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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Basketball and the Pomodoro Method, Learn Better

“Moving a university is like moving a cemetery; you’re not going to get any help from the inhabitants.”

Education changes behavior. The better we teach, the more change we can effect.

Distractions defeat discipline. “A man distracted is a man defeated.” Francesco Cirillo developed the Pomodoro Method to increase productivity with a template of periods of high focus separated by short breaks. The method, typically 25 minutes of study and 5 minute breaks, imposes study rigor and recognizes limited attention spans. Pomodoro method details are discussed in this video. presents an exhaustive eleven hour free course on becoming a better learner. There is also a Coursera app. Many apps are available for Pomodoro.

Learning about learning courses teach better study. Barbara Oakley describes herself as an unsuccessful early learner. After finishing high school, she joined the Army, learned Russian and later became an engineering professor with an interest in learning styles.

For example, she says re-reading has less value than reading and reproducing (writing) what you learned. These techniques add to the Feynman technique of naming, describing, researching, and simplifying a topic.

Oakley describes the fallacy of distinct learning systems which has been disproven by study. Capable learners can learn with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic means.

Chunks are related pieces of information, ideas, or concepts that are building blocks on the construction of mastery. They exist in many disciplines from science to sports, dance, and music. Learning how to assemble and extend chunks is central to growth.

We teach chunks by combining spacing, screening, cutting, and passing. Set small groups up (e.g. one side of the split) and challenge them to create. Start with constraints (e.g. no one-on-one, limiting dribbling) and see what actions they build.


Radius Athletics shares examples of Cognitive Bias in coaching. It’s hard to be objective about our teams and our abilities.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Basketball : Laws of Power, Time

“Be quick but don’t hurry.” - John Wooden

Robert Greene sold nearly two million copies of The 48 Laws of Power. We start with the law of the power of using time. 

We allocate practice time, tempo of practice and games, use of time and space, teaching time and situations, and how we end games.

Greene divides time among ‘long time’, ‘forced time’, and ‘end time’.

Philadelphia and Sam Hinkie played the long game, embracing the cellar en route to becoming an Eastern Conference challenger. Injuries to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons provided more draft capital. The additional time allowed their young stars to acclimate to the NBA game and gave the Sixers cap space to add J.J. Redick and a new star this offseason. We still can’t judge the NBA destiny of Markelle Fultz.

Time alone won’t heal all. The Cleveland Browns testify to perpetual frustration. Events overwhelm time. The deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis set the Celtics back for two decades. 

Forced time applies to seizing control during critical situations. Greene discussed Mehmed the Conquer who tantalized Hungary with prospects of peace talks while delaying and prosecuting war. The Turks eventually achieved military victory and imposed harsh conditions for peace.

In another Greene time, The 33 Strategies of War, he includes the use of blizkrieg as means to force time. Coach Bob Knight believed the first five minutes of the second half were vital in taking control. This season Golden State parlayed halftime video review and adjustments into third quarter domination. The Boston Celtics applied zone defenses at game changing moments throughout the playoffs. 

Tempo matters during both games and practice. Coach Geno Auriemma runs practice at high speed and intensity, aided by working his UCONN women against an elite men’s team. Brad Stevens borrowed concepts from Bill Belichick to accelerate tempo. Most coaches apply time and competitive pressure to practice. Controlling tempo as a means to wear down opponents separates successful from struggling squads. Using timeouts strategically is another key use of time. Excellent guard play distinguishes teams mastery of two-for-one possessions at the end of quarters. “Time wounds all heels.”

“Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.” End time effectiveness takes time and experience. Dean Smith saved three timeouts for the final four minutes. Brad Stevens examined the final minutes video of each game for an entire season to revamp closing strategies. Devoting time to endgame study and development repays coaches and players. Winnecunett high school girls finished each practice requiring everyone to score two free throws sequentially. The payoff came with five consecutive state championships. 


A&M comes back

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Basketball: Worthiness

What makes us worthy? Don’t abuse people’s time. We do that by being late, unprepared, disengaged, and without message(s). We’re worthy when we inspire and teach and show compassion.

We’re worthy when we energize and stimulate partners to ask questions: how can I do this better or what truth is revealed? Nick Saban asks, “are you spending time or investing time?” 

We can learn from people we admire and from our enemies. Maybe they’re right.

