More Than A Game: A Book Review

Characteristics of a Sound Offense (According to Phil Jackson and Charley Rosen)

1. Must penetrate the defense.

      a)Create good % shots. Define what is a good shot for each player

      b) Stress inside power game. Play for the 3 pt. power play.

      c)Break down all defenses from full court presses to double teams.

2. Transition basketball starts on defense. Look to run!

3. Provides proper floor spacing 15’-18’, creating an operating room and clearing area on the court. Keeps defense occupied on and off the ball.

4.Provides player and ball movement with a purpose. There is only one ball and 5 players. All things being equal, a player is without the ball 80 % of the time.

5. Provides strong rebound position and good defensive balance on all good shot.

6.Provides the player with the ball an opportunity to pass to any of his teammates.Utilize the abilities of the individual players. Must create high % shots for a team’s best shooters, rebound opportunities for best drivers.

 

 

More Than A Game is as close to a philosophy book as you will find on the game of basketball. A coach is only as successful as their coaching philosophy. John Wooden had his Pyramid of Success, Don Nelson had Nellie-ball, which was about creating defensive mismatches by having the best five offensive players on the court at one time, and Tex Winters had the Triangle Offense (also called the Triple Post); which hit the peak of its success when Phil Jackson implemented it with the Chicago Bulls, and later with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Though some chapters are dedicated to filling in the gaps of the coauthor’s lives, the book doesn’t get bogged down in the “who, what, and why’s”. The narrative thread is seamless despite the jumps in place and time. The reader learns  about Jackson’s Knicks days and how he met Rosen during this time period.

Phil discusses his upbringing and the road that led him to him abandon the Pentecostal concepts of sinning, the afterlife, and redemption, for Zen Christianity (essentially trading in a belief in the otherworldly for something tangible and non-theistic). Jackson expresses how the attraction for the Triangle philosophy almost mirrors his personal religious aesthetic, as he recites the Noble Eightfold Path and how it relates to hoops:

  • Right Understanding
  • Right Thought
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration

Jackson goes on to further explain that “Right thought means being in the moment as much as humanly possible. Right action means playing every play, every quarter, every game to its fullest.Winning is only the secondary effect of right thinking and right action.”

Jackson embrace of the Triangle Offense came when he and Tex Winter were Bulls assistant coaches under Doug Collins. Jackson thought the Winter’s offensive scheme reminded him of his time playing for Red Holtzman (who Phil got to watch up close when he was on the bench with a back injury). When Phil was finally promoted to head coach (after Doug Collins’ dismissal), he kept Winter on as an assistant and let Winter install the offense that both credit for their coaching success. Why was it so successful? According to Phil Jackson:

  • Provides a clear purpose and direction with implicit goals.
  • Trains and educates new people, who in turn learn how they can contribute.
  • It rewards unselfish behavior which in turn renews the system.
  • Makes for easier transition through times of change.
  • Provides context within which a leader can integrate all the skills of the team.

The Bulls were able to win 6 titles despite not ever having a dominate point guard or center, and the Lakers managed to win multiple titles with a bunch of role players (some of them scrubs) filling the stat sheet with whatever Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal could not do themselves.

Some of the other highlights from this book are

  • Getting confirmation from both Charley Rosen and Phil Jackson that Rick Barry is indeed an asshole.
  • Jim Cleamons theory on why east coast bred players practice harder than west coast guys.
  • A scene with Phil, Charley, and Tex watching an instructional video by “Pistol” Pete Maravich and discussing the phenomenon of the palming violation.
  • Phil’s and Charley’s collective coaching experiences in the Puerto Rico Superior League and CBA.
  • Jim Cleamons and Quinn Buckner’s (separate) attempts to install the triple post offense as head coaches in Dallas, and the player reactions.
  • Despite Portland going 13 straight possessions without scoring, the Trailblazers lost not because they choked, but because they were gassed from coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 1999-2000 conference finals.
  • The genesis of the triangle going all the way back to USC coach Sam Barry’s “Center Option with a reverse action” playbook.

 

Littered with hoops jargon and diagrams that illustrate the basic ways to fill a triangle; More Than a Game strikes a beautiful balance of real life experiences with  X’s and O’s. The symmetry of Jackson and Rosen’s storytelling reveals accuracy of the phrase “basketball is an expression of life.” Each experience is treated as merely another step on the path to basketball nirvana. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to go into coaching–basketball or otherwise. A+

BM

 

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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