LEVELLAND, Texas — Steve Green, the men’s basketball coach at South Plains College, was recovering from an up-and-down season last summer when he decided he needed to make a change. So he planted himself in front of the television in his living room and began to study — really study — his favorite team.
Green scribbled down every cut, every back screen and every curl. In pursuit of a goal that was so ambitious that it bordered on audacious, he consulted with his assistants and overhauled his playbook. His wife, Teresa, discovered that she needed to make room for a new love in her husband’s life.
“He is obsessed,” she said, “with the Warriors.”
In his grand experiment to turn his team into the junior college version of the Golden State Warriors — yes, those Warriors — Green has coached the South Plains Texans to a 28-0 record as they enter the postseason.
South Plains, the top-ranked junior college team in the country, averages 98.4 points a game, shooting 52.2 percent from the field. They spread the floor, move the ball and shoot jumpers from Siberia, averaging 11.7 3-pointers a game.
If that all sounds familiar, it should: The Texans run the Warriors’ plays.
Green, 63, has never met Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors, nor has he had the chance to watch the NBA’s highest-octane team play in person. But the Warriors’ growing influence is apparent here in Levelland, a small city of 14,000 set amid cotton fields and oil rigs about 30 miles west of Lubbock.
South Plains plays its home games at the Texan Dome, a 3,300-seat arena that features championship rodeo banners and sometimes leaks in rainy weather. But before his team fires off one 3-pointer after another and dunks opponents to smithereens, Green meets with his assistants in a windowless conference room where, among more prosaic items of business, they watch the Warriors, discuss the Warriors and plagiarize the Warriors.
“We’re going to put this new one in today,” Green said on a recent morning as he fiddled with a short video clip on his iPhone. “They ran this against Memphis the other night, and I hadn’t seen them do this before.”
In the fourth quarter of a victory against the Memphis Grizzlies last month, the Warriors unveiled a play that excited Green. Shaun Livingston, the Warriors’ backup point guard, threw a pass to James Michael McAdoo at the right elbow. Over at the left elbow, Kevin Durant set a screen for Klay Thompson, who then took a handoff from McAdoo. As two defenders converged on him, Thompson slipped a bounce pass to a cutting McAdoo for a dunk.
The basket put the Warriors up by 24. In other words, the sequence was both forgettable and inconsequential — to everyone, perhaps, except Green, and only because he watches every second of every Warriors game.
Green has no idea what the Warriors actually call their plays — they keep them secret — so he just makes up his own names as he goes. The one involving McAdoo and Thompson would, in South Plains-ese, be “Horns 52.” Green described his creative process.
“We’ll put something new in, and the guys will be like, ‘What are you going to call it?'” he said. “And I’ll say: ‘I don’t know. What do you guys want to call it?’”