Despite what many people believe about the Princeton Offense, there is a set pattern and predesigned cuts that this offense is designed to use. Many believe it is another version of motion offense or a way of playing offense using certain principles that require the offensive player to read the defense. While the cuts and sets are designed to allow reads by the offense, the players in this offense know exactly what they are supposed to on each set.
Princeton Basketball Coach Pete Carril
The Princeton offense was pioneered by Pete Carril at Princeton some years ago. Variations are used by college teams (Richmond, Alabama Huntsville, Georgetown, Northwestern, Arizona State, Air Force and Colorado) and NBA teams (New Jersey, Washington, Sacramento, New Orleans).
Georgetown Coach John Thompson Jr
The Princeton Offense is a good choice for teams that have less athletic players than other teams. However, do not mistake this idea to mean that players can be less skilled than opponents. Skills are what make this offense work. The Princeton offense requires all players to be good passers, ball-handlers (dribbling skills), and good outside shooters (3-point shots), but does not require exceptional basketball IQ. This offense is not a good choice for middle school teams, but can be used successfully with high school teams and advanced skill level players.
The Princeton offense is a more deliberate offense, oftentimes with many passes each possession. This tends to slow the game down, controlling the tempo, usually resulting in lower game scores. Coaches have to be completely committed to this offense as it is a free-lance offense with less control from the bench.
Certainly, however, plays and quick hitters can be called. The Princeton offense can be used against man-to-man and zone defenses. Against zones that pack the paint, open 3-point shots, attacking the gaps in the zone and attacking the baseline are effective techniques.
The hallmarks of the offense are the spread offense and spacing, constant motion, the back-door cut and lay-up, hitting open 3-point shots, flare screens and screens away from the ball. The basic set can be 4-out with 1-in (either at the high post, or low post), a 2-3 high set, or a 1-2-2 (5-out) set.
A smart post player with good passing skills is important as the offense will tend to revolve around the center, who is often a playmaker. When in the 4-out high or 2-3 high set (diagram A), you can see that all players are located at or above the free-throw line extended. This creates space underneath for cutting, especially back-door cuts. The high set and constant motion help eliminate the helpside defense inside.
A variety of entries are possible… pass with give and go, UCLA cut, dribble-at with back-cut, high post feed, weave-screen, etc.