SUMMIT, NJ - In mathematics, The Chaos Theory -- as summarized by Edward Norton Lorenz -- is "when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future."
A bit less abstract, fractalfoundation.org
describes the theory as "the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected."
Dan Healy is a math teacher at Summit High School. He is also the Boys Basketball czar, entering his second season as the Varsity Head Coach, and the overall captain of the ship that is the Hilltopper hoops program.
Last season, Healy debuted his basketball version of The Chaos Theory, and the results were promising. A 12-12 record doesn't provide the whole picture for a team that was operating under its fourth head coach in as many years. After a rocky stretch in December and early January, the team went 8-5 and, most importantly, fully committed to the system the coach put in place.
But, in talking to Healy, if observers thought Summit Basketball Chaos v1.0 was impressive and fun to watch, they need to buckle up for v2.0, circa 2015-16.
"The word we use is havoc," said Healy, describing his hyper-tempo, full-court, 94-foot, in-your-face pressure style of basketball. "We want to make the opponent sprint the whole game. It is a force of styles to see who is in control."
Of course, playing at Mach speed can be like driving a Formula 1 race car just beyond its limits. Accidents can, will, and do happen. While the Hilltoppers haste can create some waste, they don't dwell on micro-occurrences, they just move on quickly, both figuratively and literally. This philosophy is also reflected in their global approach to the season.
When asked about team goals, Healy is quick to point out that, "Our mentality and motto is 'the next play.'" adding "we don't talk about wins and losses."
What they do talk about is number of possessions, the shot chart, points scored and other metrics that serve as key barometers related to the relentless style they play.
Another challenge of the system is the pieces and parts it takes to make it work. On that front, Healy is beyond enthused about his squad. "This is a special group of players and young men. Our advantage this season will be the way we compete, our intelligence, and our maturity."
If player buy-in -- always a key success diagnostic and often a predictive factor in future performance -- is any indication, the system and the season both have real boffo potential.
"I don't have to coach effort," he says, adding that his team -- led by nine seniors -- has made rapid progress in their adaptation to the system, allowing Healy to go next-level in the application of its nuances. "The difference between this year and last year is like grad school to grade school."
There are some big shoes to fill reflecting departures from graduation, namely Pat Maloney, a big man who played big and was leader, as well as instant offense and energy in the form of Jordan Gonzalez, who dropped 41 during one game last season.
Healy is sold on his team's depth this season, so much so that he doesn't name a starting five when asked, preferring to point out that everyone on the roster is going to contribute. "It's not like they can just 'hang,' they can play."
Any legitimate roster analysis begins with senior point guard Wayne White, who brings lightning quickness, defensive tenacity, and a great "handle" to the table. While it will take a village for this group of Hilltoppers to reach the heights they aspire to, there is little doubt that White is the mayor of that community.
In Healy's mix-and-match system, there are myriad personnel combinations and permutations that could be applied, given the opposition, the flow of the game, and the alchemy necessary in that moment in time.
Healy expects a big year from Junior Will Schaffer, adding and activating different dimensions to his game beyond his already dangerous long-range bombing. Expect contributions inside from seniors Michael Kaelin and Alex Dadourian, solid play from senior guards Paul Flanagan, Xavier McCormick, and swingman Gary West, and key efforts from senior guard Tate Pierotti, senior forward Justin Cise, as well as juniors Chip Roriston and Jack Washburn.
Add to that mix the JV's leading scorer last season, senior Jaden Jackson, and Healy is exuding optimism heading into the campaign.
"We have a nice balance of skills, a lot of kids that can play with a lot of confidence. We have more than a few guys who can finish and score the basketball, and a bunch options that can impact the game in different ways. I really trust this group."
2015-16 Summit High School Varsity Basketball Team
3 - Will Schaffer, junior - G / F
4 - Wayne White, senior - G (c)
5 - Tate Pierotti, senior - G
11 - Paul Flanagan, senior - G (c)
13 - Xavier McCormick, senior - G
14 - Jack Washburn, junior - G
23 - Jaden Jackson, senior - G
33 - Alex Dadourian, senior - F / C (c)
35 - Michael Kaelin,, senior - F / C (c)
40 - Gary West, senior - G / F
43 - Justin Cise, senior - F
50 - Chip Roriston, junior - F
(c) denotes team captain
Head Coach - Dan Healy (second season, 12-12)
Assistant Coaches - Dave Field, Don Standing, Tim Simo, and Wellington Smith
2015 -16 Summit High School Boys Varsity Basketball Schedule
December 18 v. Livingston - 7 p.m.
December 19 @ Hillside - 1 p.m.
December 22 v. Cranford - 7 p.m.
December 26 v. Hanover Park @ Chatham Classic - 2 p.m.
December 28 v. Chatham @ Chatham Classic - 8 p.m.
December 30 v. New Providence @ Chatham Classic - 2 p.m.
January 5 v. Morris Knolls - 7 p.m.
January 7 @ Oratory - 7 p.m.
January 9 v. Voorhees - 1 p.m.
January 12 @ Rahway - 7 p.m.
January 14 v. Governor Livingston - 7 p.m.
January 16 v. West Morris - 1 p.m.
January 19 @ Roselle - 4 p.m.
January 21 v. Hillside 7 p.m.
January 23 @ Cranford - 1 p.m.
January 26 v. South Plainfield - 7 p.m.
January 28 @ New Providence - 7 p.m.
January 30 v. Rahway - 3 p.m.
February 4 @ Governor Livingston - 7 p.m.
February 6 v. Jonathon Dayton - 1 p.m.
February 11 @ Morristown - 7 p.m.
February 13 County Tournament - First Round - TBA
February 15 @ Millburn - 3 p.m.
February 17 County Tournament - Second Round - TBA
February 20 County Tournament -Quarterfinals - TBA
February 24 County Tournament - Semifinals - TBA
February 26 v. Roselle - 7 p.m.
February 27 County Tournament - Finals - TBA
February 29 NJSIAA Sectional - TBA
March 2 NJSIAA Sectional Quarterfinal - TBA
March 4 NJSIAA Sectional Semifinal - TBA
March 7 NJSIAA Sectional Final - TBA
All Home Game at Summit High School main gym