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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Basketball: In a Brave New World, Inspire, Imagine, and Advance

"Campaigning is about promising; governing is about achievement." - The West Wing

Be enthusiastic about our culture, the why and how we do it every day. Sustained achievement follows disciplined process. 

Lecturers inform but teachers inspire. The best lecture I attended was at Boston City Hospital, as a medical student, about drug abuse. Visiting professor Dr. Faith Fitzgerald (1980) recounted her many experiences in San Francisco caring for patients, including details about the tattoos common in addicts. She explained how she often saw "cross" tattoos on the wrist, "spider web" tattoos in the antecubital fossa (inside the elbow) and track marks and "skin pops" left by needles (below). 

Aspire to make every presentation, every practice a MasterClass. What's sticky that gives players an edge? I listened again to Sam Jackson's presentation on auditioning. "The most important objective is to make a lasting impression so that the casting director wants to follow your character out of the room. Remember that you’re an actor and this is a “look-at-me” business, so make them look at you—keeping in mind, of course, the given circumstances of the scene and character. Be your best self." This is true trying out for a team, a job introduction, or a school interview. Be memorable. 

Define yourself.
Scott Frost imprints three elements of coaching - connection, competence, and communication

Get players reading. Coach George Raveling is a prolific reader. Kevin Eastman reads two hours a day. "The difference between who we are today and whom we become in five years are the people we meet and the books we read." 

Some of my favorites...

1) Reread excellent books and abandon a bad read. 
2) Use the author's passion and prose to better our own. 
3) Matt Haig says every book is about "someone searching for something."

Get everyone thinking. Warren Buffett's partner, Charlie Munger, is one of the great thinkers of our time. He shares:

"To get what you want, deserve what you want. Trust, success, and admiration are earned."
Learn to love and admire the right people, alive or dead.
Acquiring wisdom is a moral duty as well as a practical one. 
Learn to fluency the big multidisciplinary ideas of the world and use them regularly.
Learn to think through problems backwards as well as forward. 
Be reliable. Unreliability can cancel out the other virtues.
Get rid of self-serving bias, envy, resentment, and self-pity. 
Work with and under people you admire, and avoid the inverse when at all possible.
Learn to maintain your objectivity, especially when it’s hardest.
Use setbacks in life as an opportunity to become a bigger and better person. Don’t wallow.
In your own life what you want is a seamless web of deserved trust.

Grow wise by listening to people wiser than we. 


Lecturers inform but teachers inspire.
Make every presentation a MasterClass.
Define yourself through connection, competence, and communication.
Get people reading.
Get people thinking. 

Lagniappe: The Checklist Manifesto is not Atul Gawande's most well-known book (Being Mortal is), but offers a process used in construction, aviation, investing, restaurants, medicine, and more. 

What might belong on NBA checklists for resumption? 

This forms a monumental challenge for everyone involved. It can work if all commit to making it work because of the money at stake. "The money nerve" is the most sensitive in the body. Touch it and everybody jumps. 

If I were an NBA mogul, I'd pledge to maintain the same conditions as those demanded of players, coaches, and staff during the restart through conclusion of the season. Nassim Taleb would call that Skin in the Game

Distractions mean defeat during games but diversion during downtime. 

Lagniappe 2: Kaizen (Small Steps) versus Innovation (from One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.

"Kaizen and innovation are the two major strategies people use to create change. Where innovation demands shocking and radical reform, all kaizen asks is that you take small, comfortable step toward improvement.

Lagniappe 3: If you could lunch with anyone, living or dead, whom would you choose? What benefit, knowledge, or wisdom would you hope to gain? 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Basketball Clinic Notes: Zak Boisvert (Phenomenal)

Zak Boisvert ( is a great sharer. Here are notes taken from his Coaching Clinics presentation (and he's wearing his Red Sox cap). No matter how well we coach, find better ideas. Edit, edit, edit. Zak's presentation is magnificent and humbling. 