Work is worthy. Jay King quotes Brad Stevens, “you have to learn to enjoy the process. And you have to learn to really appreciate the daily work that you have to put in. And so, to be there early, to sleep well, to eat well, to get your training table work, to lift, to shoot, to put in extra time before you practice.”

Who has the power and how are they using it? Robert Greene has a fascinating podcast at Farnam Street, sharing his process and his research methods. He seeks understanding of human truths and motivations. “The more you say, the more likely you are to say something stupid.” He implies that continuous talking comes from insecurity. Leave parts of your experience to the imagination. Greene says our greatest strength is our ability to ask questions.

We’re worthy not because we’ve filled our cup but because we’ve shared from our cup or helped others fill theirs.

Deceiving others for our benefit makes us unworthy. Often, we won’t know all the facts before making decisions. I recently needed one of the Naval Academy big five answers - “I don’t know but I’ll find out, Sir.” Mentors, research, and time are our worthiness allies. I recently followed a case of unexplained fever. Time was the answer as the rash of Lyme Disease came late in the illness...with early testing negative.The other four? “Yes, Sir,  No, Sir, Aye, Aye, Sir, and Right away, Sir.”

Worthy Truths emerge from careful biographies. Franklin practiced curiosity, industry, and frugality. Socrates said that the only thing he surely knew was ignorance. Napoleon’s calling card was the flanking maneuver. Don Meyer was an information curator and distributor. John Calipari finds talent. Dean Smith cared about change. Worthy coaches cultivate relationships with players, peers, and support staff from seniors to secretaries and janitors.

We’re worthy when we stay in our lane, our Circle of Competence. Grow the circle without treading upon others. That doesn’t mean that we can’t fight for practice time, resources, or facilities. Driving the bus doesn’t empower us to run players over.

Strive to be worthy.


Slip into a three from elevator action...

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Basketball: Actions and Practice Highlights

"No more talking about what a good man is like. Be one." - Marcus Aurelius

Rhetoric captivates us. But it distracts from action, the meat on the bones. Wisdom teaches the primacy of deeds. 

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle

"Talk is cheap." 

"Actions speak louder than words." 

"Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." 

"Sticks and stones will break my bones..."

Activate your ideas.

1) Develop a morning routine including two 'must do' actions (priorities). 
2) Schedule and follow through. 
3) Track progress (or lack thereof) of schedule and results. 
4) Use a browser tab as a reminder of key reading or study point (in my case, this applies to CME-continuing medical education) 
5) Reward yourself for accomplishments (e.g. finishing an assignment, reading a book). 


Key elements from yesterday's 90 minute workout

1. Warmup drill...Tufts Women, Reverse Layups 

2. Pick-and-roll defense concepts:
- Talk 
- Favor "fake trap" (a.k.a. hedge or show), discuss UNDER, BLITZ (double) advantages and limitations. Mention OVER and SWITCH but we're so small at the guard position that neither are realistic. 

3. Dribble handoffs:

We work on dribble handoffs during our layup practice with DOWNHILL drives, DHO rolls for layups, and DHO backdoor for layups. But DHO also has versatility for distraction, as in this back screen away out of horns. 

4. Small-sided games. When 'numbers' are small, that creates more repetitions (e.g. 2-on-2 on one side of the 'split' (line bisecting the baskets). 

A couple of players almost won "Beat the Pro," where score 1 for a make and 3 for the pro for a miss (game to 11). Both lost at 10-9...pressure! 


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Basketball: The Truth About Stealing

Steals matter. But how much? Ben Morris at transformed steals into the most underrated box score stat. "Steals have considerable intrinsic value. Not only do they kill an opponent’s possession, but a team’s ensuing possession — the one that started with the steal — often leads to fast-break scoring opportunities."

The crux of the argument relates to how much generating steals translates to overall game impact (similar to Butterfly Effect). I think the author means that steals are a more nuanced form of contribution that are hard to replace. Understanding that correlation is not causation, steals reflect athleticism and anticipation, but their precise value is unknown. Obviously, imprudent gambling for steals backfires with out of position defense and better scoring chances. 

The Celtics led the NBA in defensive efficiency but were near the bottom in steals. If you want to beat the Warriors, you better find a way to reduce their possessions, as they led the NBA in FG percentage (50.3%), 3 point percentage (39.1%), and free throw percentage (81.5%). They did have the fifth most turnovers per game at 15.4

Can we teach stealing? Good defense sets up steal opportunities. 

