A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Coach L and “The Art of War”

By Colleen Kearney Rich on March 8, 2010

Last summer, for a time, Mason men’s basketball head coach Jim Larranaga was on Twitter. He was fascinating to follow. He tweeted about current and former players who were in touch with him, summer camps that were going on, the incoming group of players he had arriving, the work trips he was taking, and the books he was reading.

It was a great insider’s look at what happens in the off season. One of the books he talked about several times was The Art of War by Sun Tzu. While I have never read the book, I knew if I ever got a chance to talk to Coach L about anything that I needed to ask him about Sun Tzu.

Well, I did get to talk to him. Late last fall I had the chance to interview Coach L and a number of the Mason coaches about recruiting student athletes and building strong sports programs. That feature, “A Winning Tradition,” will be in the spring 2010 Mason Spirit due out in late April.

It turns out Coach L has read Sun Tzu many times. It was a special aboutThe Art of War on the History Channel that inspired his most recent rereading of the text.

“The book itself is fascinating,” he said. “It tells a story about a military leader who was completely outmanned. In every battle, you have strengths and weaknesses. Utilize your strengths while avoiding your weaknesses.”

He realized that some of these battle laws could apply to basketball so he had his assistant coaches read Sun Tzu. The result is Sun Tzu for Hoops, developed by Coach L, which he agreed to share with the Mason Spirit.

Sun Tzu for Hoops

1. If the orders are unclear, it is the fault of the Head Coach. If the orders are clear, but not carried out, it is the fault of the players.

2. If you know yourself and your opponent–in 100 games, you will never lose.

3. Avoid what is strong. Attack what is weak.

4. It is more important to outthink your opponent than to outfight/outplay him.

5. Let your plans be as dark as night then strike like a thunderbolt.

6. In games, use a direct attack to engage and an indirect attack to win.

7. All games within the game are about deception.

8. It is essential for victory that floor generals are not constrained by their coaches.

9. Make your opponent prepare on his left, and he will be weak on his right.

10. Move only when you see an advantage and there is something to gain.

11. Preparation, deception, and indirect attacks lead to the greatest upset.

The Patriots takes on Fairfield tonight in the Patriot Center as part CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. I hope the “floor generals” will not be constrained by their coaches.

–Colleen Kearney Rich, Managing Editor

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