Thursday, November 4, 2010

New gig for System coach in Michigan

You should remember Dave Arnold, who led the boys' basketball team at Whitmore Lake to a 14-7 record last season while putting up some huge numbers. The Trojans had one 10-game winning streak during which they averaged 94.8 points and shot 188 of 590 on 3-pointers. Now, my simple math (the best kind) tells me that is an average of 18-for-59 in each of the 10 games. Remember, this is a 32-minute high school game.

Losses in the final two games of the season - both to Tri-County Conference rival Clinton, including one tournament game - still couldn't dampen the remarkable efforts of Coach Arnold's team. For the year, Whitmore Lake averaged 90 points and finished with a school-record 356 3s. Along the way, it set a Michigan high school record with 29 treys in a 117-80 victory Jan. 21, 2010, over conference foe Morenci.

I told you, amazing stuff.

Well, during the summer, Coach Arnold took his knowledge and passion for The System to another school, Monroe High School. Oddly, the mascot is the same: the Trojans. He doesn't plan to alter his version of the goals, either, sticking with what worked so well at Whitmore Lake. They are:

- Attempt 80 shots
- Attemped 40 3-pointers
- Attempt 25 more shots than the opponent
- Force 28 turnovers
- Rebound 35 percent the offensive misses

"I suspect early on we'll actually struggle to meet these numbers, where by last year we were routinely around 90-100 shots and 50-60 3's," Coach Arnold wrote in an e-mail to me. "The defensive and rebounding goals are always harder to meet, and we usually struggle to make those, which I expect will be the case at Monroe as well."

Here are some other questions (and answers) from our chat. He's a great guy and a great coach, and hopefully he'll have a successful season.

(Tell me about the gig. How did it come about?)

Coach Arnold: "Growing up in Trenton, (Mich.), Monroe was always a huge rivalry for us. The last year I coached at Whitmore Lake, I was living in Monroe, so I kept up with what was going on there through the local paper. I'm well aware of the great athletic tradition the school has, so when the job was posted in early May I got involved with the process right away. At the catholic high school across town, their girls' coach had a great run with the system for seven or eight years in the recent past, so there was some familiarity with what I was talking about. That said, it's still a stretch for most people when you start talking about the numbers and methodology."

(What are the challenges in instituting The System with a new group of players?)

Coach Arnold: "We had a chance to introduce the players to what we're doing for a brief time this summer. I think they're intrigued, but I didn't have enough time to thoroughly teach and explain and they only had a very limited experience playing with the concepts. They played a very patient style in the past, so it was harder than I expected to get them to relax and take the open three. They also struggled with the short shifts, but as we start to understand our definition of playing hard, I think that will change. Frankly, there's been a culture of losing, with all of the negatives that come along with that. I think some of what we do system-wise will help, but we will also need to fix some of those intangibles for the system to work."

(Why have you stuck with The System?)

Coach Arnold: "The biggest reason I've stuck with the system is the fact that I can play everyone, every night. Our last kid still gets 7-8 minutes/game, and that just doesn't happen in too many places. I was just replying to a post on our coaches' board this morning that one of my greatest joys in coaching the system was the fact that in our biggest wins at Whitmore Lake, it was someone who would have been 8-15 in a "normal" rotation that hit the go-ahead or "dagger" shot. Those opportunities just aren't there in traditional systems, and really support our ideals in terms of teamwork and everyone contributing to the final outcome. The fact that we play an exciting style that draws fan and media attention is a nice perk as well, but nowhere near as important as what happens in the locker room and on the floor. I saw a few e-mails questioning my abilities or credentials, but that largely died away as we continued to win games while setting records. I fully expect that early on there will be some serious questioning, especially depending on whether or not we get some wins. Ironically, among knowledgeable coaches, even if they don't completely understand what we're doing, they seem to get it."

(Do you think The System will ever become prevalent or more widespread?)

Coach Arnold: "It won't be prevalent for a couple reasons: 1) You really need to think outside the box, and along with that approach comes the need for administrative support. How many administrators do you know that think outside the box? 2) Coaches have a hard time letting go of control. The dominant perception is control = good coaching, which may or may not be the case. 3) I had a conversation a couple summers ago with John Beilein at Michigan. He was very intrigued, as he's definitely an "outside the box" kinda guy, but as he said, 'I still owe way too much on my buyout!' No one wants to risk a cushy six-figure paycheck on something this radical. Frankly, this is fine with me. I've often questioned what would happen if two system teams played - one would need to revert to playing more traditionally, or things would be too chaotic. It's the uniqueness of the approach that's half the fun!"

Great stuff. A huge thanks, as always, to Coach Arnold for his team. Remember, System play gets underway for real Friday night, when the Olivet Nazarene women's team opens on the road against Aquinas College. The start is 7 p.m. EDT, and I hope to have an update soon after.


  1. Thanks for the blog and all of the great information. We will be implementing the system this year for the first time. With the number of teams in high school that seem to be running this system in the midwest, I would like to propose a "System Shootout" on a weekend in December or over the MLK Holiday weekend. We are suburban Chicago High School with the capability of hosting a tournament and more than likely being able to provide some expense money or hotel rooms for a great weekend of System Basketball in the Chicago area. We would like to have girls and boys teams playing one another and see what happens when a group of System Teams square off with one another.
    If this is of interest to any coach please email me at We would be shooting something for next season hopefully. If this is not the place for this kind of appeal, please forgive me and delete this entry.
    Just really excited about the upcoming season and the possibility of gathering some teams for the first-of-it-kind day of high school basketball. Thanks

  2. Sounds great to me, Mike. I've sent your idea to Bob Belf, who administers the Yahoo message board for The System. I'll also contact you separately to check in on you and what you have going on, so we can get you on this blog!

  3. Thanks for the response. We open practice this Monday. Look forward to following your blog and learning alot.