After his great run at Cal, Pete Newell retired from coaching. He spent time as an AD and a GM with the San Diego Rockets (since moved to Houston) and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Somewhere along the line, he started privately coaching big men and that morphed into Big Man’s Camp, aka Pete Newell’s Big Man Camp.
One year he saw a young player go for a dunk and tried to explain to him what he was doing wrong.
“Don’t mess with my game,” said the young player.
“Son,” said Newell, “you got no game.” And then, perhaps, was able to help him.
US Basketball has taken a lot of criticism as it’s turned more from a team game to a game of individualism over the years, where a dunk is seen as much better than a sharp pass or good defense.
And former player and media member Doug Gottlieb hates it and draws a connection from the general decline of US basketball culture, which he says “sucks,” to the poor start of Team USA in the run-up to the Olympics.
We’ll reserve judgement on the team for the moment, given their short amount of time together, but we will say this: one of Mike Krzyzewski’s great accomplishments when he ran Team USA was getting guys to work together and often to take on roles they would never have with their NBA teams.
The late Kobe Bryant, for instance, volunteered to be a defensive stopper. Jason Kidd hardly shot at all when he was on the team. Not a huge stretch, but still, he let other guys do it and contented himself with defense and passing.
Everyone eventually settled into a role and they were all willing to do it, even when some of them weren’t thrilled.
We hope that as this team comes together, roles will be pretty clear and some of the guys who aren’t called upon to be dominant scorers find other ways to contribute.
In general though, Gottlieb is right. It’s a team game and the NBA’s focus on individual flash, while it makes for great television, is a rot in the core of the game. And it’s spreading.