Monday, March 10, 2008

My conflict over Rick Pitino

First off, just to be clear, I'll give our new coach a chance no matter who it is. If Greenspan hires Charles Manson to be the new coach, you'll see me on the board saying things like "Sure, what he did was wrong, but that was before he was coaching at Indiana, and I'm sure he knows that stuff won't fly here," and "Technically, I don't think brainwashing people to commit murders is an NCAA violation." I'm not going to take my ball and go home if Greenspan doesn't pick "my" candidate (and so far I don't have a particular guy that I'm pulling for... and I'm trying hard to stay that way).

That said, it obviously doesn't mean that I have no feelings about the search at all. Basically, there are a number of coaches that I've seen mentioned for the job that I don't want to see hired. They fall into two main camps:

1. Coaches who I think just aren't very good and are only mentioned because of some IU tie (like Dakich, Alford, Stallings, etc.)
2. Big-name coaches who I don't think are clean enough (like Calipari, Pearl, etc.)

And then there's Rick Pitino. Pitino represents a real conundrum for me.

1. As far as I can tell, Pitino runs a clean program, and has run clean programs for years.
2. As much as he's considered an "East coast guy", he's spent most of the last 20 years coaching within a couple hour drive of Bloomington, Indiana. He knows the midwest.
3. I think he's a good coach.
4. From a distance, I like his relationship with his players. He doesn't try to be their friend, but they seem to like playing for him anyway.
5. I think Pitino would be really successful at Indiana. Really successful. Like Final Fours and National Titles.

And yet, I have a big problem with Pitino. I hate his style of play. That's it in a nutshell. I don't think his style is bad or it makes him a bad coach, I just think it's ugly to watch.

When Pitino went to Kentucky, Kentucky was not in good shape. They had a little talent, but nothing like what would come later. When a team doesn't have much talent and needs to beat more talented teams, conventional wisdom says that you want to slow the game down and decrease the number of possessions. The fewer the possessions, the less chance the more talented team has to pull away.

Pitino turned that on its ear. He decided that what he wanted to do was minimize the number of halfcourt possessions, both offensively and defensively. So he focused on reducing the opponent's halfcourt offensive possessions by playing full court, pressure, trapping defenses that generated turnovers and made the opponent score in transition (which seems like a bad thing, except it was outside their comfort zone). And he focused his team on scoring in transition, even when the numbers weren't in his favor, and particularly on shooting 3s in transition (which wasn't commonplace back then). And of course he played his whole bench in order to wear the other team down. He increased the importance of athleticism at the expense of "basketball smarts". This was a brilliant coaching move, and it also was a style that the players loved, so recruiting followed.

And I hated watching it.

As Kentucky's talent increased, the effectiveness of this technique increased even more... or did it? I would submit that it didn't. Kentucky had so much talent that they didn't need to rely on high-risk/high-return techniques to win. Early on, the techniques turned probable losses into wins, but at some point it stopped doing that. I think it starting turning probable wins into blowouts... and then UK would run into a team with great guards who could consistently break UK's fullcourt press and POW the core of UK's gameplan was useless. In other words, they reached a point where Kentucky's style was most effective when it was least needed, and least effective when it was most needed.

And I hated watching it.

Giving credit where credit is due, Pitino's reliance on fullcourt defense and 3 point shooting seems to have gone down over time and he's adjusted to today's game. The man's a good coach. If he was hired by Indiana, I'm sure I'd feel some excitement over the success I think he'd bring to the program. But I'd also feel some real disappointment at the prospect of watching Indiana play that style of ball. There's nothing evil about it. There's nothing stupid about it. I just don't enjoy it.

I'd be very conflicted.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how the internet has giving retarded uninformed inexperienced idiots a forum to air their rediculous opinions like this fool. The arrogance of this idiot saying that Pitino is simply a "good" coach and that steve Alford isn't very good. OMG what a freaking moron!

Anonymous said...

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Terry Bleizeffer said...

There's nothing I enjoy more than someone calling me an idiot... and then saying that my opinion is "rediculous". LOL!

Anonymous said...

It is better to be a bad speller than an ignorant feller LOL!

Anonymous said...

Try to do something positive with your time instead of obsess with IU Basketball and critisize the coaches. Geez.

I'm done with you. Off to better things. Wow!