses had to recognize. Though each offense so far described above has its own characteristics and fundamentals, it is fair to say that most coaches today also make use of multiple offenses to some extent or other. The multiple offenses are a recognition that no single offense seems to be ideally suited to all game situations. Further, there is some yield to forcing the defense in periodic new recognition.
- THE TRIANGLE OFFENSE: FROM SINGLE CIRCUIT NODES TO THREE PLAYER NETWORKING, OR A HYBRID SYNTHESIS OF BALL MOVEMENT, PLAYER MOVEMENT, AND CLOSED AND OPEN SYSTEM OFFENSES IN THE FORM OF ENDLESSLY REFORMING TRIANGLES:
All offenses noted above recognize that a perimeter player with the ball has a player to the right and a player to the left that is one pass away, plus a post man in front of him that is also one pass away. The player in the post usually faces similar situation facing outward. Most of the offenses try to move players away from the ball, or to the ball, in ways that allow the player with the ball to act to score, or to move the ball into a scoring position. The same is accomplished in ball movement offenses by moving the ball to move the defenders to create an open impact space at a given point for a given player. We can think of this as creating impact spaces at circuit nodes.
The Triangle Offense of Tex Winter, derived from a rudimentary version of the offense taught him by his USC mentor Sam Barry. moves offense from a node centric paradigm to a network centric paradigm. Rather than let the player with the ball choose which triangle of three players he wishes to move the ball in relation to his central node, Winter’s Triangle is about replacing a central node with a three player network. The offense emerges entirely from the interplay of any three closest players forming a triangle of play, and when ever a made basket is not forth coming, wherever the ball ends up is where the next three player triangle takes shape and begins to execute. In simplest terms, without any unpredictable interventions, each time the ball moves around the perimeter, say, a new triangle forms and a set of rule driven options unfolds. The offense has post men and perimeter players, but the triangle of play can involve any three players and at any moment the players in the triangle of player are permitted to pass out of the triangle, where in another reforms.
This offense exhibits limited closure if you will. But odd as it may seem chaos theory lends itself to explaining this offense. The offense has a strange tendency of a triangle that keeps reemerging out of the unfolding chaos of interplay. The Triangle Offense evidences infinite variation within limits in how and where the triangles form. In execution it isn’t so heady. Find the two closest guys to you and play a three person form of the dribble drive offense. Ball screen, Give and go, pass away and cut and so on. If nothing works, pass out of it completely and let another triangle form and take the initiative from there. Some, including Michael Jordan, said it worked largely because of Michael Jordan. But then Phil Jackson showed that it worked with all kinds of exceptional players. Bottom line, is: it works regardless of whether there are other offenses that might work also. The enduring appeal of it is that it is flexible and adaptable to the varying composition of players and players’ abilities that teams go through during a season and from season to season. The down side is that not all players like playing it, and quite a few coaches are uncomfortable with the large amount of loosely choreographed, rule driven interpretations required of players playing the offense. College coaches particularly appear to want players thinking less about what to do, and thinking more about executing what they are told to do. Still, the only other singularly distinct offense that has won so many NBA championships with so many different casts of characters might be some of Red Auerbach’s schemes, which I admit to not having studied closely yet.
SELF’S ADOPTION AND DEVELOPMENT OF DEAN’S AND LARRY’S MULTIPLE OFFENSES
Self’s offense is NOT and never has been limited to the High Low Offense, any more than Dean’s or Larry Brown’s were, though he probably plays more of a pure version of that than some other coaches that run some High Low. Self has always been a huge advocate of recruiting players that can make plays in impact space created by passing, rather than picking. Only with an exceptionally gifted, multidimensional scorer like BenMac, does Self commit over a season to running plays specifically to shake a designated player loose.
