Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 20, 2007
Branch McKracken, iuhoosiers.cstv.com
(first in an occasional series)
In the last post, Michigan State’s Pressure Release Play, I didn’t mean to imply that Michigan State and Tom Izzo made this play up. In fact, it and most of what you see college and pro teams run on both offense and defense has been around a long time. Coaches learn from the coaches they worked with or played for, then copy, use and adapt what they learned. I think it would be interesting (and perhaps interesting to pursue more fully at some point) to know who first made up certain offenses (and defenses), and who had the greatest success and popularized a particular offense or defense.
For instance, I was first exposed to that hi-post, wing-goes-backdoor play when I was an assistant at Harvard. My boss, the head coach, Peter Roby, pulled it out when our wings were having a hard time getting open. (Roby LOVED demonstrating the bounce pass from the elbow; he used to do it not looking, back to the basket [not recommended].) Roby played (captain) for Gary Walters at Dartmouth. (Walters was later to be head man at Providence, and now Athletic Director at Princeton and concurrently, Chair of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.) My assumption always was that Robes got it from him. But from whom did Walters learn it? Well, he played in high school for Pete Carril and at Princeton for Butch van Breda Koff. But Roby also was an assistant at Stanford for Dick DiBiaso who had been an assistant to Digger Phelps at Notre Dame and Digger worked for Dick Harter at Penn. So, maybe it’s a Harter-ism? But wait, Roby also assisted Pete Gaudet at West Point and Gaudet had been on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at Army and, of course, Coach K played for Bob Knight. Now that I think of it, Knight always, and much to his credit, attributed Branch McKracken the legendary Indiana player and coach from the 30’s for innovation in the game. Was McKracken the original 1-4 man? Hold it! Didn’t McKracken play for Everett Case? And where was Hank Iba during all this? Well, now we’re going way back. Who then is the original innovator, the one from whom most of this emanates? No idea, but the point is little under the basketball sun is new and coaches smoothly pass good ideas from one generation to the next like a baton. That’s it, I’m gonna check Rutherford B. Hayes’ (any relation to The Big “E”?) Inaugural Address and make sure he didn’t sneak something in there about beating pressure for easy scores.