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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Basketball: Super Six, From Kipling to the Court, Six Honest Serving Men

Find inspiration wherever we can. 

Rudyard Kipling penned, Six Honest Serving Men

I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew.

Their names are What and Why and When

and How and Where and Who.

After tryouts, the re-education process begins. Each coaching staff works to match their vision of TEAM with the reality. Can we connect, communicate, and get everyone on the same page? Condense to simplify and clarify. Then, ask the 'Six Honest Serving Men' how we intend to succeed. 

What is our overarching vision? 

"Get more and better shots than our opponent." - Pete Newell

What is our defensive blueprint?  

"Allow no easy baskets" (a.k.a. one bad shot or Hard 2's). 

Ask players what that requires (how). "Don't beat yourself."
- Get back on defense quickly and fully engaged
- Communicate and help
- No penetration/no middle
- Contest shots without fouling
- No bad fouls (we can't defend the free throw line)
- Own the boards

How will we score? 

"Fall in love with easy."  
- Get easy shots.
- "Movement kills defense." Move yourself and the ball. 
- "It's not your shot, it's our shot." (Jay Bilas) 

How will we be efficient?

"Basketball is a game of mistakes."
- "The ball is gold." Value the ball. Take care of the basketball. 
- Play smart. Know your responsibilities.
- Force your opponent into mistakes through effort and teamwork. 

When do we show effort? "Don't cheat the drill." 

"There is no try." 
- Don't say "I can't" or "I'll try." Do. I will. Bring energy and energize your teammates. 
- Invest your time don't spend it. 
- Win the day with a winning process. 

What do we want to become? "One band, one sound." - Drumline

"Be accountable to your teammates."
- Your family is your first team. School is your next team. 
- You are winter sisters
- Play together, unselfishly. 

"Movement kills defenses." Coach Flynn with video illumination. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Basketball: Bob Knight Offensive Notes Highlights

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

Nick Saban reminds us to "clear the clutter." The coaching notes contain far more detail, but I hope these resonate clarity and simplicity. I've added a few annotations...

2009 Clinic notes from Zak Boisvert

"Develop an approach based not on what you want do run, but on what your players can do." 

"You will get more open by screening than you will by cutting."

Always remember to set up your cuts when screened. (One of the Jay Bilas core Toughness concepts..."set up your cuts.")

Knight's players shoot three minutes of free throws every twenty minutes. 

"Thinking is a better weapon than shooting." (Everyone can think; not everyone can shoot.)

"The key to good offense is to run things you know you have difficulty guarding." 

Distort the zone with the dribble; drive into gaps.

Championship Video Notes from Ben Guest

Practice should be tougher than games.

Playing without the dribble in practice forces movement. 

Practice against 7 defenders (5 on 7 no dribble is my favorite pressure drill.)

3 on 3 work every practice. 

Against zone, think "draw 2" by forcing two defenders to cover one

"The zone is designed to play the pass.

Don't return the ball to the player who passed it to you (unless you dribble away).

The screener should always have a chance to score ("screen selfishly")

Texas Tech Notes (from Coach Larry Jackson)

"Free shooting is the worst thing." (Major Knight theme)

"All kids have limitations; stay away from what you can't do." The corollary to this is, "just because I want you on the floor doesn't mean I want you to shoot."

"You cannot allow sloppy passing at any point in practice." (No sloppiness ever...)

When the ball is reversed, automatically backscreen from the post.

"Teach players to see not look, to listen not hear." (The first price you pay is paying attention.)

Against the zone, align quicker players against slower zone defenders to create mismatches. They decide how to play; you decide where and whom to attack.

Let's Get a Good Shot

"The defense will tell us what cut to make." 

The pinch post like action reduces to PnR, give-and-go, and 5 isolation. This reminds us of Coach Belichick breaking down the Joe Gibbs' Washington offense to three basic runs and ten passes regardless of the myriad formations and shifts. 

