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Friday, March 31, 2017

Fast Five: Trust the Player (to Connect the Dots)

"Books are not here to show how intelligent and cultivated you are. Books are out there to show your heart, to show your soul, and to tell your fans, readers: You are not alone." - Paul Coehlo in Tim Ferriss' Tools of Titans

We all want our players to improve, our teams to grow. How?

1. What inspires? What drives us? In Drive, Dan Pink describes three dimensions - autonomy, mastery, and purpose. "In a moment of youthful indiscretion, I went to law school." Our choices define us. Players define themselves. 

2. What's their 'why'? When we tap into someone's desire, incentives do not necessarily speed the process. "Contingent motivators" often don't work. "If you practice more, you'll make the club." The carrot and stick approach fails too often. 

3. Find your better version. Autonomy (self-determination) demands creativity on the path higher. How do we help players find their unique process and solutions? It's not the drill but the will leading to skill. 

4. "Better ingredients, better pizza." We restate Papa John as better routine, better habits lead to higher performance. Routine can't be ordinary. 

5. We can lead the horse to water...great players need two out of three among size, athleticism, and skill. Size? We're blessed with it or not...but there's Isaiah Thomas. If you want to become IT, what's your process? If "A" is important, then you must work "B". The secret is intrinsic drive. 

You don't become Yo-Yo Ma looking at the cello or Bobby Fischer watching a chessboard. Real players connect the dots. 

David Blatt - zipper, staggered picks-and-roll

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Simple Bucks - Celtics Actions

The Bucks and Celtics ran some simple actions that got high percentage shots. Ultimately the Bucks won because Malcolm Brogdon beat Avery Bradley off the dribble down the stretch. The Celtics' top perimeter defender couldn't defuse the Bucks' rookie PG. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a load and a half. He's a mismatch and then some. He was listed at 6'9" but looks bigger and he can play inside and out. He forced a bunch of shots, but the talent is unmistakable. 

The Celtics entered the ball to Horford, an accomplished passer, who can hit the guard cutting around or the two coming off the screen. If nothing is there, the Celtics like to go into dribble handoff mode. 

The simplest actions can create defensive problems. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Different Sets with Similarities and Differences

We create similar actions from different sets or different actions from similar sets. 

USWNT has run this set from a 1-4 high to generate blind pig action on the ball side into an elbow pick-and-roll (or pop) on the help side. When you consider their superb talent and execution, this becomes almost impossible to defend. 

With a two guard front, the initial cut is the same. But create a cross-screen (with a mismatch) and generate 'flex like' action with a down screen. Of course, if you have a 5 who can put the ball on the floor, that's an additional attack. 

Fast Five: Pat Summitt on Respect

Greg Brown's The Best Things I've Seen in Coaching shares ideas from Pat Summitt and Don Meyer. Alzheimer's Disease truncated Summitt's life, but she co-dominated more than a generation of women' basketball. 

Here are a few excerpts from the chapter Respect Yourself and Others. I'm disappointed by the lack of respect shown to superior women players and teams by some (male) announcers and regularly by boys waiting for girls' games to finish. 

1. "Treat people the way you want to be treated." This applies to the many relationships in sport - among players, among players and coaches, between coach and assistant, and among everyone and the officials. 

2. "Make eye contact - a sign of self-respect and respect for others." I had a young player a few years ago who was phenomenal at making eye contact during meetings and practice. I pointed that out to the group at the end-of-season gathering. 

3. "Decide who you are going to be." We make choices about ourself in our habits, our study, our communication, how we treat others and in our self-talk. Be special. 

4. "Actions show more respect than words." Are you the same person at home and at school as you are on the court? Advance yourself today to approach your goals tomorrow. Remodel yourself as a person and a player. 

5. She showed players "how important body language was by putting a camera in the video booth to only watch the body language on the bench." More than eighty percent of communication is non-verbal. Show that you're engaged. We have "mirror neurons" that help us copy and edit actions that we see. Study why players and teams succeed or struggle and find ways to do more of what works and less of what doesn't. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fast Five: Advice to a Younger Player and Xs and Os Bonus

There is nothing cheaper than free advice. I have a patient who's an older attorney who lamented, "we turn gray and lose some hair. We know more of the answers. But nobody wants to ask us questions anymore." 

