Interview Conducted 9/12/2008
Pity the scorekeeper for Grinnell Men’s Basketball games.
David Arseneault, the Men’s Head Basketball Coach at NCAA Division-III Grinnell College, uses what he calls “The System” to shatter NCAA offense records. There are five components.
- Take at least 94 shots.
- Shoot at least half of them behind the three-point line.
- Force the other team to turn it over 32 times.
- Take 25 more shots than the opposition.
- Offensive rebound a third of missed shots.
ARSENEAULT: “Our goal is to perfect chaos.”
“We’ve been successful winning at a 95% clip when we meet all five goals, which we tend to do one out of three games.”
Arseneault uses line changes similar to hockey every couple minutes to keep fresh players in the game at all times.
ARSENEAULT: “The first ten minutes of the first half is all about participation. Then depending on the level of competition, sometimes we condense the [substitutions] in the second 10 minutes of the first half.”
“In the first 10 minutes of the second half, we go back to participation, and then we start trying to figure out what we need to do to win.”
Arseneault is able to continually shuffle new bodies in because he has a no-cut policy.
ARSENEAULT: “My feeling is that if you like to play college basketball and you can contribute somehow in some way, I’m all for having you on the team.”
“If 21 players want uniforms and I only have 20, I’ll buy another one.”
Grinnell College cannot provide athletic scholarships since they are a Division-III school. Arseneault has difficulty attracting athletes because Grinnell is one of the top Liberal Arts schools academically, with an average 31 ACT score for incoming freshmen.
ARSENEAULT: “I have on any particular year a whole slew who would love to come to play ‘The System’, but I can’t get them into the school.”
He feels ‘The System’ has been able to equalize the talent disadvantage that Grinnell usually faces against other Division-III schools who can generally accept a wider range of student-athletes.
ARSENEAULT: “From a success standpoint, there hasn’t been anybody who has done anything that I would say ‘gosh, that’s going to be tough to beat that team’. If it’s a good team with big physical guards kids who can shoot threes, and big men who can finish around the basket, then we’re probably going to have trouble no matter what style we play.”
“So it seems to me that ‘The System’ has been an equalizer to teams who have been a lot better than us.”
Arseneault, who began running “The System” at Grinnell in 1993, has yet to find a way for an opponent to combat his style of play. He always keeps two men guarding the player with the ball at all times, so no opponent can run a set offense unless they want to pass up open layups.
ARSENEAULT: “We’re forcing you to either play keep away in a condensed area or virtually pass up layups because we’re going for a steal.”
Even though no Division-I team has ever run anything resembling “The System,” Arseneault thinks that under the proper circumstances it would be successful at that level.
ARSENEAULT: “The fact is that you have so many media timeouts. I don’t believe you need as many people to run this.”
“If I was going to run it, I would make sure I’d have a job in altitude, someplace in Denver or New Mexico. It’d be difficult for another team to come in and play you.”
Highlights from Grinnell’s 143-125 victory
over Monmouth College on December 6, 2006.
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