What Self runs and has always run is Dean’s Multiple Offenses, which is cornerstoned on ball movement offense originating out of a high-low post formation. Self’s teams have always alternated between the passing offense and running tightly choreographed actions out of one position or another. The longer his teams play together the more variety of plays, or actions, are used. There is, contrary to popular belief, Self’s multiple offenses create a lot of recognition problems for defenses. They never know whether KU will be in passing offense mode, or in choreographed play mode. He does either out of the same formations some times, and then varies formations sometimes and does the same thing. Self’s two post men execute almost every kind of action conceivable over the course of a game in the paint in search of what works and what is being given. Outside Self has shown a strong preference most of his career not to screen, or ball screen much, but when he has post men that are threats to score, and perimeter players that can dribble, pass, and shoot well, he definitely has played extended pick and roll out of his High Low Formations, which is a suspension of High Low post play.
SELF’S EMBRACE OF EDDIE SUTTON’S TAKE WHAT THEY GIVE US AND EXPANSION OF IT INTO PLAY IT ANYWAY THEY WANT
Sutton clearly impressed Self with 70-point take what they give us, which was a defining characteristic of Iba’s four disciples immediately preceding Self’s generation of coaches: Don Haskins, Jack Hartman, Eddie Sutton and selfs own college coach, Paul Hansen. Hansen was the least successful of these Iba disciples, but the philosophy of ball was quite similar to the others. Control tempo at a 70 point rate and take what they give us. But Hansen did not have great players generally speaking and made do with scrapping defense, ball protection and patience on offense at a time when offensive basketball was going athletic and faster paced. Sutton could get get the impact players, and some big men, and showed Self how to play the Multiple Offense way with guys that could “make plays” from the perimeter and grind in the post. But its important to make clear that take what they give us is NOT the same as play it anyway they want. Eddie Sutton’s teams tended to play under control. Tempo was geared to enable 70 point take what they give us. Self clearly embraced the concept, but expanded on it.
SELF’S EARLY FIRST EVOLUTION: PLAY IT ANY WAY YOU WANT
Highly competitive men appear to come in two flavors: the kind that want to dominate you by making you do what they want you to do; and the kind that want to dominate you however you want to dominate them. Both types of coaches employ more, or less, deception as they walk these two paths. But the biggest common thread among both types is that neither likes his team to compete on its heels, as it were. Seizing opportunities and “making plays” is common to both types.
Most college basketball coaches I can recall have appeared to fall in the former category.
But Bill Self, perhaps because of his personality, and perhaps because of his brief early time under the opportunistic, improvisational, and feisty Larry Brown, plus a reputed long term relationship with Brown after his brief year working for him, may have developed what still appears Self’s unusual predilection for liking to beat opponents playing the way they like to play, at least until his sticky defense convinces them that won’t work, and they shift gears to find another way to beat him. And its at that point that Bill Self shifts gears with them and plays better than them at the way that is their second preference for a means of attack.
This play it anyway they want philosophy works largely because Self, unlike most coaches, apparently coaches his teams to learn to play many ways. KU’s players are drilled in 70 point take what they give us. They are drilled in the running game. They are drilled to muddy it up and play half court grind games. They are drilled to play various tempos. And in games, they tend to come out in one of these modes aimed at a game with a tempo likely to end in the 70s only to shift gears into playing whatever tempo the other team tries to impose, and focuses on trying to beat them at that tempo, rather than trying to dictate a different tempo, or style of play. Play rough and KU plays rough. Play finesse and KU plays finesse. Run and KU runs. Slow down and KU slows down. There is not much energy spent and scheming done to force teams to play it KU’s way in any conventional sense of that term. Rather, KU’s way is every way, so an opponent never takes one out of KU’s comfort zone. Rather, they just find that they may have advantages in one kind of game, or another, that KU lacks the skills and athleticism to cope with. Its at that point and only at that point that Self will slow down, or squirt ahead. But for all the varieties of tempos and for all the varieties it will try in its offensive attacks, the end of most KU games under Self seems finally best characterized by 70 point take what they give us. It is a basketball equivalent of being a counter puncher in boxing, both waiting for an opening for a KO, but also being willing to settle for a decision on points. Opponents try this, and KU counters with the same. Single-minded coaches stick to one strategy, and Self matches up with it and the opponent grows frustrated playing it exactly as he intends to without pulling away. The frustration is palpable on the opposing coaches’ faces. They are doing exactly what they want, but KU’s defense is stuffing them and on the other end, KU plays at the pace they set and take what the opponent gives them, and