Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  August 1, 2012

There’s been some interesting talk over the last several days about the possibility of the Lakers using the Princeton offense to some degree, in the upcoming season. This is predicated on Eddie Jordan signing as an assistant coach. As far as I know, a contract hasn’t yet been finalized, but all indications are that it will happen. Eddie Jordan used the Princeton offense, also known as the motion offense, throughout stints as an assistant coach and head coach, for teams including the Sacramento Kings, the New Jersey Nets, the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers. While not exactly the triangle, there’s some obvious similarities with a lot of read and react, and ball movement involving all five players. As an interesting side note, Eddie Jordan’s playing roots go back to the New Jersey Nets and Phil Jackson’s last year as a player, which segued into an assistant coach position that same year. Eddie would later be a part of the Showtime Lakers, including the 1982 championship squad.

The name most associated with the Princeton offense is Pete Carril, but the system’s history goes back to the 1930’s and Princeton Tigers coach Franklin “Cappy” Cappon. Pete Carril brought the offense with him to Sacramento when he signed on as an assistant coach to Rick Adelman. Here’s a few related links, and excerpts:

From Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports: So there was Brown and Bryant in a side room in a Las Vegas gymnasium during Team USA’s training camp in early July, listening to Eddie Jordan detail the offense’s intricacies, laying out how Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum would benefit with and without the basketball. Here was an old-school Ivy League blueprint daring to be a solution for the Showtime Lakers’ issues. Jordan happens to be the foremost Princeton authority in the NBA, the heir to architect Pete Carril, and that’s an immense part of why the Lakers are moving toward an agreement to hire Jordan as an assistant coach. Jordan sold his vision of the offense to a most willing subject, and ultimately, Bryant departed for these Olympics convinced that the Lakers have a sound plan of action for the 2012-13 season.

John Schumann,’s Hangtime Blog: The Princeton is similar to the Triangle in some ways. And it may seem odd that the Lakers are switching to an offense that doesn’t utilize traditional point guard play just as they’re bringing on the best traditional point guard in the league. But Jason Kidd and Chris Paul have been MVP candidates running the Princeton, and Nash is a better shooter than either of them. Pau Gasol’s passing skills are also a perfect fit for the Princeton, where the big men are often handling the ball in the (high or low) post. Teams need time to get used to the Princeton and develop the chemistry needed to run it effectively, so the Lakers’ offense won’t be a well-oiled machine early in the season. But with time, they have a real chance to be a top-three offensive team next season.

From Ben Rosales, Silver Screen and Roll: When it comes down to it, the underlying benefit the Princeton offense provides is structure, something that the Lakers lacked in great measure last season. Too many times either Kobe or one of the Lakers’ post players would have to create with little plan of how to best utilize the other players on the floor, and this is a suitable antidote to that problem. On the flip side, handing the ball to Nash, providing him with a pick, and asking him to create something is an equally good, if not better solution. It is a testament to Nash’s greatness that we can hold his court vision and ability above an entire system that tries to get the most out of players on the floor. Nash does that essentially by his lonesome. At the same time, Nash will not always be on the floor and even when he is, things break down from time to time, making the Princeton offense a nice thing to fall back on. We can split hairs over the particulars, but seeing an offense that many thought would be the cornerstone of the post-Phil Lakers, now has to be an endearing thought when considering how the team will look next season.


There’s obviously a lot of talk right now about this new/old offensive wrinkle – I linked just a small sampling. One of the most fascinating aspects is the sense of history. The Princeton roots, much like Tex Winters’ Triple Post roots, date back to the formative days of the sport. Sam Barry influenced Tex who influenced Phil. And Cappy Cappon influenced Pete Carril who influenced Eddie Jordan. Phil mentioned Carril in “More Than a Game”, the context being the Sacramento Kings who gave the Lakers fits in those days.

“Rick Adelman’s style is to flow directly from a fast break right into a high-intensity motion offense. A lot of credit for this quick-hitting passing attack goes to assistant coach Pete Carril, who’d brought much of the concept with him from Princeton. The Kings’ high-octane offense puts a lot of pressure on a defense, and makes double-teaming difficult.

The discussion’s only getting started – look for a lot of talk and debate about both the Princeton and pick-and-roll, from here on out.

– Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy