Message from reader TBG:
Hey Hire Esherick. Long time listener, first time caller. First off, I just wanted to let you know that I think you are amazing. Your wit, sarcasm and humor are second to none. There are too few out there that are able to profess so eloquently about something they care so deeply about, while writing in a manner which attracts a mass audience. Kudos to you and your endeavors and I hope sometime I can buy you a drink and invite you back to my hotel room. I do have a question for you though. I am currently the coach of a middle school girls basketball team and want to install the Princeton Offense into our system. Any suggestions on how I should go about this?Thanks for the note TBG. I appreciate your warm, kind and incredibly accurate compliments. But wowsers, you certainly dropped a bomb on me with that question. For the sake of brevity (and to keep T^3 from complaining about the length of my posts), I will answer your question quickly, and post followup thoughts as the year progresses.
There are three points that need to be addressed from your question. (1) What is the Princeton Offense? (2) What type of players do I need to run the system? (3) How do I teach it to a middle school team and more importantly, should I?
Simply put, the Princeton Offense is a scheme that involves all five players from a team working together. All field goals should come off of assists, and all shots should be high percentage shots. It is a type of motion offense that involves constant movement, quick passing around the perimeter, and interior cuts. The benchmark play of the Princeton Offense is the backdoor cut, which often results in a wide open layup. It is named after Princeton University where it was brought to the national spotlight by Coach Pete Carril when his 13-seeded Princeton Tigers defeated the 4-seeded UCLA Bruins in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament.
The offense was developed to counter teams with superior athletic talent. It is a slow offense that makes full use of the shot clock and tries to tire the defense out. It is also used to combat aggressive defenses that guard the perimeter tightly. The types of players that excel in this offensive strategy are accurate passing, sharp shooting guards and small forwards. It is also critical to have a strong inside presence that is able to pass effectively.
TBG, to be quite honest with you, I do not think it is worthwhile to teach it to your middle school team. It is a very hard offense to learn and an even harder offense to perfect. Small mistakes can lead to significant turnovers. And I do not think it is the type of offense that should be used solely with a group of players so young. Just like you can't run before you can walk, you can't perfect the Princeton Offense before perfecting how to pass, dribble, rebound and shoot. At that age, I would focus on utilizing pick n' rolls and screen plays, and letting guards dribble-penetrate and forwards/centers work on their inside games. You don't have to take my advice, but if you ignore my suggestions, I have a feeling your team is going to suck.