More on Gladwell, unconventional strategies, etc.

Andy McKenzie writes about the various people that enjoy destroying arguments by Malcolm Gladwell and David Brooks. I read Gladwell for the stories and skip his conclusions. More on Gladwell's article: I played Little League baseball, and one of the coaches in the league told all but two of his players to keep the bat on their shoulder for every single pitch, essentially hoping the pitcher threw four balls before he threw three strikes. Yes, this team won many games by walking players around the bases. But God killed a million kittens in the process. Even if your team had the worst players in the league, would you want to employ this strategy? Pressure defense works at younger ages (at all ages, on some players) but shouldn't be used extensively for the same reason we don't let kids run to first base on a dropped third strike until they're older, and encourage kids to swing the bat, even if the pitcher stinks. There are bigger goals; preparing players to play in high school and/or college, letting them practice driving to the basket, practice one-on-one defense, help defense, setting screens, etc. This is why the summer camp I coach at enforces a halfcourt man-to-man rule; they want the kids to improve. The acceptability of a strategy that will make you look like a douchebag is inversely proportional to the league's competitiveness. I make an exception for intramural sports and adult leagues, where douchebaggery is a valued part of the game. The truth is that smart coaches adapt to any dumb strategy, whether it's taking every pitch, holding the ball, pressure defense, telling your kids to take a dive in the penalty box, the A-11 offense, double teaming Stephen Curry or any other strategy where you try to hide your weaknesses. Given that the girls here were trying to go to the national tournament, you would expect that another coach would figure out how to beat them, or maybe the national tournament wasn't that hard to qualify for, or maybe their team was actually better than the article gives them credit for. That said, I love pressure defense for high school and college teams. I watched a Rick Pitino Louisville team absolutely destroy Stanford in the NCAA Tournament with a press, going up 41-13 in fifteen minutes. I don't think anyone's really tried it at the NBA level, both because any point guard can dribble circles around defenders, and because keeping players at a high level of fitness for 82 games, plus playoffs, would be extraordinarily difficult.

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One thought on “More on Gladwell, unconventional strategies, etc.

  1. Andy M

    Yeah–I think the reason that it wouldn’t work in the NBA is because there is such a big height disparity between the players. Your average 6’9″-10 PF or even 6’7″ SF has very little chance of keeping up with a 6’1″ point guard, so it’s hard to do double teams or zone presses. You can get away with having shorter and therefore more agile bigs in college because you won’t be punished as much once you do get down to halfcourt defense.


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