30 second time outs

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Redlands/Grinnell System


That is what some people have named the system that leads the nation in scoring over the past few seasons. At Basketball-tips.com, I recieve dozens of questions about the Grinnell(Redlands) System of play. So I thought that here may be a good spot to discuss the system, as I see it.

First off, I went to the Redlands/La Sierra game last night. 172-107 - Redlands. They had 93 at the half - and went thru a cold spell. Scored their 101st point at the 18:36 mark in the 2nd half. Played 21 guys - 14 of them over 10 minutes. Did not play most of their top ten in the final 10 minutes. Did not really press full court in the final 4 minutes. Probably could have scored 200. Honest.

After seeing them play a dozen or so times in the past 3 seasons, this is what I can discern from watching. At the end of the season I intend to sit down with Coach Gary Smith and pick his brain some. He is one of the true gentlemen in the game and having coached at a different league school with son that goes to another - I don't want to put him in an awkward position of thinking that I was trying to get some "inside info" to give to other league schools.

To start with here is a link to their game by game statistics as of this AM.
You can gather plenty of insight from that.

Here goes:

They sent 5 subs to the table at 19:38. Another 5 at 18:58. And it continued, 5 new at every whistle. If it's been longer than a minute, they foul to stop the clock and get subs in. They really use just 3 groups and the last 5 guys get sprinkled in and played more down the stretch. The groups are mixed sometimes and coach is writing things down on his clipboard the same way he did when they ran motion and played 45-43 games in the 80's or when they ran the triangle as early as 4 years ago. What he's keeping track of and how he does it that fast I don't know. You'd think that rapid fire subs would not allow a player to "get into the flow" or "develop a rhythm" but it appears to be just the opposite. They are never out of the game long enough to get out of rhythm.

They run a designated outlet to the point guard, 2 runs the right, 3 AND 4 run the left. They do not really look to throw it ahead to 2 but rather clear him thru off of a 3/4 double on the weakside. 5 trails. This clears the whole right side for the PG to drive full speed to the hoop, which is his mission - and he completes it often. If, by chance, he cannot he knows that 2 will be in the opposite corner and behind the double for a 3pt opportunity. If 2 does not receive a pass he does not stop, but rather curls the double to the basket. and 3 pops the stack in that double screen to the corner for his 3pt opportunity. This is a clear cut offense and is very precise and disciplined. This action of doubles, curls, pops, drive and kicks continues at a breakneck pace. Players never stop moving, all looking for "blow by" layups or kick outs to the 3 point line. The players truly seem in tune with who shooters are and who has the hot hand. If someone hits 2 in a row - you can be sure that they are going to get a 3rd and 4th opportunity.

When a shot goes up - all 5 players crash the boards and do not worry about getting back or defensive balance. They got 30 offensive boards last night, a number just over their seasonal average to date. You would think that he emphasis on the break and shooting 3's would negate opportunities to get to the FT Line - a goal that I think is worthwhile. But Redlands is averaging 24 of 30 from the line on the year. A respectable number of attempts per game, and a great team percentage.

After a score they get into what amounts to a full court 1-2-2 full court press. They have the 5 man on the ball and normally full front all opponents, daring you to throw over the top. They really leave anyone deep open, using their two deep guys to come up and intercept anything over the top to the front guards. They gave up the deep pass 4 or 5 times and only intercepted 2 , but it was thrown away a bundle and the deep defenders came up to get several steals.

On misses they jam and double the rebounder with the 2 closest players and get into a zone press as well, with the same principles. The double teams continue throughout the possession and into the half court, which would resemble a 1-3-1 matchup half court trap. This defensive pace and pressure has created over 30 turnovers a game for the opponents, while Redlands averages under 20 - pretty good for the pace that they play. If the opponent scores, 5 inbounds up court quickly and the process starts all over again.

Anyone that knows me, or has read enough of what I have to say , knows that I'm pretty old school and conservative. I don't know if I could coach it this way, but those who say that it is not "basketball" are dead wrong. Those who think that it is not disciplined are even more mistaken.

I'm trying to recuperate and gather my thoughts as to what would be the best way to approach playing a team using this style. So, more on that later.

As the years have gone on, Redlands seems to have made more of a commitment to fully implement the "Grinnell" style. Thus, they are getting more out of it. I think that, as with most things successul, if you "tinker" with it - you may lessen its effectiveness. It just may be all or nothing, if you really want to get it's full effect. Coach Smith is a traditionalist as well and I commend him for his courage to give this a crack. The past 2 times I've watched them are, maybe, the 2 most enjoyable games I've ever seen. I had a blast.

