When I was an assistant at Sewanee our men's basketball assistant had played at Grinnell. He would talk about the System and show me film of System games and highlights. I was definitely intrigued. He loved talking about the System so much I couldn't help but keep that thought in the back of mind. Also, the women's head coach and I talked about installing it at Sewanee someday because Sewanee is very similar academically to Grinnell and we thought it might be a good option for us. However, I took another job before the Sewanee Women ever installed it.
Coach McCarthy the women's coach at Sewanee is my mentor and he probably knows me as well as anyone so when I told him we were going to the System this year he laughed. He didn't think I would be able to enjoy coaching the System for a number of reasons. He gently told me all the cons of the System and how my personality and the System might not be a good mix. However, he tried to remain neutral and answered my many questions. So I don't think it is fair to say he tried to talk me out of it but rather he tried to educate me on what to expect.
System is definitely something I have had in the back of my mind ever since I coached at Sewanee. Honestly, I didn't know if I ever would have the courage to do it or the number of players I would need to do it. Sewanee did it for a season two years ago and I heard how much fun they had doing it and watching Galesburg High School play System and that finally convinced me to take the plunge. The decision became final last spring when I saw how my numbers were going to be with my team this year. Also, I thought several of my key players would be great System players. It was a huge gamble for the program and me but my AD (Chad Eisele) was very supportive so I thought why not?
Interestingly, the players that I thought would be excited about the opportunity for more playing time were skeptical. Also, the players that I thought would be the best fit for the System were skeptical, as well. The kids that I thought would be totally against the switch were the most open to the change. So the reaction was guarded excitement by some and others were not as excited about the decision.
My worst fears did not involve my players. I knew my players would play hard no matter what and give their all. I was most worried about my ability to coach System because it is counter in a lot of ways to conventional basketball. Also, System gets so much hype about the offensive side of it and I see myself as a defensive coach so I knew I would be way outside my comfort zone. Of course my worst fears like everyone is the fear of failure. I soon realized that even if we failed in the win-loss column my players were playing their heart's out and what more could I ask as a coach. Also, I knew if I took the risk and even if I failed I could look at things and say at least I tried. I can hold my head up and say I attempted something most coaches don't.
We certainly have had some bumps in the road but throughout it my players have been troopers. They have taken everything in stride. However, I didn't anticipate how excited they would be. I have seen more excitement with this team than I have ever seen in a team. The day we played Carroll and my kids were jumping up and down and having so much fun made all the struggle worthwhile.
The main thing was my players wanted to stay the course. They didn't want to play any other way. I had a meeting with my seniors in December and they said this is what we want to do so that was enough for me to stay the course. Also, Coach Massey at Galesburg High School was a huge support during the hard times. He even came and spoke to my team and that really helped things. However, Bob Belf was in constant contact with me and he has fielded my millions of questions and concerns. Coach Belf also kept telling me how much better we were getting and he was so encouraging every time I talked to him. I bothered Coach Belf so much I felt like had to stay with it or I would be letting him down. I definitely couldn't have made it through this transition without Coach Massey or Coach Belf's guidance, wisdom and encouragement.
This past weekend you score 98 points and then come back with 114 points- how unbelievable was that?
Well considering we averaged 56 points a game last year, I think it is a great accomplishment. However, I knew this year's team had the tools to score a lot of points but it just took them awhile to figure that out. I knew they could do it but I think they weren't a 100% sure they could do it. When we scored 94 at Dominican I knew things were on the right track.
The best part of the System is the kids are having fun and love playing this way. Also, the fact that everyone can have a role is a lot of fun. The excitement that the kids have win or lose make it worthwhile. The worst part is there are several games I would like to be able to play over again now that we are getting better and figuring things out.