Walberg's Changing It Up
Pepperdine coach's up-tempo style has captured much interest
Aug. 15, 2007
By Josh Herwitt
Vance Walberg never even thought he'd be coaching college basketball some day. Not at a Division I school.
For Vance Walberg, just having an opportunity to coach basketball anywhere, at any level, would have been enough.
"All I ever wanted to be was a high school coach," he admitted.
Since his early years at Clovis West High in Fresno, Calif., Walberg has dedicated his coaching career to perfecting his Dribble Drive Motion Offense, an offensive system that thrives on transition and dribble penetration to create open opportunities inside and around the three-point line.
And for as many bumps in the road as Walberg came across last season in his first year as head coach at Pepperdine, it's the same system that produced a 133-11 overall record, four straight league titles and a California State Championship during his four-year stint at Fresno City College.
But most importantly, it's a system that Walberg can now call his own, something that not many college basketball coaches can say in this day and age with all the knowledge that's been passed down by legends like John Wooden, Pete Carril and Bob Knight.
So it may be a little flattering to Walberg when he sees Knight and Larry Brown next month endorsing his brand of basketball at the inaugural Adidas Mid South Coaches Clinic in Tunica, Miss.
They won't be the only ones, though. In fact, they're just one of many who have recently grown fond of Walberg's coaching philosophy.
Some of the game's newest teachers, from Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon and Texas coach Rick Barnes to recently-hired coaches Mark Turgeon (Texas A&M) and John Pelphrey (Arkansas), have adopted Walberg's run-and-gun style and will speak in front of the hundreds of high school coaches expected to attend the clinic from Sept. 14-16.
"You're gonna have this coach do it one way and that coach do it another way," Walberg said. "There's so many ways to do it. This is just a different way that people really haven't seen yet."
According to the second-year Pepperdine coach, the system has created so much buzz that he's receiving hundreds of voicemails, e-mails and text messages from high school coaches all over the country.
"Little by little it just keeps blowing up," the two-time California Junior College Coach of the Year explained. "The times of the game are changing. The players are so much more athletic than they used to be."
While Walberg says it's the simplicity of his system that continues to draw more and more followers, it's the increase in athletic ability on the hardwood that makes it even more attractive for college coaches to implement in their own game plans.
Athleticism isn't something that runs short on a team like Memphis, and it's certainly one of the reasons why John Calipari has been such an advocate of Walberg's methods from day one.
"It's changed me," said Calipari, who will also be speaking at the coaches clinic. "It's gotten me excited...I've gotten inspired by something different and it's awakened that fire in me. It's totally out of the box."
Coming from someone like Calipari -- who started his coaching career at UMass and propelled the Minutemen into the national spotlight before jumping to the NBA to coach the New Jersey Nets -- that sure is saying a lot.
Now the Tigers, who ran the table last season in Conference USA and reached the Elite Eight for the second straight year, are already being picked by many as the No. 1 team in the nation before the preseason polls launch at the beginning of November.
"We've been at bat the last two years and had a chance to win the whole thing," Calipari said. "We've been one of those teams that had a chance to win it all.
"One of those years you're gonna hit the ball out of the park, which is the ultimate goal for us."
That goal was lost the past two seasons at the hands of NCAA runner-ups UCLA and Ohio State, but one that will surely be restored by the time March rolls around next year.
And with a team that returns its entire starting five and adds three recruits, including highly-touted freshman Derrick Rose, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound point guard from Chicago with jet-like speed and an unselfish attitude, it's Calipari who is eager to finally take his trip around the bases in 2007-08.
"The synergy between the guys, even though they know each individual has something at stake, let's them put the team first, and that's so unusual in this day and age," the eighth-year coach added. "When we start this season, it's going to be our team and no individual player."
By the end of the season, it might be Calipari thanking Walberg with a national championship trophy in his grasp.