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Westhead Changes the Game.

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This article is brought to you by our friends at SwishScout.com

“Most coaches preach that playing with discipline, taking good shots, and playing good defense, you maximize your chances of winning.  It has been the foundation of sound fundamental basketball for over a century.  Get the most out of your possessions and if you play lockdown defense, you will go far. What if I were to tell you that if you did the exact opposite of that, you might be able to win?  It may not sound too far fetched now, but 25 years later, it would revolutionize the game.  A lot of credit goes to one man-‘The Guru of Go’ himself, Paul Westhead.

Westhead revolutionized the game of basketball with what he calls “The System.”  This game scheme is based on simple math:

More Possessions + More Shot Attempts = More Points

The fundamental idea of ‘The System’ is to create a vigorous pace that will catch the other team off guard and leave them gasping for air by the time the 4th quarter hits. Westhead’s variation seeks to put up a shot in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, with  3-point attempts encouraged.  Also known as ‘controlled chaos,’ the fast pace changes the game altogether, hopefully taking the other team out of their element.  It may look to some more like a track meet more than a basketball game because of the amount of running involved.  Along with the scoring frenzy, a full court press is employed throughout the entire game to create turnovers and convert those into points off fast breaks.  Overall, defense often gets sacrificed in favor of maintaining the pace, ideally leaving the team creating the tempo with more points.  With the right players in ‘The System’, wins can be counted up and records can be broken.  No other coach in the history of basketball has proven this better than Westhead.

Starting out as head coach of the La Salle Explorers from 1970-79, Westhead led the team to a pair of NCAA births before becoming an assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers.  Upon arrival, Westhead took the helm of a talented Laker team 14 games into the season after then head coach Jack McKinney went down in a injurious bike accident.  The Lakers starred NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a 6’9” rookie point guard by the name of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson.  During the 1980 season, the Lakers won 60 games and made it to the NBA Finals.  Against Dr. J and Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers took a 3-2 series lead, but lost star center Abdul-Jabbar to an ankle injury, leaving him unable to play in a critical Game 6.  It was then that Westhead dared to start Johnson at center, and was it ever a gamble that paid off.  In Game 6, point guard ‘Magic’ Johnson compiled 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists in a win from the center position, seemingly playing every position on the floor throughout the game.  The Lakers won the 1980 NBA Title, thanks to Westhead’s vision and Johnson’s ‘Finals MVP’ performance.

Shortly after the beginning of his 3rd season, Westhead was forced out as head coach after a slow start.  Johnson complained that Westhead’s offense was too predictable and slowed down the Lakers.  As you will read later, this is a statement that’s hard to believe in retrospect.  In the ’82 season, Westhead coached a year for the Chicago Bulls without nearly the same level of success, finishing 28-54 a couple years before the Michael Jordan era.  Perhaps a blessing in disguise, he was offered the head coaching position for the Loyola Marymount Lions a few years later.

Kimble & Gathers

While at the West Coast Conference small school, he began to put ‘The System’ into effect.  The Lions started off slow in his first couple seasons, but then immaculately given a gift that changed the college landscape.  Transfers Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble were both touted players who were unhappy with the USC program and looking for a new start with a different college. Westhead talked them into coming to Loyola, and it started a basketball revolution that made the fast paced system what it is today.  With Kimble and Gathers, Loyola Marymount went 27-3 and 20-10 in their sophomore and junior season.  In 1988, they advanced to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament and in ’89 were a first round exit.  In Kimble and Gather’s 1990 senior season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the team.  The Loyola Marymount Lions set the all-time NCAA record for points per game with an average of 122.4 per contest.  They set the NCAA Tournament single game scoring record with 149 points in a win against Michigan.  They are among the all-time top 5 scoring games in NCAA history, with numbers like 157, 152, 150, 149 and 145 point games. In the record books, their name is riddled with entries for most assists, 3 point field goal attempts and makes, and points scored in games.

With all the hype in college basketball, the team looked like a serious contender to win an NCAA title. That 1990 season, Bo Kimble led the NCAA in scoring with 35 points per game and Gathers was putting up nearly 33 points and 14 rebounds. Both Kimble and Gathers were looking like top notch NBA prospects and running the WCC.  In a 1989 December home game, Gathers collapsed on court and was diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat shortly after.  He was allowed to continue playing but was prescribed medication to counteract the effects.  However, he complained that the drugs made him feel slow on the court and drastically impacted his performance.  He limited the dosage on the medication in favor of playing at a higher level. In a WCC Tournament quarter final game against the Portland Pilots, Gathers collapsed again. He was immediately transported to the local hospital and pronounced ‘dead on arrival.’ It was one of the saddest and darkest moments in college basketball.

