Rather than reading the riot act and keeping the current philosophy and then "finding out" who still wants to play (which means going with six players possibly), there is a better way. I just hope our coaching staff figured this out before they lose touch with the remaining "hustlers" and the few thousand loyal fans. This year's Commodores are following the same script Tennessee followed last year, and our Commodores followed in 1981.
In order to avoid a repeat of the same events that those just mentioned teams endured, here is how to do it:
1. Ditch the current offense and defense. Throw them in the trash can in a ceremony in front of the players.
2. Tell every player on the team, that starting today there is a clean slate. All jobs are up for grabs. The goal is to quickly grasp the details of the new system to have it ready to be expertly run by the time the SEC Tournament begins.
3. Switch to a full-out constant pressure defense. The ball is to be double teamed at all times no matter where it is on the 94 x 50 foot area. The inbounds pass will be denied every time. No more regular man-to-man will be played. This is 100% team defense where five men are responsible for every movement. In, the half-court, I would suggest using the 3-1-1 amoeba defense that I desrcibed a few weeks ago in one mor my tutorial articles. Use it to trap the ball and force turnovers from steals that lead to dunks at the offensive end.
4. Use the entire roster in hockey-like shifts. This included Aubrey Hammond, Alan Metcalfe, and if Madsen or Drake want to take off their redshirts this late in the season, they can join in too. They can still play in 12-15 games. It will be their choice.
5. On offense, run the LMU fast break on every possession. Spend 20-30 minutes Monday and Tuesday practicing getting the ball inbounded within one second and advanced to the scoring zone within four seconds. Use a repetitive and simple to learn system (the complexity rests in the speed). I will diagram this fast break in my Tuesday article.
6. Instead of telling the players not to make mistakes and bench them for doing it, tell them not to be afraid to try to make something happen. Award and praise the players for extra hustle and creation, even if it leads to 5-10 more turnovers ('cause it's going to lead to 10-20 more baskets).
7. In the half-court offense, spread the floor, pass the ball, and move quickly. There is no need for pattern offense. This becomes mostly free-lance with certain rules about where the players should be and where they should move to. Certain players need to stay in close to the basket for offensive rebounding; the high post must have people cutting to it and back away from it; three-point shooters should cut to different three-point spots, etc. The goal here is to take three-pointers of shots within 5 feet of the basket. Offensive rebounds that cannot be easily stuffed back in the hole should be immediately passed back for a three-point shot.
8. On all shots, four players will crash the boards. If the other team gets the rebound, the rebounder will immediately be trapped and the full-court press will commence from there. Teams are not used to being pressed off a rebound and frequently turn the ball over.
9. Invite the opponents to shoot 15 to 19-06 jumpers from the baseline. This is the lowest percentage two-point shot, and it gives the defense its best fast break opportunity from a rebound.
10. Tell the team to enjoy basketball once again. Regardless of the results for the rest of the year, the entire team is going to have fun, play the most exciting brand of basketball in the entire NCAA (even more exciting than a certain rival). Our marketing and promo department will get the word out that the new Vanderbilt will shock the world with this 40 minutes of something even worse than Hell. Maybe call it "40 minutes of being forced to watch Jim Cramer's Mad Money," or "40 minutes of a closed-in MRI."
I don't want to see our coaches loe their jobs. I want Kevin Stallings to retire here after a 20-year career. However, he needs to change with the times. Players don't want to be restrained like this; they want to play in an upbeat system and not have to play with the fear of doing something wrong rather than trying to do something right.
I am withholding information here that would validate my beliefs, since I cannot break confidences of people who have begun to come in contact with me. Just from listening to them, I am confident that these ideas would produce results in time to slavage the season and build up huge momentum for next year.
The program is at a crossroads. It reminds me of a joke Fred Russell included in one of his sports books. A newly appointed baseball manager entered his office for the first time and noticed his predecessor had left to envelopes behind in the desk drawer. One read, "Open after first losing streak." The second one read, "Open after second losing streak."
After a time, the team suffered its first losing streak. The manager went into his office and opened the appropriate envelope. Inside was a letter telling the coach to cheer up. Every team went through some form of losing streak where nothing seemed to go right; a change could right the ship.
Well, the manager went out and directed the team on a long winning streak. Eventually, his team suffered another long losing streak. The manager went to his office and opened the second letter. Inside was a simple one sentence note. It read, "Prepare two letters and leave them in this drawer."
Coach Stallings has already endured 2002-2003. For his sake, I hope, 2005-2006 isn't his second one. I am not only hoping he turns it around, I am including him in my daily prayers that he will discover the answer. He is good people, and I don't want to see him leave.
Therefore, I am challenging every Vandy fan to rally around him and our troops. Let the players know that we still have faith. Call, write, or E-mail Vanderbilt and relay your support for the rest of the season. Relay your desires and beliefs in what you think will help the team. This stuff gets read; I know that for sure, because I recently found out my stuff is getting read.
Let's do everything (legally) we can do. Our team needs a ceremonial hug from its fans. When your child is not feeling well, do you not immediatley rush to soothe his/her feelings? These guys are still children. They need support from their minyans. It's time to give that now. Please, no more bashing of players because they cannot be perfect. Relay your support and confidence in them. They all have the power to improve this week and be better every week; they just need a little push.
In summation, here is my message for the team:
Derrick Byars--I have faith in your abilities
Dan Cage--I have faith in your abilities
DeMarre Carroll--I have faith in your abilities
George Drake--I have faith in your abilities
Shan Foster--I have faith in your abilities
Alex Gordon--I have faith in your abilities
Aubrey Hammond--I have faith in your abilities
Kyle Madsen--I have faith in your abilities
Alan Metcalfe--I have faith in your abilities
Mario Moore--I have faith in your abilities
Ross Neltner--I have faith in your abilities
Davis Nwankwo--I have faith in your abilities
Ted Skuchas--I have faith in your abilities
Julian Terrell--I have faith in your abilities
Coaches Stallings, Jackson, Richardson, Muller, Frederick, Strong, and Davis--I have faith in your abilities
You Guys can still do it. There is still time to get the job done if you decide that for yourselves. Now, go do it! The man who prefers his country before any other duty shows the same spirit as the man who surrenders every right to the state. They both deny that right is superior to authority--Lord Acton.