He starts by reminding us to inspire our players! That reminds me of the "Ration" sisters...Aspi, Inspi, Prepa, and Perspi...Preparation and Perspiration are the big sisters and Aspiration and Inspiration are the fun sisters. 

Build a system of study. 

He advises studying film of practice (even if you are using an iPad on a stand at one end) is the "truth machine." 

Specialize. Thomas Keller's Michelin 3-star restaurant with a one-page menu is an American Standard. I've watched three Keller MasterClass series...and Keller is a huge sports fan. 
Add value over emotion. Jumping up and down as a madman adds little. 

Don't overfocus on tactics over skills. Skill wins.

Discusses PnR passing WHIP PASS (I'd call it "against the grain" passing). He believes that "every ball screen you're trying to hit the roll man." The roll man is your "Cheat Sheet"...if the help stops your roller, then that defender's guy will be open. 

His book collage... I love "Gridiron Genius."

"Culture isn't what you put on the wall, it's what you do every day."

West Point is an "Incubator of Excellence." 

Machiavelli - End of practice. 8 guys, 4 on 4, game to 11 by 2's and 3's. Top four are done. Remaining four go 2 on 2 to 7. Winners done. Then it's one on one NOT to be the loser of the day. Winning has value. 

2 Min FTs. Everyone shoots one-and-one around the baskets. Miss two FTs in a row, clock is reset to 2:00. If any group misses consecutive one-and-one...reset. 

Mikans. Build the weak hand. First make ten, then make eight without hitting the rim 

ODO. (Later in presentation)

Siege. Continuous 2 on 1. Couldn't explain without film.

Butt Ball. Both offense and defense face the rim. Offense has ball pressed into the defenders back. As ball is released, go one-on-one. Finishing drill. Army was one of the top finishing teams in the country. 

Reminds me of "Get 7s" - evaluate every shot. Made a big jump by improving shot quality. Better shot quality is always Ahab's White Whale for me...hard to hunt down. 

"Be process driven." 

"There's a big difference between playing well offensively and shooting well."

"How healthy were our possessions (offensive and defensive)?"

Can't have worthless possessions...

"Live ball turnovers bleed into your defense."

Skill versus decision-based turnovers...

Decision-based issues like illegal screens, driving into traffic are different than skill-based but both need mitigation...this also teaches me, how impactful (points/possession allowed) were our extended defense (press), man-to-man, zone, combinations? 

We finish each practice with ODO with special situations (BOB, SLOB, FTs, half-court set, etc.)

"Glory of 5-on-5" - play more (I can't do justice to the presentation). 

Get 3 stops per inning. How many points can you get before 9 outs (stops). After 2 stops, the offense goes to a SLOB or BOB. Competitive. 

Score over ten possessions for each team. "Automates" analytics. Even if you win, you need at least 1.1 points/possession (11 points, 10 possessions). At Army they run. 

Shot quality scoring plus actual scoring. 

Reinforces offensive efficiency. Makes teams play purposefully, urgently. 

4-on-4 with (e.g.) DHO start with assigned defensive coverage from next opponent...

3 teams...offense, defense, waiting (if you don't score, offense goes off)

I consider this a "clip and save" piece because of the quality of Zak's presentation. Remember, "the coach is the keeper of the story." 


- Inspire.
- Study film. 
- Read better books.
- To paraphrase Pop, "technique beats tactics."
- great at what you do.
- Process, process, process.
- Constantly find better shots.
- All turnovers are not the same (decision v skill)
- Finish better with finishing drills (Mikans, Butt ball)
- There are a lot of "greatest drills ever" (e.g. ODO)
- Machiavelli (Loser of the Day...ouch)
- Points/possession drill. 
- Shot spectrum game (analogous to Dean Smith's "Shot quality scoring" scrimmages

Monday, May 25, 2020

Basketball: Build a Campaign

"You gotta make a little sacrifice..." Excellent teams succeed through shared sacrifice. 
Exceptional programs build upon ideas and momentum. Consider the advertising world of one-offs versus campaigns.