1990 NCAA Tournament

The 1990 WCC was called off and LMU was given the automatic bid because of their regular season title.  As the 11 seed in the tournament, they made an inspiring run to the Elite Eight, knocking off returning champion Michigan in the 2nd round and losing to the eventual champions in UNLV. The most magical moment of the tournament was when Bo Kimble shot and made his free throws left handed, in honor of Gathers. Gathers was a notoriously bad free throw shooter who was right handed, but tried shooting lefty throughout his career to improve his percentages.  After that inspired run through the tournament, there was fallout and controversy surrounding the death of Gathers, and Westhead left LMU for the NBA.

Now the coach of the Denver Nuggets, Westhead looked to shake up the league with ‘Paul Ball’ and hopefully have similar success to what happened at LMU.  The Nuggets led the NBA in scoring with 120 points per game in 1990-91.  Unfortunately, they also gave up an NBA record that season of 130 points per contest.  They also gave up an NBA record 107 points in a half, earning the nickname ‘Enver Nuggets’ because of their lack of ‘D’. Compiling a final record of 44-120, Westhead was released from his coaching duties.

‘The System’ is a basketball extreme that does not work in the professional ranks, similar to how the ‘the spread offense’ and ‘option’ being effective in college football don’t work in the NFL.  NBA players are too athletic, conditioned, and talented to be full court pressed and outpaced for a full 48 minutes, making you pay on the offensive end for your lack of defense.  Don Nelson is one of the winningest coaches in NBA history, using small ball (Nellie ball) as a scheme to get regular season wins, but has never worked out in the playoffs.  Nor has Nelson ever made it to the NBA finals as a head coach.  Current New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni runs a variation of run and gun offense, but don’t expect any titles from him anytime soon.  His best shot to win a title was in Phoenix, but the defensive inabilities of his Suns proved to be their biggest downfall in the playoffs.  The coach who may have found an answer to the run and gun in the NBA is D’Antoni’s replacement in Phoenix, Alvin Gentry.  He noted that if you play to the rhythm of the game, as opposed to the pace, then the team can not only still get more possessions, but more points out of the possessions on a regular basis.  Instead of putting up shots in under 7 seconds, you scale it back to about 12 seconds, and are still able to have success with more of a defensive emphasis.  It paid off, as the Suns made it to the Western Conference Finals in Gentry’s first full season, losing in a 6 game series that was decided by an outlandish Ron Artest play.

2007 WNBA Champions

Westhead tried to reestablish his presence in the college ranks during a 4-year stint with George Mason, but was largely unsuccessful at 38-70.  From there, he was an ABA coach for a season, head coach over in Japan’s pro league for a couple years, and an assistant for the Orlando Magic from 2003-05.  In 2005, he became head coach of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, trying his luck with women’s basketball.  With stars Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, the Mercury won the 2007 WNBA Title, making Westhead the only coach in history with an NBA and WNBA title to his name.  Along the way, he set the WNBA record for team scoring in a season, along with the 2nd highest point game in history (112).  However, in ’07 he resigned his post to return to the NBA as an assistant for PJ Carlisimo with the Sonics/Thunder for a couple of seasons.  In 2009, he became head coach of the University of Oregon Women’s team.

In his first season with the Ducks, he has already broken the school record for points scored in a season, in addition to most 3 pointers made by a team in Pac-10 history.  Guard Taylor Lilley lead the NCAA in 3 pointers made with 124, which broke the Pac-10 record for 3’s in a season.  The Ducks also lead the Pac-10 in scoring, but were amongst the league lead in points given up per game.  They play an exciting brand of basketball that has energized the Oregon fan base.  Some even called for Westhead to be considered as a replacement for the men’s head coach during Oregon’s recent search.

To this day, the influence of the 71 year old Westhead and ‘The System’ is everywhere in basketball.  I credit him with spawning the latest trends of playing fast and increased emphasis on the 3.  North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, and numerous other NCAA programs run a brand of basketball influenced by ‘The System’.  Although not as extreme, there are numerous adaptations that can be seen through the ranks.  Of note, Division III program College of the Redlands runs a variation that has set numerous NCAA records.  They execute ‘The System’ to a tee by running the entire game, shooting 3’s early in the shot clock, and subbing in 5 at a time to keep their players on the floor fresh to maintain the tempo.  In 2005, Redlands upped the ante, averaging 132 points per game. The Redlands are littered throughout the Division III record books as well.


