Kyle Smith unpacks his innovative offense

It’s no secret that Kyle Smith is an innovative coach. 

In his previous stops at Columbia, San Francisco and Washington State, the Stanford men’s basketball coach sought any edge in environments where the odds were against him. Smith is famous for utilizing algorithmic tools to find under-valued players in the transfer portal and high school. But people are less familiar with how Smith has evolved his offense over the years.

Early in his head coaching career, Smith ran the Princeton offense his last three years at Columbia and his first two years at the University of San Francisco (USF). According to Smith, he would often combine Princeton actions with ball-screens in order to get defenses out of position, especially during his time at USF with point guard Frankie Ferrari. However during his third season with the Dons, Smith abandoned the offense. 

Smith still pays respect to the Princeton offense, noting how much it has influenced NBA basketball. But he decided to jump ship after realizing the number of players that could execute the offense at a high level was not large enough.

“You have to have the right skill guys. They have to be able to dribble, pass, drive, shoot, defend and rebound,” Smith said. “As I got to San Francisco, I realized the inventory of guys that were good enough, especially big guys, was just not big.”

Analytics showed that the Princeton offense does not allow teams to get to the foul line and gather offensive rebounds at an optimal rate, Smith told The Daily.

In looking for an offense to run during his time at Washington State, Smith turned to the European game, which utilizes more 5-out and 4-out-one-in sets. 

At Washington State last season, Smith ran a 3-out-2-in offense that featured a lot of zoom and pindown screen actions. Oftentimes, the bigs were out on the elbows so that the offense could flow more easily into screen and dribble-hand off actions. 

But Smith foresees that changing next season.

“When we had Mouhamed Gueye, we did a lot of 5-out,” Smith said. “And I foresee us doing a lot of that stuff with Maxime.”

Smith also told The Daily that rather than relying on set calls, he allows his players to play within certain principles in the offense. 

“With my former point guard Frankie Ferrari, he used to call counters out there. I would say ‘Hey, I’m ok with you telling guys where to go and putting a couple wrinkles in the actions. Just let me know!’” Smith joked. 

In terms of recruiting, Smith hopes to find the right blend of athletic and skilled players that can complement each other effectively.

“About four years ago, Stanford was very long, athletic and awesome defensively,” Smith said. “I think there was an overcompensation to get more shooting and they got a lot of it. But they didn’t have exactly the same defenders and rebounders.”

“Currently, we could use some frontcourt and backcourt athleticism and quickness,” Smith revealed.

But no matter who Stanford acquires through the transfer portal or high school ranks, Smith knows who his offense will revolve around this upcoming season.

“What we’re inheriting with Maxime Raynaud is a really skillful center, who we’ll play through,” Smith boasted.