HUNTINGTON — This week, Marshall men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni had a camera crew following him around, taking video and sound from his practices.
On Wednesday afternoon, D’Antoni spent some of that time breaking down what his team was going through during its high-speed drills.
It is all part of the unique philosophy for which D’Antoni has coined a term.
“I’ve said it and I’m pretty sure I coined this phrase back in 1981 with our team at Socastee High School [in South Carolina] as ‘organized chaos,’ ” D’Antoni said. “It is chaos. You want it to look chaotic. The organization part is in your practices that teaches you how to play that way, so it all comes together smooth. It’s not chaotic to us. It’s chaotic to the people watching it and, hopefully, to the team playing against it.”
Marshall junior guard Jarrod West laughed when he heard mention of the phrase.
“Organized chaos is definitely a good way to put it,” West said. “To the outsider, they are like, ‘What are they doing?’ We’re out there throwing the ball everywhere and shooting 3s. We know what we are doing. We just have to make it flow.”
As the son of a coach and a team veteran, West understands D’Antoni’s philosophy and is trying to relay that to the players by pushing the tempo each day. It isn’t easy for the newcomers or even the veterans, but it’s necessary, West said.
“It takes a little bit, for sure,” West said. “The more you pay attention and the faster you go, the more you speed your brain and your physical pace up, then the easier it is to adjust.
“If you try to slow down and engage it, it’s hard because everyone else is bang-bang-bang. The adjustment period, you just have to work and continue to learn every day.”
D’Antoni said that two words define the gist of his concepts: pace and space. Those are things that new players have to get used to.
“It’s pace, space,” D’Antoni said. “We initiate off a lot of pick-and-rolls. The athletic ball — meaning it moves quickly — creates opportunities for different offensive players on the floor.”
On several occasions this week, D’Antoni has preached to his players — especially the younger ones — about the practice sessions not being about how many shots are made, per se.
Instead, D’Antoni wants his players working quickly and making the right decisions in an accelerated manner, which keeps from disrupting the flow of everyone.
One word that could be used to describe the offense is autonomous.
D’Antoni and the coaches present concepts that they want to adhere to and the players are left to work within that framework while also having freedom to make snap-decision basketball plays.
“I coach by the seat of my pants,” D’Antoni said. “It’s almost like shooting. It’s a touch. Some people do it better than others. You just have to have a feel for it.”
D’Antoni even joked that he’s invited his opposing coaches to come to his practices.
“I’ve often said to coaches, ‘You can come and scout me because I don’t know what we’re doing,’ ” D’Antoni said. “Our style is basketball and it morphs every game. Some are an Old Dominion game where it’s going to be a grind-out game. Others are games that mirror us like FIU or San Antonio — almost playground style. The framework and style we play, it fits in any game.”
Whatever D’Antoni is doing conceptually, it has proven effective with Marshall having secured 20-win seasons in three straight years while also earning a Conference USA Championship, NCAA tournament victory and CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship.
It’s also the brand to which he’s adhered since his days as a high school coach, so don’t expect the basketball lifer to change his ways at 72 years old.
“I can’t tell you exactly there’s a rhyme or reason to it,” D’Antoni said. “Just something tells me to do it. Being around basketball for years and years, I try to get the best out of players, whether it’s high school, professional, college. That’s the style.”