The rare young player who wants mentoring...what can we share? 

1. "Be easy to play with and hard to play against." I didn't dream about becoming Oscar Robertson or Jerry West. Ridiculous. I wanted to become Jerry Sloan...played smart, played hard, good teammate. Sloan and Norm Van Lier made a good backcourt. Not the world's friendliest man...or the nicest

2. "Be on time." If you want to get attention, the wrong kind, be habitually late. Phil Ford spoke of "Dean Smith time...ten minutes early." 

3. "Be coachable." There's the old saying about God giving you two ears and one mouth...listen twice as much as you speak. Do what your current coach wants. It's great to ask why, in the context of learning the game. Your coach doesn't want to hear, "but my other team plays all zone" or "my other team wants me to be the primary scorer." 

4. "Be dependable." Coaches want to players who come ready to practice, ready to play, want to learn, know their assignments, make good decisions on and off the court. Respect the game; play the right way. 

5. "Be a good teammate." Respect your parents, teammates and coaches. "Never criticize a teammate," reminded John Wooden. Alan Williams wrote a terrific book, Teammates Matter about his experience as a walk-on at Wake. I've never known a great player whom I considered a bad teammate. 

Bonus: a couple of old Spurs actions. So at least you leave with something...

UCLA cut into diagonal screen. 

Variation on 'thru' cut by 1 into screen-the-screener action. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Mind of a Coach

We don't have a cookie cutter game. We have certain basics but freedom to write our narrative. Decisions abound - style of play, tempo, pressure, how to defend , where to screen.

We should be forward looking but have the opportunity to study both contemporaries and the past. What made great teams and great players outstanding? Blend will and skill and cast your own luck. Pasteur remarked, "chance favors the prepared mind."

As coaches, we are chefs, assistants are sous-chefs, and players are dynamic ingredients. We create menus of offense and defense suited to both the chefs and the pieces.

The food and the dining experience reflect our identity. We reject boring, erratic, pedestrian, and uninspiring. Each team we coach becomes a metaphor for our mortality. A meal is transient, finite, unique. We celebrate 'special' meals and extraordinary menus.

Sometimes we cook our hearts out only to suffer a flavorless or burnt dish. Sometimes the ingredients don't fit together well. Occasionally we have a masterpiece.

Sometimes the challenge is to create a special meal from our usual ingredients. For example, maybe we have to cook press break or 'box and one.' We pick the groceries and cook.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Simple Reminders for a Sunday

If we don't have a clear philosophy, our players will articulate that on the floor.

We get the culture we implement.

More teaching, less coaching...

When players don't understand the game, it manifests in crunch time (bad situational play).

The only way to make good decisions is to force and correct decision situations.

Game play is an expensive way to instruct critically. (Tuition is high.)

"Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment."

The coach and point guards can never lack energy at practice.

A blind person should hear the energy and a deaf one should see it at practice.

Details matter. Sustainable competitive advantage doesn't derive from luck.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Coach Profile: Frank Martin

Frank Martin has achieved the remarkable feat of taking two football schools to the Elite Eight...Kansas State and South Carolina. Focus on what's important, how his guys play. Forget about the sarcasm and the tough guy facade. See through the BS.

Attitude comes first.

SI profile. "Go fight for what you want South Carolina to be."

Philosophy. Martin believes in defensive pressure. That translates into superb results in defensive statistics and crushing wins over Duke and Baylor.

Clinic Notes Coaches share what they strongly believe. "The Dumb*ss line, the help cannot get beat, shell drill, players must buy in, win the 1 on 1 battles, fight for space."

Video. What the SC offense does...

1) SC offense explained by Brad Underwood

2) Zak Boisvert shares examples

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fast Five: Rockets Breakdown

Via Coach Daniel

Rockets offensive concepts

Relevant points:

1) Prolific because of 1) personnel, 2) spacing and structure. I've previously posted Rockets shot charts. They execute drives into layups/dunks or threes.

