Conceding that the big man is going to get the ball on occasion, the defense should try to keep him from getting the ball where he wants it. "You just can't give him his normal number of shots from his favorite spot," Henry Iba of Oklahoma A&M says. "I've never seen a big man who didn't have a pet spot from which he liked to operate and you've got to move him out of it. You mass on him in that area. It means you have to take one of your players off the weakest offensive man. Sometimes that's hard to do, and if it doesn't work, you press at mid-court. If this is executed properly it will force him a step or two away from his preferred place."
The full-court press can have a similar effect. In addition, by harassing the guards, as DePaul's Ray Meyer says, "it stretches out the opponent's offense." Thus the game is turned more to the horizontal than the vertical plane, taking away some of the advantage of height. The press also forces longer passes that offer greater chance of interception, and when one occurs, the big man is usually far down the court, out of the play.
When coaches decide to double up on the tall threat, they favor some variation of a zone defense. The zone provides an automatic double-team, and has the added advantage of preserving position, so that the big man is more easily blocked out on rebounds (diagrams opposite). Sagging or sloughing off in a man-to-man defense does not assure that position.
The 1-3-1 seems to be the most popular big-man zone now. Even Frank McGuire, now at South Carolina, whose 2-1-2 cut off Chamberlain, opts for the 1-3-1. "Either that," he says, "or we'll use a sloughing defense in which we play the ball tight and drop off a man without the ball to play in front of the low post man."
Adolph Rupp uses much the same ploy, though he prefers words like "trap" or "helping" defense instead of zone. "What we do," the Baron explains, "is compel the offense to pass in four lanes and then we try to anticipate where the ball will go. We put our center between the man with the ball and the basket, so that the attacking team has to pass over him. We also float the opposite-side defensive man into an area where he can help out on the pivotman."
"I'm not a zone-defense man," Bob Boyd emphasizes, "but against a big guy there's a need for a bastard-type defense. One way is the 1-3-1. But you need a real quick point man, two forwards who can sag right and left to help out and protect the flank—and yet be quick enough to board the ball. And you need a middle man who has the bulk and size to be able to front that 7-footer and front him well. The back man has an impossible task. He has to play directly behind the monster, and he also must have the quickness, tenacity and the drive to guard the baseline against the corner jump. Whenever that ball rotates, you hope you can maintain the 1-3-1. If it breaks down—Katie bar the door."
Though it sounds silly, or even suicidal, there are still a number of coaches who like to play man-for-man against the giants. One who does, and whose teams often did a creditable job on Chamberlain, is Kansas State's Tex Winter. "Most of the time," Winter says, "I'll play him one-on-one and forget about what he scores. Sometimes, you know, a big scoring splurge by one guy may even help you by detracting from the other players' performances. It can distract them from their offensive jobs. They'll start going for the basket and keep looking for that big man, trying to force the ball to him."
Joe Mullaney of Providence, who lost one of the country's best big men, Dexter Westbrook, because of poor grades, believes the problem has been overemphasized. "The value of having a 6-foot-10 player has been lessened," Mullaney says, "because of the contact permitted by the rules. In the old days you barely touched a man and—bing, it was a foul. Now a smaller man can play a bigger man. He can get away with much more contact."
What little consolation that offers on defense is more than offset, many believe, by the increasing difficulty teams encounter when they take the offense against a big man. Following Russell's inspired lead, even the least agile of the giants has learned how to block shots. A coach has to combat the fear of such occurrences, as well as the blocks themselves. "You just can't permit that big fellow to intimidate your players," says California's Athletic Director Pete Newell, who coached the Bears to a national title in 1959. "It can take three or four games for a player to get over having his shots blocked. You have to work hard at screening the big man out and keeping him on the opposite side from where the shot is being taken."
And if there is disagreement about how to beat the big man there is just as much argument about how to treat him. "You never want to make him mad," Newell advises. "If you rough him up—kick him, claw him, elbow him, grab at his pants—he will react by playing harder against you. When we played Wilt we went out of our way to pat him on the back, congratulate him on a good play and just generally try to keep him happy and contented. You know, that made him purr like a big cat, and he never really hurt us much."