Monday, the Texas Tech basketball program officially announced the long-rumored hiring of Steve Green as an assistant on Mark Adams’ coaching staff. And make no mistake, this is a move all about fixing the Red Raider offense.
Green, the long-time head coach at South Plains College, has been rumored to be on Adams’ wishlist since the moment Adams took over the reins of the Red Raiders 13 months ago. Now, he’s joining his long-time friend in Lubbock and he has one job to do…make the Texas Tech offense as potent as the defense.
Obviously, that’s going to be easier said than done. Going back to the Tubby Smith days, Texas Tech basketball has been about playing hard-nosed defense and that plan of attack has made sense.
That’s because defense is all about effort and will, two things that any basketball player can theoretically bring to the table on any given night. You don’t have to be a four or five-star recruit to be able to play excellent defense (though some level of Division-I talent and athleticism is required). Rather, the solid defense is rooted in desire and buy-in, two non-negotiables when playing for Adams.
But when looking for players that can put the ball in the basket, which remains the most important aspect of the game, talent and scheme are paramount. Now, with Green’s hiring, Tech believes the latter of those two elements has been fulfilled.
On his way to leading South Plains to three JUCO National Championships in 22 years as head coach, Green became known as perhaps the greatest offensive coach at that level of the game. Always on the cutting edge of the sport, Green has adopted many elements of the professional game including emulating the style of play of the Golden State Warriors to some degree.
Of course, Tech isn’t likely to have a duo like the Warriors have in Steph Curry and Clay Thompson anytime soon but certainly, Green is being expected to produce results similar to what he produced in Levelland where his teams were annually among the most prolific shooting and scoring teams at the JUCO level.
“I’ll lean heavily on him on the offensive side,” Adams said to Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “He’s got a great offensive mind. We’re always talking, not as much defense, but offensive schemes and always thinking outside the box. So his recruiting and player development will be on the offensive end.”
Though Green will also help Tech recruit the JUCO ranks, there’s no denying that his primary objective is to get the Red Raider offense up to par with what Adams has helped build on the other end of the floor. And after what we saw in 2021-22, that’s certainly an area where the program needs to be better.
This past season, Tech had only one player (Bryson Williams) in the top 20 in the Big 12 in points per game. What’s more, the Red Raiders were able to muster just 68.3 points per game in conference play. Though that number ranked 4th in the conference, it still is a long way from where Adams wants his team to be. In fact, Tech was just 145th nationally in scoring at 72.1 points per game.
Sure, that seems like a reasonable number for a college hoops team to average while playing in the toughest defensive conference in America but don’t forget that seven of last season’s eleven 80-point performances by Tech came against mid-to-low major teams. Only twice in Big 12 play did the Red Raiders top 80 points. Meanwhile, against teams such as Tennessee, Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and West Virginia, Tech struggled offensively.
Each of the above-mentioned Big 12 and high-major teams held Tech to 61 points or fewer in one of 2022’s meetings. And though Tech managed to win some of those games, the fact remains, that Adams needs more scoring from his team, even if the defense remains the program’s calling card.
Tech should try to mimic what the Baylor Bears did in 2020-21 en route to the National Championship. That year, while effectively deploying Tech’s defensive scheme, the Bears were still second nationally in the KenPom.com adjusted offensive efficiency rankings. By contrast, the highest Tech has ranked in that category since 2016 has been 25th in 2018-19.
Look for the 3-point shot to become more of a weapon for Tech under Green’s guidance. Last year, South Plains shot 32.7% as a team and made an average of 7.6 threes per contest. Meanwhile, Tech shot just 28% from deep in Big 12 play (worst in the league) and averaged a meager 5.1 three-pointers against league foes. (Meanwhile, South Plains made 8.1 shots from beyond the arc against their conference opponents.)
Sure, the players on the court have to have the talent to knock down the deep shot regardless of how open the scheme gets them. And last season guards like Kevin McCullar, Adonis Arms, Davion Warren, and Mylik Wilson simply could not hit enough 3s. In fact, none of them shot over31.1% from the outside.
This offseason, Tech has gone searching for players who are better marksmen from downtown, and the additions of Oregon transfer De’Vion Harmon and Gardner-Webb transfer D’maurian Williams should help make next season’s squad a more efficient 3-point shooting team.
So too should the influence of Green, one of the best basketball minds in the college game. He’s come to Lubbock to ride shotgun with his longtime running buddy, Mark Adams, and it will fall largely on his shoulders to bring the Red Raider offense up to speed.