If you want to know more about Paul Westhead, I highly recommend the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary ‘The Guru of Go.’ Although before my time, he is someone that I have always admired in basketball.  Westhead dared to be different and unconventional.  He was truly before his time, changing the game and how it’s played. ‘The System’ is not played by every team to the same extreme of how he runs it, but Westhead is truly an innovator for inducing the style.  He demonstrated that if the right pieces are in place to run it, ‘The System’ can be truly unstoppable.  He has proven this at more than one level, winning titles in multiple ranks.  There are extreme highs and lows to ‘The System,’ but it’s an enjoyable roller coaster ride.

As an Oregon alum, I am excited perhaps just as much for Women’s basketball as I am for Men’s. If you haven’t seen them play yet, do yourself a favor and watch them at least once this season. I promise you, this is no plug for Oregon Women’s Basketball.  Not only will you enjoy the brand of basketball, but also get to do it seeing a living legend and coaching icon in his element – running ‘The System.’”

-Bjorn Zetterberg

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2010 Men’s NCAA Tournament.

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This year there were a lot of upsets compared to that of last year during the March Madness NCAA Men’s tournament. The difference in number of upsets is apparent in the final four, which is coming up this weekend (April 3rd, 2010).  Last year, all four #1 seeds made it to the final four, while this year only one of the #1 seeds made it to the final four (Duke).

I am curious as to who people have for continuing on through the final four and winning the 2010 national championship game.


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College Football Recruiting Classes 1-25.

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Yesterday (February 3rd) was national signing day for college football. Players getting offers from schools were required to sign national letters of intent.  The following list is ESPN’s list of the top 25 recruiting classes for this season. Do you agree with the list? Do you think it is biased towards one coast or the other?

2010 Top 25 Recruiting Classes:

1. Florida

2.

Texas

3.

Alabama


4.

Auburn


5.

Oklahoma


6.

Florida State


7.

USC


8.

LSU


9.

Tennessee


10.

UCLA


11.

Penn State


12.

Georgia


13.

Miami (FL)


14.

Michigan


15.

California


16.

Ohio State


17.

Texas A&M


18.

Stanford


19.

Clemson


20.

Washington


21.

Notre Dame


22.

Oregon


23.

South Carolina


24.

North Carolina


25.

Mississippi

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Cincinnati Bengals WR Chris Henry.

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry has died, one day after falling out of the back of a pickup truck in what authorities described as a domestic dispute with his fiancee.

Henry

Henry

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Henry died at 6:36 a.m. Thursday. Henry was 26.

“We knew him in a different way than his public persona,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said of the player who was suspended five times during his career. “He had worked through the troubles in his life and had finally seemingly reached the point where everything was going to blossom. And he was going to have the future we all wanted for him. It’s painful to us. We feel it in our hearts, and we will miss him.”

Police spokeswoman Rosalyn Harrington said homicide detectives have been assigned to the case but had no further information.

Henry was rushed to the hospital Wednesday after being found on a residential road “apparently suffering life-threatening injuries,” according to police. Police said a dispute began at a home about a half-mile away, and Henry jumped into the bed of the pickup truck as his fiancee was driving away from the residence.

Police said at some point when she was driving, Henry “came out of the back of the vehicle.” They wouldn’t identify the woman, and no charges were immediately filed.

Shock, Sadness Over Henry’s Death

We are greatly saddened by today’s tragic news about the loss of Chris Henry. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris’ family, including his Bengals family. I ask you to keep Chris Henry and his family in your thoughts today.”
– NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

We talked before every game and he would just say go out there and handle your business. I don’t know what else to say. He had been doing everything right.”
– Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco

We knew him in a way that [was not consistent] with his public persona. We liked him. He had worked through troubles in his life … to a point where he was going to have the future we all wanted for him and that he wanted for himself. At the time of his tragedy he was running to daylight.”
– Bengals president Mike Brown

For those who knew Chris, he was nothing like his public perception. A loving and caring individual, he was thankful for what he had in life, and proud of what he had overcome.”
– Andy Simms, Henry’s agent

I enjoyed our time together at West Virginia and we shared a lot of great moments. I have many fond memories of our three years together and will remember those forever.”
– Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez

The entire Mountaineer football family is deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Chris Henry. We say ‘Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer,’ and Chris was a big part of our success during his time here. For me, he was a real joy to be around on a daily basis. He always came to work and loved to play football.”
– WVU coach Bill Stewart

I remember recruiting Chris to West Virginia like it was yesterday. He came from a humble background and was a wonderful young man and football player. Chris was like a son to me and I will cherish all the great memories that I have of him.”
– Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee

Henry is engaged to Loleini Tonga, and the couple has been raising three children. Tonga’s MySpace page identifies herself as “Mrs. C. Henry” and has a picture of her next to a person who appears to be Henry. She also has a post from Tuesday talking about buying wedding rings. A neighbor said Wednesday that the Tonga family owns the home where police say the incident began. Charlotte is home to his fiancee’s parents.