There aren't many "campaigns" around today, Geico and the Dean Winters "Mayhem" Allstate ads are a couple. 

I imagine campaigns built around protective equipment. Dating? New sports uniforms?  Progressive is starting a campaign around "Zoom" meetings. 

How do we implement a system without offseason team activities? Communication to build trust and loyalty becomes elusive without offseason workouts. 

1. Bodyweight exercises 

2. Body control 

3. Aerobic conditioning (split two sets of five minutes, pick your favorites)

4. "Footwork, balance, maneuvering speed." Find a dance video for 4 minutes. 

5. Now you're ready for the ball. 

Become a finisher. 

With ever-limited practice time, fashioning a mindset and culture and installing basic defenses, offense (transition, sets, zone, special situations) becomes a formidable task. 

Being a worthy opponent, skill development, and a framework for players to take forward into high school competition are more important than winning 8th grade games. 

Can we build our ad campaign on a single sheet of paper or a mood board

From the top left: 

1. Simplify. We get good shots. We allow one bad shot2. We get good shots. We allow one bad shot. We play hard. 
3. "The game honors toughness" both physical and mental. 
4. Be positive. Share, Invest your time don't spend it. 
5. "The ball is gold." Value the ball. 
6. The center of the Pyramid of Success - condition, skill, togetherness. 
7. The game is symmetrical. What you want to do, take away on defense. 
8. Know your role and be a star in your role. 
9. When we do all those things, great memories happen (center). 

Lagniappe: via@Coach_DeMarco

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Basketball Notes: Sean Sweeney on 3 on 3

"Practice execution becomes game reality." - Mike Lombardi

"Execution determines where games are won and lost." 

Emphasis of Coach Sweeney's presentation is whole-part-whole. I've added screen captures of a few slides and abstracted Coach Sweeney's thoughts. I've included a couple of drills that simulate what players see during game action. 

1. Know what you want. 
2. Play to get that. 
3. Defend to stop that. 

Wonderful slide...both offensive and defensive priority (not about originality but doing). He doesn't specifically say it, but "guard 1 1/2 guys" (help) 

Challenging drill. 6 seconds to score. Great early shots are favored analytically.

"The passer makes the shooter."

"Talk helps us and intimidates the opponent." 

3-on-3 with drive from slot and help coming. Driver knows "shot is not for us" with "strong side the playmaking side and the weak side the scoring side." Tough for help side defender to cover two, with or without a "one more" pass. 

"Multiple paint touches you're going to get a great shot." Reminiscent of Kirby Schepp

"It's a five man proposition to guard the pick-and-roll." 

"Flash drill" starts with defending elbow catches...(horns equivalent). They defend a lot of screens by letting the screened defender through (as the big drops). Offense goes to defense. 

Basketball: Find a Philosophy That Works Everywhere

The best players make their teammates better. The best coaches get the most possible from their teams. As a player or coach, what specifically does that mean for you? 

Live core values. Define your identity and performance statements. This is who we are and this is how we play. Write your ethos out. Earn the label of good teammate.

Identity: "I am committed to becoming a better person every day."
Performance: "I focus, practice, study, and apply those to my work and play."

ACE up. Have a positive attitude, make good choices (decisions), show superior effort.

Communication is our default state. 
Energize - bring energy and energize your teammates.
Defend relentlessly. "The defense never rests." Great defense never has a bad day.
Passing - become a willing sharer, starting with the ball. 
Shot selection - no "shot turnovers", forced shots, or "my turn" shots.

Coaches. Radiate competence and value competition. 

Share clear philosophy. TIA. Teamwork, improvement, accountability. Know your NOs. 

The best defender starts
Player development is a priority every day. If we don't who will?
Communicate expectations, roles, and opportunity. 
Get the buy-in through earned trust.
Darwinian DNA. Adapt and overcome. 

