Knight developed motion offense through research, and he's always adapting
One of Bob Knight's biggest influences on the game of basketball has been the motion offense.
What most people don't know, however, is that Knight didn't develop the offense until after he left West Point.
The Cadets ran an offense Knight called, "reverse action."
"It was an offense that involved reversing the ball from one side of the floor to the other and screening along with it," Knight said. "It was basically a West Coast offense and Pete Newell used it exclusively during his coaching career."
Knight said the offense was designed with the focus on forward and a center, but he instilled more cutting with the offense, which helped transition to the motion offense that he runs today.
The motion offense came to fruition after Knight spent years watching Princeton run its offense while he was at West Point.
Princeton's offense was generated based on where the guard made his first pass. If the guard passed the ball to a forward, a certain action took place. If the guard passed to the other guard, a different action took place, etc.
After learning about the Princeton offense, Knight went to the Olympic Trials in 1972 - following his first season at Indiana - to learn more about the passing game.
After gathering as much information as he could, Knight and Newell sat in Newell's living room and developed the motion offense.
"That summer, I put up a 3-2 offense and I said, 'OK, what can be done with three out and two in,'" Knight said. "I made up 74 diagrams on different things that could be done and I remember, we had them spread out all over Pete Newell's living room."
With the diagrams complete, Knight developed a set of rules.
"The first rule was spacing," Knight said. "The width of the floor has to be covered and I want everybody to be 15 to 18 feet away from the next guy."
Knight turned the rules into a booklet that involved passing, cutting and screening.
He named the offense because it involved constant movement.
"There are seven things you can do after you pass the ball," Knight said. "I can go behind and get it back. I can go screen. I can make an inside cut. I can cut to the basket. I can screen away. I can start away and replace myself. I can just stand right there."
Knight's philosophy of the motion offense takes away some options, including standing around, going and getting the ball back or screening for the man with the ball.
Knight continues to develop the offense, instituting different cuts over the years or putting his players in different scenarios.
Often during practice, Knight will instruct his players to a certain spot on the floor and give them options of what to do based on how the defense might react.
The offense is designed to react according to the defense.
"I never liked set plays," Knight said.
Throughout Knight's career, rules have changed, including adding the three-point line.
Knight has always been against the 3-point field goal, but the line helps his offense.
"One of the things that has made (spacing) easier has been the three-point line," Knight said. "You just go right back out to the three-point line (after a cut). If we're spread out along the three-point line with four guys than we have good spacing."
Knight's offense also revolves around a two-count. Players in the post are expected to try and post in the paint for two seconds and if they don't receive the ball they go set a screen. Players with the ball are expected to hold the ball for two seconds to see where they are going to take it. Screens are supposed to be held for two seconds, as well.
"Everything is a count of two," Knight said.
"Then, people starting putting in switching, so we put in a slip screen - you go to set a screen and you slip to the bucket."
With so many rules and concepts, one might think a playbook is large for a player that commits to Knight.
"We don't give them anything in a book. It's a blank book," Knight said. "They are expected to add to it as the year progresses. We talk about our rules and they're expected to write something in it every day."
The motion offense was designed to play against a man-to-man defense.
"We use the dribble more against the zone defense than we do against the man-to-man," Knight said.
Some of the concepts of the offense, though, can be used against a zone just as it is against a man-to-man.
"Yeah, it's reading the defense," Knight said. "The things we're trying to do with our cutters is set up a cut and as you're setting it up you're reading the defense. ... It's reading, both for the cutter and the screener."
With the emphasis of the offense on thinking, Knight said his unique style impacts the type of recruit he might try to sign.
"The better our players understand the game, the better they're going to be," Knight said.
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