“We ask that you keep Chris’ family — especially the young children he leaves behind — in your prayers,” Henry’s agent, Andy Simms of PlayersRep Sports said in a statement. “It is tragic when a life is taken so young. He was a man just realizing his potential, not just in football, but in life.”

Authorities have not announced the cause of death. Mecklenburg County medical examiner investigator Carol Cormier said they were expecting to receive the body later Thursday.

The Bengals (9-4), in the midst of their best season since winning 11 games in 2005, lead the AFC North. They visit the San Diego Chargers on Sunday and will wear a helmet sticker to remember Henry.

When the players received word Henry had died, quarterback Carson Palmer called them together in the locker room and said they should dedicate the game and rest of the season to Henry and the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who died unexpectedly during the season.

Henry was away from the Bengals after breaking his left forearm during a win over Baltimore on Nov. 8. He had surgery and was placed on season-ending injured reserve following the game.

“We are greatly saddened by today’s tragic news about the loss of Chris Henry,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris’ family, including his Bengals family. We have been in contact with the Bengals to offer our support through this difficult time.

“I ask you to keep Chris Henry and his family in your thoughts today.”

Throughout his career, his temper and poor decisions got him in trouble.

He was ejected from a game and suspended for another while at West Virginia, where former coach Rich Rodriguez told Henry that he was an embarrassment to himself and the program. His reputation was already costing him — the Bengals were the only NFL team to bring him in for a pre-draft visit in 2005.

They found that his demeanor didn’t match his reputation. Henry was shy and spoke in a quiet voice. They warned him that he had to stay in control if he was going to stay in the NFL. Then, they picked him in the third round.

In a sense, it was already a second chance.

“I’m worth the chance,” Henry said, when he showed up the following weekend for a rookie minicamp. “I’m just happy they took me.”

Henry become a vital part of the offense as a rookie, helping the Bengals reach the playoffs in 2005 with his ability to run past defenders to grab long passes. In the final month of the season, he also showed his other side, getting arrested for marijuana possession. After a playoff loss to Pittsburgh, he was arrested on a gun charge in Florida.

Henry and former Tennessee cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones became the league’s two most trouble-bound players. Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended both in 2007 — Jones for a full season, Henry for half of it — as part of a toughening of the league’s conduct policy.

When Henry was arrested for a fifth time following that season on an assault charge, the Bengals decided they’d had enough. At his arraignment on April 3, 2008, Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard called Henry “a one-man crime wave.” He was released by the Bengals the same day.

It was a jolt to Henry, who had dreamed of an NFL career since high school, when he got the NFL logo tattooed on the back of his right hand. No team showed an interest in bringing him back. His career seemed finished.

Then, Brown — who refers to himself as “a redeemer” — changed his mind and gave him another chance.

“If you only knew him by hearsay, you’d think he’s some kind of ogre,” Brown said, during the Bengals’ appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series this summer. “It’s not true. He’s a good person. When you see him up close, you’ll find that you’ll like him. He’ll be a soft-spoken, pleasant person.”

This time, Henry seemed determined to stay out of trouble. After only 19 catches and two touchdowns in 12 games in the 2008 season, he set about making himself a topflight receiver again. He got into top shape and worked out with teammates in the offseason, showing more resolve than at any point in his career.

Henry also changed his personal life, spending more time with his fiancee and the three children they are raising. Teammates noticed a pronounced change in his demeanor.

“He’s a great kid with a great heart,” Palmer said as training camp started. “He’s changed his life around. He ran into some trouble, made some bad decisions, and realized that. He’s sorry for them, apologized for them, and has done everything he can to make himself a better person. I’m just proud of him.”

Before the 2009 season, Henry got a new tattoo that matched his new outlook. Below his left ear, in flowing one-inch script, was the world “Blessed.”

“I kind of felt like I dug myself out of the hole and started doing the right things,” Henry said in an interview with The Associated Press as training camp opened. “People say, ‘How you feeling now Chris? You doing all right?’ I just tell them I’m blessed. That’s why I got it.”

He caught a touchdown pass in each of Cincinnati’s four preseason games. A thigh injury slowed him early in the season, and he had 12 catches for 236 yards — his 19.7-yard average per catch leads the team — when he broke his left arm during a win over Baltimore on Nov. 22, ending his season.

“He was doing everything right,” receiver Chad Ochocinco said. “My grandma always says you never question the man upstairs on decisions he makes. Everyone makes mistakes, but I don’t see how Chris was supposed to go already, especially when he was on the right path. Other than that, he’s going to be missed.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.”

Via ESPN.com

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