Huff draws up winning plays in "Teamwork"

Apr. 02, 2014 @ 06:38 PM

There’s no way to read Mike Huff’s “Teamwork: Rediscovering the Essence of Basketball” without believing that he’s been enjoying this NCAA Tournament.

Underdogs shared the ball and advanced. Huff would tell you that’s what happens when the game is played the right way.

James Naismith didn’t invent basketball with positions. That’s a construct of those who came behind him, and those same people in so doing stripped away the team concept. Those are just a couple of nuggets Huff delivers in his book.

There’s no false advertising with “Teamwork.” The book is about what it says it’s about and is as straightforward as the author himself.

After Huff wrapped up his professional basketball career overseas, he got into sports science, becoming coordinator of sports performance at the Michael W. Krzyzewski Human Performance Lab at Duke University.

In other words, Coach K, the modern equivalent of Naismith, trusted Huff, a Durham resident, to make sure the bodies of guys like J.J. Redick, Jay Williams and Kyle Singler were on point.

But Huff at his core is neither a ballplayer nor a sports scientist but, quite frankly, a coach, these days teaching the game at Voyager Academy.

In “Teamwork,” Huff includes insights from before his days at Voyager, like how he changed a young man named Mark from a reluctant leader into a team captain.

There also was that occasion when Huff told some not-so-talented players on one of his teams that they wouldn’t get much playing time during games, yet he was able to get them to buy what he was selling to the point that those young men gave maximum effort in practice, bettering the team.

Huff walks what he talks. The team always comes first with him, a guy easily qualified to have led Voyager’s basketball program this past season, yet he was just fine deferring as an assistant coach.

In recent weeks, Huff was named interim head coach at Voyager.

The very practical tone of “Teamwork” offers the feel of a book on parenting. That’s a good thing and makes good sense, Huff being a father of two notwithstanding.

Plenty of coaches claim they’re about shaping young men, but Huff has produced a work toward that end, turning Grinnell College basketball player Jack Taylor’s 138-point scoring performance into a teachable moment.

Taylor scored all of those points during the 2012-13 season in a game his team won 179-104 over Faith Baptist Bible College.

Huff was not impressed.

You see, the game became about Taylor, who chucked 108 shots during that contest, Huff said.

“I don’t blame Jack Taylor,” Huff writes, “but I find it disappointing that a coach would encourage or allow any player to take that many shots — particularly in a blowout victory.”

Amateur Athletic Union squads and other travel teams have a lot to do with this bad brand of basketball, Huff said.

“Basketball is a beautiful game when it is played in what I personally believe is the right way, with every player knowing and executing his or her role within the team concept,” Huff writes. “There are tremendous life lessons to be learned from playing this kind of basketball, such as working together for a common purpose, sacrificing for the sake of others, and being part of something bigger than yourself.”

“Teamwork: Rediscovering the Essence of Basketball” is available at www.teamworkhoops.com and Amazon.com.