Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Anatomy of a Basketball Blog Post

Tell the story. Craft your process, target audience, and respect the reader. 

Find an idea. Do the research. Outline the piece. Introduce and buttress the main idea early. Have clear primary and secondary goals.

Serve readers both Entree and Dessert (Lagniappe). Garnish with references and images. Season with rules of rhetoric.

Put the piece aside (rest the meat). Return the following day or week. Review for simplicity, clarity, utility.  

Trim the fat - adverbs, cliches, filler, passive voice, and two-dollar words.

Cook an enduring message. Persist and refine. Be better. 

Lagniappe- Hat tip: Chris Oliver

Lessons from the Tournament 

Spacing starts everything. Create gaps. Attack on the catch. Drive and kick. Drive to score. 

Help! Tag the cutters/rollers. Close out to protect. Find the shooters AND the non-shooters. Helpside "I" was in place. Wall up under control. Know how you're covering screens (over, under, through). Switch small on small. 

Inbounding. Cut and leave. Overload the ball side. 

Offensive concepts. Serial ball screens...high ball screen setup off DHO (LUC)...with a back door option (below)...keep plays alive with player and ball movement

Monday, April 23, 2018

3 on 3 Building Blocks

Simplify offense by changing constraints...the number of players and the space involved. Spacing, cutting, screening, and passing are their primary actions. Young players have NO idea of the possibilities. We help them see the game and become worthy opponents

How we use personnel to develop offense depends not on our preference but their capabilities. For example, 5 could be a primary scorer (PnR, iso), facilitator (passer with various actions), or screener. "Become more to do more; do more to become more." 

Simplest is the high ball screen with PnR options or pass to 3 if x3 helps. We could call that FIST SERIES.

Next we have post entry with 1-5 actions like handoff or give-and-go. We could call that FIVE SERIES. 

5 has additional options, like passing to 3 or isolation herself. 53 ACTIONS. 

Instead of post entry, start with wing entry. 5 may be a better screener than finisher. 5 can screen for the passer or the receiver and 3 can get her isolation. Of course, 1 could screen for 5, too. 13 SERIES or HAMMER? 

1 can pass to 3 and cut to the corner (bury). That can initiate the sideline triangle (note 3 and 5 along the "line of deployment" to the basket...or can initiate 'scissors' action with 1 and 3 cutting off the 5 (by convention, the passer cuts first). TRIPLE.

Better yet, 1 can basket cut and veer to screen for 3. Another option would be to initiate Flex from this action. FLORIDA. 

But wait, there's more. 

1 could DHO with 3 with additional trickery. Or we could even have 5 screen 1 in a modified Spain pick-and-roll. HOMER (Simpson, DOH = DHO?)

But, of course, "technique beats tactics." Learn to finish. We play 3-on-3 in constrained space every practice as part of that process. 


Gordon Ramsay finishes his MasterClass. "It's really satisfying to teach others what we've got, garnered, understood...after you've watched and learned...go and cook." 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Be So Good They Can't Ignore You

"Be So Good They Can't Ignore You." - Steve Martin

Grandma Moses began painting in earnest at age 78. We have a big head start on her! 

Believe in yourself. Steven King had published nothing substantial by age twenty-six when he asked a middle school custodian about privacy in the girls locker room. He had an idea about bullying and came up with the novel Carrie. A few months later, he got a check for $200,000. He knew, "I'm going to make it in this business." 

You have an idea. What if? What if we tried this? Give it a go. 

How can we "be so good?" Begin with a few core values. 

Control what you can control. 
Grow meaningful relationships. 
Make others feel valued. 
Radiate positive energy. 
Teach the game from both the big picture and the fine details. 

The first informs our attitude. Take care of business. The others test how we serve others. 

What's this? Name five traits on the front. What's different about Lincoln than images of Jefferson, Roosevelt, Washington, and Kennedy? That's attention to precision and detail...the qualities that create and deny separation, see the wide focus and the narrow 'target'. 

Model excellence. What works? What fails? 

Be different. Be better than we were yesterday. 

Be a Learning Machine

Write. Take a picture. Refine our method. Make it indelibly ours. 

