Monday, September 24, 2018

Basketball: Goldilocks, Finding Balance. How Much Coaching is Enough?

"Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team."- Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership

How much coaching is enough? We're writers, creating characters. Build players (depth, skill) and character. The first rule? Don't be boring while creating memorable players. 

Author Judy Blume, from MasterClass lesson on Creating Characters

I have ideas about what isn't enough. When players don't give feedback, communicate poorly on the court, don't understand the goals or the plays, I haven't coached them enough. "What is not learned hasn't been taught." Regardless of whether it's my 'fault', I'm accountable for it. 

I think the 'standard' layup lines are not enough. 

Alternative layup drills. We worked on these yesterday (six players, two coaches).

Left. Wing attack. Emphasis on separation, rip through with ball protection (out of defender's strike zone), explosive attack and finish. 

Right. Dribble handoff/dribble at with decision making. Coach defends poorly (direct DOWNHILL drive), well (pass to roller), overplays (back cut) with layup. 

Recognize that some players (increasing in my opinion) have learning disorders (especially dyslexia and attention deficit), learn slower without a defined disorder, or have less experience or aptitude for a new language. Build our teaching and feedback skills. 

For example, we instruct a player to force the dribbler left. She has dyslexia and problems with spatial instructions. Instead, direct her to force the player toward the benches or the bleachers. Some players need different instructions. They may be embarrassed to share their problem. 

What's overcoaching? Have you watched games where every possession the coach yells out something like "Blue. Eagle. 15." Then the team runs some play...leading to his kid shooting. Teach young kids to play not run a million plays. Basketball requires both discipline and freedom, execution with creative expression

In Thinking Volleyball, Mike Hebert shares a Japanese college coach's approach:

“Our players practice 8 to 10 hours a day,” he responded. “Last year we practiced 363 days.” “Why did you decide not to practice for two days?” Sherry asked. “One day was national holiday,” he said. “And the other day I sick of team.”

I'd call that overcoaching...

My way is never the best way, just another way. Finding balance matters. It may take a lifetime to write Goldilocks. 


Four ways to score. Are you a scorer, facilitator, screener? If a player wants to become a scorer, discover multiple ways to score. Fall in love with perimeter shooting and you limit yourself. Drive without shooting skill and defenders will lay off. Free throws, inside moves, putbacks, scoring in transition, scoring off the pick-and-roll all are viable alternatives. Very few "one-trick ponies" become proficient scorers. Find versatility of attack. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Basketball: More Mental Models that Matter

We're wired to think in stereotypical ways. Thinking well takes effort. Errors literally take no time at all.  

Understand biases and use mental models makes better decisions. The brief video above launches us into today's discussion. 

Hanlon's Razor. We need not attribute to malice what we can explain by stupidity (or an innocent mistake). Long ago, my wife felt one of our twins wiping her hands on her skirt. "Don't wipe your hands on my skirt." The twin replied, "I didn't. It was my nose." 

First Conclusion Bias. Quicker isn't always better. We have parallel brain processing to solve problems, a back-of-the-envelope (Reflexive, X-system, System 1) mechanism and a slow processor (Reflective, C-system, System 2). Detailed strategies require Reflective thinking. Larry Fine's quick thinking fails spectacularly in the video. But we don't reflect upon whether to jump away from an onrushing car. 

Stress. Pressure degrades performance. The 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo has been attributed to 'mind blindness'. In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink discusses combat errors under stress including friendly fire. I've shared Chris Webber's 1993 timeout mistake as pressure-related. I highly recommend the book Performing Under Pressure

Multiplying by Zero. "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link" or "one bad apple can spoil the barrel." The "Dork Defense" ignores the non-scorer to add help against the stronger players. Strong teams will apply pressure against another's weakness. We can't afford to have a zero multiplier. 