2) Base offense relies on Harden pick-and-roll actions with Rockets' perimeter game severely limiting help or surrender corner threes and to a lesser extent threes above the break.

3) Passing - Harden has developed as a passing threat while driving, on pick-and-pop, and setting perimeter shots.

4) Fouls - Rockets excel at drawing fouls on perimeter shots.

5) Discipline - Houston eschews the mid-range game and lower percentage shots like floaters.

These actions aren't generized to lower levels of basketball with "ordinary" talent and execution. GM Daryl Morey has constructed a roster designed for this. The Celtics defeated them in their last meeting with positionless defenders (Smart, Crowder, Bradley, Brown) who switch and challenge everything.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Know How Versus Know That

Ideas become marvels...or nothing. Was the Fred Smith economics paper about a national air freight system with a central hub panned by his professor? Regardless, Smith turned his idea into reality with FedEx. 

Transforming "know that" into "know how" challenges everyone. Finding solutions turns the wordsmith into an author, the entrepreneur into successful business. Coach George Raveling remarks, "what is not learned has not been taught." 

We 'sell' to consumers with varying appetites for our merchandise. Create BUY-IN through clear and simple explanation to ADD VALUE. 

We learn how to transform chaos (scramble) into order...through communication and practice. 

The journey to "know how" traverses "have to" and "get to." Our attitude translates having to run wind sprints and getting to run sprints. Tedium becomes training. 

The landscape of "know how" can't bypass "know that." Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talks about "pounding the rock." It doesn't crack until you've hit it a hundred times. Few professions have shortcuts enabled solely by talent. 

Overnight success occurs over decades...Sally Field tries to bypass this in "Punchline." 

You know the "rule of 2s." It takes two minutes to learn a move, two weeks to work it into your 'game', and two months to feel comfortable using it on the court. The difference between the skilled and unskilled player is the former has both the skill and the will. 

The Navy SEALs emphasis "priorities and execution." Spurs coach Gregg Popovich preaches, "technique beats tactics." Work bridges know that and know how. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Total Commitment

Mia Hamm defines commitment.

All athletes can appreciate that commitment and accountability. Athletes like Hamm transcend single sport excellence. 

Preparing for Summer Teaching - Individual Assignment Defense

Presume nothing. Players are a blank slate. Fill it up. 

Dwayne Casey brings great energy to this FIBA clinic. It's worth the half-hour investment. Teaching is hard work. 


Dwayne Casey...defense matters in every sport.

Trust comes from players knowing you care.

Players need to know their responsibility. Casey clarifies what he's willing to give and what not. 

Have your priority (ball pressure, no paint) and execution (borrowed from Extreme Ownership)

Stance (like sitting in a chair, athletic stance)

"Nose to chest"

3 dribble drill (about developing habits for on-ball defense).

Within shell drill, he works on core elements.

Contain the ball.
Communicate (ball, nail, help).
Closeout under control.
Challenge shots.

"Don't reach." Missing has consequences (fouls, numbers). 

"Defense starts on your shot." Casey, like Doc Rivers, favors transition D versus offensive rebounding. 

He (like many) does NOT help off the Corner 3. 

Emphasis on hip turn and sprint not slide (much like Brian McCormick)...I call this "cornerback" as in NFL...

Help on penetration "sword fighting, a.k.a. stabbing", "fake and stay".

Tag the cutter forcing to the help. This also demands that the help locate to the paint/loads to the ball. 

"Thirst for knowledge."

Seven fundamentals:

1) Stance
2) Embrace the contact (Fight for space). 
3) Communication - verbal and non-verbal
4) Seeing - anticipate.
5) Attention to detail - demand. 
6) Have an act. 
7) Finish (cut, score, drill). 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Rules of Basketball

We spend time teaching 'the rules of basketball', but I refer to the rules of life. What two people derive from the same experience differs. They might share the same coach, teammates, demands, opportunities, and experience but not the results. One might flourish and another suffer. How can that be? 