(What is obvious to coaches is often NOT OBVIOUS to players.) 

A coach needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every player who plays for him, and make them understand too.

On offense, your players don’t take bad shots. They don’t throw the ball away. They move without the ball. They help each other get open.

If it is a pressuring man-to-man, we have got to take the ball to the bucket- catch the ball, face, fake, and drive. Do that, do it well and you’ll be on the foul line. (Answer attack with attack...this is at the core of OODA military strategy...observe, orient, decide, act)

You are trying to get players to understand that how they play is a hell of a lot more important than whether or not they win. Winning is a by-product of preparation and work at practice. 
Reasons why a team loses—sloppy ball-handling, poor defensive effort, lack of blockout, poor shot selection. (The most immediate step to better play is better shot selection.)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Basketball: Develop Our Gifts and Our Message

Basketball season offers a renewal of our beliefs, values, and attitudes. Basketball connects us with young people, their families, and our communities. The season is our springtime, time for revitalization. 

We mine our communities for the gifted. Everyone has gifts. Charles Barkley said, "what's your NBA talent?" How we use our gifts defines how others see us and how we see ourselves. The graph above illustrates Howard Gardner's "multiple intelligences." Even so, it's incomplete, discounting artistic intelligence and separating rather than blending domains. 

As coaches, our dimensions dominate on the left - interpersonal, kinesthetic, linguistic, intrapersonal, and spatial. Of course, we use logical skills to solve problems and mathematics in our analytics. 

We've all known or played for coaches with greater or lesser strengths among these. Not many succeed despite obvious deficits in interpersonal skills. Consider Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. His character continually says the wrong thing. We know similar people. 

Stories change lives.They inform epic triumph (The Boys in the Boat), powerful and unforgiving nature (Deep Survival), greed and loss (The Big Short), human psychopathy (Mindhunter), and more. Help players write narratives of achievement, empowerment, and teamwork. Our program graduates succeed in medicine (physician, nurses), teaching, banking, business, and the military. 

Move hearts and minds. The Greeks taught ethos (character), logos (logic), and pathos (emotion) as influencers. Model excellence and truth. What energizes a player more than, "I believe in you?

Language matters. Use rhetorical techniques as Lombardi did. "Winning isn't everything; winning is the only thing." Use humor. George Carlin said, "Swimming isn't a sport; swimming is a way to keep from drowning." Use personal experience. Bill Russell said, "sports reflects American life...the fans bring their prejudices right along with them." Appeal to emotion. "Fight for the girl next to you." 

Stay on message. What's our unifying message? How do we share it? Can we add signal and lose noise? Be part of something bigger than yourself. 

Speak from the heart. Kevin Eastman says that "you can't fool children, dogs, and basketball players." Grow character and competence. Find ways to empower others through inspiration, perspective, and wisdom. Add value, sell excellence, teamwork, accountability. 

Be intentional. Every time we step across that line (onto the court), we send messages. What message do we want to send, need to send, and actually send? Players improve through practice. So do coaches. 

Lagniappe: Spurs Execute

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Basketball: Recent Blog Clinical Pearls and Teaching Points

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” -Vince Lombardi

Coaching is connection. We engage other people to elevate their performance on and off the court. When Amos Alonzo Stagg was asked about his team, he said, "I'll let you know in twenty years." 

Here are a few basketball and leadership points from recent posts AND drafts. It takes awhile for ideas to be threshed out. 

1. Kevin Eastman's Why the Best Are the Best shares 25 words informing excellence, including URGENCY. He begins, "The best of the best understand the importance of the now - this possession, this repetition, this drill, this report, this action, this phone call."

2. Quarterback layups (snatch and go). 

Players love this competitive drill. The defender holds the ball, one hand above and below. The offensive player snatches and attacks the rim against the defender. The best players, even sixth grade girls, score on one dribble. It's competitive; it's physical. 