Fragility or robustness? A system or organism lives or dies according to its fragility or robustness in a given ecosystem. "Adequate" defense or rebounding can prove inadequate against another team's rebounders. Local basketball guru Tom Hellen says, "A team that cannot shoot free throws lasts as long in the post-season as a dog that chases cars." Construct teams for robustness in many different milieus. 


ATOs from the ATL. Many were designed to free Kyle Korver for threes. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Basketball: Woodwardisms "Getting the Story Right"

Great stories surround us. Writers excavate, reveal, and polish them. For Bob Woodward, great stories expose the abuse of governmental power...theft, misallocation of funds, betraying the public trust, treason. The public's need to know balances against the perpetrators' need to conceal or discredit. 

We have great stories within us. Propriety, fear of retaliation, uncertainty, and other factors prevent more revelations. 

Sports has great stories of intrigue, subterfuge, and betrayal. Tonya Harding and Lance Armstrong crossed lines to win. "Whatever it takes." BC basketball had a point-shaving scandal in the late 1970's. NBA referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to federal charges centered around gambling on games he officiated. 

Adhere to core principles in telling your story. Bob Woodward is the foremost investigative journalist of our time. In his MasterClass he shares his methods including some of his tapes. You're not misquoted in tapes. During one presidential interview he emphasizes, "I want to get it right." You get it right using human sources, tapes, and documents with corroboration when documents are unavailable or a sole source is questionable. 

Documents are out there.

Here's a partially redacted document from the UNC academic fraud scandal, and here's an article from the New York Times where the NCAA tap danced around the issue, deferring to the foxes in the henhouse. 

Woodward describes, the "treacherous curtain of deference" surrounding powerful people. Journalists seek a peek inside the curtain."A source within blah-blah-blah" reports bibbidi-bobbidi-boo" because they want anonymity yet feel information needs sharing. 

Great journalists like Woodward don't just find stories. They probe "inside the mind" of their subjects to understand their motivation. Share the what, the how, and the why. 

Bank robber Willie Sutton denied saying, "that's where the money is." He responded, “Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life.

Many coaches maintain a cloak of secrecy around their program and methods. How many of us actively expose who we are and what we do, warts and all? Kentucky coach John Calipari comes closer than most.

Nobody makes a big deal out of it when baseball players turn pro right out of high school. I don’t remember an uproar when Tiger Woods left Stanford for the PGA Tour. Neither Bill Gates nor the late Steve Jobs made it all the way through college. We’ve had swimmers turn pro and pass up college.” 

― John Calipari, Players First: Success from the Inside Out

Calipari goes to church every day. My late Irish grandfather would simply say, "he needs to." 

Writers illuminate truths. Woodward often says information is "close to the bone," meaning emotionally hurtful truth. Cheating to win, crossing ethical boundaries bares an individual's true nature. 

Where is a story's center of gravity ? Expressions abound regarding turning points, "the die is cast" about Caesar's crossing the Rubicon, or a "Minsky moment" where risk becomes collapse. 

Woodward advocates the "Rule of Six" where stories convey at least six important messages. 

Learn from exceptional actors around us. When we understand the messenger well, we may be slower to dismiss the message. 


Signature moves apply to teams, style of play, and individuals. John Wooden's UCLA Bruins had the 2-2-1 press and the UCLA cut offense. Everyone knows the Princeton Offense. Georgetown had a devastating man-to-man press as their style of play. Abdul-Jabbar had the Sky Hook and we remember the McHale Move, Olajuwon Dream Shake, Iverson crossover, Sikma Move, Pierce step-back, and so on. Here's a brief video on the Westbrook split pick-and-roll. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Basketball: Starting Practice

Steal good ideas...from everywhere, from everyone, from every domain, from other languages. Sawubona. "I see you." Newton's 3rd law. "Newton's third law states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." You get what you give.

When does practice start? On the spreadsheet...stretching (physical and mental), the practice plan, remembering a whistle. What do we want to accomplish, how, and what interference will arise (last season it was influenza)? 

