Syracuse is playing in the Final Four and once again, the question is raised “Why does Jim Boeheim play zone?” In coaching circles, many will consider it for a moment and then suggest it’s not worth the time or will rationalize not playing zone by making comments like “we only play man to man” like it’s some badge of honor. The truth is, Boeheim is a pretty smart cookie who knows how to win. He also knows how to exploit weaknesses, as Charles Pierce from Grantland.com describes in his article Danger Zone.
BASKETBALL – Why does Syracuse play zone?
While many think zone defense is boring or some weaker brand of defense, it brings an element that requires another look. Now, we’re not talking about what I like to call “JV Jerry, stand around with your hands up” zone defense or the zones taught by youth coaches who avoid teaching man defenses. I’m talking about active and aggressive zones that pressure the ball and protect the basket, as you can see in this All-Access clip of Syracuse working in practice:
Here’s a list of 8 Reasons to Play Zone taken from coaching clinics and interviews with Jim Boeheim. The one I find most relevant, though, is Boeheim’s focus on tweaking and adjusting the zone. Not only is it easier to tweak in practice settings, but it allows Boeheim to have a greater influence in taking away the top scoring threats of his opponents. In their regional games last week, the ‘Cuse limited the third highest scoring team in the country, Indiana, by holding its top scorer Cody Zeller to 10 points and 45% 3-point shooter, Jordan Hulls to 0 of 6 from deep. They followed that with throttling Marquette, by containing the heroic drives of Vander Blue. In both cases, the Orange adjusted the zone to deal with the biggest threats. Now I know both Tom Crean and Buzz Williams had game plans to attack the zone, but having a plan is different from executing a plan. It seems that’s what had the losing coaches most frustrated.
LIFE – Why is “marriage” a bad word?
Society has a way of tweaking its zone defense against marriage these days as well. Definitions are changing, laws are changing, and expectations are changing. If you value marriage, you must have a plan to make your marriage stand up in the face of pressure. Start with a source like Focus on the Family for developing a plan of attack. If marriage means something to you, it’s essential to be proactive and not wait around to address difficulties only when they happen. In a sense, that’s how Coach Boeheim approaches the zone – very few of his opponents will have taken adequate steps to prepare to play against it!
FAITH – The devil tweaks his zone, too!
No, I’m not comparing Jim Boeheim to the devil. Not only is he a dead ringer for my first coach in elementary school, Wally Krone, but I respect his longevity and his approach to the game. This idea of tweaking the zone to make it stronger, though, reminds me of another issue in the Christian Church that has convicted me for the past few years.
I really struggle with how the church as a whole, poorly responds to Satan’s attack on our young people. As uncovered by the Barna Group, while we pay lip service to reaching out to young people with unimaginative and impractical programs that are irrelevant to the next generation, Satan is leading them away from their faith in droves. I believe that George Barna’s Revolution and David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me are must-reads for all of us, whether we deal directly with young people or not. We all need to be aware that the devil is tweaking his zone. As the culture changes, he continues to use it to draw us away. Those in their teens and 20’s are the most vulnerable. As Paul warns us in 2 Cor. 11: 13-15, the devil “masquerades as the angel of light”. Don’t be fooled. We can’t stand around in some stationary zone offense and jack up 3-point shots! We have to use God’s wisdom to develop a plan directly related to making the Gospel message relevant and helpful to this generation.
If you’re in agreement with me about the church’s need to reach our young people, I’d love to hear from you – even if you just want to talk zone defense!