3. Moral Leadership for a Divided Age shares biographies of impactful lives, including William Wilberforce. "Outwork your adversaries" as did the British abolitionist. "The magic is in the work." Human nature compels us to seek comfort and find complacency. "Good is the enemy of great." The exceptional person finds the will to do more, to become more.

4. Etorre Messina shares insights at a CoachingULive seminar. Big picture is whether priorities align with actions (e.g. value spacing yet see scrimmage with bad spacing). Details matter only if big picture works. If you have no gas in your car, fixing the mirrors makes no difference. Defensively...Messina asks, "is the (color) defense arriving close to the arrival of the ball?" When it is, result the offense gets pushed away from the basket. 

5. How do we build our offense? Find offense that create separation for your finishers. Force opponents to defend hard-to-defend actions

6. Rebound from ROCK BOTTOM. "It's not how many times you get hit; it's about how many times you get up." The Astros rebuilt from three consecutive last place league finishes to win the World Series in 2017. Lance Armstrong recovered from advanced testicular cancer to win the Tour de France, albeit in a sport fraught with cheating. The 2008 Celtics captured Banner 17 after having their second-worst season.

7. From observations on tryouts, Be That GuyYour tryout is your signature. There is no such thing as a 50-50 ball. Run every drill as though it's your last chance. Sometimes it is.

8. From Knight Teaching...

Take away what the offense wants. 
- Make the offense uncomfortable.
- Challenge the passing lanes.
- Contest shots with the hand on the ball (not the face)
- Deny second shots. 

9. From Celtics-Raptors observations by Brian Scalabrine. "If you're going to switch, you've gotta to switch up, high, and to the body." Switching means more than exchanging assignments. It requires sustaining pressure. The Celtics didn't do that enough.

10. Quin Snyder says that pick-and-roll defense often decides whether you keep your job. He emphasizes the VALUE of GETTING BACK early as a NO MIDDLE team. "Clarity is the most important thing."

11. Overcome failureUse a three-step program to overcome failure: 

Begin the day: How can I improve today? Be specific. (What will I read, do, study?)
Close of business: WILT. What I learned today. 
Before bedtime: Appreciation trio (3 things I'm grateful for today) of Shawn Achor. Use a 21-day program of appreciation using three unique items daily.

12. All scoring types of plays are not created equal. 

13. Defensive mistakes.

-Play in a stance. Play low. Low man wins. 
-Get back on defense. Failed transition D equals defending nobody. Be back engaged.
-See the ball. "The ball scores." If you don't see the ball, you cannot help. 
-Communicate. "Silent teams lose." We have to practice this more....lots more. 

-Pressure the ball. "Don't back down." No dead man's defense (six feet under).

14. Consider using a practice template to design workouts. 

Have great ideas, drills, culture builders. Share them to grow the game. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Basketball: Conducting Tryouts

"Smart is making the right decision at the right time." - Stick, Daredevil, Season 1 

"Put up or shut up." I'll never say my way is the best way or the only way. I'm always seeking a better way. I expect to have about four evaluators 'scoring' players. 

Tryouts happen for our middle school program next week. These are 11 to 13 year-old girls. In recent years, a professional (former Final Four player) coach has 'run' tryouts (two one-hour sessions) with team coaches observing and making selections. This year, it's on me...create an environment that allows players to separate themselves, compete, and have fun.

Diamonds in the Rough. Think out of the box. Some players tryout with no basketball experience. We never know when an excellent athlete presents a golden opportunity. As an assistant, I had the 'last pick' and chose a raw girl with excellent athleticism. She ultimately became our best player. Today, she's a teacher with a Master's Degree. 

Measure differences. We see size but evaluate athleticism, skill, and intangibles - attitude, intensity, effort. What differentiates Janie from Joanne? 