Know teammates' strengths and weaknesses

  • How can I help on teammate on this play? 
  • What is a good shot for each teammate? 
  • Presume that every shot they take will miss; optimize rebounding position.
  • Can they handle a pass in the open court on the move? 
  • Will they need "extra help" to contain the ball? "The ball scores." 
When are we going to win

Results are the reward earned for details and process excellence. Have we earned the right to win? Are we a worthy opponent? 

The player experience matters. Help kids make memories. 

Lagniappe: Give me something I can use today! My wife's grasshopper pie...

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Basketball: Gatekeeping, No One Knows What Goes on Behind Closed Doors

Investopedia defines "GATEKEEPERS as people or policies that act as a go-between, controlling access from one point to another. They may refuse, control, or delay access to services. Alternatively, they may also be used to oversee how work is being done and whether it meets certain standards."

Gatekeepers ascertain the best version of the truth for the good of both individuals and society. Many professionals have "gatekeeper" roles. The physician is part of the ancillary staff keeping a team running. 

Physicians constantly decide a patient's status. How did that apply in the Navy?

  • Is a volunteer healthy enough for service? For example, asthma after age thirteen is disqualifying. 
  • Is a trainee physically or mentally incapable of undergoing recruit training after already accepted into the service? 
  • Can a (mildly) sick sailor return to work and in what capacity? You wouldn't want someone with terrible eczema working in a severely unhygienic area. 
  • Will an illness require a service member to be medically placed on the long-term "disabled list" (medical board, e.g. six months limited duty)?  
  • Will an active duty member be separated (pilots avoid doctors like the plague)? 
  • Is a previous illness disqualifying for a major promotion? Some older readers remember that Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton was briefly the Democratic nominee for Vice President. A diagnosis of recurrent depression led to him being dropped from the McGovern ticket. Society becomes the gatekeeper.
It's not always black and white, but the Manual of the Medical Department provides guidance. But the physician has to decide not what is first in the interest of the patient, but in the interest of the Navy. Imagine a firefighter who develops asthma. The asthma, worse under extreme conditions, respiratory protection, and heavy gear impairs the firefighter, his peers, and the community. The "mildest" asthma could produce fatalities under stress. He can have a family or golf, but is disabled for his military job. 

We can even be our own gatekeeper. A Navy surgeon went to Fort Leavenworth after court-martial for not declaring a vision problem

Can a player play with spinal deformity, after a "stinger" or transient quadriplegia? When can a player return to play after a concussion, surgery, a collapsed lung? More than one gatekeeper is often involved as specialty consultation is often required. 

Does an exposure need quarantine? Someone was jogging past a playground where some children were found to have COVID-19. What do you say? Can a COVID-19 patient return to work? Is there a fixed time period, time plus symptom-free period, or do they need a negative test? 

Coaches are gatekeepers. They break barriers or provide access for players. Dean Smith's recruitment of Charles Scott broke a barrier. Bill Russell's ascension to Celtics' player-coach changed the coaching world. Could a woman someday play in the NHL, most likely as a goalie? 

Coaches are asked about a player's makeup - work ethic, focus, resilience. Is she a good teammate? We get asked about physical and mental toughness and leadership qualities. College coaches don't want to assume new headaches, immature players, and referee baiters. Few coaches want to stake their reputations recommending "bad risk" or "bad fit" players. I favor the saying, "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." 

Lagniappe:  David Blatt "Horns, DHO, PnR"

Horns offers a myriad of possibilities. 

Lagniappe 2: "High off the glass"

Friday, May 22, 2020

Basketball: Hard Conversations and Hungry Mouths

Authentic communication with parents, hard conversations, will always be tough. Bill Walsh's three F's - fast, firm, and fair - will never seem fast enough, firm enough, or fair to the parent who rightly sees through the lens of minutes and role

Parents may disagree with my philosophy. If they disavow the value of teamwork, improvement, and accountability, so be it. 

