O J Way Oren Rosenthal Austin,TX

Size and Speed Beat the Full Court Press

Posted in News and Events, Technology by OJWay on May 27th, 2009 permalink

Everybody’s talking about Malcolm Gladwell’s recent article, How David Beats Goliath. For example, my company’s chairman, Eddie Lampert, has been tweeting about it. The central premise is that by eschewing traditional rules of engagement underdogs can predictably triumph over larger and more established foes. He begins with an exciting example of a 12-year-old girls’ basketball team that built their strategy around using full-court pressure defense all the time. They made it to the National Finals.

I can’t argue with Gladwell on the main argument, so I will pick on his example. The way David beats Goliath is that he turns Goliath’s strength into a weakness. However, it’s easy for well-trained players to beat the full court press. If you ask the 7′7″ Manute Bol, he’ll tell you that you can beat the press with size, just by throwing the ball over the defense. Or if you ask the 5′3″ Muggsy Bogues, he’ll tell you to do it with speed, by cutting for the fast break.

So long as they don’t get rattled, superior players will beat the press every time to get easy baskets. 12-year-old girls will get rattled, but college and pro-level players won’t. Rick Pitino, the college coach famous for using the press, only won an NCAA tourney when he had All-Star Antoine Walker on his team. He has a losing record as an NBA coach.

I’ll stop nitpicking Gladwell now, because he is my favorite nonfiction author. In his defense, another point he was making about the girls’ basketball team is that they worked much harder than their opponents and attacked in unexpected places. Other examples, such as Lawrence of Arabia, illustrate the point better. But they’re not nearly as much fun.