Steal great ideas. Here are a few: 

Give every player a fair chance to show their stuff. -Alan Stein

If you only have 12 roster spots and have to cut a few players, that you know love the game, offer them positions as team managers that will practice with the team and sit on the bench during games.- Augie Johnston

Play games. I’ll never understand how coaches make decisions about players based on drills. - Brian McCormick

Keep it simple and come with a practice plan. - Bryan Burrell

Look for potential. - Darrell Johnson

Teach players how to play instead of trying to teach them plays. - Dave Hopla

The tryout should be a mix of individual and team skill sessions with a good portion of the tryout 3 on 3 and 5 on 5. - Ganon Baker

Remember these are just kids; they are not yet as good as they will be if they get good coaching and are allowed to enjoy the game while developing skills and learning character lessons. See past the flash, and look for the potential. - Janis Meredith

Be aware of parents’ feelings and don’t overreact when they love their kid more than they love you. - Jim Burson

Remember that you are coaching a program, not just a team for 1 year. - John Leonzo

Be efficient. -Jordan Delp

Do your best to make try-outs a positive experience for everyone involved. - Matt Monroe

Allow the ones ‘on the fence’ and others more reps and scrimmage/playing time so you can better evaluate. - Mark Adams (It's harder to pick the vegetables than the entree). 

Incorporate drills that allow you to evaluate ball handling, passing, shooting and finishing at the basket. - Koran Godwin

Have a good coaching staff that can help you evaluate talent and determine what is needed for your basketball team to succeed. - Lamar Hull

Final thoughts:

My plan examines mostly fundamentals the first hour but with some competition included. The second hour will split fundamentals at higher intensity and have some scrimmaging. 

Here's a preliminary spreadsheet:

Quarterback layups (snatch and chase)...the best players compete, explode to the basket, and finish. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Basketball: Lessons from William Wilberforce (1759-1833)

My ignorance abounds. I'd never heard of William Wilberforce until I began reading Moral Leadership for a Divided Age. Wilberforce was an English patrician and dedicated abolitionist. His career in Parliament spanned over forty years. Many despised him for doing too much for abolition. Others hated because they believed he did too little. 

Ultimately his fight stopped the slave trade in England and eventually banished (1833) slavery throughout the British Empire. 

But his biographers made four basketball-worthy points in their summary:

1. Expect criticism and be prepared to handle it.

Our decisions won't always be right but criticism is inevitable. John Wooden's Letter to Players included, "the coach has many decisions to make and you will not agree with all of them, but you must respect and accept them."  

Some criticism is valid. Ego shields us from constructive criticism. Gregg Popovich simply says, "get over yourself."  

2. Outwork your adversaries.

"The magic is in the work." Human nature compels us to seek comfort and to find complacency. "Good is the enemy of great." The exceptional person finds the will to do more, to become more. 

When he arrived at Carolina, Michael Jordan told Roy Williams that he would work as hard as any player ever at Chapel Hill. Williams responded that if he wanted greatness, that he had to outwork every player that had come before. 

3. Be firm in your goals and flexible in your tactics.

The Warrior trailed the Cavaliers and videographer Nick U'Ren shared footage with Coach Steve Kerr that they outperformed with Andre Iguodala on the court instead of Andrew Bogut. Kerr recognized that good ideas can come from anywhere. He didn't let ego stand in the way of winning. GSW went small and the Warriors won a championship. 

4. Build a team

"We can go faster alone but farther together." Chuck Daly said that every player wants 48 - 48 minutes, 48 shots, 48 million. The best players excel by making everyone around them better. One of Kevin Eastman's early words in Why the Best Are the Best is SACRIFICE. "There is no expiration date on sacrifice if individuals or a team wants to reach their true capability level." He quotes Doc Rivers as saying, "Doing something that may not be good for you but is better for the team." 

Values from the past help make greatness in the present.

Lagniappe: (courtesy Chris Oliver)
respect and accept them2. Outwork your adversaries. 3. Be firm in your goals and flexible in your tactics. 
"Where is our advantage?" 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Basketball: Etorre Messina Highlights

Learn from great coaches and teachers. Here are notes from Etorre Messina via CoachingULive 2015. 