hangs close and then pulls away some. Other coaches that take pride in flexible strategies, try one approach awhile, then another approach, then another. Each time Self’s defense adapts and stifles the changed approach being dictated. Each time Self plays the same tempo on the other end and takes what they give him. Each time, or at least 82% of the time overall, Self’s team hangs in, then separates. Eventually the opposing coach grows frustrated with changing attacks and settles on something that Self has already seen and defended earlier in the game. Each time, or 82% of the time, Self uses defense to default the game into an equilibrium strategy (the pattern of play that begins to recur in two player games when both opponents have moved and counter moved to the point that one or the other has exhausted the other’s opportunity set of counter moves, and both settle into a single, final pattern of play that leads to the outcome of play) the opposing team is either doing what it likes to do unsuccessfully, or doing something less preferred without success either. In short, opponents wind up out of their comfort zones and KU, because it has been coached to play it anyway they want, while it may not be operating at a peak level, is nonetheless operating more effectively than the opponent. And in this equilibrium strategy mode, Self then call a few opportunistically scripted plays here, and there, and then wait for his impact players to “make plays” to close out the game. On hot shooting nights, Self’s teams blow teams out, but otherwise, the object is to win in the seventies by 10-15 points and leaving the other coach not quite sure how it happened yet again.
The best antidote to Self’s game so far is Tom Izzo’s approach. He comes in with well drilled, strong, tough players trained to stay on spots, and knock opponents off theirs. He usually has stronger, heavier perimeter players than Self. He usually has thicker, more pugnacious bigs than Self. Izzo’s guys don’t have to be flexible enough to play it anyway they want. They are, like John Wooden’s players always were, hand picked to play it exactly one way—Izzo’s way, no matter what. All that being the case then, Izzo’s team’s eliminate Self’s advantage in flexibility. And they try to eliminate Self’s teams edge in athleticism by keeping it a half court game, but bodying a lot, by keeping things physically close on the court, and by scheming to neutralize Self’s best impact players, and to attack his weakest defenders. Only Izzo could see how to easily stop KU’s bullish but explosive point guard. Izzo put a lug of a post man and his own bullish point guard on Collins at the top of the circle and suddenly Collins could not use his usual strength and weight advantage to scrape off his man and drive the lane. If he went right, the point guard was hedging his right. If he went left, his weak hand, the lug of a post was hedging his left. If he went in between, they doubled him. If he tried to pass to the man the post was supposed to be defending rolling down the lane, Collins was too short and too limited in his passing skills to lob it accurately to the post man. Collins had not seen this simple adjustment before. He could not adapt in the moment. Suddenly all of Self’s advantage in playing it anyway Izzo wanted, vanished. 15 KU points vanished in frustration. Suddenly the drive couldn’t make explosive plays driving, and he had to pull back and shoot from 2-3 feet deeper to get the ball off. Even Self’s teams can’t win without the initiative and with their best player handcuffed and no clear matchup advantage elsewhere. Many coaches try this on Self, but most lack the keen sense of Self’s teams jugular and the kind of players needed to slit it, and the deep well of confidence to press on relentlessly…to maintain the attack despite the relentless KU defense…to equal him defensively…to take away the one or two players KU needs to score to win. Mostly, Self’s approach works. And when it doesn’t, especially against an Izzo, you can see him tweak the team roster to include someone at some position that could have countered what was done to it, rather junk the multiple offense he uses. Self sees problems mostly in terms of personnel unable to execute without match up advantage. A taller guard might have been able to handle what Izzo did to Collins, so taller guards followed. But taller guards have their own Achilles heels, so you have a guard rotation with long and short guards, same as you have big man rotations with long and short bigs. There have to be two guards able to handle, when an opposing coach decides to scheme to stop one guard. When a wing three or a wing two do not match up outside, a stretch 4 has to come out and take up the attack on the perimeter. And so on. If you are committed to playing it anyway they want, you have to have not only players, but combinations of players that can play it anyway they want and take what remains after they take something away. Other things equal, Self would rather use another player to take what they give us, than run ball screens and fade curls to shake a player loose that they are scheming to stop. On defense, he is pugnacious and willing to engage in help ONLY AFTER players prove they can guard their own positions without switching. Defense is a mano a mano and team a team game of diking and channelling the enemy to the middle of the court, where he is outnumbered and strangled…of being willing to track him down and corner him no matter where he goes and no matter how he gets there. Offense is a game of water following paths of least resistance…of flowing through the cracks of what is given.