1. Core concepts like the "Helpside 'I'" load the defense to the ball. You might call that "defensive numbers." 

2. Recognize high opportunity steal situations. The "wing to top" pass may be the most frequently stolen pass in basketball.

3. When the ballhandler turns her back to the help defense, they may have a chance for unexpected doubling or theft. 

4. Defenders can "bait" (lying in the weeds) offense into throwing passes to the wing by appearing casual yet being ready to spring to the ball.

5. "Time the crossover." Anticipate the crossover and look to deflect it as the ball returns to the dribbler.

6. "Pull the chair." Savvy defenders getting 'backed down' can force turnovers or steals by releasing defensive pressure, 'pulling the chair.'

Kawhi ask why? 

Kawhi Leonard prefers to get the steal as the ball leaves the dribbler's hand. 

"Thou shalt not steal gamble." Gambling on defense can create high quality scoring chances for offense. 

Opportunistic defense earns you more minutes. Use your head and athleticism, offensive weakness, and errors to force more steals and turnovers. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Basketball: The Character Coach

"This dude is not pretending." Former Patriot Ricky Jean Francois praises Patriots Character Coach Jack Easterby. We do live in a cynical world. The Patriots hired Jack Easterby to navigate the Aaron Hernandez murder scandal. Easterby says, “My role is to simply help them create healthier relationships, healthier viewpoints, so that they can become the kind of people they want. Doing that would make them more sustainable in just about everything.”

New Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia and former Patriots executive Bob Quinn hired a character coach

We're still in the early innings of #MeToo. We don't need x-ray vision to find crisis-plagued athletes. Athletic gifts, entitlement, money, and celebrity may create a toxic brew of bad behavior. It's not unique to sports or America, as misconduct rages through politics, education, and yes, medicine.  

Can we elevate character? First, we have to look in the right places. You've heard the story about the drunk looking for his keys under the street lamp. Someone asks "do you know where you dropped them?" He answers, "over there, but the light's better over here." Make character a teaching priority. Shine the light on healthy behaviors. 

Geno Auriemma discusses the problem of finding players with high character. "I didn't score so why should I be happy...I'm not getting enough minutes, so why should I be happy?" 

Key point 1. Use mental models. "Invert, always invert." You've seen bad coaching. What would the opposite of that look like? 

Key point 2. In What Drives Winning, Brett Ledbetter preachers person > player

Choose character players. "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." If we choose "bad actors" then we shouldn't be surprised when we get bad behavior. 

Key point 3. Model excellence. "Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." Model commitment, communication, fairness, respect. We're not the parent; but we can reinforce behaviors parents teach. 

Key point 4. Identify your values. Statesman and Renaissance Man, Benjamin Franklin built a personal template (above) to work on himself. As a player or coach,  figure out whom you want to be and then travel the self-sculpting journey. Remind players, "this is who we are and that is not." 

Key point 5. Tell great stories. Build a portfolio of character stories. Arlene Blum, profiled in Michael Useem's The Leadership Moment, led an expedition of women who ascended Annapurna, one of Nepal's fourteen 8,000 meter peaks. Quadriplegic Kyle Maynard climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Jane Elliott will never stop educating to fight racism. Frances Perkins became a worker rights leader, the New York State Industrial Commissioner, and the first woman cabinet member under Franklin Roosevelt. 

For readers wanting character and biography, consider David Brooks' The Road to Character, far more than a lengthy sermon about character lessons. "In “The Road to Character,” Brooks begins with a sweeping overview...dividing us into an “Adam I,” who seeks success in the world, and an “Adam II,” more deeply committed to character and an inner life."

Many of us coach young players. Add character value and make a sustainable difference in players' lives.  

Chris Oliver shares a "stack attack" that overloads the bottom of the 2-3 zone. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Basketball: Principles Outlive Tactics, Decision-Making Theory and Practice

"Technique beats tactics." - Gregg Popovich

The unknown can kill you. In Empire of the Summer Moon, S.C. Gwynne shares the story of Comanche dominance of the Great Plains for over a hundred years. Inconvenient truths about pre-civilized cruelty darken their story. Their rise and fall reflects technology advancements, for the Comanches, horsemanship, and for encroaching settlers, the Samuel Colt .44. 