Coach Messina shares practical concepts: 

"go through a process that might help my system" 

Focus: spacing and timing

"Don't let your man defend you and help on someone else...spacing stretches defensive rotation."

Offensively, maximize space and defensively shrink the space

He advocates for side-to-side and down-up ball movement getting defense to drop toward baseline

"Make sure that our language is the same as that of our players." (Shared terminology)

Timing...while one action is happening, other players must be preparing for their action (e.g. cutting)...see Lagniappe today

"Defensively, I want to destroy opposition spacing and timing."

Big picture (watching practice) is whether priorities align with actions (e.g. value spacing yet see scrimmage with bad spacing)...details only matter if big picture works...if you have no gas in your car, fixing the mirrors makes no difference. there aggressiveness and is the (color) defense arriving close to the arrival of the ball...result is offense gets pushed away.

In NBA, on the post feed, the wing passer usually cuts through. In Europe, the passer moves but is usually replace by another shooter...on the dribble (from the post that attracts help)...the wing moves (e.g. to corner) looking for catch-and-shoot. On the weak side, cut on the post dribble...looking for opening. 

Messina prefers to have the ball entered to the post then sprint high after a pass out to establish pick-and-roll against defense that is not set. Some players are good at running side-to-side but not up and back. 

"Build the game with your passes." 

Against the PnR hedge...this makes the rotation much harder than if 3 moves up (to catch) and enters the ball to the rolling 5. If defense switches, the offense gets the small on big mismatch on the perimeter. "Referee instinctively protects the small..."

When do you have a better chance to score, moving the ball without the players moving or moving the players and not the ball? Defense more likely to make mistakes with ball movement

Great offensive players use THEIR peripheral vision, see the defense, and anticipate the next pass. 

Good players see the ball and two players; great players see the ball and three players.

I'm continually reminding players, "the ball is a camera." Get seen. "Relocation, relocation, relocation." 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Basketball: Structuring Your Offense as Easily as 1, 2, 3

Teach (man-to-man) offense around themes - personnel, court areas, actions, range (layup, mid range, threes), or numbers. Study simple actions that work. 

Overview: Find offense that create separation for your finishers. Force opponents to defend hard-to-defend actions. This is too much material for young players, but provides a goal-oriented framework. 

1 - Isolations via primary action or options from many other sets (e.g. Horns stagger or Iverson cut)...occupying the help side works 

Breakdown: one-on-one, box drills

2 - Pick-and-roll, give-and-go, post entry and back cut

Breakdown: two-on-two 

3 - UCLA cuts, Celtics "triple action", Bucks off-ball screen actions

Breakdown: three-on-three (small-sided group play) 

4 - Horns downscreens, GSW downscreen basket cut, Bulls ballscreen options

Breakdown: shell drill emphasizing offense and defense

What do I mean by numbers? Run offense according to the number of players involved initially.

1 = isolation for your best individual attackers; that doesn't preclude options

We're a very right-handed team. We might elect to run isolation from horns from the right slot (above). 

Maybe, we align 1-4 high, with a myriad of options. We could run 3 through and get isolation for 5 as a "starter" play.

Or we could run a spread set and let 1 try to isolate off the dribble. 

2 makes the simplest actions for "two man game"

And the most basic 2s are give-and-go or pick-and-roll. The more circuitous route includes wing entry and corner back cut...a modified give and go. From Horns or the 1-4 high, it's easy to run high ball screens. 

Dribble Handoffs are another easy action to get multiple attacking options. 

Back cuts from the wing are an attractive option. 

3  isn't a crowd. 

Among the most obvious is the UCLA option cut. We expect x1 to jump to the ball, making the cut above more probable. 

From horns, the post entry and off-ball screen is conceptually easy. The 

Celtics like to run other options off the "high triangle" including handoffs pick-and-roll.

The Bucks liked to enter the post and then downscreen for Antetokounmpo (4). Any time you can get a great player the ball that seems like a good idea. Also, the 1-4 screen challenges the automatic switch. 

