Jeff Van Gundy, current analyst for ESPN and former head coach of the New York Knicks, recently downplayed the impact that any one system has on a given team’s success.
Phil Jackson is now president of basketball operations for the Knicks, but as a head coach in Chicago and Los Angeles, he used the Triangle Offense consistently, and it was undoubtedly a key component of his teams winning a total of 11 NBA titles.
New York will be implementing it this season under Derek Fisher and assistant coaches Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons, but Van Gundy said that ultimately, it’s the players who will determine a club’s wins and losses.
“It won’t be the triangle itself that will be the reason they win or lose,” he said. “It’s going to come down to Carmelo Anthony playing exceptionally well. [Iman] Shumpert and J.R. bouncing back with a big year. J.R. Smith playing well. It’s not going to be because of a system.
“I think anybody confusing a system with a reason for success is making a huge mistake. Systems don’t win games. Players do. All you try to do in any system you incorporate is put players in their areas of strength and try to hide and minimize their weaknesses.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Phil Jackson agreed with his former rival‘s assertion.
Focus on triangle off by JvG is 👍. Execution is what always counts. Sound off w/out it fails, however execution with sound off will win.
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) October 24, 2014
The point, here, is that the Triangle Offense (or any offensive system) is a means to an end. It’s a structural framework that sets a foundation in place for how a team should behave over the long grind of the regular season.
Jackson knows as well as anyone that the players are what decide things, but a cohesive system can make a lot of those players interchangeable, at least to a certain extent; the Spurs are a great example of this. He’ll work to improve the roster once he has the cap space to do so, and for now, he’s content to play along with the national media — even when they may be taking subtle shots at his success.