Dribble: “One of the most stolen plays in College and NBA Basketball” by Chris Filios
“The Golden State Warriors call the play Cyclone because they stole it from the Iowa State Cyclones, who called it Cougar because they stole it from the BYU Cougars, who called it Dribble High because they stole it from Utah State. It was called Dribble at Utah State because that’s what it was called at Colorado State and Montana, and the guy who called it Dribble would know its name better than anyone.”
On January 18, Ben Cohen of the The Wall Street Journal published an excellent article on “The Secret History of the Golden State Warriors’ Unstoppable Play”.
The focus of the article traces one of the Warriors’ most successful plays all the way back to its origins at the University of Montana. Kerr and the Warriors stole it from Hoiberg when he was at Iowa State. Hoiberg stole it from Dave Rose at BYU in 2012. Dave Rose stole it from Dave Rice who learned it at Utah State from the master himself, Stu Morrill, who drew up the play on a coach’s whiteboard in the Montana Men’s Basketball coaching office more than 30 years ago.
It goes by many names, “Cyclone,” “Cougar,” “Aggie,” “Rip,” “Dribble,” and by many others. But no matter what it is called, almost everyone runs one form or another of the play. It is no secret that coaches steal plays from one another. Some just take plays. Others steal and slightly change them to make them their own. This just might be the most stolen play of them all.
Stew Morrill retired in 2015 from Utah State after racking up 600 wins at three different schools. He had a reputation of being an X’s and O’s guru. Fred Hoiberg was a huge fan of Coach Morrill’s stuff. Coach Hoiberg recalled several times that he knew Coach Morrill was up in his office late, eating pizza and drinking some beer, and diagramming plays.
In 1986, one of those late night drawings became “Dribble”. It is a simple play. There is nothing complicated about it. You don’t need elite talent for it to work. While the play is relatively simple and everyone runs it, not many guards it effectively.
Coach Morrill would run this play so many times in games for dozens of layups that he had to get creative with it. He used an elaborate system of cards, so they didn’t call out “Dribble”. He also too extreme measures to the extreme in conference games against opponents that they faced each year.
But a ton of coaches in the NBA has started to pick up on Cyclone is one of the NBA Golden State Warriors favorite plays. Last year in the fourth quarter of a game, Detroit Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy recognized it immediately and pointed it out as it was about to happen. But the Curry back-screen, Klay Thompson pass, Green dunk happened anyway.
All coaches steal. Sometimes the things coach steal work for their team, and sometimes they don’t. There is no argument that this is one play worth stealing.
The attached plays show just a handful of ways that teams have morphed the original. It may look different, but the result is the same.