Wrong. Don't start with dynamic stretching or two laps to warm up muscles. Practice starts when we greet players as they come in. Basketball starts with relationships. Urban Meyer's practice starts when a player crosses the 'red line' around the field. That signals you're fired up and ready to go. 

Everyone has a name. Some even have nicknames - Po (Polar Bear), Badger, The Blur, the V-Rex.  And they're girls. If your moniker is the most ferocious dinosaur of all time, how do you play? The Blur went on to win a state championship in the 600. 

Fire needs oxygen. Don't suck the air out of the room. Don't bore them. Don't be an energy vampire. Yes, I prefer them to start with flips and form shooting. But if they have five minutes early fun with Knockout, they're having fun. practice and enjoyment. 

In high school, we began practice with five minutes of jumping rope. If I had more practice time, I'd start that way. 

Drive the tempo. I know one coach (who played in the Final Four) who uses background music to accelerate the tempo. Keep the story moving. 

Never saying my ideas are the best. That's why I'm stealing yours. 


Basketball is a game of separation, getting it and preventing it. "Don't dribble the air out of the ball." But if you're dribbling, separate. Change direction and change pace. "Crossover on your shoe tops." A crossover is not just changing hands! 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

GENERIC ARTICLE - Process Overview

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale and other novels

David Mamet, The Untouchables and others

"Write the best story you can and throw out all the good lines." - Hemingway


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

"The sculpture is in the marble." - Michelangelo

"Everyone has their version of the truth." - Bob Woodward

Good writing exposes truths. 

"I'm not worried about you being the best; I want you to be your best."


Want to get it matters.  

Capture the reader with the title and content (improve!) 

Add value

Move the needle where possible

Where is the meaning...Adler level 3 - words/topic/meaning/mastery

"Sometimes simplicity is born of ignorance and sometimes from knowledge."

Power the first line

Keep it moving in the opening paragraph

Tell the story

What's next 

Rule of 6 (Present at least six items worth knowing)

Find a strong conclusion


The Key is THERE somewhere. It's there. (Mamet Masterclass)

Add supporting quotes, images, or references


Don't be a jerk!

Basketball: The Social Science of Influence

Education changes behavior. Coaches educate and influence our proteges and we can do so better if we know the pressure points of influence.

Robert Cialdini wrote the book on influence. Use his instruction.

Authority figures. Leaders can use authority for good or evil. Jim Jones used authority during the Jonestown cult to get followers to "drink the Kool Aid" poisoning (cyanide), leading to over 900 deaths. The Milgram Experiments showed volunteers anonymously give electrical shocks at maximal voltage under the direction of a researcher. We have great responsibility to use our authority wisely as coaches. Teams can play The Beautiful Game or Prison Ball.


Quid pro quo. We transform our know that into players' know how. Our time turns into their efforts. The charity industry employs fifteen times more than agriculture into the US. Their requests for donations may include a dime, a calendar, address labels and more, seeking reciprocal donations. We send you a DVD of your favorite rock group and you send a contribution to public television. I help you; you help me. We provide a scholarship; you provide the labor. Quid pro quo, Clarisse. 

Social proof. The power of group dynamics gets people to act or not. An individual is more likely to act as a lone rescuer than within a group. There is no diffusion of responsibility as the lone hero. Suicides spike after a celebrity suicide. The "good person" becomes part of a lynch mob

Get your key players to energize and engage the entire team.

Commitment and consistency. When we make public commitments, either in the media or in writing, we feel an obligation to follow through. Your university asks for a pledge of support. Politicians ask for your vote in return for campaign promises, "a chicken in every pot." The Knights of the Round Table pledged their loyalty. Before a big game, ask each player to sign a pledge of giving their maximum effort for that game. I've done that, but it's a one-time offer. 

Reason giving. Do this because

"Win one for the Gipper." 

Liking. Recently I shared Kevin Eastman discussing the triad of Trust, Respect, and Liking. Players respond better to coaching and leaders they trust, respect, and like. We might say, "I don't care if my players like me." Really? Top-rated Navy Captains were liked more than lesser-rated skippers. 
Here's a slide from a Mindfulness powerpoint I created. 

