Thursday, September 8, 2011

New System coach takes a trial run

Kevin Moore did an incredible job last season, his first as the boys' basketball coach at Mount Olive HS in Flanders, N.J. Taking over a squad that posted a 4-21 record in 2009-10, Moore led the Marauders to a 17-7 finish and their first conference title in the history of the program.

Sounds like a perfect candidate to switch to The System, right?

For this upcoming season, Mount Olive will be employing the most exciting style of hoops ever seen, taking its previous up-tempo pace a little further as Coach Moore takes the plunge with the creation of Grinnell coach David Arseneault. He and the Marauders already have enjoyed success using it, scheduling a practice game at the end of summer practice (complete with referees) to see just where they were.

The results were pretty amazing. Mount Olive beat Hackettstown 122-97, a game which included the Marauders scoring 73 points in the first half to top their average for an entire game from the previous season. There were the usual moments where Coach Moore wondered if he had made the correct decision -- mostly while watching Hackettstown drive in for layups against the press -- but there were enough good things to leave him excited about the immediate future.

He was kind enough to take time for an interview via e-mail, and I wanted to share his thoughts.

(Tell me about the decision to go to The System.)

Kevin Moore: "I think it was a progression. If you really enjoy the pressing and running game, it simply made sense to me to take it one step further. I believe that as a running team you can come up against another running team that either does it better than you or that is more athletic than your team is.

"This is where I think The System becomes the great equalizer. We also were a very deep team last year and I found that I was forgetting about guys on the bench, so The System made sense to utilize our numbers advantage."

(How did you first hear about The System?)

Kevin Moore: "A number of years ago I came across Coach A's videotape in Syskos, ordered it, and thought that it was just another fast break system. I became fascinated by it, and actually went as far as to dabble with it that season, I believe it was 2003-04 season. The problem was, we had numbers but we did not have the offseason to get enough threes up. We could run and press, but simply couldn't score."

(What surprises have you come across in your thoughts about this style?)

Kevin Moore: "I think I have been surprised by the polarizing effect it has on people. They either love it or think it's a terrible, undisciplined style of basketball that will never work."

(After studying it and implementing it, what jumps out at you about The System?)

Kevin Moore: "The first thing that jumped out at me (and I think our players too) was the effort required to run the system. When you first explain it, it's one thing to talk about maximum effort, it's an entirely different story to play at maximum effort. It's pretty remarkable that in the past I thought my teams played pretty hard, and now I think I have a much better understanding of what that really means.

"I think the second thing is simply the sheer amount of points that can be generated. When I mentioned our first outing in The System to some coaching colleagues, many just didn't believe me that it was possible to score 122 points in a four-quarter high school game, they thought I was fudging numbers."

(Did you share your decision with your staff, the school administration and the players, and what was the reaction?)

Kevin Moore: "Our staff was great from the beginning. All of them embraced the idea, did a lot of research on their own, and we did a lot of talking it through for most of the spring. For us, the pros outweighed the cons and we decided we were all in. We implemented/introduced The System to our players in the beginning of July at our three-day mini camp. The players fell in love with it immediately. They enjoyed the running game last year and are enjoying the turbo charged version even more.

"It was a pretty easy sell to them, we have some pretty bright guys on the team and many of them are also lacrosse players. This helped tremendously because they were used to subbing in numbers and saw the value in prescribed playing time. Also, once you present the numbers and the data to them, they begin to quickly realize that their shot attempts will quickly exceed the amount of times they were able to shoot the ball last season.

"As far as the administration was concerned, we have a great athletic director at Mt. Olive. He is totally supportive of any basketball decisions we make, so when i shared with him the general outline of what we're doing, his answer was simply, 'So you're going to play 15 guys a game, every game?' and that was all he needed to hear. In high school, the biggest parent gripe is always playing time, so he was thrilled to hear that. But of course, he hasn't actually seen it yet, and I'm sure there will be some surprised looks on some faces."

(What challenges do you see?)

Kevin Moore: "Definitely making sure our big guys stay on board. We have two sophomore post players, 6-foot-7 and 6-5, and I want to keep them from thinking they are an afterthought in The System. My second concern would be keeping everyone on board if we start the season the slow. I already broached the subject with the team to begin to prepare them for it. There may be growing pains at first but we have to stay the course.

"And finally, the possibility of having that game where we simply have a terrible shooting night and are down big, and having to stick that out will be tough."

(What do you hope to get out of The System?)

Kevin Moore: "Honestly, I want our guys to have a great time playing basketball this season. They really seem to enjoy this style of play so far, so if their happy than I am happy. They have an opportunity, especially the 10 seniors we have on the team, to do something extraordinary on the basketball court this winter and I'm excited for them.

"Secondly, my personal view is that a lot of high school basketball has become extremely boring to me. Most coaches coming into the profession wind up running the same system their first head coach used for much of their career. Flex, motion, work the ball for one guy to shoot bores me. I can't stand a 44-35 high school basketball score anymore. We will be successful in The System? If I didn't think so we sure wouldn't be going to it. I think our players, our high school, and our community are ready for it, so we're all in."

Congratulations to the players at Mount Olive. It sounds as if they have a coach who cares a great deal about them, and one who is making this change for all the right reasons. I wish Coach Moore and the Marauders all the luck in the world this season, and I'll be sure to check back in with them as we get closer to the start of hoops.

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