What 'rules' can we practice? 

Know your craft. Knowledge is power. Most young players comprehend less with lower basketball IQ than we think. Teach more and coach less. "Trust but verify." Create a performance-focused, feedback-rich culture. "Explain this to me." 

Initial pass and stagger.

Screen-the-screener action. 

Develop functional habits. Charles Duhigg discusses "The Habit Cycle" (above) in The Power of Habit. Coaches or players, we can improve our study habits, diet, practices. Urban Meyer preaches the 10-80-10 principle. Ten percent of players are overachievers, eighty percent average, and the percent underachievers. He demands that the top ten percent raise the standard by bringing some of the eighty percent along. If an elite player wants to work out, insist that they bring a teammate or teammates. 

Fantastic happens when team leaders raise the "rank-and-file", joining them with elite preparation.

Be a team player. The best teams have leaders who are great teammates. Teamwork begins with accountability. Brad Stevens references QBQ. Repurpose your play, refocus your inner voice to "what can I do now for us?" Encourage better support for the group and specific actions. 

Appreciate opportunity and service. In Up the Organization, Robert Townsend writes about Thanks - "A really neglected form of compensation." Thank people regularly who help us. I've written coaches and authors I'll never meet to thank them for their contributions. No reply is needed. 

Savor the chance to say "yes". Share something great. Pay it forward. "Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days." Jerry Tarkanian was a coach who boldly went where no one looked before for players. 

Make the game for the players. "Don't hate the players, hate the game." Rephrased, "are we building a program or a statue?" The success of our programs depends on relationships between coach and players, among coaches, and among the players. Our business is relationships. Collaborate to get synergies. Make it we not me. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Messages I Want Players to Remember: Competitive Fury

I'm working on a "multipurpose offense" drill; I haven't figured out the rotations yet. It will include UCLA cut, give-and-go, back cut, and pick and roll. 

We never know when players really listen. We remember events best in an emotional context. The dynamic interaction of the amygdala and the hippocampus sear memories into our core. 

Can we activate the amygdala (our emotional hub) and deliver core messages to our players? My daughters had a terrific coach who would remove players after a negative or selfish action, saying, "that's not how we play." Conversely, I remember "extreme effort" plays. Anson Dorrance calls that "competitive fury."

"A player's most important quality isn't skill."

"How you play is how you live." 

"The summit is not the only place on the mountain." 

"Our choices define us." (Decisions determine destiny.)

"Everyone can be a great teammate."

"The best players make others better."

"The magic is in the work." 

"Don't cheat the drill." 

"Become your better version."

"We can always give more."

"Will and skill."

"Basketball is sharing." - Phil Jackson

"Remember the guys who quit? Nobody else does either."

"Say yes to opportunity." 

"Invest your time don't spend it."

"Chop wood; carry water." - Zen proverb

"Do more of what is working and less of what isn't."

"Is what you're doing now getting you closer to where you want to be?"

"Learning doesn't stop." 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Coach Profile: Chris Holtmann

Every coach has lessons to share. Chris Holtmann had a tough situation at Butler, but has continued the success of Brad Stevens. What makes Holtmann tick? 

Philosophy. Holtmann emphasized toughness and grit, building a top ten defense. 

Finding "Butler guys" to fit the culture remains a priority...appreciation and humility“What you really learn the longer that you’re in this (profession),” Holtmann said, “is two things: 1. You are really grateful and you feel blessed that the Lord has given you the opportunity to do what you love, and pursue what you love; and then you are just so thankful for the staff and players that have allowed you to probably get more credit than you deserve.”

Process. What is "The Butler Way?" “It is about doing things the right way and bring in kids with talent and character...“that showed us with the right kids we can win. It is important for us to keep that in mind, and not compromise who we are."

Holtmann appreciates the importance of communication, verbal and non-verbal. "During the team's first few practices this fall, he and the staff filmed players' reactions to bad calls and turnovers." Showing players their poor body language changed them. We need to understand how our inner voice affects who we are. 

