Virginia 48, Syracuse 34. On opening night, Tony Bennett, who lost 4 starters off of last year’s title team, went on the road to Syracuse and held the Orange to 34 points.
That score makes me think two things – 1) Tony Bennett is playing chess and we are all playing checkers. 2) Great defense travels.
Great defense gives you a chance to win every night. Regardless of many other factors. It helps you overcome injuries, helps you to handle the road environment, and it can also bridge a talent gap. Being great defensively can separate you from many other programs, but it also gives your team confidence. If you can get them bought in to playing great defense you have an identity that is always tough to play again.
As a young coach I’d prioritize learning how to coach team defense. Study different systems, and figure out what type of personnel fit different systems. And learn how to teach it. Learn the fundamentals of the defense, and the best way to teach positioning and footwork. Study the drills that you can use to implement the defense the way you want. Develop an approach to building your team defense and playing the way you want to play.
Talent matters, even on the defensive end, and don’t let people tell you it doesn’t. Many basketball people talk about defense as if it doesn’t require talent, and that isn’t true. But great defense requires many traits that most players can find – effort, commitment, toughness. It doesn’t require a ton of skill.
Great team defense is a separator. There are a lot of programs that don’t emphasize it and coaches that don’t spend time teaching it. So if you do it and do it well you can put your program on a different level. Great defense travels, and allows you to overcome a lot of deficiencies. You can count on it every night.