by Vinny Pezzimenti
"Zen Master", Phil Jackson, once said, "A journey of 1,000 miles begins
with one breath."
Well, now is the time when college basketball coaches and players
alike can take their collective breaths and relax, because the march to
March will soon be on.
In just two months, a mid-October midnight will officially start the
voyage to New Orleans. All 324 Division IA teams have their eye on the
prize and all, deep down, believe they can get there.
Wait one minute, though.
Yes, the run to March does begin in October, but the month of
September can actually make or break a run to glory. It is the month
when the college basketball player is created. The month when the player
works into shape to endure the wars of a Division I schedule.
The 31 days of September are filled with preseason workouts. There
are the wind sprints in scorching heat, the intense weight room
sessions, and conditioning drills in the gym. How much the player is
dedicated to the workouts, the better he and, more likely, the entire
team will be when the battles begin in late November.
At St. Bonaventure University, dedication to workouts in September
isn’t the only component for possible success during the season.
Understanding and comprehending head coach Jan van Breda Kolff’s
complicated offensive and defensive schemes is a huge part of the
Van Breda Kolff’s style of play is similar to the "west coast
offense" brought to the basketball world by former Loyola Marymount head
coach Paul Westhead, only there is more discipline. Westhead’s method
was like a never-ending fast break with little organization on offense
or defense. There was no emphasis on stopping the opponent from scoring.
Rather, the goal was to appease the other team into playing up-tempo as
well and to create a game in the hundreds. It was basically chaos, but
the van Breda Kolff game can best be described as organized chaos. There
are a myriad of offensive sets and a strong emphasis on turning the
opponent over with a variety of defensive presses.
Van Breda Kolff’s style comes from all over the basketball world. Of
course, there is the aspect of Loyola Marymount, but there are also
wrinkles from van Breda Kolff’s father, the innovative and legendary
Butch van Breda Kolff. There are aspects of the Princeton backdoor
offense taken from van Breda Kolff’s time as an assistant under Pete
Carill. And finally, there is a little touch of the pro game, taken from
van Breda Kolff’s nine years as an NBA player. With this jumble of
basketball knowledge, van Breda Kolff has taken three different schools
to post-season play.
For the players at St. Bonaventure, especially new recruits, going to
three classes everyday is not as mind-boggling as learning the van Breda
Kolff style. The players will learn the system sooner or later. It
better be sooner, though. The early non-conference schedule includes
Alabama, Connecticut, Boston College and Michigan.
It’s a good bet the Bonnies will learn the system sooner and hit the
ground running. The proof is in the results from the 2001-02 season. Van
Breda Kolff, in his initial season at St. Bonaventure, proved himself as
one of the best coaches in the country by leading the team to a fast
start and an eventual NIT berth. And, yes, a huge reason for the success
was the September chalkboard lessons.
by Vinny Pezzimenti