Use the tools of influences positively to coach better. 


Hat tip: Chris Oliver

Teach players to play with SSG (Small-sided games). K. J. Smith informs an extensive presentation. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Basketball: Implicit Bias

We don't know what we don't know. But worse, what we know can be wrong

From the Perception Institute:

We are what we do. We are our attitudes, choices, and effort. We are often unaware why we make our choices. 

Harvard University has an ongoing project to measure and help us understand our implicit biases

Keep asking questions, keep digging; seek understanding. Kevin Eastman wrote in Why the Best Are the Best, that review of a Celtics-Lakers playoff game revealed that the Celtics gave away 32 points through defensive errors. And they were an elite defense. Reduce mistakes. 

Many of us keep notecards, spreadsheets, and notebooks of information, drills, plays. Have we reviewed, edited, and revised them lately? Medicine has a saying about treatments - never be the first to adopt or the last to throw away. "Kill your darlings." The better drill replaces the older one. 


How good is our process? Professor Michael Roberto shares from Building a Healthy Board of Directors culture. Replace Board of Directors with PRACTICE. I've edited one section as an example:

Agenda Construction. Include a clear description and purpose of each segment. Allot time proportionate to importance. Practice begins with items that require immediate action. Devote the next block of time to learning and refining critical strategies from the intermediate-to-longer term. The coach prepares with specifics to address those needs.

Vital themes for us this season include:
- Understand our and opponents' intent. Execute ours; limit theirs.
- Apply and defeat pressure.
- Win individual offensive and defensive battles. Technique beats tactics.
- Improve player and ball movement to get easier shots.

Prioritize these areas in practice. 
- Improve defensive communication.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Basketball: Confidence Vampires

"Anyone who wishes to be cured of ignorance must first admit to it." - Montaigne

We all make mistakes; we can always improve. We care about perception...of others.

From Bevelin, Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger

Effective coaches trains players to succeed. What influencers sap confidence from players? Influences come from within or externally. 

Negative self-talk
We are our own worst critics. Sometimes we set our expectations too low. Others we set high expectations but fail to do the work required to meet them. 

Parental criticism
The Stoics say to listen neither to praise nor criticism. Parents can inflict withering disapproval. Sherri Coale discussed the player whom the team thought was selfish. "You're not happy unless you're scoring." In a team meeting, the young woman cried, "my father won't talk to me if I'm not scoring." Comparison with other players can exact a toll. We've all overheard conversations we wish we hadn't...woulda, coulda, shoulda narratives. 

Teammate influences.
Teammates support or deflate. Hierarchies exist. In Teammates Matter, Alan Williams walked on to Wake. Every player got a numbered black and gold travel bag...except him. The next day he found a bag by his locker, the bag of the star player. He didn't need any trophies. 

Cliques abound. I've heard (particularly in women's college ball) where schisms between gay and straight players destroyed a team. Cultures fail. As Kevin Eastman says, "fight for your culture every day." 

Sometimes the most spectacular failures occur with hazing. Great teams have clarity about zero tolerance for maltreating teammates. 

Coaching negativism
One player called the culture, "crabs in a bucket." Each individual scrambled to crawl over the others. Verbal abuse and bullying are real. Sometimes it can be fatal. You don't need additional examples. 

Players suffer with unexplained role changes and loss of playing time. Loss is embedded at the core of depression and decreased self-esteem. Players deserve communication even when they disagree with the impact of change.

In boys' sport negative video is a core element. UNC Women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance, winner of over twenty national championships, only shows his players positive video. In his book Ten-Minute Toughness, sport psychologist Jason Selk includes mental highlight video in his confidence building process. Know that you can. 

Social proof
Robert Cialdini discussed the power of social proof in his book, Influence. "Cialdini says that since 95% of people are imitators and only 5% initiators people are swayed more by the action of others than any proof we can offer." Think for yourself. Are you going to "pile on" (think sports radio) or think independently? 

