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McKillop emphasizes simplicity

The McKillop Way

Davidson is expected to be one of the best mid-majors this season and a Top 25 team. The Wildcats have a tough slate, with games against North Carolina, Duke, NC State and UCLA, but will not be able to sneak up on anyone. The word is out. Davidson is good. During Davidson's open workout on Thursday evening, Wildcat coach Bob McKillop, the all-time winningest coach in Southern Conference history, said that his team had a bull's-eye on its collective back, and needed to "embrace the bull's-eye" in order to meet lofty expectations. After a 29-5 season and three straight 20-win seasons, much is expected of Davidson in 2008, but its foundation has been solid for many years.

McKillop has been in coaching for more than 30 years, starting as a high school coach in Long Island, N.Y. Through the years, his success and manner have made him a respected coach here and abroad. McKillop does it his own way and has learned that simplicity is perhaps the most important element in his coaching. Here are some of McKillop's beliefs and methods:

*On offense, McKillop wants his team to run, push the ball upcourt and see. According to McKillop, too few players truly see the game, and one of his "rules" on offense is for each player to "catch and see" before making any predetermined move or decision.

*McKillop believes in rhythm and flow. He wants to get his team into a rhythm and disrupt the rhythm of the opposing team. He runs a motion-based offense and mostly man-to-man defense, but will switch things up to disrupt. McKillop wants his team to maintain a "patient flow" in which his team is willing to hit singles instead of swinging wildly for the fences.

*Davidson has "Seven Keys" upon which the basketball part of the program is based:

1. See: McKillop wants his players to learn to see the game and to have great vision. You cannot make a play if you cannot see it.

2. Talk: Communication is valued. If you talk, you are automatically a better and more engaged player, and a better team. Talk provides confidence and awareness individually and collectively.

3. Hit Flesh: Davidson is unafraid of contact, and the players will lay their bodies on the line, whether for a loose ball, a rebound or setting a screen.

4. Do Details: No detail is too small, and McKillop insists that his players pay attention to detail.

5. Finish Everything: McKillop is adamant that his players should finish every shot, every possession, every drill, every sprint, every play.

6. Balance: Everything should be done with balance. Sometimes, that is difficult with limited athleticism, but it is still emphasized.

7. Act: Whether it is a shot fake, moving with or without the ball or using your eyes or your feet, deception is the essence of the game. Players need to act instead of react.

The Seven Words You Can't Say on the Bench

I applaud any emphasis on the coaching box and unsportsmanlike conduct with regard to the use of profanity by coaches. Better behavior on the part of anyone involved in sports is a good thing. There is only one thing I don't like about it: treating the issue with absolutes.

With the NABC and College Commissioners completely in favor of this initiative, there is now a zero tolerance policy for being out of the coaching box and for the use of profanity. Referees and supervisors have no choice but to enforce the rule as now interpreted.

The problem is, it cannot and will not be uniformly enforced because it is impossible to enforce. Years ago, the ACC implemented a rule where coaches had to remain seated during the game. The late Bones McKinney went so far as to have a seat belt on his chair. Of course, that rule went the way of Prohibition because it was silly and unenforceable.

According to the zero tolerance nature of this rule, a coach that leaves the coaching box to walk to the other end of the floor to shake hands as time is running out as the game ends must be assessed a technical foul. Also, any coach that addresses a player using a profane word that his heard by an official must be assessed a technical foul. A coach that walks out of the coaching box to make a substitution down his bench while the ball is at the other end of the court must be assessed a technical foul. A coach that utters a profane word when a shot is missed at the buzzer must be assessed a technical foul.

What if, after a warning, a coach steps out of the coaching box to avoid a collision with a player diving into the bench for a loose ball, then says in a normal tone of voice, "Oh, &$*#! I stepped out of the $*@& coaching box by mistake? Sorry." Does he get ejected with zero tolerance for the double violation? Or does zero tolerance not really mean zero tolerance?

If a coach angrily cusses out an official, we can all live with a technical. If he tells one of his players to get his %#$ in gear and guard somebody, or to tell a player to knock off a *&%# move, and the coach gets a technical? Good luck with that one. Officials should not be asked to police how a coach relates to his team. The school he works for should do that.

Absolutes don't work in officiating. Good judgment does. Don't the officials have enough to worry about without being three striped Miss Manners' out there? Plus, basketball is the only game I know of where points can be scored without defense due to mistakes or bad behavior. If a player steps out of bounds or throws the ball out of bounds, there are no free throws are awarded, just a change in possession. If a coach steps out of the coaching box, even when there is no impact on the game at all, the other team gets to score points without defense? That is crazy. I would rather see a simple violation called and a change in possession if the coach steps out of the box.

Do we really believe that whistles will be blown on every profane word that is heard by an official? There is no way that these absolutes can be evenly enforced without bizarre results and unintended consequences.

I hope it works, and it goes off without a hitch. But I am realistic about it, and part of me will enjoy hearing coaches complain to officials that they missed a charge/block call, AND missed the other coach use a naughty word.