Now, breath deeply :?)


Anonymous said...

I posted the comment on SoCalHoops regarding the Redlands article for several reasons. If you ever watch the inner-city club basketball of survival of the fittest, i.e. charge and strong-arm the dribble, then just turn it over, you'll see the thought. Watch these Redlands guys and they show you how to really get it done. The message to the coaches, many of whom post on SoCalHoops, is go out and watch these guys do what you want to do. Everyone plays so hard, they've got to come out all the time, which is not the case with club, or any high schools. The prima-donnas never come out no matter how hard or not hard they are playing. The Redlands theory is work extremely hard, be smart, attack and attack, not a bad theory. If Redlands had committed high quality players, e.g. LMU with Hank, who knows how far they would go.

Coach Lok said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Coach Lok said...

Agreed. It is NOT anything like the undisciplined basketball that is far too prevelant today.

The "System" that Redlands runs is not the same as the LMU system. The only similiarity involves the frequency of shots. The Redlands(or more accurately Grinnell System because that is who initially instituted it)is far more complex.

It actually came to life from the very pure intentions of the idealism behind the "Division III Philosophy" of the educational benefits from participation and inclusion in co-curricular pusuits. So, rather than playing 8 out of 16 players and having half of his team leave the gym unhappy, Dave Arseneault from Grinnell College developed a style of play that would allow all players to play and still "get their moneys worth" in terms of the # of possessions.

If disciplined is defined as "doing what has to be done, doing it as well as you can do it, doing it when it has to be done, doing it that way all the time." (Bob Knight), then Redlands is as disciplined as any team out there.

Their (very)Fast Break is extremely structured and flows into a secondary break that is equally disciplined. The sequence of curls, cuts, screens, slips, drives and shots are ALL well thought out,sequenced and yes, disciplined. The offense is far more structured than most teams that run a true "motion offense" as that allows for more freedom of movement than does this offense. But they do have freedom to shoot. Early and often.

Ive seen them score 172 points and not take a bad shot. Not one "contested" 3pt shot - all of them open ones. They are also very cognisant of who has the "hot hand" and will continue to try to get that player open 3pt looks with double screens and drive&kicks.

Only wide open and uncontested drives to the basket and not one single
You'll usually see 5-10 of those in any game you watch.

They always have a positive assist/turnover ratio and their total number is relatively low for a team with that many possessions. I see much "sloppier" play from teams that play a more conventional style.

If they kept the stat, I bet that they would also lead the nation in taking charges, and they'll block a shot or two - so the myth behind giving up layups is a little blown out of proportion. But they certainly don't have the "no layup rule" that most teams do. They've found value in not "risking" a foul on the shot vs getting it out and getting a 3 at the other end.

It's not a "horrible example" of basketball for young kids to see, in fact the last time I saw them play, a high school coach that brought his whole team. It's not the "1 guy go 1on1 while the other 4 guys watch" kind of play that you see at times. It's not the "out of control take bad shots" kind of fast break that sets a bad example. Actually, the intensity, teamwork and effort is a great thing for young players to see.

It's just different. And that scares some people. I'm not sure that I would do it, or have the courage to try. But don't judge it until you've seen it. Check the schedule and go to a game. The SCIAC is a fun and competitive league and all of the games besides at Redlands are FREE. How can you beat that.

Brian said...

Coach Lok:

Come on now. Did you watch Grinnell embarass itself on TV? They shoot less than 30% from three-point rane and don't run back on defense. I don't see how they can get so tired; each player only guards ten feet of the floor and they take 15-20 seconds to shoot.

Watch Frsno City College or University of Puget Sound. They puch the envelope, pressure, drive and kick, etc.

Grinnell is a system designed to hide inferior players. FCC is designed to help an undersized, but talented team win.

Coach Lok said...

You're absolutely right on a couple of counts. I've seen tape of UPS - and they delivered (sorry I had too) They beat my son's team (University of La Verne) this season and he agrees that they are very tough defensively. AND they don't concede anything at your end. They also are VERY talented in comparison. The UPS PG is one of the better all-around DIII players I've seen, lately. Strong, solid ballhandler, and a good shooter. I'm going to make a point to see Whalbergs teams at Fresno City in the playoofs.