Only Self could say for sure where this freakishly systematic philosophy and approach (tendency is perhaps more accurate, since he appears to vary from it occasionally, when expedient) to coaching and playing basketball came from. His mentors and their mentors certainly suggest some paths for fruitful research of the mystery, but for this exploration of Good Ball and Bad Ball ,explaining how he came to be this way is an unnecessary digression. Suffice it to say that this is observably over the long term how he approaches most games and seasons and that exceptions have so far merely acted as proofs of the rule.
SELF’S RECENT SECOND EVOLUTION: ADAPTING IMPACT ATHLETICISM TO TIGHTER FOUL CALLING
After coaching through a career long progression towards a more and more physical game, with only one or two seasons in which refs were told to clean it up, Self finally experienced acute tightening of certain kinds of foul calling and watched his tenaciously physical defense wither in a flurry of fouling.
Self’s solution to a more tightly called game hardly seemed an innovation at first. It seemed like not much more than looser defense and more driving the ball. The drive ball he appeared to adapt from Bo Ryan who had had success with it in the always physical Big Ten. But then Self took Bo’s Drive Ball to a whole new level. Self turned it into not just a couple guards driving but everyone driving from everywhere on the floor. Further, Self seemed to turn offense on its head. In the midst of the ascendant three point shooting era, Self said trey balling was fools gold and instead told his good shooting trey ball team to play almost exclusively for the “short three”, i.e., driving for two and a FT, from every where, all the time. The Carolina Passing Offense was largely jettisoned except for short feel-out stretches at the beginning of each half to gauge what the opponents new wrinkles would be. That really threw the three-loving fans a painful curve. But he didn’t stop there. Long a proponent of using ball movement instead of picks and screens, to create impact space for shooters to either shoot or drive in, Self then did the nearly unthinkable: he had his players drive “into” their opponents. It became a process of collapsing impact space so as to heighten the probability of being fouled in the act of shooting, or even just in the act of driving itself. This was not totally unprecedented for skilled guards to do intermittently. But until last season, no one had ever seen an entire team engaged in driving to collapse impact space to get the short three. It was XTReme by all measures. Tightened foul calling was one trigger. But another was a flurry of injuries the reduced virtually all of his team to walking wounded playing through. In retrospect, it was likely that the guys couldn’t have stretched the impact space even if they had wanted to, due to injury and so collapsing the impact space became the feasible if outrageous alternative. Most were appalled by it. But Mr. Run and Shoot from 4 out 1 in Fred Holberg saw the terrible beauty of it immediately and adapted in the post season tournament. Many others around the country saw it and adopted it also. If imitation were the sincerest form of flattery, Self must have been pretty flattered by the end of the tournament, when even Ryan himself seemed to see the new edge of the envelope that he had started, and got everyone on his team of fine shooters driving from everywhere, as well. So long as foul calling remains tight regarding the ball handler, it pays to have everyone putting it on the deck and driving it to the basket that possibly can.
