SI Vault
 
Fast and Furious
GRANT WAHL
February 18, 2008
Unbeaten Memphis has climbed to No. 1 using the Dribble-Drive Motion offense, a relentless and innovative attack that's all the rage among teams at all levels, from high school to the pros
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 18, 2008

Fast And Furious

Unbeaten Memphis has climbed to No. 1 using the Dribble-Drive Motion offense, a relentless and innovative attack that's all the rage among teams at all levels, from high school to the pros

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6

Perhaps, but it's also true that zones are more likely to expose the Tigers' potential Achilles' heel. Memphis shoots only 34.2% from three-point range. "John's got just about all the pieces," says Walberg, "with the exception of a knockdown shooter." Then again, a bad shooting night may not be enough to stop a team with perhaps five future NBA players. "Whatever you're running, you'd better have guys who can play," says Calipari. "If you forget that, you don't have to worry about being innovative."

The same could be said for Hurley's team, which includes six seniors (five of them guards) who have accepted Division I scholarships. Yet Hurley points out that talented players can always improve their skills, and he swears by Walberg's high-intensity practice drills. In fact, some coaches think Walberg's drills are his crowning achievement. "It's like a franchise for McDonald's," says Welch. "Not only are you getting a system, you're getting built-in drills to teach your system."

For all their success using DDM, Calipari and Hurley have one major difference. Calipari made three trips to visit Walberg in Fresno, studied his game tapes and spent hundreds of hours speaking to Walberg about his offense. But Hurley and Walberg have never sat down and talked. One day last year they finally connected over the phone. "I love your Blood drills," Hurley told Walberg. "They're really great."

For a moment there was silence on the other end of the line. Walberg didn't know whether to be proud that Hurley had fallen for his creation or horrified that one of his most closely held secrets had crossed the continent. "Blood drills?" he said at last. "Bob, how do you know about Blood drills?"

HERB WELLING doesn't look like one of the most wired social connectors in U.S. basketball. By day he's a security guard at Omaha Central High, where he moonlights as an assistant coach for the boys' basketball team. A short, pear-shaped man, Welling, 45, wears tight purple Omaha Central T-shirts that make him look like a smaller cousin of the McDonald's character Grimace.

But underestimate Welling at your peril. He's the tactical brains behind Omaha Central, which has used DDM to win the last two Nebraska state titles and draw sellout crowds of rabid fans (including the Sage of Omaha, investor Warren Buffett, who knows a good product when he sees one). For years Welling was the righthand man to Howard Garfinkel at his famed Five-Star Camps, where Welling met the top college and high school coaches in the country. "Herb and I talk once a week," says Hurley. "He originally called me, and we started talking about [DDM]." Before long, Welling had sent Hurley more than 200 pages of notes on the offense.

But how had Welling "cracked the code," as he puts it? DDM wasn't something you could master from a phone call or a few game tapes or even from attending a clinic, which reveals no more than 10% of the scheme's secrets, according to Calipari. Welling had never visited one of Walberg's or Calipari's practices, but he remained undaunted. "I'm kind of psychotic for finding out stuff," he says. "At school they call me the Minister of Information."

Basketball coaches are a secretive lot. Indeed, for Walberg, sharing has always been a double-edged proposition. "I want to help people because a lot of people helped me," he says, "but [DDM] is kind of my ace in the hole." Before dribble-drive broke nationally, Walberg would host dinners at his home for interested coaches from Fresno-area high schools and junior colleges, often sharing information liberally—perhaps too liberally. "Vance is too unselfish with his offense," says his friend Brad Felder, the Hanford ( Calif.) High coach. "In the long run it will hurt him because the longer [the offense] is out there, the more others will adapt."

These days Walberg and Calipari have a policy: They'll let coaches observe their practices; they'll send them game tapes; they'll answer questions and host clinics. But Walberg and Calipari won't give out their playbooks, and they refuse to make instructional videos. "I want to wait a few years," says Walberg, who estimates he gets more than 300 calls a year from coaches seeking info about his offense. "I talked with John, and we didn't really want it out."

Adds Calipari, "If I wanted to do these tapes, I could make a ton of dough. But that's Vance's money. That's not my money."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6