We choose to build players up or tear them down. 


"Dribble At" work teaches reading defense and execution:
1) Dribble handoff
2) Dribble backdoor cut
3) Dribble cutback and more

Monday, September 17, 2018

Basketball: Transformational Offense

Gridiron Genius by Mike Lombardi reveals that Joe Gibbs' epic Washington offense broke down to three running plays and ten pass plays. Multiple formation and movement added confusion...for the defense. In other words, simplicity ruled, camouflaged with variations. Football has "pre-snap" formations (and reads) and post-snap movement with adjustments

Can we begin with a base play (or two) and decorate to add mystery? 

This is a minor variation of a play run by the Tufts' women, coached by Carla Berube. There's a post feed and a back door cut. I'd call this a "pass play." 

Align in a box and initiate the same action...or not. 
1. Use 5 as an isolation (I have 5s who can put the ball on the floor)
2. Use your 'core play'
3. Wing entry for drive or side pick-and-roll with 5

From a "Horns" set, again we have options.
1. Core play
2. 5 isolation
3. 1-5 combinations (ball screen, give-and-go, pass and handoff, etc. 


Nobody knows your depth (or lack) except you (you always includes me). Don't let anyone define us. Define ourselves through our attitudes, choices, effort, and actions. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Basketball: Fingerprints of Individual Success

The best rise to the level of the challenge. "Tell me something I don't know." Winners study successful programs.  In Gridiron Genius, Mike Lombardi examines the metrics and meaning of success, beginning with offense and the quarterback position. 


Winners keep winning. He reveals Bill Parcells "rule of 23*," that elite quarterbacks won at least 23 games in college. He explains that Jameis Winston was 26-1, Marcus Mariota 36-5, and Kirk Cousins 27-12. Tom Brady played behind Brian Griese for two years at Michigan, but was 20-5 as a starter in his final two seasons. 

Does winning in college transfer to the NBA level? With the one-and-done phenomenon, the sample size is usually prohibitive. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis shared that college program, individual success, and draft age best projected pro players. 


He examines key players' response to adversity. Do they keep fighting, get conservative, or fold their tent? Do they play better or worse in crunch time (e.g. the fourth quarter)? He contrasts Deshaun Watson who flourished under pressure and Mitch Trubisky who struggled against better opponents and under pressure. 


"Your star...needs to be a gym rat." Lombardi shares that teams believe that they can change a player's ethos...usually wrong. But he also acknowledges the exception in Brett Favre, who conquered alcohol problems and became a star after the trade to Green Bay.


Coaches love players with high sport-specific IQ. Better understanding allows players to play faster. It's not enough to see where the defender is playing the receiver, you need to understand how the help is playing. They may tip off the quarterback/point guard by 'cheating' their location, tipping off the double team. In youth ball, watch the front of the zone. The players seldom disguise their intent. 


Skill matters. Developing youth players, I am biased toward finding athletes and developing them over a more skilled but lesser athlete. Subconsciously (and perhaps unfairly), I'm projecting whom a player can become if they have drive and persistence. Lombardi distinguishes innate ability comparing Deshaun Watson and Ryan Tannehill. Watson has it. On third down, Tannehill's completion percentage falls, his yards per pass fall, and he throws interceptions. 


We communicate verbally but especially non-verbally. Lombardi illustrates this with Jay Cutler's indifference. Great players inspire. He cites Geno Auriemma's sitting star players with bad bench demeanor. If you're not INTO THE GAME then you won't get into the game.


Leaders 'command the room' and 'command the message'. Effective "next level" administrators and coaches check with teammates (anonymously) to gauge a prospect's leadership. Of Patriots former backup Jimmy Garoppolo, he writes, "he was a great worker, his football smarts were off the charts, and he carried himself like a leader at all times." 

The face of your team must live the part and live the truth. 

Lagniappe: SPO!

Clever design and phenomenal execution by the Heat...