SELF’S RECENT THIRD EVOLUTION: ADAPTING IMPACT ATHLETICISM TO A SHORTENED SHOT CLOCK AND WIDER LANES
In Korea, Self was confronted perhaps serendipitously with play under international rules just a few months before a news season of D1 was about to start using a 30 second clock and a wide lane. In short, Self got to experiment with the 24 second clock to be used in the WUGs, and experiment with the wide lanes used in WUG. What Self evolved was a 3 point, quick-trigger offense which followed quick trey attempts by using his modestly talented big men in a high mobility, horizontal front court game in which the game became less about leaping high for rebounds and more about running across wide lanes to get position for either grabbing the rebound, or swatting it to keep it alive for another teammate. Self ran relatively little high-low passing offense and almost no BAD BALL in Korea. Instead he focused what I have just described and what I nicknamed GOOD BALL. GOOD BALL was wildly successful in Korea and KU won the WUGS with it.
SELF’S NEW SYNTHESIS: MULTIPLE OFFENSES 2.0 FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Back in the last century, around 1964 to be precise, Larry Brown brought Dean Smith the High Low Offense Henry Iba had invented for the Olympic games. Dean had been running Bruce Drake’s Oklahoma Shuffle. Dean fell in love with the High Low Post Offense, but did not want to give up some of the better choreographed plays in the Oklahoma Shuffle. Dean and Larry had the inspiration of plugging these “actions” into the high-low, so that you got the best of both. Passing offense was used to move defenses to create the impact spaces needed for shooting or driving, and intermittently, actions could be run out of one of the impact spaces. The net effect was to keep a defense continually uncertain of what was coming: passing offense, or action. At the same time, Dean was picking up on John McClendon’s recent innovation of the four corner offense for stalling, aka defending a lead. Pretty soon Dean had a passing offense, lots of actions within it, and a four-corner stall that also had some actually offensive potential with a top point guard scoring in isolation off the dribble, or dishing to a surprise cut by one of the players on the four corners. Dean had to figure out what to call all of what he was doing. He called it Multiple Offenses and shortly wrote a book about it with Multiple Offenses in the title.
Bill Self in the 21st Century, has done something similar to what Dean did in the 20th Century. Self has strung the high low passing offense with the actions on na offensive necklace with two other beads: GOOD BALL and BAD BALL. God only knows what Self will call it. Until he writes a book to explain, I will call it Multiple Offenses 2.0 for the 21st Century, or MO2.0 for short.
Even in this young 2015-2016 season it is apparent where Self is going. He opens in one of these, and then cycles through the others over the course of the game situationally. Which one he usually opens with seems in a discovery in process to him and to us.
High-Low Passing Offense with and without action, and eventually with a weave: a good scheme for feeling another team out to find out what they are running. This is good for making a team work on defense, and burn up their energy budget sliding with the ball motion and with the weaves. It is good when you are wanting to use of the shot clock before shooting. Fans say same old same old. Opposing coaches seem to dread it. They talk about Self High-Lowing them to death.
Good Ball: a three point first, quick trigger offense followed by lots of big man motion across the new wide lanes, usually initiated from a 4 out 1 in formation, that creates quick leads, and stresses the opponents big men by getting them moving away from the basket. This seems to be what Self runs first, when he wants to jump out of the blocks early on a strong opponent. It seems to set a quick tempo. Fans love it. Opposing coaches same to get caught off guard by Self resorting to a quick trigger offense.
Bad Ball: if the refs are calling a tight game, and if your perimeter guys have a step on the opposition, this is a great way to get the short three and foul up the opposing team’s bigs early on. Played 4 out 1 in with Perry a driving stretch 4 against most teams guaranties Perry getting the opposing team’s starting 4 fouled up quickly. By collapsing the impact space and jumping into opposing players the fouls come fast and furious, or the easy buckets do.
So: MO2.0 puts a tremendous defensive recognition stress on opposing teams. Each time down the floor the opponent has to figure out: passing offense with or without action; Good Ball, Bad Ball, which’ll it be.
