I read a great article by Malcolm Gladwell last week called How David Beats Goliath. It talks about a Silicon Valley CEO who has never coached basketball before and how he takes a novel approach towards basketball strategy when coaching his 12-year-old girl’s team.
Realizing his girl’s team is lacking the talent needed to compete, he decides to change the rules. Instead of falling back into their half to play defense, they do a full-court press each time. Their number 1 goal is to steal the opening pass. After that, they try to keep the team from crossing the halfway line. This approach is never used and its unconventional nature results in great success. He also pulls in the former San Francisco 49er, Roger Craig, as his assistant coach which makes the story that much more entertaining.
If that was the end of the story, it’d be an interesting piece but he overlays into the piece other stories of underdogs. He talks about the battle of David vs. Goliath and Lawrence of Arabia’s revolt against the Ottoman Army near the end of the First World War. In both cases, changing the nature of the game was the difference. Gladwell remarks:
David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases.
He always jumps back to the basketball example and has interviews with amazingly successful NCAA basketball coach Rick Pitino who talks about the press and overachieving.
Great article, check it out
- Recipe for an Underdog (myespn.go.com)
- Malcolm Gladwell Wants To Know Why Your Team Doesn’t Press More [Basketball] (deadspin.com)
- How underdogs win (kottke.org)