MHERST - Steve Lappas remembers that December night in 1999 at the Mullins Center, when University of Massachusetts guard Shannon Crooks beat Lappas' Villanova men's basketball team with a 3-point shot in the final seconds.
"When I came to coach UMass, I looked at the stats and they showed Crooks had only made about 28 percent of his 3's," Lappas said. "I said, why did he have to make that one against us?"
Lappas plans more 3-point shooting at UMass — and not just at the end of broken plays, one of which preceded Crooks' winning shot in that 52-51 victory. But he is also telling fans that while they can expect change, they had best not expect it tomorrow.
The team he inherits is in some ways opposite to the team he'd like to construct. He's not complaining, just adjusting. For now.
"Our experience is in the low post," Lappas said. "I know UMass didn't shoot a lot of 3s last year, but they only had one guy (Monty Mack) who could shoot them."
Inside players Kitwana Rhymer, Micah Brand, Eric Williams and Jackie Rogers return. Brand and Williams have perimeter shooting potential, but in Bruiser Flint's offense, it was rarely used.
"College basketball has changed," Lappas said. "If you asked me to take either three good perimeter players or two good big guys, I'd take the three, any day of the week."
Lappas wants 3-point potential from both guard spots and the small forward. The candidates are numerous, but untested.
"We have six new perimeter players," Lappas said. "At all times next year, we'll have two guys on the floor who have virtually never played before. And when Crooks is resting, we'll have three."
Only Crooks has any real experience on the perimeter, which means two spots will be manned by rookies. Point guard Kyle Wilson and small forward Brennan Martin, both freshmen, were originally recruited by Lappas at Villanova — with 3-point shooting in mind.
Guard Jameel Pugh and forward Willie Jenkins will be sophomores. They hardly played at all last year, but if they can master Lappas' motion offense, their styles may be a better fit for this coach than for Flint.
Forward Raheim Lamb practiced, but could not play as a freshman. Point guard Anthony Anderson could do neither.
Another returning player, forward Ronell Blizzard, has occasionally shown a 3-point touch.
It's clear that in time, Lappas' offense will differ vastly from Flint's, which emphasized pounding the ball down low — at least until Monty Mack became a star.
Asked how to beat Temple's zone defense, Lappas said "Shoot 3's." Flint's teams beat Temple four times, but he disliked relying too much on 3-point shooting, which he called "fool's gold" and which he feared would lead to lazy, stop-and-pop offense.
And neither John Calipari nor Flint looked at the small forward spot as a perimeter scoring option.