Whether you are a point guard dribbling and looking for an open man, or a forward wanting to drive in for a layup, the important thing that you must do is move the defender who is guarding you. It is not enough to merely keep the ball from him. Nor is it adequate to hope to fake him out by using a move you’ve practiced on a playground. Your purpose, very definite, is to move him. Make him go places. Make him do things. Make him move to guard you.
If the guy who is guarding you must move to guard you, he will be vulnerable to fakes and quick changes of direction, and you will be able to get yourself free for a shot. But if you are lazily searching for an opening and hoping to create one with a sudden burst of speed, you don’t understand what it takes to be an offensive threat.
A real offensive threat moves his man. He makes that man do things. His man is constantly being forced to go here and there and then recover and come back.
Do you move your man when you have the ball? Many players, even those who move around a lot, never move the man who is guarding them and never force him to scramble to cover them. Take time sometime, preferably in a pickup game, to look at the guy who is guarding you. Is he scrambling to cover you? Or is he able to stay on you by casually gliding from place to place?
Good players make their defenders scramble, sometimes just for the sheer joy of knowing they can. Good players move their defenders, and then they decide what to do to try to score. They don’t go through some motion that worked in the driveway and hope it will lead to a score.
Move your man. Then try to score.
From Dick’s book Stuff
Coach DV simply hated bad basketball and loved good basketball. What a joy it was to get to the point in your career where you could relax him on the bench (somewhat!) and then bring him to his feet again and again, hearing those spontaneous “Yeahs!” that would literally erupt. Help on defense, be alert, hit the open man, move! When you did those things, the benefits were glorious.
“That is basketball . . . That’s what I’m talking about, boys, did you see that? Watch that. Watch him. That’s the way you play this game.”
Most of the players who ever played for Coach DV would probably admit that no one else had ever been so often disgusted with them and so intensely critical of them. But nearly all would also say that no one else had ever complimented them so forcefully, so meaningfully, so penetratingly.
When Coach DV complimented you, you never forgot it. You had finally arrived. Your whole life seemed validated.
When a not-particularly-good player happened to make an uncharacteristically good play, Coach DV would often fumble for his whistle and then blow it and blow it. Five, ten, maybe twenty seconds, he would blow that whistle. The whole team would laugh. They knew Coach DV would never take that much time to hold in his anger. If he was blowing that whistle and rolling his fist in the air, the team knew the unexpected pleasant surprise had happened.
Was it demeaning? Was he making fun of a kid who so seldom did anything meriting praise? Not at all. No one got much praise anyway in Coach DV’s particularly demanding practice environment; but when you got it, it was real, and that extended whistling wasn’t one bit mockery.
“Call out the fire department!” Coach DV would yell. “Bigsy got a rebound!” But he wasn’t belittling the kid.
“Now you see, Bigsy. You can do it. You can get the ball. You have the ability. You looked tough that time. You really did. If you play like that, no one’s gonna beat us. Wasn’t that fun? I mean it, all kidding aside, didn’t you enjoy getting that ball and feeling taller and tougher than everyone else? Wasn’t it a good feeling tearing that ball out of there? You looked great that time, Bigs, really you did. I felt tough that time just watching you! You looked like a basketball player.”
If Bigsy could grab a few rebounds like that in a game, he might come back to the bench for a timeout or quarter break and get a hard slam to the chest that he would never forget. It would feel better than a two hour massage!
“That’s the way to grab that ball, Bigsy. Now you’re playing like a basketball player.”
The admiration and gut-level intensity of positive feeling in those few words defined the meaning of the word inspiration. A kid who felt long abused but who had finally “gotten the idea” would experience a depth of joy that few other endeavors would ever afford him; and he would be pushed to greater heights of achievement and self-pride than he ever thought possible. Coach DV could make a kid feel miserable, but he could also lift him to great heights.
There simply aren’t many feelings equal to the exhilaration of basking in the radiance of Coach DV’s approval. It sure wasn’t easy to get to that point, or to stay there. But if you did . . .
Coach DV. Now that’s a basketball coach.
From Dick’s book “There’s Only One Way To Win”
It would be unfair to Coach DV to end this book without pay- ing homage to his ultimate achievement. After forty years of coaching, through all of the tough, demanding, and sometimes torturous times, nearly every player he ever coached respected and liked him.
A special “Coach DV Night” roast, attended by nearly 300 friends and former players from as far away as California attested to the esteem in which so many held him.
Among the many reasons (the toughness, the consistency, the honesty) that have caused four decades of athletes to appreciate him, none is more compelling than his ability to praise.
Much of that quality must be considered in context. Realizing that Coach DV was dissatisfied and angry most of the time, it was a tremendous relief and a real joy to suddenly find yourself, if only momentarily, basking in Coach DV’s approval for a play or a pass or a steal performed exactly as Coach DV wanted to see it.
Secondly, as you can imagine, anyone so able to reach people so penetratingly in critical or negative ways usually has the proportionate ability to reach them in complimentary and positive ways.
When Coach DV erupted with praise—”Now that’s basketball!”—you couldn’t help but feel ten or eleven or fifteen feet tall.
As demanding as Coach DV was, he wasn’t stingy with praise. If you gave him what he wanted, his joy, his gratitude, his reaction was as spontaneous and effulgent as any of his angry outbursts.
Coach DV simply hated bad basketball and loved good basketball.
To be continued next week…
From Dick’s book Stuff