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To Survive You Must Evolve
Alexander Wolff
November 12, 2012
Today's game begins with the guard, a trend that's been three decades in the making
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November 12, 2012

To Survive You Must Evolve

Today's game begins with the guard, a trend that's been three decades in the making

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Eventually Krzyzewski could no longer count on players staying four years the way Laettner, Hurley, Grant Hill and Shane Battier all would. So he installed a simpler system, familiar to recruits from the travel-team world. Duke would become a classic example of the new paradigm, with shooters in the deep corners to flatten a defense and guards like Jason Williams, Kyrie Irving or Austin Rivers using sudden first steps to get into the lane. "When your most talented guy is a freshman or sophomore, you have to build your system around him," Krzyzewski says, "because if you try to fit your talent to a system, you're playing defense on them. They have better instincts than any system you could run."

Coach K's international experience will be a big part of his evolution. At the 2006 world championships a poised and experienced Greek team uses pick-and-rolls to carve up the U.S., but Krzyzewski, the U.S. coach, studies and learns from them. "Our level of [international] scouting from '06 to '08 was like going from a Model T Ford to jets," he says. "I came back from our last three competitions incorporating things"—at Duke as well as with the national team—"I'd learned from other countries."

The three most recent U.S. national teams all won gold medals at major events, and unless Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler happened to be in the game, they beat international teams by running international stuff, with, Krzyzewski says, "pretty much four guys playing everywhere, with a point guard." Often that point was LeBron James, the player he calls "the Queen on the chessboard."

1994--96

AI Hits D.C.

Allen Iverson (3, below) had a stutter step in high school, not a true crossover. Through summers playing in D.C. he develops the move that he unleashes for two seasons at Georgetown. In the NBA he will lift the Sixers to the NBA Finals, winning Rookie of the Year, MVP and four scoring titles along the way, ensuring that his signature move (amplified by a Reebok marketing campaign) runs like a jolt of current through the grassroots scene. "Once he brought that move, every kid in America wanted to cross someone over," says Holy Cross coach Milan Brown, who grew up in Iverson's hometown of Hampton, Va. "And while he was at it, get the arm sleeve and cornrows."

"Allen had the ball control and speed to get by anybody," says Georgetown coach John Thompson III, whose father coached Iverson as a Hoya. "He gave everybody hope. Not Shaq, because he was so big. People could identify with Allen."

1995--96

One-and-Done

Floor leader Stephon Marbury (with ball, below) bolts from Georgia Tech for the NBA after a single season, underscoring a trend that will only accelerate. The early exodus of their most talented players leaves coaches little choice but to run simple, instinctive offensive sets, rather than ones that require sophisticated ability to read and react. "Motion takes a lot of discipline and patience," says Louisville's Pitino. "This generation, they're great kids, but they can't focus at all. The pick-and-roll is very easy to teach. Today, can you imagine telling All-America big guys that they're going to be blockers in a motion offense? They'd immediately call their high school and travel-team coaches and try to transfer."

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