Coaching Notes (from Wes Kosel): what does Holtmann preach

  1. Who you are will outlast what you do. 
  2. Have a “growth” mindset
  3. Define your culture every day.
  4. What we let go in November will come back to bite you in February and March.
  5. Distrust and selfishness are the two most destructive forces in a program.
  6. Best coaches find a way to get teams to own their growth and progress.
Simplified: (CAGES) character, culture, accountability, growth, execution, sharing. 

Video. (Stopping transition.)

1. Define responsibilities.
2. Communicate specific directions.
3. Shape up converts to cover perimeter.
4. Load to the ball. 

Specifics define success. 

Fast Five: A Plea for Traditional Basketball Actions

I don't long for another time. Dribble drive and drive and kick are terrific entrees in the basketball feast. But I believe that team actions deserve priority teaching. I've watched too many middle school games with a parade of airballs, wondering whether anybody preaches Jay Bilas toughness, "it's not your shot, it's our shot." How many times have I said, "that must be the coach's kid, because who greenlights THAT?" 

"Multiple actions lead to great offense." It's not that combination plays became unfashionable, rather players inconsistently set up cuts, don't cut hard enough, won't wait for screens, and need more teaching to read defenses. 

The youth coach who indoctrinates players into "doing it right" allows high school coaches to elevate their teaching. That lifts the burden from the college coach. How can we watch pro basketball and see players roll blindly after screening and trot back on defense not seeing the ball? 

Give-and-go. This should be like taking candy from a baby. With children playing soccer once they leave the womb, how can this not be a preferred entree? 

Backdoor cuts. First, give players a definition: the backdoor cut means cutting to the ball before cutting away from it. 

When the defender plays high (left), then she facilitates the back cut. 

Pick-and-roll options. See Spot run. See the post roll, pop, slip, rescreen. See the dribbler drive, dish (on the roll or pop), and split. See the defender go under and the dribbler shoot. 

Ball reversal. Everyone knows how tough great closeouts are. Make your opponent fail. 

Will every defender commit to working this hard? 

"Don't cheat the drill."

Even great players get caught napping, late, or lazy...

Option cuts (UCLA cut)


If we don't teach the youngsters, who will? 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Next Level Thinking (You Want to Play in College)

You want to play in college. Do you know what it takes and what you're getting into? 

I spoke with a mother of a former D1 player. "What was your daughter's college experience like?" "She didn't have one. She trained, practiced, worked out and played with the team. She was an employee who also got an education." 

John Giannini describes what it takes to be successful in Court Sense. You need two out of three among elite size, elite skill, and elite athleticism. The rare individual, like Isaiah Thomas, can make it without size. 

Pete Carril looks at the whole person. "I don't recruit players who are nasty to their parents." Coaches have enough headaches. They don't want players who create more for them with academic or behavioral problems. 

Roy Williams watches how a player treats his teammates. He saw a player foul out in an AAU game. He hustled off the court and went to the water dispenser and got cups of water for his teammates. Coaches want players who are all about the team not all about themselves. Gregg Popovich says, "get over yourself." 

Coach Calipari acknowledged in Players First that he's only scouting the top 50 players in the country. That eliminates almost everyone from even thinking about Rupp Arena as their home court. 

Successful coaches know talent evaluation. They occasionally find a diamond in the rough. Jerry Tarkanian told this story in Runnin' Rebel. He went to a tournament to watch one player and discovered Stacy Augmon. You can be discovered but that's on YOU. 

Dean Smith recruited winning players. "I would never recruit a player who yells at his teammates, disrespected his high school coach, or scores 33 points a game and his team goes 10-10." You must learn how to manage yourself. 

Brad Stevens noted that Ronald Nored was the best giver he had ever seen. "In 11 years, never had a player in the program that worked his tail off on the defensive end that wasn’t a great teammate/student." You are how you play. 

Carla Berube, who won a national championship at UCONN and has become an elite D3 coach, told me she wants players who "know how to play the game." Coaches see everything. 

When I'm watching a player, I'm looking at their impact to change the game through their teammates...attitude and athleticism.

