First off, I do want to congratulate Coach Jamie Dixon and Team USA on their gold medal finish at the FIBA U19 World Championships this past weekend in New Zealand. I also have to mention Canada's very respectable 7th place finish as well.
I often hear the argument, if there's something wrong with amateur basketball in the US, then why do they keep winning world championships. If Jay Bilas is right, and America needs more teaching and less coaching, then what about guys like OJ Mayo, Kevin Durant, or Jrue Holiday, they certainly appear to have all the fundamental skills down. If the European model of basketball development is so good, then why can't Ricky Rubio shoot??
Well, I think the problem of lack of fundamentals, made worse by summer AAU basketball, is not a problem at the elite level. What I mean is that at the highest levels of amateur basketball (world championships), the best athletes in the US are playing basketball. This latest win by Team USA, won with a roster of players that were second or third choices, only serves to underscore that point. USA will always be on top because all their best athletes play basketball or football, unlike the rest of the world which is soccer crazy, or in Canada where we are hockey crazy.
Therefore, the argument for the decline in skills matters more at the college and high school level than at the elite levels. Amateur basketball in the US parallels the high degree of economic inequality. There is basically no parity, there are a few really good players, and a bunch of bad players. There is a dwindling middle-class -- in other words the average player, the Joe Schmoe who is a starter on his high school team, or for a mid-major D1 is getting worse.
Well, you might be asking yourself, why exactly does it matter whether Joe can shoot a proper jumper? What difference does it make so long as we have the Stephen Currys, or Derrick Roses to carry the load? Well, the big loser in all of this is ultimately anyone who enjoys watching college or prep basketball. As coaches and fans, we have a certain expectation of what "good basketball" is. I'm pretty sure nobody's idea of good basketball entails the "star" player with the ball and 4 guys standing around, 1-on-5, or the "star" player cherry-picking fast-breaks for dunks, all of which happens all too often these days. That's not good basketball, that's not good for anyone.
If coaching is educating, then we as coaches have let our players down if they don't learn the basic "background knowledge" of how to play the game, the so-called "Basketball 101" fundamentals. Because if we don't teach them the fundamentals, then how can we expect them to execute more complicated tasks like making a option read off a PNR play depending on how the defense is playing? Or, how can we expect players to run true motion, if they don't know how to execute a proper screen?
I realize that coaches, college and high school alike, have little incentive to change. After all, it's always the job of the coach before them to teach them all those fundamentals isn't it? Wouldn't we all rather work on breaking our next opponent's 1-3-1 zone press then our shooting form? Of course. But all of that is short term thinking. In the long term, it is always the teams that have a system of developing players either in-house or from their feeders that will ultimately be more successful in the long run. Yes, it requires a lot more patience, yes, it requires a lot more work, but it is in everyone's best interest long term.
Posted by bruchu Labels: Principled Basketball