4 or more

I'm a fan of horns with paired downscreens. 

Golden State runs horns downscreen into a basket cut. 

The Bulls of Tom Thibodeau liked to run the high ball screen with options for 4 or 3 depending on the actions of the help. These create open shots and/or closeouts

Basketball: Sense of Urgency

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
                      - Tennyson

Now. Do it now

Kevin Eastman's Why the Best Are the Best shares 25 words informing excellence, including URGENCY. 

He begins, "The best of the best understand the importance of the now - this possession, this repetition, this drill, this report, this action, this phone call." 

The Now resonates in our process to 'win the day'. Eastman's process includes two hours of daily reading, one hundred eighty plus hours each quarter, when forty percent of Americans never read a book. 

Eastman continues, "It took me a long time to understand that urgency is a habit." When we procrastinate or abandon a project, we tell ourselves that doing what must be done doesn't matter. We yield the future to our competition. Replace HAVE TO with GET TO, as in I GET TO build the practice schedule.

Is our workspace a mess? Use the five-minute room rescue to tidy up a bit. Hang up that sweatshirt, get the empty mug to the dishwasher, the gear adrift to its place. 

Today matters. Now matters. Get after it. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Basketball: Rebound and Rally from Rock Bottom

"The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills." - Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms 

Successful companies weren't always successful. Steve Jobs' rollercoaster ride at Apple is well-documented. Netflix stopped shipping DVDs and dominates streaming. Howard Schultz turned around Starbucks. Robert Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994 for $174 million. Belichick, Brady, and five championships changed everything. Their current worth is estimated at $3.8 billion, a greater than 20-bagger. 

Even special forces have operations go sideways. In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink leads an evolution that results in friendly fire with both American and Iraqi friendly deaths. Willink writes, Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.

During medical training, I worked 185 consecutive days, sometimes thirty-six hours with little or no sleep. Driving home to Silver Spring on Connecticut Avenue, I fell asleep at a traffic light, luckily with my foot on the brake. Fortunately, someone honked and woke me up. Residents have died when they hit bottom. 

The Greeks have a word, katabasis, describing descent, as in a trip to the Underworld. It has been used in psychiatry to describe depression. Film celebrates many descents to rock bottom. In The Dark Knight Rises, Christian Bale (as Batman) literally sits broken and imprisoned underground before rising (above). 

Rock Bottom happens in sports. But "it's not how many times you get hit; it's about how many times you get up." The Astros rebuilt from three consecutive last place league finishes to win the World Series in 2017. Lance Armstrong recovered from advanced testicular cancer to win the Tour de France, albeit in a sport fraught with cheating. The 2008 Celtics captured Banner 17 after having their second-worst season.

The first step to reach bottom is to stop digging. That might include shedding underperforming or overpaid players, management changes, or completion of the dreaded tanking process. Baby steps with personnel and coaching can transform tectonic shifts as in Bill Walsh to the 49ers or Bill Belichick to the Patriots. The discipline of execution blends personnel, strategy, and operations. Get the right people in the right seats doing the right things.    

Last season our team limped along at 3 - 3 after a discouraging, bottoming out loss to a mediocre team. A lack of previous travel basketball experience doesn't excuse lack of aggressiveness, poor execution, and coddling. We emphasized finishing at the rim, applying and defeating pressure, and accelerated tempo en route to nine consecutive wins and a league-leading offense. The players bought in to a more aggressive style. 

Continually ask how to leave the bottom. 
  • What is going well?
  • What is going poorly?
  • What can we change for the better? 
  • What enduring lessons emerge from each evolution? 
Sometimes hitting bottom finds the urgency to leave it. 

Lagniappe: Defending disadvantage (from FastModelSports) and Randy Sherman. The whole article is worth it. 

Highlight: Shape up with tandem versus 3 on 2

Defenders must 'slow' the attack and force extra passes. Teammates hustle back, communicate, and stop layups and open threes.