The speed and execution of THE horse tribe allowed 25,000 Comanches to control massive tracts of the developing West. Technical excellence (horsemanship and territorial ken) and tactics (guerrilla raids) allowed them to hold off encroachment from the south (Spaniards) and east (French, English). They knew their strengths and leveraged them. Disease (smallpox, cholera) and "Manifest Destiny" doomed their reign. 

We need first principles, too...fundamentals and game understanding to "advance our narrative." We envision a desired 'end state' but we need everyone involved to keep turning the pages. 

We operate best within our circle of competence and regularly access that of our team. Expecting them to execute beyond their competence usually fails and frustrates. If they don't shoot well, creating long-distance shooting chances will end badly. 

In The Decision Checklist, Sam Kyle discusses mental models, recommends a decision journal, and shares decision processes like the PrOACT model. He shows that although many organizations have extensive analysis and process, they fail to make good decisions. 
We can apply the model to practice. How should we allocate limited resources (practice time) to solve key problems like overcoming pressure defense or defeating zone defenses. 

Problem: too many poor quality possessions leading to turnovers or low shot quality.

Objectives: reduce turnovers, increase quality shots, improve points per possession

Alternatives: different press breaking strategies, change practice time and drills, change personnel, change roles within breaking the press (e.g. invert, bringing more skilled bigs up against quicker, smaller opponents)

Consequences: how will changes affect the organization and the people making those changes? 

Tradeoffs: will restructuring practice and/or roles sacrifice too much time from other need areas (shooting, team defense)? 

The authors expand their discussion to include UNCERTAINTY, RISK, and LINKED DECISION-MAKING. Often this considers the 'basketball IQ', flexibility, and mindset of our teams. This requires 'second level thinking', also known as AND THEN WHAT

My favorite drills for press breaking are 5 on 7 no dribble (advantage-disadvantage with constraints) and 'ultimate' 5 on 5 no dribble where every time the ball touches the floor it's a turnover. Both force player and ball movement, and involve offense, defense, decision-making, and conditioning

Gauntlet is another useful drill, where 2 players (here 1 and 3) advance the ball (constraint is one dribble per touch), through four levels of defense. The rotation is the offense goes to the back and each level of defense rotates up. 

Making better decisions is a skill and learning better decision-making includes using better tools and measuring the results. 

Radius Athletics shares 3-on-3 flare screen slip...via FastModelSports

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Basketball: Learning from Mistakes

Near the end of the novel (The Stand) Fran asks Stuart Redman if there’s any hope at all, if people ever learn from their mistakes. Stu replies, “I don’t know." - Stephen King in On Writing

At our best, we are Learning Machines. But as creatures of habit, we battle to beat bad ones. Our biases, beliefs, and hubris betray us. Benjamin Franklin said of humility, that if he could obtain it, he would surely be proud to have done so. Become a learn-it-all not a know-it-all.

In basketball as in life, we make mistakes. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes, "perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend." Creativity reveals our flaws; balance imagination with performance. 

Take inventory of errors. Are our mistakes mental, effort-related, inability, inexperience, or fragility?

Mental mistakes have many origins. Sometimes we don't think. Natural selfishness overlooks better opportunity. Personal goals take priority over team goals. We lose focus, we have personal, family, or health stress. Money (numbers over letters), recognition, or ego become distractions. A combination of factors can go into a bad shot (selfishness, unawareness of time and situation, thoughtlessness). 

Dean Smith said, "I don't coach effort; I coach execution." We don't have Coach Smith's players. Encouraging players to play harder doesn't always make it so. We have minutes and roles as our carrots and sticks. If a player seems not to care, we have to find out why and fix it. If we don't care, use that 'moment of clarity' and leave. We all lose our fastball. 

Some mistakes come from lack of skill. Someone told Lefty Grove that he wasn't throwing as hard anymore. He answered, "I'm throwing just as hard but the ball doesn't go as fast." In the developmental setting, skill deficiency in ball-handling, passing, shooting, executing 'basketball plays', defending, and simply catching the ball frustrate players and coaches.

"Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment." If something sounds too good to be true, it almost surely is. Players will emerge from the recent NBA draft as stars. Others will live the life and not the craft, and fall by the wayside. Judgment extends beyond the court. Thinking just about the Celtics, we recall Len Bias, Antoine Walker, Glenn Davis, and Vin Baker where the whole package failed.  