Coaches don't want "red flags." Bad grades means poor effort. Bad behavior means low character. Low respect for the game (opponents, officials, situations) ends badly.

When coaches seek out talent, they also realize they inherit all the 'baggage' that comes with players. It's the rare player who overcomes behavioral challenges. Marvin "Bad News" Barnes illustrated that truth. If you're a foundational talent, control what you can - your attitude, choices, and effort. 


US Women versus Senegal. Horns into Corner 3. 

Coach Profile: Archie Miller

When people universally praise a coach, ask 'why'.  Dayton's Archie Miller seems always in the mix for the 'next job'. And no, you can't win 'em all. 

Philosophy. The younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller, Archie Miller works style and substance. “I don’t have any favorites,” he said. “I think that’s what I took from my dad from the very beginning. Everybody is the same. Hold them accountable and make them better. If you do that, good things will happen.”

Substance. Wes Kosel shares some Dayton actions. With younger players, I prefer 'simpler' actions. The more actions required, the more errors introduced. 

Miller zone offense

Transition offense. Transition principles emphasizing spacing, drag screens, and post rolls.

Motivation. A coach's son, Miller felt he "had the answers to the test." Players share their impressions of what Miller demands, "persistence of player development", "tough-minded guys", and "commitment to the daily process." 

Video. Player development...power finish, reverse layup, pull-ups, step through. At lower levels, I favor more reps with fewer finishes.

Clinic notes. Zak Boisvert shares at


1) Add value.

2) Practice at high tempo. 
3) Believes in permanent pivot foot. 
4) Timed shooting (60 sec, 90 sec, 3 minutes)
5) Track everything. 
6) Finishes practice with 1-on-1, 2-on-2 play

Summary: what makes Miller tick - persistence, intensity, attention to detail. Get the answers to the test. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Introduction for Young Players

You introduce concepts to your developmental team. Where do you begin? 

"Help your teammates." Teamwork is the only option. "Basketball is sharing." The best players define themselves by making teammates better. Ask players for specific examples. If it means contacting teammates to work out in the offseason, to help with homework, or support them through personal struggles, do it. 

"The first price is paying attention." Pay attention to your parents, your teachers, and your coaches. I've seen championship games lost in high school because intelligent players lost mental focus in key situations. 

"No easy baskets." "One bad shot." "Hard twos." "Contest every shot without fouling." You cannot defend free throws. 

Communicate. Great defenses talk. Talk intimidates. "Early, loud, and often." 

Embrace the contact. "Basketball isn't a contact sport; it's a collision sport." "The game honors toughness." 

Excel without the ball. Ninety percent of the time (every defensive possession, eighty percent of offense) you won't have the ball. 

Sprint don't run. "Basketball is a sprinting game." "No buddy running." 

The game is symmetrical. Everything you want offensively, you want to prevent defensively. 

Know the shots you want to get; know the shots you want to give. 

How you play is how you live your life. You can't care, prepare, and share on the court and treat your family and schoolwork with indifference. 

Stand and sit. If you stand around on the court, you're asking to sit (on the bench). "Basketball is a game of passing and cutting."

Study the game. "See one, do one, teach one." 

"The magic is in the work." Are you investing your time or spending it? 

Models and mirrors. "What do you want to become and whom do you see in the mirror?"

Bonus: Two plays from Mount St. Mary's last night. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Introduction to Defending Cross-Screens

Players need to know expectations. 

Defending screens doesn't lend itself to brevity. Today's message is more an introduction than even incomplete. In Winning Defense, Del Harris devotes over twenty-five pages to defending various cross-screen actions. He emphasizes that knowledge and determination are critical to trying to control great offensive players. Harris points out that although college coaches get much of the public credit, they are usually overwhelmed at the extent of knowledge needed to defend pro offenses. 

Figure 1. Cross-screen designed to get perimeter shot. 

Figure 2. Typical cross-screen designed to get post player to the block. 

How can we defend cross-screens? 

General principles:

1. Communication is pivotal. No communication, no defense. 
2. The first goal is to avoid switching small onto big. 
3. Sacrifice your body.
4. Multiple coordinated efforts are needed to keep players "off the spot." 

