Dan D'Antoni Interview

THE HARDWOOD DATA DEFENDER

Charity StripeWith one shutdown of a reporter last year, a 70-year old coach of a team out in West Virginia became a prominent face of the analytics revolution. 

But we’ll be honest: Dan D’Antoni isn’t some basketball vagrant or someone who just went viral because of a video: the man knows his basketball. After spending 30 years coaching at Socastee High school and winning over 500 games, D’Antoni made a move to the NBA, where he was an assistant for the Suns, Knicks and Lakers under his brother Mike (yep, the current head coach of the Houston Rockets). Now Dan is in his 4th season as the head coach at Marshall, where he has guided the Thundering Herd to an increasing win total each year at the school.

We chatted with Coach D’Antoni about his offensive philosophy and how important the film room is for his team. 

His Former Offensive Philosophy And How It Evolved

I was a Bobby Knight guy back in the day. There wasn’t a three-point line, so we were always focused on contested twos. Once the three-point line was put into play, we were shooting 30-40%. Then we started shooting the three-pointer more and more, realizing that if you shoot 40 percent from three, it’s better than shooting 50 percent for two pointers. 

NBA threesHow They Play

We like a more finesse game and play by numbers. The key for me is turning the game over to the players. I want my players to bring high energy- they don’t have to be the most athletic to play in our offense. I still play the best five players, and my kids need to have the skills of perimeter players or be big enough to defend traditional post players.

Marshall smallCoaches try to control the game too much. When you let players control the game and the offense, they choose better shots for themselves. Shots will always be taken by people with the most energy. In our offense you don’t hold the ball, you’re either shooting, driving or passing but it all comes down to trusting your teammates, and learning how to make reads from them as well. If teams know their reads, it takes a lot of the athleticism out of the offense, and players can focus on movement of the ball. Everyone looks good- it’s not just focused on one player. 

How To Practice Running D’Antoni’s Offense 

The biggest thing we do is that we practice how we play, but you have to know how to organize the practice. The first thing you need to know to teach the offense is how to run the pick n roll- big men need to know angles, guards needs to know how to run the pick. It’s kind of like a quarterback- you have to know the reads- one option is a “lone ranger” read, another is a “back” read,  depending on how they rotate. If done right, the pick and roll turns into a 2-on-1 situation, meaning if our guy can get underneath the opponent. 

After that, it’s learning about spacing- we make sure they learn proper spacing, and learning how to play the corner effectively. You have to answer the questions of how do you shoot, and how do you get ready to shoot? My high school teams shot 40 percent from three despite it being such an intricate offense. 

Our offense gives kids a chance to be successful. Heck, guys from the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks got paid because they were successful in our offense. The key is how can you score in every position? 

What Stats He Focuses On During Games

There are three things we focus on in games: do not foul, no layups, and certainly no three-pointers. I’m not worried about contested twos. Rebounds are funny- it all depends on how you get the rebounds. The more important stat is second chance points. If you’re out-rebounded by 15 but second-chance points are under 10, chances are the other team missed a lot of shots. 

Point spread is more important than how many points you scored- if we average 8-10 point margin of victories that means we did a lot better than if we eked out a nailbiter. 

Field goal percentage- we want 35% from threes. At all times I have to have at least three players on floor who averaged 40% shooting percentage or better. My goal is for my players to have assist-to-turnover ratios of 2-3:1. The great players will have a turnover to assist ratio of 4-5:1. Offensive rebounds- we want each player to have 3 per game. On defense, we look at how many shots we gave up, and whether or not we hit at least four steals per game. 

The Math Behind His Offense

It’s pretty simple, research has found that If you shoot from the corner three, you’re looking at 1.3 points per shot, a layup is 1.8, free throws are 1.5, a regular three is 1.17, and a post up is .78. Obviously, a layup is the best, but if we can get enough corner threes up, we’ll be able to beat teams who rely on their post guys all the time. 

How His Team Watches Film

Every day before practice we watch 30 minutes of film. We only show the best plays. But sometimes I’ll end up showing bad plays like poor closeouts, but on the whole, I believe in a positive approach to film study.

Charity Stripe


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