And Self has thoughtfully arranged to have KU’s players always line up in a 3-2 formation, or a 1-4 formation, or a 4-1 formation, or a 1-3-1 formation, and then be able to shift as the ball comes up court into any one of the other formations not used and then run all three kinds of offense from all the different formations.
And the beauty of it is, the players really only have to learn three very rudimentary offenses despite the several formations.
Guys do not have to be rockets scientists to player this way, nor is experience an absolute prerequisite. It helps for sure, but Calipari would tell you that experience helps in the Dribble Drive, too. Experience helps in everything.
It will be very interesting to see how many coaches start aping MO 2.0 lock, stock and formation.
Go, Bill, go!
drgnslayr last edited by
Wow! Your fingertips are smokin’!
I may have to cancel going out to the movies tonight to read this. But it will be worth it!
RockkChalkk last edited by
@drgnslayr Can you post the cliff notes version when you’re done please?? haha
HighEliteMajor last edited by
@jaybate-1.0 Thoroughly enjoyable post.
I do have a question, though … “good ball” as you term it has seemingly been initiated this season out of the high/low – admittedly not the quick rotation to the third side stuff, looking for the crisp Brady-made entry pass, that has slowed our pace to a crawl in the last two seasons when we have don’t have the low post competence to cash in. But high/low nonetheless.
I have not seen really much of the four out/one in deal so far. We are mixing our high post into the screening as usual, but I haven’t seen anything that looks like a solo post, and certainly not the dream weave at the end of last season (really a nightmare). I’ll watch closer regarding the 4 man’s integration into the perimeter game. Maybe I’m not processing your description properly, which is very likely.
Being hopelessly biased in favor of the high/low, maybe I’m seeing what I want to see? Possible too.
Our offense this season seems fluid, really (for 190 minutes at least). I think that has quite a bit to do with the Mason/Graham combo, and getting Selden largely out of the 2 spot.
Thanks for posting. Everyone here needs to read this post.
I saw 4 out 1 in versus MSU about 4 straight possessions during the first half, when Self was trying to get out the blocks quickly. Fewer consecutive possessions but more interspersed the first half versus UCLA, when again, Self sought to get out quickly. I don’t recall Vandy early. I missed the early part trying to find a place to watch the game.
What I sense so far is that where as last season Self rather judiciously opened in the High-Low Passing Offense to feel out the other teams, find whether they were going to be packing the paint, or defending the trey stripe, doing both, and to get his young players through their early game jitters, and used to making some reads; this season Self has opted for the same kind of fast starts we saw in Korea (what I call Good Ball), where the ball comes up court quick, not fast, and someone is supposed to trigger quickly, anywhere from 10-15 seconds total including transition into the clock. It seems to be up to the players whether they will pop the trey, or drive it, but either way the idea is to seize the initiative early. As I said, I saw some conventional high low formations and some 4 out 1 in the early going, but either way, it was a quick trigger attack with more treys than drives. Not much action at all. No ball reversal. Just 1 or 2 passes and dribble and boom! This is where people are feeling a dribble drive offense, but I have not called it Dribble Drive because Self hasn’t used any Ball Screening, which I consider pretty much structural (at least in my admittedly limited knowledge) to that Offense.
After 3-5 minutes of trying to quick trigger an early lead, then Self appeared to switch gears in all the games against the ranked teams except Vandy into defending the lead by switching to either conventional high low passing game, or Bad Ball, for 3-5 minutes of probing the other team’s game plan. The last ten minutes of the halves of the games so far have been spent defending leads, because KU had leads to defend. And, except against MSU, when we shot so poorly down the stretch, its been pretty easy to defend the leads. 47% trey balling makes defending leads pretty easy, even when Self cuts back on how many treys we take from the quick trigger early going.
What remains to be seen, of course, is how Self will use the multiple offenses I have described, when the outside shooting is cold, as it cooled against MSU, and there is no lead to defend the last ten minutes of each half. Will Self have the gumption to quick trigger to close the gap and build a lead, or will he hunker down and BAD BALL his way back into the game?
It is going to be very interesting to watch.