"Here's what I'm trying to say," he concludes. "It doesn't matter much what you do if you do it really well. We developed some calls out of it, but it was the same play. How do you practice that? Easy. Get a bunch of fancy names. Zebra! Flash! Jordan! That'll scare 'em away."
Coles nods over to Gerald Franklin, a junior finance major who's been standing patiently at the dry-erase board. It's his turn to draw up his homework assignment—an offensive play with multiple options—in front of the class. "All right," Franklin says, casting a sidelong glance at the professor. "We'll call this play Charlie."
Grading in Coles's class is done on the Woody Allen curve. ("Eighty percent of success is showing up.") Yes, you're required to turn in a neatly organized notebook at the end of the semester, and yes, you're occasionally asked to do homework, such as drawing up a play for a last-second shot, but your grade depends mainly on your ability to rouse yourself two mornings a week and trudge down Weeb Ewbank Way to Millett Hall, where class starts at 8 a.m., no exceptions. Coles has been known to throw out tardy students, Soup Nazi-style, and if you miss class regularly, you will not pass.
"Good offense is like a good shoe; it will fit immediately" Coles says after roll call one day, welcoming his bleary-eyed, Mountain Dew-swilling charges to his lecture. "Why are we going to start with offense, Matt? I'm not an offensive coach."
"Because it's more exciting?"
"Because you need offense to win?"
"No. Good try. Offense is the hardest thing to teach. Why? Beth?"
"Because it's hard to get people to play together?"
"Yesssss? Coles exclaims. "It's like saying, 'I'm putting $50,000 in cash up here, now come up in an orderly fashion and get your share.' That's what a basketball coach does."