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Basketball: Figure It Out

"I haven't read your work..."

Margaret Atwood shares a story about a couple meeting a chef, who asks whether they've eaten out lately. They explain they dined at a local place. "How was it?" They say they enjoyed it. He responds, "anyone can cook a good meal, once." We have to bring our best again and again

In Gridiron Genius, Mike Lombardi informs why Bill Belichick has coached on seven Super Bowl winners. The acronym is STEPS - excel in Strategy, Tactics, Execution, Preparation, and Situational awareness

When we watch other sports, we see coaching excellence in preparation, skill development, culture, decision-making, and more. Find the lessons. Yesterday, watching high school volleyball, I saw examples that translate to our favorite. 

Develop depth and experience. Years ago against a state power, the setter broke a shoelace. The reserve setter came in cold and the team won six of seven points. Melrose graduated its setter, the sectional Player of the Year. A pair of youngsters, a sophomore and a freshman, replaced her. Coach Scott Celli (Massachusetts Volleyball Coaching Hall of Fame, 2012) brought in the freshman (Autumn) to play the second set. She showed some nerves early and the team trailed 14-15 (sets to 25). Many coaches would substitute in the regular lineup, but he let the team "figure it out." They responded with an 11-4 run to win 25-19. Autumn had ten assists in her debut. 

Bill Parcells says, "confidence comes from proven success." Leaving our comfort zone allows players to grow theirs

"Fight for your culture every day." Most teams play best with their best lineups on the court. But getting our teams to reach their potential means getting the entire roster to excel in its role. Everyone played, rewarded for hard work in practice. A culture of teamwork and inclusiveness values each player

Energize. Jon Gordon wrote The Energy Bus. Another reserve, Claire, came in during the final set. She embodied Rule 7, "Enthusiasm attracts more Passengers and Energizes them during the Ride." Her presence boosted the energy on the floor. She also delivered five kills, as she brought both intangibles and measurables. That's not criticism of others but praise for the praiseworthy. 

Catch people doing well. Take positive lessons back to our programs. 


Radius Athletics shares a different way to get into the Pick-and-Roll

The set begins 4 out, 1 in, with post entry. This translates into a step up pick-and-roll with multiple options. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Basketball: Legacy, Whakapapa, and Us

"Everyone has their own version of the truth. But there are facts... you can come up with the best obtainable version of the truth." - Bob Woodward (MasterClass introduction)

Basketball is truth. Kevin Eastman emphasizes it. "You can't fool kids, dogs, or basketball players." Eastman says of truth, "You have to be able to tell it, live it, and take it." 
Why coach? We learn, we share, we teach, and when done well, we leave a legacy. 

James Kerr's Legacy shares the legacy of the great New Zealand ruggers, the All Blacks. They weave Maori culture, language, and traditions into their championship team. 

Chapter 14 discusses Whakapapa, the continuum between past, the present, and future. Kerr writes, "True leaders are stewards of the future. They take responsibility for adding to the legacy." He adds, ‘“ You don’t own the jersey, you’re just the body in the jersey at the time.” It’s your job to continue the legacy and add to it when you get your opportunity."

How do we build legacy? We search for truth and model our best obtainable version. 

Establish and ingrain your philosophy. There is no patent on one way. "Every hand's a winner and every hand's a loser." But every successful program executes its preferred style. Mike Hebert's Thinking Volleyball has an exceptional treatise on style of play. "The Cubans also helped me understand that playing volleyball was not just about the perfect execution of a skill. They told me that it was also about using the skill to express yourself. The Cuban culture is one of passion and appreciation of artistic accomplishment. This includes sport."

Define our mindset. Commitment, discipline, and energy require no unique skills. Teaching, listening, and learning belong to every successful program. Those values apply for both coaches and players. Carry them to the classroom with attention, respect, self-awareness, and self-examination. "What do I need to know?" "How can I grow those skills?" The best choose to make the sacrifices. 