"The game honors toughness." Soft players don't block out, get the ball ripped away, have 'alligator arm' rebounding, don't dive for loose balls, won't take charges, bail out on layups to avoid contact, won't engage. It's not always about size and strength. But it's mental toughness, resilience, and having the will to confront adversity. Comebacks blend resilience, skill, persistence, and toughness. Young players grow into those domains...or not. 

What if? Are we ready when our chance comes? Prepare as though opportunity will come. Unless we leave our comfort zones, we won't grow. Mistakes in practice are learning opportunities. Watching others fail and their response can show us better ways. 

Pet peeves. We all have pet peeves, mistakes that drive us to the antacid cabinet. Don't double down on mistakes. If you turn the ball over, fouling doubles down. Bad body language reflects your state of mind. Wear the jersey, don't eat it. 

Respect the game. Hand the ball to the closest official. Don't turn your frustration into a cheap shot, bad shot, or bad transition. 

How can we reduce mistakes

TRACK. Winners are trackers. Keep track of the number and types of mistakes. Applying the right solutions reduce the mistakes. 

GIVE and GET FEEDBACK. Get Readback...about one in eight communications is misunderstood. "Explain what I just said." 

FOCUS. Emphasize focus. A few possessions decide many outcomes. 

STUDY FILMI sent the players (via their parents) the 'short video lessons' spreadsheet and some have watched.  Short Video Lessons

EXPAND MENTAL MODELS. Decision-making is a skill. Learn about it. Occam's Razor - "Never multiply things beyond necessity."

Make reducing error a priority. "Take care of your tools." I always sharpen the knife before cooking. I have total focus sharpening and cleaning the knife. If I lose a finger, then the knife becomes a useless tool. 

I emphasize to players that you need two moves to pass a player with the dribble on your dominant side (e.g. speed, hesitation, double crossover, in-and-out dribble) and nondominant side (crossover, through-the-legs, behind-the-back, spin). Choose your tools. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Basketball: What Does PITCHING Have to Do with It?

"I'm a salesman." - Chuck Daly

Our players define us. We sell ourselves, add value, and nurture the program. We use hard conversations to make believers. We must live the now and envision the possibilities. Phil Jackson says, "The key to sustained success is to keep growing as a team. Winning is about moving into the unknown and creating something new."

Morse code ( the process)

Include the batteries. Bring energy and energize the group every day. Energy begets energy. Low energy culture produces low energy people. We inform where our team lives on the flexibility and independence scale. Flexibility defines how people respond to change and independence informs their interaction. More independence increases more enjoyment and learning at the expense of less personal control.

We sell both our culture and our values. With young players we emphasize TIA - teamwork, improvement, and accountability. Share Don Meyer's PUSH-T values of passion, unity, servant leadership, humility, and thankfulness. Remember that "culture eats strategy for breakfast." 

We sell our credibility through what we know and how we share. Steven M.R. Covey's diagram from The Speed of Trust blends character and competence. His ability and will to learn Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's stunning victory at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. A history professor won the Congressional Medal of Honor.  

Consistent process combines the philosophical big picture and the granular detail of execution. The most inspirational leadership and strategy won't matter without the people and operations to execute it. Gregg Popovich reminds us that "technique beats tactics.

Where's the beef? Read, learn, teach, and give and get feedback. Great organizations have "performance-focused, feedback-rich" culture. Players know much less than we think they know, but listening to them helps us know their needs. Constantly add value. 

The best 'pitchers' hone their communication skills. Rod Olson talks "speaking greatness." "That was good BUT you should do this" fails relative to "That was good AND you might try this." All coaches know the sandwich technique with critique between praise. Del Harris emphasized different levels of communication from conversation, teaching, correction, discipline, and go nuts.

The greatest salespeople in the world still need a worthy product. 


"Fall in love with easy." We'll never make the pass we don't see. Young players struggle to see and execute the pitch ahead. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Basketball: The Basic Unit, One-on-One

We have many ways to practice alone - Around the World, Mikan Drill, Rick Pitino's Quarters, 251Beat the Pro (a.k.a. Bill Bradley), Celtics 32, Eldon Campbell, Flips, Bradleys, 90 seconds (total score of 3s, midrange, and layups in 90 seconds), and more. 

