Training a team to be disciplined is a difficult thing to do. Some confuse disciplining a team with making them disciplined. For example, screaming at players, or making them run sprints in practice does not mean much if you cannot back it up with positives.
If you are a fan of basketball in general, then I recommend that you watch the movie The Street Stops Here, the story of Bob Hurley and one of his championship seasons with St. Anthony’s High School in New Jersey. The team that he put on the floor that season was arguably one of his most talented. I saw them play that season in Springfield, Massachusetts at the Hoop Hall Classic Invitational, a series of games that I tried to attend as often as possible when I was living in New England.
I always made it a point to get myself positioned behind the St. Anthony’s bench just for the sole purpose that I got to watch Mr. Hurley coach. It was a sight to behold. He’s hard on his players, demands a lot out of them, is tough on them when they screw up, and is always in the referees’ ears.
There is a difference, though. There was always a positive to add in on the perceived negative comments that Hurley made to his players. He was tough on them. In one particular scene, Hurley pulls star guard Mike Rosario off the court on a routine substitution just days after he was named as a McDonald’s All-American. Rosario is benched for failing to shake an assistant coach’s hand. The two “make up” and Hurley uses the improved bond between coach and player to get more out of his leading scorer.
Later, in the team’s final practice before a state playoff game, Hurley clears the gym while essentially giving his players a gut check. He sends them home directed to think about what they are doing, and what the implications will be if they lose their next game.
The way that Hurley coaches is not difficult to quantify when looking at his results: countless titles with a very small school budget. Hurley’s techniques and tactics breed discipline. His players walk on the court knowing what they have to do each and every play and knowing that there will be consequences if they do not deliver.
Where am I going with this? Well, this is where I come back to our Drexel Dragons. When I watch sets, both offensive and defensive, they seem very simple. They seem to run maybe four or five offensive sets. Inbound plays usually result in a pass to the top of the key and a reset instead of a set play to create a shot. Defense is just as simple: high-pressure man–to-man. The team does not press unless forced to usually too late in a game and when they do they press with a man defense.
It is a scheme that to me, as a casual observer of the game, can figure out pretty easily. I was to the point after a few games last season that I could walk through their most popular sets with ease. Considering this team practices regularly, I would expect them to be able to do the same. Running these plays should be almost automatic leaving them a lot of time to perfect their craft in the practice gym which leaves me to ask the question: why then does this team lack discipline on the floor?
Why is it that upperclassmen don’t know where to go when they check in to the game on their home court? Why do players need to be sent to the end of the scoring table time and time again?
Why did I see four different players on different occasions during the Monmouth game looking towards the side line, eyes wide, mouth agape, and palms to the air as if to say, “What did I do?” As their coach screamed at them?
Why did I see one of the team’s two seniors throw a ball out of bounds untouched during an inbound pass and stay on the court?
Why have I read two articles in the last six months that describe a “falling out” between a coach and his best players?
This team gets disciplined. They get screamed at. The overwhelming majority of subs are usually punitive and not part of a rotation. Players far more frequently come off the court and get “the eye” from Bruiser instead of a handshake. It just leaves me asking, what does it breed? What kind of atmosphere does it create?
In the paragraphs above I have raised far more questions than I have answered because, frankly, I do not have the answers. All that I know is that being a tough disciplinarian does not produce a disciplined team. Scream at them all that you want, but if you don’t produce an environment where they want to play and are willing to play hard for you as a coach, and for their school it is all for naught.