In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, NCAA D3 Grinnell head coach David Arseneault Jr discusses their fastbreak system and style of play. David Arseneault Jr. took over duties from his father, David Arseneault. The elder Arseneault, who created the Grinnell system, retired in June 2018.
The Grinnell System, sometimes referred to as The System, is a fast-tempo style of basketball. It is a variation of the run-and-gun system popularized by coach Paul Westhead at Loyola Marymount University in the early 1980s. The Grinnell System relies on shooting three-point field goals, applying constant pressure with a full-court press, and substituting players frequently.
Arseneault Jr., who previously played and coached at Grinnell, returned to Grinnell in 2017-18 after two seasons leading the Reno Bighorns, the NBA D-League affiliate of the Sacramento Kings. During his time with Reno, the Bighorns won the Western Conference with a 33-17 mark, claimed the Pacific Division title and set a D-League record for offensive efficiency. Arseneault Jr. was named Coach of the Year by SB Nation. Over a two-season span, the Bighorns posted a 53-47 record and had six players called up to the NBA. They led the league in numerous categories, including points per game, 3-point field goals, 3-point percentage, assists per game and assist-turnover ratio.
As a player at Grinnell, Arseneault Jr. was a three-time finalist for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award while finishing as the NCAA Division III all-time leader in career assists average with 9.4 per game. As a senior, Arseneault led the nation in assists per game (10.2) and ranks 11th on the Pioneers’ all-time scoring chart with 1,462 points.
Learn more about playing fast and free:
David Arseneault Jr Quotes:
“Every single time, we’re racing the ball down the court . . We just try to have fun, try to be quick, try to take some pressure off the guys by playing an up-tempo style.”
“We had a kid two years ago who led the country in scoring, averaged just over 33 points a game and he only played 19 minutes a game . . We play a ton of guys in our rotation.”
“At the start of all games, we take the participation angle. We’re trying to get as many guys into the game early on as possible.”
“We’re in a much better place because of our system . . it gives us a chance against teams that are maybe just bigger than us, maybe that are more physical, maybe that have a dominant inside presence . . it creates a lot more variance.”
“It’s a great way to distribute the playing time, to get a lot of kids in the game, to create an energy and excitement around your program.”
“We start with our preferred playmaker . . we just want to figure out a way, within 12 seconds . . to get that player at least two cracks with the basketball where they can create their own shot or draw a double team.”
“We want our best shooters and best playmakers making the majority of the plays . . guys need to recognize where do they fall in the pecking order.”
“It’s amazing . . how role players can be just so important to our team . . somebody who doesn’t need the basketball in their hands . . that can be incredibly important.”
“Every season we take a look at who our preferred playmakers are going to be and where on the court they are best from . . a lot of times I’ll ask the guys, ‘Where are you comfortable from? Do you need space? Do you need a ball screen? . . Which side of the floor do you like to get the basketball on?”
“Those are conversations [roles, preferences] we’ll have with our top-end players so that then we can structure the rest of our offense around getting the basketball to those players in those positions.”
“That was the area that separates our offense the most . . if we can generate transition opportunities after the other team scores with a spread floor by trading baskets, that is one area that I think everybody can separate themselves.”
“When I think about the amount of hours coaches spend scouting . . it can be an excruciating process . . for me, it’s more that I can focus on my own guys . . it’s much more beneficial for me to review our last game . . than it is to watch any game film of two other teams playing.”
“On game nights, while there are some adjustments . . I’m generally focused on spacing issues . . on how teams are trying to defend us . . but in many cases there may not be that many adjustments to what we’re doing . . I think that’s relaxing and refreshing for our guys.”
“One statistic I took the most out of when I was in the G-league was the percentage we shot off of inside out threes versus the dribble or lateral pass threes.”
David Arseneault Jr Breakdown:
1:00 – Offensive System
2:00 – Challenges on Recruiting Players
3:00 – Players Played in the Game
5:30 – Administrative Support
7:40 – Reaching out
9:40 – Balance within the system
11:20 – Preferred Playmaker
14:00 – Having a Scorer on Each Platoon
16:00 – Defining Roles
20:00 – Variation of Styles Principles
23:00 – Things That Coaches are Missing to the System
25:30 – Scouting Reports on Opponent’s Actions
29:19 – Takeaways From Offensive Particular in the G-League
33:00 – Teams that are unwatchable for Him
38:00 – Introduce the Defense
40:30 – Part of His System that works at the Youth Development
42:30 – Benefits of His System
44:00 – Improving INdividually
45:00 – Type of Shot: Bad Shot or Good Shot?
46:00 – Four Factors
47:30 – Analytics in terms of Field Goal Percentage
49:00 – Charting
50:00 – Final Thoughts
David Arseneault Jr:
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