But basketball's binary unit is one-on-one. And James Harden or not, I'm not talking about 24 seconds of dribbling into a shot. Work on your one-on-one game from the spacing line (3 point line), midrange, and the post. One-on-one teaches defense, too. 

Operate best within your "circle of competence," what you do well. 

From Farnam Street. Circle of Competence - know it and grow it. 

Add constraints. "Good players need two dribbles, excellent players need one, and elite players don't have to dribble." Add constraints like playing off two dribbles or one dribble and playing off the stationary catch, off the moving catch, and attacking closeouts

Shamrock Shake. Frank Shamrock was an MMA fighter who believed in better, same, worse. Practice against someone better, compete against someone similar, and teach someone weaker. Many strong players grew up playing against older, better competition. 

Go To and Counter. If you can't explain and execute your 1) "Go To" and 2) "Counter" moves, they don't exist. 

Four Ways to Score. You want to become a scorer? Develop four ways to score. You can score at the three levels - inside, midrange, and perimeter. You can score off the catch or off the dribble. Putbacks and free throws are great; a putback with a free throw is even better, three points and a foul on your opponent. 

Read the defender. Are they off or tight? Are they showing you a front hand or foot to attack? Do they have the athleticism and/or size to guard you? 

First step quickness. Especially in girls' basketball, first step quickness wins. Expose the defender by beating them sequentially with the shoulder, hip, and ball. Play in an athletic, low position. "Low person wins." But separation isn't enough; you have to finish (score). 

You're on the Island. In one-on-one, you can't call for a lifeline or audience help. It's all you. Bill Parcells advises, "confidence comes from proven success." 

"Draw 2." Elite players "draw two," forcing another defender to help. Elite players find a way to finish or dish to the helper's assignment.  

Commitment. Be an exercise in professionalism every session. You're investing valuable effort and time. 

Quality beats quantity. Leverage your strengths (Don Kelbick) and minimize your weaknesses. Make moves your own, your signature skills. 

Rule of 2s. It takes two minutes to learn a move, two weeks to develop, and two months to use it productively in games. As Gregg Popovich says, "pound the rock." Frustration and skipping steps fail. 

Practical magic. Mix it up. Develop the jab, rocker, rip, combination moves, shot fake.

What's your (NBA) skill? In baseball, they say what's your OUT pitch. Teams will adjust to you and you must adjust to their defense. 

How good are our one-on-one skills...never good enough...

Lagniappe: One-on-one from half-court with 4 dribble limit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Truth Searching: Basketball Writing

"You're entitled to your own opinion; you're not entitled to your own facts."

Separate opinion and fact. "The Duke Blue Devils have the most passionate basketball fans in America." No doubt the Cameron Crazies believe. Most passionate or most annoying? That's opinion. 

Anne Lamott begins Bird by Bird, "Good writing is about telling the truth." Bob Woodward's MasterClass makes the same point. He tells the story of Washington Post writer Janet Cooke, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1981, later rescinded because she fabricated the story. The newspaper apologized. Tell the truth.  

Stephen King says there are four kinds of writing - bad, competent, good, and great. Shakespeare and Hemingway are great; we aspire to be good, which is possible. Hemingway shared, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Where do we start? Think back to our earliest basketball memories, Johnny Most on the radio with "tricky dribbles" and "fiddles and diddles," or grainy black and white of Russell and the Joneses and "Havlicek stole the ball." Remember the goal hung on a plywood backboard on a backyard tree or the only memory of sixth grade basketball (a fat lip).  Frame the great debates of Russell and Chamberlain, the miraculous UCLA 88 game streak, or Dave Cowens delivering a 'real' foul to Mike Newlin. 

Whether it's King or James Patterson, they say, "advance the story." King develops a situation, narration, and dialogue. LeBron James faces his next decision. He refuted the maxim, "you can't go home again" with a Cuyahoga championship. Will James change his address to LA, the foundation of a possible Superteam with LABron, Paul George, and thorny trade for Kawhi Leonard? We know how LeBron thinks; he tells us. “I always say, decisions I make, I live with them...Warren Buffett told me once and he said always follow your gut...All your life they will tell you no. And you will tell them yes.”