Sell it. Chuck Daly reminds us, "I'm a salesman." We're performers as we sell our brand.  

Find questions. What goes in our Jar of Awesome today? 

Persist. James Patterson had his first novel rejected by thirty-one publishers. The rest is history. Define your legacy. 


Beat the zone with overload. (From John Kresse)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Winning Close Games

Hat tip: TeachHoops.com

"Good artists borrow; great artists steal." - Picasso

Doug Schakel shares experiencing winning close games, reporting an 80 percent win rate in close games. The video speaks for itself. 


1) Practice every day.
2) Creates a confidence mindset.
3) Winning close games separates excellent teams from mediocre ones. 
4) He believes confidence from winning close games spills into other games. 
5) "80 percent of close games are LOST not won." This corresponds to Warren Buffett's partner Charlie Munger who says it's more important to avoid making dumb mistakes than to making great choices.
6) Performing in special situations gives you a chance at winning. 
7) Execution is more important than genius. 
8) "Make all the mistakes you want (in practice)." 
9) Learn from opponent's mistakes. Opponent goes to dunk and seal the win and turns the ball over with 2 seconds (instead of running out the clock). 
10) "Time and score" sheet for every practice 

11) This puts substitutes in late game situations (top players may have fouled out).
12) Puts background crowd noise on during practice of situations (communication)
13) Enduring lessons emerge during IN-GAME NOTES. (Ask players what happened.)
14) Categorize scenarios (e.g. 94 feet, less than 5 seconds, with or w/o timeouts).
15) Have specific plan for use of timeouts. 
16) Must have capacity to function without timeouts.
17) Know who to foul and how to foul (had a foul call...want foul w/o intentional foul)
18) Lead protection strategy (including delay game)
19) Do you have a specific team for specific situations (offense/defense)?
20) Last second plays
21) "94 Foot play" (inspired from USSR 1972)

"Catch the ball first." 

Adjustment of "wings" after the ball is thrown (critical). "It never works in practice."

22) 7 Second Play - from UNC/Dean Smith 

Thanks for visiting. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Gargantua's Bedroom (Basketball)*

It was overcast in LA. The office sent me to fix a leaky faucet. Everyone needs a "guy"...someone to unclog the drain, replace the muffler, install a new outlet. I did drains and stuff. What could be more ordinary? 

Someone buzzed me and the unmarked white van into the driveway. An older woman greeted me at the door. When she saw my toolbox, she pointed me to the spiral staircase, "Thanks for coming, it's upstairs on the right, through the master."

I took the long walk across the parlor. On the mantle, there was a photograph of a print, an oil painting by Derek Russell. Jay Z played on the sound system. I smelled the sweet aroma of fried chicken from the kitchen. I saw an oversized bowl of oversized fruit. 

After I ascended the magnificent staircase, I banged a right. Went past an exercise room with a treadmill, a Peloton bike, and some weights. Everything had its place, a water dispenser, and some folded green and white towels.

The master bedroom seemed otherworldly, cathedral ceilings with a pair of skylights, and ivory painted walls. Modern art never did much for me. A silver frame on the mahogany dresser held a photo with a trophy and Bill Russell. A black and white still of a playground with a torn basketball net had a sign that read "Inglewood." Can a king-sized bed be oversized? On the nightstand there was an iPad and a tube of Aspercreme. An enormous pair of grey Nike slip-ons and some kicks neatly rested adjacent. 

I walked into the bathroom. I had a job to do. 

*This is entirely fiction. 

Fast Five: Wait, the Basketball Value of Wait

"Everyone is necessarily the hero of their own imagination." - Kafka

Goal: Expound upon the virtue of waiting
Secondary: Encourage readers to train themselves to wait. 
Entree: Waiting examples
Dessert: Curry flavored

"Be quick but don't hurry." - John Wooden

Waiting literally weighs on us. We need it now or even better yesterday. Can we train ourselves to wait? Meditation helps widen the space between stimulus "what do you think?" and response. During interviews, Malcolm Gladwell often says, "Wait. Can you explain that for me?" 