Build culture. Our core values are teamwork, improvement, and accountability. "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Failure to establish "culture clarity" creates a poisonous attitude. We cannot have separate rules for different players. I recently spoke with a patient who played college football. Teammates resented players who got preferential treatment but didn't earn it. "You know who can play and who can't the first day of practice." Mike Lombardi described the same phenomenon in pro football, where organizational pets were excused from special teams. 

Command ourselves. Years ago, I was an assistant and the head coach asked me to take over at halftime, trailing by seventeen. I stayed positive and made some adjustments, including going "offense/defense" in the last few minutes. We tied the game an went into overtime. I felt uneasy about the playing time of some of the players and started them in overtime. We lost by two. I told the girls, "That loss is on me. We proved that we are competitors." Keep perspective, reflect upon and respect the big picture. There's probably only one person who even remembers that game. 

Embrace adversity. "If we can't trust you as a man, we will not be able to trust you as a soldier." Adversity is our teacher, building character and temperament. Our players, not our record, form our legacy. 

Lagniappe: Leadership

Consistency forges results. Leadership is like brushing your teeth. You can't lead once or for a two-day period and be a leader. Leadership is hard work. Catch people doing something right. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Basketball Is Problem Solving

Leaders find solutions. Anyone finds problems. Do we want to be a leader or a JAG (just another guy)?

Elite coaches, in the words of Mike Lombardi in Gridiron Genius, control the room, control the message, and control themselves. Therefore, coaching excellence focuses on leadership, "the main thing." What's your main thing?

Find light amidst darkness. How? See and hear Blue Man Group

"Each of your eyes has over 120 million photoreceptors called rods and cones...rods are more numerous and specialize in night vision." Rods light the darkness. Cones aren't the answer. I keep a few cones in my car to remind me about that. 

Steal solutions from as many sources as and research continually. Constantly revise. As we add, subtract. A new drill replaces an old one. 

Spend time thinking. Turn off the distractions and devote 'protected time' to thinking. Even if we only spend ten minutes daily silently thinking. 

In which domains should we invest our time? 

  • Leadership. (Become a better leader.) 
  • Individual improvement (Create and deny separation; finish; better separation makes easier shots).
  • Team improvement ("One band one sound". Are we on the same page? Communication.)

Lessons are everywhere

Direction (are we on the right track; if not how do we find it?)
Pressure. Applying and defeating it. (We can't succeed if we can't handle it.)
Playing with a lead...
Playing from behind...
Motivating individuals and teams... 

Think outside the box. How do you solve this problem

Get better at getting better. 


Chris Oliver shares a game winner with minimal time left. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Basketball: Think in Terms of Possibilities, Hoopopia is Utopia

If I ruled the world...such a fun game. Create your own utopia or dystopia. Assign basketball as the highest form of civilization (utopia, dystopia, or both). 

First, imagine leadership reform. Who runs the world? Basketball coaches, of course! We need structure. And how do we fashion leadership, by election or selection? Certainly, neither Mark Emmert nor Adam Silver are going to be president of Hoopopia. If we had elections, who would run? 

I'd consider Jay Bilas, Kevin Johnson, George Raveling, Bill Bradley, Rebecca Lobo, and Phil Knight as obvious candidates. You'd have high "Q rating" possibilities like Michael Jordan, with slogans such as "Like Mike." Need a dark horse candidate, think Bill Simmons. 

Hoopopia would obviate traditional political parties. We might see movements like "Repeal the shot clock" or "Raise the baskets" by the Randy Newman faction. Ballot questions could include "are zone defenses permitted before high school?"   

You've had your Presidential election. Who goes into the Cabinet? Secretary of Education? You could do worse than Kevin Eastman. Secretary of Defense? Would Bill Russell come out of retirement? Treasury? Steve Ballmer might work. Interior? Brittany Griner's stature rises immediately. 

School uniforms would change. Contemplate the arguments over NBA or college gear and logos. Dystopian societies (think 1930's Germany) love logos. And the arguments over branding...Reebok, Nike, Adidas...

