September/October 2019 - 59

Defense, these coaches said, was the key to winning.
And it didn't have to be the conventional man-to-man. At
that time, teams were having success with various zone
defenses - matchups, traps, and combinations, like boxand¬-one.
These were different tactics from those I had
experienced as a player, and so I gave them full attention
- ultimately incorporating some of them into my system.
The first zone trap I ever saw was used by Coach Woody
Ludwig at Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener
College) in 1949. Legendary coach John Wooden achieved
enormous success with it during his incredible run at
UCLA and it helped my teams win a ton of games at St.
Joseph's College and in the NBA.
The matchup zone defense, popular among
Philadelphia area high school coaches, reached its peak
of effectiveness with Harry Litwak's great Temple teams
of the late '50s. Then Frank McGuire won an NCAA title
with North Carolina in 1957 with a standard 2-1-2
zone defense.
Aggressive, jump-switching man-toman
defense - which I first saw used
successfully at the college level
by Pete Newell at California
(1959 NCAA champions) and
by Eddie Donovan at St.
Bonaventure - wrought
havoc with the opponents'
carefully executed plays.
Dean Smith did the
same thing at North
Carolina, and added an inand-out,
shuttling system
of substitutions.
Red Auerbach's Boston
Celtics brought pressure
defense into the NBA, and
combined it with the shotblocking
and intimidation threat of
Bill Russell to win eight consecutive
titles (1959-66).
Russell was the first player to make the blocked
shot an offensive as well as defensive weapon. He blocked
the shots and his teammates ran for fast breaks with the
possessions. Big Bill was also the mainstay of Coach Phil
Woolpert's San Francisco team that won back-to-back
NCAA titles in 1955 and '56.
I believe Bill Russell had a greater impact on the game
than any other player in history. Offensive styles also
changed during my period of observation. In the late
1940s and early '50s, the half-court series run by Adolph
Rupp at Kentucky was totally different from the five-man
weave of Ken Loeffler at La Salle - but both won NCAA
championships.
Ed Juecker showed it wasn't necessary to fast break
to win, when he took his Cincinnati team to consecutive
NCAA championships in 1961 and '62 with a ball-control
game similar to that of Newell's at California.
Bob Knight used a passing, screening game -
somewhat related to the old, " eastern " style - to win three
NCAA titles for Indiana; while Mike Krzyzewski's Duke
teams won back-to-backs with a combination passing
game and pro-type screening offense. Both schools played
rock-ribbed, man-to-man D.
In the NBA, the Celtics used the same six half-court plays
during their reign of terror, on those occasions when they
weren't fast breaking. The plays were fundamentally sound,
yielding shots well-suited to the abilities of their players.
My championship Portland team (1977) used the
consummate passing skills of Bill Walton to feed cutters at
the basket. Magic Johnson was the master floor general of
Pat Riley's fast-breaking Lakers that dominated the 1980s;
although Boston bounded back to win two championships
sparked by the all-around wizardry of Larry Bird.
Then Detroit won back-to-back titles with a productive,
three-guard attack orchestrated by Chuck Daly; and later
Chicago won its celebrated " Three-peat " with Jordan,
the game's greatest player, at center stage.
Bulls coach Phil Jackson didn't just
give Michael the ball and clear the
floor, Chicago used an offense that
assistant Tex Winter developed
at college. It designated spot
positions on the floor and
required specific screen,
pass and cut continuities.
The positions were
interchangeable to
accommodate Jordan's
considerable skills, and
the offense was flexible
enough to afford M.J. some
one-on-one bursts to the
hoop.
Those varying, sometimes
conflicting, styles of offense
and defense proved once again
that theory, however sound, is less
important than execution in determining
success ... And that attention to detail is the key to
good execution.
Since ending an active coaching career, I have stayed
close to the game, mostly as a television analyst, but also
giving coaching clinics around the world for the NBA.
The level of international basketball has greatly
improved, and so have its players. The number of great
NBA players whose roots are in foreign soil attest to that:
Olajuwon, Ewing, Schrempf, Petrovic, Kukoc, Divac,
Mutombo, Marciulionis, Herrera, Smits, and Seikaly have
made their marks in the NBA - and more will come.
The game is always being played in greater numbers
and with constantly improving skills - everywhere. But
no matter where or when I have seen the game played, it
has always had constants - indigenous, never-changing
concepts. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing this great
game and have always felt honored to be known as one of
its coaches.
COACHAD.COM 59
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September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September/October 2019

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