There is a certain trait that defines a visionary and that is they are just different. I’ve had chances to meet many very successful people in all walks of business and you can tell that they are just different from most. There was something about them that set them apart from the rest of the room.
When you look at most of the visionaries of our time like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg their approach to their business and life were against the grain of most and they never gave it a second thought. They knew to be great that they couldn’t think like anyone else. Yes there were others in their industry that were successful that they probably emulated a bit, but to make it big and change the world they it was understood that they had to be different.
In college basketball it is the same way. Growing up I was spoiled with so many mavericks and pioneers in the game. What made the coaches so great back in the 80’s that there were so many that played their own style. Jerry Tarkanian adopted the up tempo style and trapping defensive mindset that he adopted at Long Beach State before starting a national power at UNLV. There was John Thompson and his intimidating smothering defensive system that took Georgetown to national heights.
I could go on and on with other names. Bobby Knight, Lefty Driesell, Dean Smith, Denny Crum, Pete Carrill, and Rick Pitino all had their own styles that lead to innovations of the game of basketball. They took some of the traits from others, but structured it in their own way to make it their own. Many coaches that followed them tried to emulate their styles, but could never truly pull off what they did and the way they did it.
It wasn’t just their X’s and O’s that was different about them, it was also their demeanor and personality. Their attitude was that they didn’t want to be like everyone else. They wanted to be their own person not wanting to be a lemming and just follow everyone else. It was a very exciting time in college basketball not only for the players that were being produced, but the entertaining coaches that roamed the sidelines.
In today’s college basketball society it seems to me that there is very little originally in the way the game is played. Most of the games are played the same, adopting the Tarkanian/Pitino trapping defense and up-tempo offense. Some emulate Bobby Knight’s motion or Pete Carrill’s Princeton Offense. There is no doubt that today’s game as far as the players and star power is far less talented as it once was the originality has seemed to take a major slip as well.
Most coaches seem to sort of follow one another and coach the same way as well as sound the same when you hear them talk. That doesn’t mean that the coaching is any less than what it was 20 years ago, but some of the maverick and against the grain mentality is gone from it.
There are a few reasons for the change in the way the game is played. First and foremost is the implementation of a shot clock. It forces teams to speed up their offense instead of stalling the clock to get a good shot. It takes a way the ability for lesser talented teams or teams in general to stall the clock to get good shots. This was a major thing that does change the way the game is played today.
Players today have so many better options as far as strength & conditioning, nutrition, and,education to increase their athletic ability. Every position seems to be taller, longer, and more athletic enabling more teams to trap and play up-tempo.
It is very interesting why so many games are played the same these days. Pressing defenses, up tempo fast breaks, dribble drive offense, and pick and rolls seem to dominate the styles of play. It seems like the personalities like the Jim Calhoun’s, the Jim Boeheim’s, and Bobby Knight’s of the world are fading off into the sunset.
There are still some of the younger generation coaches that seem to try to be different. One of my favorites is Frank Martin from The University of South Carolina. He is an in your face fiery coach that is something out of a time warp. His style on the court is reminds me of John Thompson as his teams focus is on the defensive end trying to smother opponents. On the sideline he’s ferocious as when one of his players come out for lack of effort or mistake is sort of like watching a lion devour a zebra on National Geographic. His press conferences are completely and brutally honest not really worrying too much about hurting someone’s feelings. It is refreshing to watch his teams play as he’s not from any “coaching tree” and is very unique on how he approaches the game.
I don’t think coaches should be different to be different as that never leads to much. If a coach is comfortable in the way they coach and are successful in doing so there is no reason to change. In the profession in just seems that the “in” thing to do is to emulate the successful coaches just because it works for them. Many people in our game shy away from being different , mostly because going against the grain is difficult.
I follow and read up on Gary Vaynerchuk a lot. He wrote a book called Crush It, which was about how he built his family liquor business and built it to a multimillion dollar global company by using social media. He speaks a lot about changing your DNA. Basically to get out of your comfort zone and change the way you function in life. He’s very inspiring as he is different from most inspirational speakers that just tells you what you want to hear. He talks about people stuck in the times and following everyone else. What is stressed is be your own person not to be like everyone else. Gary is on twitter and is great in his TED Talk(Ted.com) he is a must follow.
There will always be great teachers and coaches in college basketball. As the game changes and evolves so do its players and coaches. I hope with the younger crop of coaches come young men and women that understand to make a breakthrough in life you have to go against the grain and fight for what’s right even when it may not be the “norm” in your profession. The innovators that created some of the monumental breakthroughs in history didn’t care about the norm as is was not in their vocabulary. To be great and to change the scope you need to quit worrying about what everyone else is doing and focus on being great.