Transparency allows objectivity. Come to practice. Listen to pre-game and post-game (two minute) conversations. I remember a parent over ten years ago responding to another who said their child wasn't learning anything. The mother (who came to most of the practices) answered, "I'm learning a lot." 

Stay humble. Coach Dean Smith said, "A lion never roars after the kill." Win with humility and lose graciously. I can't recall much about middle school basketball scores over half a century ago.

Teach. The court is our classroom. We're not teaching your child politics or religion. But stories of empowerment and leadership belong in our lane. Our children need to hear how Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member (FDR, Secretary of Labor), how Arlene Blum climbed Annapurna, smoke jumper Wagner Dodge made a life or death decision his men ignored, and how Wilma Rudolph overcame polio to win Olympic Gold. 

Our coaches want all your children to succeed; we promise to help them now and in the future.

I've been a sports parent and felt complex, frustration, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in games that decided States. 

It's about the journey. Adversity becomes our companion, whether we want it or not. Sprained ankles, back pain, broken fingers, and battered egos are the tuition paid.

Encourage your child to star in her role. Many players don't want to be out there in the big moment. My wife told me that in one close and late game this year, a player's father told her his daughter shouldn't be out there in the final four minutes.

My priorities (family, school, basketball) sometimes cause me pain. But your daughter seeing Nana on her 75th birthday means more than a seventh grade game. And missing practice to study for a big test? I get it.

"You own your paycheck." The magic is in the work, investing or spending time. But I'm fair when the player who rarely misses unrequired work earns the time and the accolades.

Don't take it out on the officials. Their mission isn't to frustrate you or me.

Support your child, advocate for your child, but cheer everyone's child. Remember, no matter how much we love our child, nobody can protect them from another child's superior size, athleticism, skill, game knowledge, and hunger. That mouth gets fed.

Friday 1-3-1 Episode 5. Drill, Concepts, Set. Transition, Deception, Execution.

Learn what we can, share what we want, and use what works for us. Ask what proportion of practice should be play versus drills. Seek balanced ways to build skill, make better decisions, and teach concepts. 


My favorite drill growing up - 3 on 2 fast break

This full court 3-on-3 chase drill replaced and superseded it by adding the chase defender and improving conditioning. Offense goes to defense and a new offense comes on. 


1. Deception (faking) has a role at both ends of the court. Individual fakes (e.g. jab, shot) encourage defensive reactions and over-reactions to exploit. Shot fakes can sometimes lead to traveling calls. Some opine that if the shooter raises the ball higher, more traveling calls ensue. We teach "slow and low" with a shot fake "a shot not taken." 

Kelly Olynyk has an elite shot fake. 

2. Learn across domains. Design different actions from the same set and the same actions from different sets. 

The Joe Gibbs Redskins had thirteen core plays, 10 runs and 3 passes, with variations. Simplifying but adding nuances changed the Belichick 'core' defense, a 3-4, Cover 2 alignment. For example, he might elect to drop an outside linebacker and rush an interior linebacker, depending on matchups in passing situations. 

Box looking for backdoor or wing isolation.

Box stagger, Iverson-like look. 

Box PnR 

3. Defensive deception: Knight's Hoosiers sometimes lined up in a zone alignment but played man-to-man out of that look. We might align in "five" (2-3 defense, five looks like a die) and be playing man-to-man on two perimeter shooters. 

Play: DHO Back cut 

Dribble handoff with back cut action on the help side. 

Lagniappe:  Get separation by passively moving defenders where they don't want to be. 
Lagniappe 2: Via Chris Oliver, another clever backdoor play set up by an elevator screen on the help side. 
Lagniappe 3: PnR defensive thoughts (Ron Adams) 

1. "The CONNECTEDNESS (tight shell) is critical to any PnR coverage." 

2. Where am I going?