Grinnell seemed like they are very down this season. I do wonder how much they would have lost by to a superior Beloit club had they played a more "conventional" style. I have to think that it would be by more than 1. However, it's the first time I've seen them, and I was disappointed as well. I'll attribute some of the poor shooting to the setting (ESPN, hype, big game, etc) but there are several things that I noticed that had a great effect on this years Grinnell version vs the University of Redlands edition of the "Grinnell System".

1)Grinnell was rarely "shot ready" on the catch. That led to contested shots and slowed down possessions. UofR does not need nearly the time to get off an open shot.
2)Grinnell seemed rather "indecisive" on the catch. They used more "rocker moves" and shot fakes than UofR will use in the entire season.
3)When Grinnell did put the ball on the floor, it did not seem as though they were very efficient with the dribble. They were taking 3 or 4 dribbles, when they could get to the basket or draw help with 2.
4)Grinnell screens, cuts, and curls were not as solid as they need to be. Therefore, players were either not open or not open quick enough to continue the desired pace. UofR sets better doubles and either fades or curls tight and very quickly. The screeners need to slip the screen or pop if the screen is curled. UofR gets several layups (which Grinnell missed several) off of the screeners slipping to the basket while the defense gets out on shooters.
5)After an opponents score the Grinnell inbounds pass must be quicker and further up the floor. Grinnell would catch substantially below the FT line after every made basket, thus wasting a few seconds each possession.
6) The PG must be more aggressive going to the basket and make his reads quicker. Either take it to the hole, pull up for the 3, explore the double screen action and make the correct decision, or hit the trailer and get involved in the cutting and screening himself. The Grinnell PG's looked rather tentative in those decisions.
7)Grinnell left something to be desired when it comes to their passing. Potential shooters rarely caught the basketball in a position to shoot.

Each of these factors contributed to a less than successful possession or slowed the tempo a few seconds each time. This is crucial to their goals. 3 wasted seconds in 50 bad possesions would create 15 more possessions.

Defensively, I don't like the "get a steal or give up a layup" thing. Redlands attempts to take several charges a game. I might go a step further and demand that you either try to take a charge, run past the dribbler in an attempt to "strip" the dribbler, or attack the layup at the glass. League teams appear to have the press figured out and are disciplined enough to get the ball up the floor and have knocked off Redlands in a few close ones. The number of close games that are lost may be affected by this simple defensive adjustment. I do understand that a foul is counterproductive, so you have to avoid those.

As to getting tired, all you need to do is look at track and field times to realize that if you are truly in a full sprint, your pace will slow after 100 meters(10-15 seconds) and it is really difficult to keep up that sprint beyond 400 meters (:50-1:30). There may be something more scientific to the :45 - 1:30 rotations than we think.

All told, I'm not certain that I could play entirely this way but it does seem to be a viable alternative. And it does have a way of masking inferior players a little. It clearly is more effective if the players don't need as much masking.

After giving it some thought, if I were to go AGAINST the system this is what I'm thinking. How about keeping 1 big player at your offensive end and 1 big player at the defensive end. Then let your perimeter guys run the transition stuff. So you'd have a defender/inbounder, 3 transition guys, and a finsher. If you score your finisher can pressure and slow the inbounds pass, and you already have a big defender all the way back. 1 transition guy could deny the PG the ball and the other 2 could run and defend the weakside double. If they score your inbounder can throw deep to the finisher, who's already under your basket. And the cycle continues.
You might score 200!

Anonymous said...


I think you are bias, as the Fresno coach must be your good friend. Let us give credit where credit is due. The coach from Grinnell came up with a unique style and the Fresno coach stole it and adjusted it, just as the Grinnell coach did with LMU. There is nothing wrong with that as coaches still from each other all the time. I do not think Grinnell embarrassed themselves, but as Coach Lok wrote, they are just a little down this year. They must be doing something right as they did get national coverage on ESPN and everybody is talking about there style.

Anonymous said...

SO what does the trail guy do on the break?

Coach Lok said...

The trailer traside and steps up to take an early 3pt shot if the PG swings the ball to him. If he does not have the shot he will reverse it to the intial shooter who came off the double, or one of the screeners who popped. After that pass he will screen away for the PG if the 2 used the double or the screen at weakside block, along with the PG, for the 2 man if he chose to curl.

Coachd said...

You know that's a nice sequence in any system

Anonymous said...

I'm going to a clinic with these guys in may, so I'll be anxious to see how the cult is growing

Lok's Ledger