First, recognize that all situations are NOT created equal. In end-of-quarter, end-shot clock situations, most teams will automatically switch. The theory is that it is better to have a mismatch under pressure than to allow an uncontested shot. 

But it's not as simple as that. In Figure 1, coordinated defensive work (multiple efforts) apply. x4 can bump the cutter (4) down to try to prevent her from using the screen. x2 also rolls down to prevent 4 from getting a free release. 

In Figure 2, x1 has to bump both the cutter and impede 5's clear path; x5 should influence 5 hard to the baseline to impair the angle 5 has to get position and the ball. At all costs, the defense does not want to switch. 

In other situations, coaches have to decide whether they want defenders (e.g. x4) to "lock and trail" or coordinate with x2 and "shoot the gap."

Coach Bennett simplifies. He demonstrates how he wants the screener's defender to protect the basket and the cutter's defender to "V and close out". "Chase the guy down." 

The "trend" in professional basketball is toward both "small ball" and "switching everything." In the NBA finals last year, we saw players like Kevin Love defending on the perimeter, and watching the Celtics, I see Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, and Jaylen Brown defending both perimeter and post players. You implement what works for your personnel and preferences. Our job is to translate theory into practice with young players. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Puzzle Pieces - Some Assembly Required

I am not a fan of jigsaw puzzles. Should I be? 

Players often don't see how the pieces connect - how players work together, how a drill intersects offensive or defensive structure, how specific actions affect the likelihood of success, or how culture defines us. 

When assembling a puzzle, we start at the corners (cornerstones) and the edges. Then we fill the puzzle. What identity defines you - a corner, an edge, or the working class pieces? We can't construct the puzzle without every piece. Everyone knows the frustration of missing a piece or two that prevents completion. 

The organization builds personnel, strategy (tactics), and operations (technique). 

Day-to-day, players need to know how the pieces intersect. What is my role? Why are we doing this drill? Why play this defense? Can we fit pieces together? 

Teams have a wealth of analytics - what's our defensive 3 point percentage, defensive efficiency (points per possession), perimeter defense? 

"Know thyself."

Do we allow points on offensive rebounds, in transition, in the paint? Define the problem; find the solution. 

The 2008 NBA champion Celtics employed a strategic tradeoff, fewer offensive rebounds to reduce opponents transition offense. If you're weaker in one area, you better overcompensate with strengths. 

Basketball and military offensive domains overlap...infantry, cavalry, artillery. Infantry is the power game, cavalry transition, and artillery the ever-evolving perimeter attack. Rarely you have teams ('86 Celtics - Bird, McHale, Parish, Johnson, Ainge, Walton) who excel at each. Some coaches suffer the fooldom of having none. 

The puzzle pieces apply to all three dimensions of execution - personnel, strategy, and operations. 

Corners. Do you have foundational players? How will you employ them? Among the triad of size, athleticism, and skill, if size dominates, then you will try to control the ends of the court. If you lack size but have athleticism and skill, a sensible philosophy seeks hegemony over the middle of the floor. Was the Triangle Offense the difference or Jordan and Bryant? 

Edges. Dean Smith employed the blue and white teams as an 'edge' at Carolina. Roy Williams "green lights" shooters who can make sixty percent of threes in practice. Nolan Richardson preached "forty minutes of hell" at Arkansas. Pete Carril's Princeton Tigers foreshadowed contemporary play with perimeter shots and backdoor cuts. 

The Proletariat. Excellent leadership requires great followership. 

The "deep bench" guys especially have to buy in to their roles of service and support. They have to practice hard to temper the 'rotation players' and maintain positive attitudes with limited minutes. If they don't want to be there, then we have to oblige them. You won't find problem children (a.k.a. knuckleheads) at the end of the bench. Headaches go away. 

Bobby Knight believed in flexibility when it suited his needs. If players had preferences about practice time or meals that don't impact core values, he threw them a bone. 

Technique bonus: 

When the post is doubled (and the defense knows what they're doing), she should look weak side high for the open player.