Run and gun is a style of basketball which emphasizes a very fast pace of play and attempting large numbers of shots as early in each possession as possible. Run and gun is typically thought of as an offensive system, but most run and gun systems also emphasize a very fast pace of play on defense as well, often incorporating a full court press as a key component of the strategy involves trying to take advantage of superior conditioning to wear the other team out.
Run and gun systems generally try to attempt a shot as quickly as possible after gaining possession of the basketball. A typical goal is to attempt a shot in 12 seconds or less, with some systems trying for as low as seven seconds or less. Run and gun systems are also known for their unorthodox lineups, featuring an unusual number of faster, shorter players in an effort to outrun the other team and take advantage of speed mismatches. Run and gun teams rarely feature a traditional very tall center, and often have three or more guards on the court at a time.
Perhaps the most famous exponent of the run and gun was former NBA and WNBA coach Paul Westhead, who won an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980, won a WNBA championship with the Phoenix Mercury in 2007, and perhaps most famously of all, took tiny Loyola Marymount University to the elite eight of the NCAA tournament in 1990, destroying defending champion Michigan along the way before losing to eventual champion UNLV. Westhead used a version of the run and gun known simply as "The System," which called for shooting the ball as fast as possible and a full-court press.
Other famous examples of the run and gun include the "Showtime" Lakers of the 1980s under Westhead's former assistant, Pat Riley, Don Nelson's famous brand of "Nellie Ball," which he used to become the winningest coach in NBA history, and the high-speed system used by current NBA coach Mike D'Antoni, nicknamed "Seven Seconds or Less."
Perhaps the most extreme form of run and gun ever invented is the system used at Grinnell College under Coach David Arseneault, who developed the system out of desperation at the fact that Grinnell players were woefully overmatched by opponents in terms of size and athleticism. Also known only as "The System", Arseneault's version features a lineup in which all five players are small, speedy, sharpshooting guards. In fact, Arseneault now only recruits guards and the entire team consists of guards. Arseneault's system is also extreme in that he wants at least 50 percent of his team's shots to be three-point attempts. As with other run and gun systems, a shot should be taken in 12 seconds or less, and the defensive strategy is built around a full court press. Another unique feature of Arseneault's system is the use of three predetermined, five-man rotations that rotate in as a unit every one minute, like a hockey line change.
Areseneault's system has allowed Grinnell to lead the entire NCAA in scoring in 16 out of 18 seasons and to win five conference championships for a school not otherwise known for athletics. It also produced the all-time record for most points scored by a single player in a college or professional game. On November 20, 2012 Grinnell's Jack Taylor scored 138 points in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible, making 52 out of 108 shots including 27 out of 71 three-point attempts.