1. Ask better questions...think before acting. Simon Sinek commented that Nelson Mandela's father always waited to speak last. That allowed him to hear others' opinions and respond thoughtfully. What elements belong in our daily routine? Do they translate well to our life?  

2. Wait before disciplining. What is the likely impact of discipline? Will we effect behavioral change or counterproductive anger? We can lose a player. "I'm done with him." Easy answers are elusive. 

If we examine the emotionally charged situation of domestic violence, we know that more stable situations (higher education, employed couples) had lower recidivism with arrest than did less stable couples. In other words, harsher punishment (arrest) made no statistical difference (versus warnings) in individuals with a worse social situation. Don't expect uniform responses to discipline. 

3. "Haste makes waste." Sleeping on decisions helps us activate different brain systems to make a reflective versus a reflexive decision. We have processes to make reflex judgments ("duck") and another to forge complex decisions. With more serious concerns, don't fire off an email...use the 24 rules (hours) and reconsider. 

4. Wait for screens to be set. Better separation occurs by being late off the screen than by being early. Teach players to say to themselves, "wait, wait, wait" as the screen is coming. 

5. Plays take time and space to develop

Here's a good example. 3 has to clear through to move the x4 defender, allowing the middle screen to open 1 for the pass. It also necessitates plays starting on the inbounder receiving the ball, not after a ball slap. 

Player development takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day. 

Faith (belief) and Patience (time) flank the top of Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success. Sometimes your opportunity won't come immediately. Stay ready for when it does.


Curry favors three moves in combination - crossover, between-the-legs, behind the back...note how the ball returns rapidly to his shooting pocket, the pound dribble to minimize time out of his hands, and how the BALL moves around the body. It's the steak not the sizzle that matters. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle"...a Basketball Love Story

Madeleine Blais, journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts, authored In These Girls Hope Is a Muscle. Sports Illustrated ranked it amidst the top 100 sports books ever written. And probably, there's a good chance you've never heard of it. 

She tells the story of the Amherst High School girls basketball team, their environment in quirky western Massachusetts, classic rivalries, and the battles they waged and overcame. She succeeds because she has a magnificent story, fascinating characters, and best...brilliant prose. 

Reading In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle inspires me to write better. I asked her indulgence to answer a few questions and she generously responded. Enjoy her answers and perhaps the book, updated with an epilogue.

First, here is a quote from IN THESE GIRLS:

"They were a talented team with a near-perfect record. But for five straight years, when it came to the crunch of the playoffs, the Amherst Lady Hurricanes -- a "finesse" high school girls' basketball team of nice girls from a nice town -- somehow lacked the scrappy, hard-driving desire to go all the way."

1. What convinced you that Hope deserved sharing? 

MB: Toni Morrison once said something to the effect that you should write the book you want to read.  I loved the idea of writing ab look about a spirited band of young women who not only took over a town but took charge of their own destiny.  When I first met the Lady Hurricanes and I watched them play a game and I realized how moved I was by the experience, I felt challenged to try to find the words that would capture all this for people who didn’t get to meet the Hurricanes on person nor to watch them in the middle of a game. 

2. How do you usually find topics? 

MB: Topics are usually the long answer to simple questions.  “I hear Amherst has a strong girls basketball team this year.  What is that like?” Simple answer: “Oh, everyone is happy about it.”  Complicated answer: read the book.

3. Were subjects enthusiastic to share their narrative? 

MB: My subjects ere enthusiastic. I think it helped that I treated them like adults, we made bona fide appointments to get together, and I usually made sure that we met at a place where food was part of the picture (Bart’s Ice Cream. Amherst Chinese, Antonio’s Pizza.) Athletes are always hungry!

4. What barriers did you encounter? 

MB: Some of the girls were shy and some of their parents wanted to make sure that talking to me would not go against their own daughter’s best interests, so we all had to work to get to know each.

5. Did any enduring lessons emerge from the reader response? 

MB: Readers have been great over the years.  My favorite reaction was from a girl who was about fifteen who said she had underlined and dog-eared all her favorite parts and when she showed me the book it appeared to have been vandalized as a result of her enthusiasm.

In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle