Joe Scott turned his television to an NBA Summer League game recently and saw something familiar.
Cutting, motion, passing and movement without the ball — the staples he learned as a player and assistant under former Princeton head coach Pete Carril. Scott, who is now an assistant under head coach Tom Crean at Georgia, has seen the NBA implement his mentor’s principles, to the point where he sees professional teams running what the Bulldogs will look to do this upcoming season.
“All we have to do is point to Golden State and the (Philadelphia) Sixers,” Scott said. “I turn on the Summer League and that’s what they’re doing. I can point to it specifically and say, ‘That’s our stuff.’ The trick is getting our guys at Georgia to be good at it and making it be who they are, and have their comfort level be really high playing that way.”
While Crean doesn’t have the Princeton pedigree Scott has, their ideology is similar. Crean wants all five players on the floor to be scoring threats, which was always the goal for Carril. He doesn’t want his team to rely on one or two players for the bulk of its scoring like it did a season ago with Yante Maten.
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Having Scott’s Princeton influence has meshed well thus far, Crean said, considering how this philosophy has finally made its way to the professional ranks.
“We ran quite a bit of that when I was at Indiana, even some at Marquette,” Crean said. “The cutting, the movement, it forces you to move without the ball. It forces you to move the ball quickly. It forces you to set up your cuts, make hard cuts and read defenses. I think that’s so important.”
Under this new coaching staff, Georgia will certainly be searching for more offensive consistency and balance. While Maten led the conference in scoring at 19.3 points per game, the Bulldogs ranked last in total points per game at 68.1.
With Georgia, under previous head coach Mark Fox, primarily running its offense through Maten, the ball didn’t go through many other players on a given set. Crean hopes to change that by incorporating the kind of principles that allow all five players to contribute each trip up the floor.
“When you’re at a new program and guys are getting better, it’s very easy to think they’re going to be the man, they’re going to make these plays. No you’re not,” Crean said. “The ball is going to make these plays based on what the defense is giving us. The more that all five on the court at any given time have the respect level for how valuable each guy is, the better we’ll be.”
It could still take time for Georgia to master the concepts and score at a higher percentage. This is a team that shot 42 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from behind the arc during the 2017-18 season. There were many moments where the half-court set was slow and didn’t feature much movement away from the basketball.
But as the Bulldogs begin to pick up on this new brand of offense, Crean and Scott will be hopeful that the players will see improvements all over the court.
“It’s five guys who know how to dribble, pass and shoot,” Scott said. “There’s no tension, where everyone is, ‘Give me the ball, give me the ball, give me the ball.’ Five guys know they will get the ball. It takes the tension out of the game. If you have guys who can dribble, pass and shoot doing that, you got a chance to be good. We’ll have our way of playing but I think it meshes really well with Tom’s vision of the program and how we want to play.”