The Triangle Offense

They are saying the NY Knicks are having early-season struggles because they have not been able to grasp the subtleties of the Triangle Offense. I happen to think their early-season troubles are the result of other things. They just do not have: (a) the right mix of players; (b) enough talent; (c) enough quality depth; (d) enough strength at the point guard position; (d) enough players playing in their proper role. And, they have a lot of what Europeans call ‘half-players,’ good at some things but not good at a lot of things. Like, good on offense, not good on defense.

The Triangle is like any other offense: if you have quality players — that are skilled and intelligent players — running the system, that helps! It also helps, even with so-so talent, if you have people that will give the system a fair chance and that will believe in it. You just can’t say, “OK, let’s see how this goes for a while.” That’s not good enough. I was not a ‘slave-to-system’ coach but, the years I ran the basic two-guard set (run by John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Adolph Rupp, Ray Meyer and others), I was lucky: I had a system that was easy to learn, easy to run, easy to like.

Let me also say this about the Triangle: the Triangle we see in the NBA is nothing like the Triangle Tex Winter ran at Kansas State in the 1950s and 1960s, when the NCAA did not have a shot clock. With the 24″ clock, you just do not have enough time to run it properly. The brilliance of Tex, in his stints as assistant under Phil Jackson, with the Chicago Bulls and with the LA Lakers, in helping Phil win those 11 titles, was that he did two things that made perfect sense: (a) he adapted his system to the 24″ clock; (b) he adapted everything to the star players at his disposal.

I personally think the best thing the Triangle offers an NBA team is this: the weak side forward flashing across the court to meet a pass from the strong side forward or the strong side point guard. My teams used this — with great effect — out of the old two-guard set. Man, it just ripped the defense in half! It has many names: Blind Pig, Weak Side Guard, Meet, Flash Pivot. But I called it Diagonal. Your off-side forward catches the ball in the heart of the defense and that means trouble. Well, that is what the Knicks need to start doing. If they do? Well, they just might win a few games!