Fast and Furious (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 20, 2007 9:07AM; Updated: Tuesday February 20, 2007 9:07AM
Williams's relentless pursuit of speed reflects personal tastes that go beyond basketball. (He'll proudly tell you about the time he played the famed Cypress Point golf course 15 years ago in two hours and 35 minutes -- walking and with a caddie.) Yet not even Smith would have predicted that his former assistant would rev up the secondary break and make it the cornerstone of his offense. "Every year I'd want to change something we were trying to do," says Smith, "and he was the one of the three [assistants] who would always say, 'Why are we changing?'"
The secondary break has evolved in fits and starts over the years since Smith coined the term in 1964. That year he hired former Tar Heel Larry Brown as an assistant following Brown's participation as a player on the U.S. Olympic team, and Brown brought with him a transition strategy (using a sharpshooting trailer) that Olympic coach Henry Iba called "flattening the defense." For years Smith's teams took the ball baseline and then swung it quickly around the perimeter, always looking for passes to the low post, and in 1982 Williams suggested adding the back screen for the post player at the top of the key. (He now jokingly calls it "my entire contribution to North Carolina basketball in 10 years" as an assistant.)
But Williams began shedding his conservatism once he took the Kansas job in 1988, finding success by adding another Ol' Roy wrinkle, an interior lateral screen (code name: Finish It) that Smith had junked out of frustration the year before. (Smith showed Williams the ultimate in professional respect by installing the play himself the following season.) Meanwhile the biggest change in what became known as "the Kansas break" took place in the mid-1990s when point guard Jacque Vaughn began running it at warp speed, increasing the number of possessions per game -- and, in turn, Williams argues, the Jayhawks' chances to maximize the superior talent of Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz.
Nowadays Williams's secondary break is a system in full, featuring more than 15 options and gaining currency as the de rigueur transition attack at various levels of the game, from high school to the WNBA to youth ball. The challenge now is for his current Tar Heels (who were averaging 87.7 points and shooting 50.4%) to match the potency of not just his 2005 national champs (88.0 and 49.9%) but also his two fastest teams, period: the Jayhawks of 1989-90 (92.1 and 53.3%) and 2001-02 (90.9 and 50.6%). It won't be easy. "If this team were to stay together a couple of years, it could potentially be my fastest team," Williams says, "but who knows how long Tyler and Brandan are going to be here? It takes a while to get used to running the way I want to run."
For now, though, about the only thing missing from the Carolina break is a catchy name. After all, while there's a sports bar in Chapel Hill called Four Corners, you'll be hard-pressed to find one named the Secondary Break.
"How about 40 Minutes of Heel?" Frasor suggests.
Typical for a Roy Williams point guard. Thinks fast on his feet.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl covers college basketball for the magazine and SI.com.