Hoopopia further empowers AAU, trainers (Drew Hanlen for Governor), sporting goods manufacturers. And you think women's college basketball is "crabs in a bucket" scramble now? Your child's future depends on having the right coach and the right program. The Ivy League becomes the Poison Ivy league. A degree in English isn't worth the paper it's written on. 

College applications wouldn't just be about GPA but PPG. Captain of the basketball team would carry more weight than class rank. Knowledge about David Thompson might mean more studying David Copperfield. Air Jordan bests Jane Eyre. And being in the Pep Band counts. 

Great American heroes? Currency wouldn't be about Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Maybe Auerbach, Jackson (Phil not Andrew), Newell, and Wooden adorn coins in circulation. 

Governor of Alabama? Charles Barkley, naturally. Pennsylvania? Jay Wright. You see the logic. The Supreme Court? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the logical Chief Justice. Or maybe Michele Roberts not John Roberts. 

Maybe Hoopopia isn't such a bad idea. And don't worry, there's still room for intrigue, corruption (who gets the basketball contracts), and every base human instinct. I have to wonder where Rick Pitino fits in...


We had a small turnout at the workout yesterday. No worries. Small group teaching gives more individual instruction, more repetitions, and more feedback. 

Even with a small group, we can work on VDE (vision, decision making, and execution)...but it's still better with a minimum of four. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Basketball: Turning Failure into Success

Many sports are failure games. Mickey Mantle struck out over 1700 times. His career batting average fell just short of .300. But when he wasn't failing, he won three MVPs (and three 2nds), made sixteen All-Star appearances, hit over 500 home runs, led the league in Wins above replacement (WAR) nine times, and was seventh all-time in adjusted OPS.  

We can't let fear of failure stop us. Rational people doubt themselves. The opposite of fear is recklessness, not courage. Courage balances the extremes. Seek balance. 

Greatness arises from failure and humble origin. Ulysses Grant graduated in the middle of his class at West Point. He became an alcoholic. At one point he sold firewood on street corners to subsist. At the beginning of the Civil War, he labored in obscurity in his father's leather shop. From these marginal existences, he led victory during the Civil War.  

Bill Russell grew up a sickly child in West Monroe, Louisiana. The family relocated to Oakland, where his father was a shipyard worker and his mother died of kidney failure when he was twelve. Russell wasn't a highly acclaimed prep player. He went to USF, discovered by Hal Julio. That paid off with a pair of NCAA titles and Olympic gold. His professional career yielded eleven rings in thirteen seasons. Frank Deford wrote, "Fourteen times in Russell's career it came down to one game, win you must, or lose and go home. Fourteen times the team with Bill Russell on it won."

Russell saw basketball this way, "If you can take something to levels that very few other people can reach, then what you're doing becomes art."

The path to success is cryptic. Legendary playwright David Mamet has "what hinders you?" engraved on a new watch, a tribute to Stoic philosophy. Master film scorer Hans Zimmer begins each day facing a blank white screen bereft of notes. 

People struggle everywhere. I remind some, "Don't beat yourself up. There will always be someone else to do that for you."

We can never be better than we believe we are. Self-belief isn't arrogance. Choose balance. Achieving balance requires finding a manageable process and discipline to follow. 

Lagniappe: Free throw rebounding. 

Failure to rebound free throws frustrates coaches. Defensive rebounding reflects positioning and toughness. I teach players to 'sandwich' one side and man up the other. But we should be aware of 'tactics' used to rebound free throws. 

Zak Boisvert shares the X technique. 

I teach players to beware the "Hook" technique where the offensive rebounder "hooks up" the closest rebounder's outside arm (technically a foul). Another technique offensive rebounders use is jab stepping into the lane and bouncing low if the inside rebounder overreacts. 

Here, Zak shows the Nova free throw rebounding tip strategy. 

Lagniappe 2. Remember Kevin Eastman's WILT: "What I learned today."