Run ‘n’ gun

There’s a good debate going on between Jerry Hinnen, at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash, and Smart Football’s Chris Brown over Malcolm Gladwell’s article about how Davids can beat Goliaths in organized sports.  Jerry takes that as inspiration for Gus Malzahn’s offense being the catalyst for the Auburn football program’s return to glory in the SEC.  Chris, as you might guess, is somewhat skeptical of Jerry’s analysis.  You can read Jerry’s response to Chris, with all the links, here.

My question about this is whether Jerry is finding the inspiration in the right place.  Gladwell’s piece, after all, focuses on a defensive strategy, the full court press in basketball.  Malzahn is an offensive guru.

Wouldn’t a more direct analogy be this?

Paul Westhead, the head coach at Loyola Marymount University, has an unusual message for his opponents in the West Regional of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. ”We’re not upset if you get a basket,” he said. ”Just don’t take a long time to do it.”

Westhead’s unorthodox defensive strategy is designed to force the other team into playing an up-tempo, high-scoring game. So far, it has worked. Loyola, which has an enrollment of about 3,500 and is in Los Angeles about a mile from the Pacific Ocean, leads the nation in scoring, averaging 110.4 points per game. And although the Lions give up 95 a game, they went 27-3 and won 24 in a row at the end of the season, the longest current winning streak in the country.

LMU was fun to watch under Westhead.  The program was a great story with  that 1990 NCAA Tournament run when it blew out the defending national champs.  But ultimately?  Well, just go read Westhead’s resume at Wikipedia.  This is my favorite part:

… After the 1989-1990 season, Westhead left LMU for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, a position he held for two seasons. His tenure in Denver was best known for attempting to incorporate the run-and-gun offense that worked for LMU to the NBA.

However, while Denver averaged a league-best 119.9 points per game in 1990-91, it also surrendered an NBA record 130.8 points per game, including 107 points in a single half to the Phoenix Suns, which remains an NBA record. Under Westhead, the Nuggets were sometimes called the “Enver Nuggets” (as in no “D”)[citation needed]. Westhead was fired from the Nuggets after two seasons after posting a combined W/L record of 44-120.

You think that would sit well with Gene Chizik, Defensive Minded Coach?  Wouldn’t you love to hear what Pat Dye would have to say about a future sort of like that?

That’s not to say there isn’t something to Gladwell’s argument.  The question is whether Malzahn will make Auburn into a legitimate David.


UPDATE: Brian Cook throws in his two cents here.



Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The Blogosphere

5 responses to “Run ‘n’ gun

  1. Dog in Fla

    The weird thing is that just a few years ago Malzahn was coaching high school ball. Nutt hired him, I thought, to get Mustain and the receiver to Arkansas. Nutt says no to any far-fetched package deal. Of course not. A few years pass. Malzahn at Tulsa. Chizik at Iowa State.

    Now Malzahn, with clear Paul Westhead traits and tendencies, has been annoited to be the next great offensive coordinator at Auburn. Like Mark Sanchez will be a great pro QB despite the stupidity of Pete Carroll. At a three yards cloud of dust school like Auburn.

    None of them will be man enough to stand up to Pat Dye and Bobby Lowder who will be a lot less patient about 52-38 and 42-38 wins and 41-30, 45-42 and 49-10 losses than we are at Georgia. Heck, they paid Tuberville $5M to leave.


  2. 81Dog

    the closer teams are in talent, the more likely something gimmicky will work. The less a gimmick is seen, the more likely it will work.

    the Princeton offense in basketball is meant to allow less talented/high discipline teams to frustrate more talented/less discipline teams. It wont really let a bad team beat a good team, unless the good team plays stupidly. The more it gets used, the less effective it is. The Georgetown grab and press defense (as begun by John Thompson and somewhat refined by Nolan Richardson at Arkansas into 40 minutes of hell) seemed meant to maximize speed and quickness over pure basketball skill. People adapted to that, too.

    The “spread option” isn’t magical (neither is the flexbone, by the way). The more it gets seen, the easier it is to go to school on where the flaws are. All offenses and defenses have flaws. Athletic ability can make up for some of them, but when two teams are equal, it’s mostly about execution. Sometimes, when one team is inferior and out executes the other, there’s an upset (cough, Tech, cough).

    The single wing, the Notre Dame box, the T, the wishbone, the veer….these were all “unstoppable”..until someone figured out how to stop them, and then it was on to the next genius thing. You want to stop the spread option? Speed and execution on D will work, just like against any other offense.


  3. J

    Westhead’s record notwithstanding, that era in the late 80s to early 90s was fantastic to watch. As a kid I’d go over to my grandparents’ house to stay up late and watch those Western Conference games cause they had a satellite dish.

    And I don’t think I’ve watched an entire NBA game since probably 1998.


  4. The Realist

    How far has Auburn fallen to need a gimmick to be a “David?”

    I don’t see it. Their problems can be narrowed down to the quarterback position. That’s it. You give them a competent quarterback, and Auburn is a legit threat in the West. David? Bologna.