What's next? Decisions determine destiny. The NBA draft makes instant millionaires not instant success. NBA gurus seek windows into a prospect's soul. Patriots assistant Mike Lombardi used a less direct approach: "I had a girl in Cleveland that all her job was, was to call her sorority sisters from different campuses around the Southeast Conference and ask questions about the players. Her information was way more valuable than any coach. Guys will tell the girls... we’ll get to the story on that. She ended up being the number-
one resource for me in terms of character. Character assessment is the number-one challenge to the job."



James Patterson says, "the pages turn themselves." On the court yesterday, we walked through the "football" series. Other "page turners" stood out. Players write the story. 

-3 sets a backscreen for 5. 
-A pass to 5 at the elbow opens give-and-go with the 4. 
-4 has isolation from the wing. 
-An overplay on 4 opens a lob with the clear out.
-4 and 5 have the "two-man game." 


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Basketball: The Idea Factory

"Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up." - Stephen King in On Writing

One great reason to read a lot is cross-pollination. A cardinal lands on your garage, then RECALL the wild turkey that did. Why couldn't the next visitor be a pterodactyl or at least a turkey vulture? In Empire of the Summer Moon, S.C. Gwynne shares that the Texas Rangers learned to track Comanches by observing circling vultures. Are vultures circling OUR program? What would they be? 

The vultures could come from above (administration), within (selfishness, our own stubbornness, or weakness), or below (lack of fresh talent). Chuck Daly said, "the wolves are always at the door.

We've discussed the pre-mortem examination, the 'what could go wrong' look before the leap. Can we steal from other sports?

Nick Saban uses pilates to promote flexibility in his football team. Nothing stops us from doing the same. 

Prior to his Triple Crown "Impossible Dream" baseball season, Carl Yastrzemski began intensive training including lifting weights. In those days, many people believed weight training hurt flexibility. Yaz responded with an MVP season, lifting the perennial doormat Red Sox to an American League pennant. But Free Agency became the catalyst for both training and the Steroid Era. Weight training is a staple for every serious athlete. 

Mindfulness was the province of eastern mystics and other "snowflakes." Except that Olymic champions and NBA stars like Kobe, Michael, and LeBron adopted the practice for sustainable competitive advantage. Google's Meng Tan brought it to the public with Search Inside Yourself

Football uses a variety of pick plays from basketball. What signals can football send amidst the noise, realizing 1) we have three-level scoring (like the three levels of the passing game) and 2) defenses employ man or zone coverage? 

First, we aren't limited to one forward pass. And we can use a player as either a blocker or a receiver. 

Just as in football, we can put our receiver in motion, and then "leak" her out of the "backfield."

We can show the same formation, then run "rub routes" (brush screen). 

Or we can change the alignment (e.g. into horns) and run similar screening action and get a mismatch even if we don't get a free cutter. 

Brad Stevens discusses the impact of nutrition, weights, and the training room on Jayson Tatum. 

One of our jobs is leveraging the impact ideas that are right in front of us. Forget about Old School and New Age. Just find a better way. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Basketball: More on Editing Plus Double Lagniappe

"The movie is made in the editing room." - Ron Howard

In his MasterClass, Judd Apatow shares the nuances of editing comedy films using test audiences. In a feature film, he may have 200 jokes; half go bust. Some go too far, others not far enough. He replaces non-starters and maybe another fifty work. The producers constantly review and revise. Steal from other disciplines.

During a basketball game, we have sixty to eighty offensive possessions. Too many fail. They need editing...better transition, motion, sets, quick hitters, special situations. Sometimes we 'recast' and edit the portfolio. Too many defensive possessions lack concentration, anticipation, reaction, and execution. We may have to dump our favorite actions that aren't working.

Like Apatow, use data to our advantage. How efficient are we at scoring in transition, midrange shots, cutting, pick-and-roll, isolation, on baseline out of bounds plays, and free throws? What shot quality are we generating out of motion and sets? Measuring should replace feel

Two priorities rule:

1. Do well what we do a lot.
2. Do more of what works and less of what doesn't. 

Point Guard College has divided high quality shots. 

Researchers have exhaustively scored shot quality. We need easy.

Maybe there's something even simpler.

3 - open layup
2 - open jumpshot
1 - contested shot 
0 - turnover 

We want the highest possible average "quality" shot per possession. Fall in love with easy. 

Chris Oliver shares complex Spain action out of a BOB. There's wing entry into a zipper cut followed by ball and back screens. 

Double Lagniappe: Drill to beat the double team