Conflicts of interest: Tufts alum stresses defense in coaching role at points-happy school
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 11:11
Jack Taylor of Grinnell College sent the sports world into a frenzy last week when he scored 138 points — an NCAA record — in his team’s 179-104 win over Faith Baptist Bible College. Taylor took a shot once every 20 seconds, and went 27-for-71 from beyond the arc.
The incredible feat was made possible by an offensive system for which the school has become well known. The Pioneers cycle in 20 players, 12 of whom are averaging at least 10 minutes a game, and run short, hockey-style shifts. They institute a full-court press on every possession and are willing to concede an easy layup if the opposition breaks it. The goals of the system, according to a 2003 D3Hoops.com article, are 100 shots, 50 three-point attempts, 32 turnovers forced, a shot differential of at least 30 and a 33.3 percent offensive rebound rate in every game.
But sharing a home gym with the men is a women’s team of a completely different nature. The women finished the 2010-2011 season fourth in the conference in points allowed and were second last year. More comfortable in a dogfight than a shootout, the Pioneer women’s team and its opponent combined for fewer points on the night of Taylor’s record than Taylor himself scored.
“I just think about basketball a lot differently than our men’s coaches do,” women’s head coach Kate Gluckman (LA ‘04) said. “There are some wonderful attri butes to the system, but I think I’m much more old school in terms of my thinking about the game and what it means to be a basketball player and regulate the game.”
Gluckman had a long history at Tufts before being hired at Grinnell for the 2008-2009 season. She was a starter as a freshman at Tufts, and again started the majority of her games during her junior year -----— coach Carla Berube’s first year in the program. A 5-foot-10 forward, she averaged at least five points per game in three of her four seasons and was an active participant in the turnaround of the program, which went from nine wins in the 2001-2002 season to at least 17 in each of the next two.
“We certainly experienced a lot of growth in those first two years,” Gluckman said. “It was the start of where the program is today.”
Gluckman rejoined the team as a graduate assistant for two seasons in 2006. In her second season as a member of the staff, the team completed its rejuvenation, making its only run to the Elite Eight in school history.
The NCAA Tournament was an especially busy period for Gluckman, who was simultaneously helping to run the team while applying and interviewing for head coaching positions.
“We had come back from qualifying for the Sweet 16, and in between the opening rounds and the Sweet 16, I flew out to Iowa and interviewed at Grinnell and was back in time for practice and no one knew a thing,” Gluckman said. “It was an exciting and exhausting time.”
Gluckman insisted that “the system” of the men’s team wasn’t a part of the job requirement. Still, she can’t avoid the stigmas that come attached to the school name.
“Every time I say I coach at Grinnell, everyone asks me if I run the system — that’s what Grinnell is known for,” Gluckman said. “It’s a campus phenomenon, and people get really excited about it.”
But Gluckman has not been swayed by her male counterparts. Her teams play a half-court, man-to-man defense that depends on quick-moving help defense from excellent individual defenders to close open lanes. Like the Jumbos, Gluckman’s teams are content to play the possession game on offense, and since the 2010-2011 season, the Pioneers have topped 70 points just three times.
“I learned from Carla [Berube] that it doesn’t matter about the talent on your team,” Gluckman said. “If you can have the students buy in and play defense hard and play it together, then you’re going to be in a lot of games that you wouldn’t otherwise be in talent-wise.”
“It’s a focus of ours every day in practice, it’s something we like to hang our hat on, it’s part of our team identity,” she added. “And that all comes directly from my experience with Carla.”
After going 4-19 in her first season coaching, the team has increased its win total every year, breaking .500 for the first time this past season with a 12-11 record. The Pioneers also proved they can play hard above their level, and gave conference powerhouse St. Norbert everything it could handle early last season. Grinell trailed by just four with under three minutes to play before succumbing to defeat.