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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Basketball: Intention and Obstacle

Everyone has a vision about playing the game right. Life interferes. 

In his MasterClass, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Moneyball, The American President, A Few Good Men) discusses INTENTION and OBSTACLE. This is what we want; that stands in our way

Intention and obstacle happen in basketball all the time...offense run from the sideline, lack of toughness, bad transition defense...actions that don't "advance the story." If great offense follows multiple actions and multiple efforts inform great defense, single breakdowns collapse the intention

I seldom lose my mind at practice. We've all been there. Last night I did, reminding players that any correction belongs to all players

We reviewed the most basic of 2-3 offense...seeking ball reversal and paint touches. The INTENTION is distorting the zone, creating multiple opportunities. 

The ball reversed to '3' who then "took several dribbles back out toward '1'. I blew the whistle (too long and too loud) and stopped play. An OBSTACLE to multiple actions is PURPOSELESS PLAY. The action neither pressured the defense nor advanced the intent of creating a quality possession.  

Everything we do should advance the story, collapse the gap between our vision and our reality. Yet, it's easy to forget these are children, most with a limited basketball worldview. 

If we harp at our children, "clean your room," they tune us out. Seek balance between overcorrection and refocusing. 

Practice went better as players received the 'overdribbling' message. For the moment, the whistle decoupled INTENTION AND OBSTACLE. Advance the story

Lagniappe: "Great offense is multiple actions." 
Radius Athletics illustrates a double-staggered screen into "pinch post" like action. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Basketball: Fast Five - Killer S's (SLOTH, SELFISHNESS, SOFTNESS)

Don't beat yourself up. Someone else will always do that. Create high expectations including unacceptable behavior. 

What do we need now? How can we improve? Trash the trash

Sloth. Laziness is a choice. Laziness spreads like disease. Dean Smith said, "I don't coach effort." Most coaches lack that luxury. Demand an excellence culture. Excellence is deliberate. We get what we accept. 

Drill: ARGENTINA Passing Drill

What's the best metric for effort? Kentucky used heart rate monitoring to objectify effort. Most coaches rely on the "eyeball test" - transition defense, rebounding intensity, moving without the ball, ball containment. 

Selfishness. Taking an open shot isn't selfish. Taking an open shot while a teammate has a better shot can be ("non-shooters are always open"). Situationally inappropriate shots are selfish. There are no my turn shots. "It's the scoreboard, not the scorebook."
Remind players of Jay Bilas' "It's not YOUR shot, it's OUR shot." Sometimes, we have to say, "that's not how WE play" or simpler and louder, "pass the ball."

Softness. TGHT. "The game honors toughness." Ceteris paribus, with similar talent, the more aggressive team succeeds. The 'soft' label profoundly indicts a team's character. Your play reflects your identity, your ethos. Good teams do whatever it takes to dispel notions of softness. 

Drill: COMMANDO (Rebounding toughness drill) 

Return to the mental model of inversion. Defeat sloth, selfishness, and softness with effort, teamwork, and toughness

"Reading Lesson" Lagniappe: Advice from Chris Oliver, @BBallImmersion on reducing turnovers

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Basketball: Defensive Mistakes and Errors

"Stop!" The voice inside your head screams, "what was that?" Don't suffer by a thousand paper cuts. 

Mistakes kill coaches. Baseball classifies bad defense as defensive mistakes and errors (DME). Mistakes don't equal errors. Outfielders get trapped too close to the wall and surrender extra bases. They miss the cutoff man or throw to the wrong base. They don't back up a play, allowing advance on an overthrow. And so on. 

Basketball needs DME, too. Exceptional teams limit DME. In his book, Why the Best Are the Best, Kevin Eastman notes the Celtics allowed 32 points in a Finals game against the Lakers because of defensive the most elite level. 

Of the six games we lost this season, four were by six points or less. Turnovers, missed shots, and failed free throws all contributed, but we can eliminate obvious DME and turn failure into success. There is no intent to include all possible DME. 

Missed individual assignments. If you cover nobody, then you can't stay on the floor...especially when you get to high school. Take it personally.  

Bad containment. Develop a feel for how close you can play to the ballhandler. 

No help and rotation(the help cannot be beaten). I saw a team lose a sectional championship by a point because of failed help and rotation (left, three layups on pass across). "The ball scores." It doesn't matter if your player doesn't score if your lack of help and rotation (help the helper) allows somebody else to score. 

Bad gambles. Going for a low probability steal can surrender an easy basket. Understand the risk and reward of your decisions. 

Poor communication. Defensive talk helps decision-making and intimidates. Don't allow teammates to get blown up by hard screens. 

Poor conversion (offense to defense) with failed transition D. 

Fouling perimeter shooters. "Never foul a jump shot." Never, ever foul a three-point shot. The top 3-point shooting team in the NBA (San Antonio) shoots 40 percent, 1.2 points per possession. The worst two teams in the NBA shoot just under 70 percent (1.4 points per possession). Do the math. Bad fouls give away points. 

via Sandy Weil 

Contest shots without fouling. Open shots are easier shots (above). Maintaining close defensive proximity pays dividends. In a game with fifty shots, 12 percent reduction is six fewer baskets (twelve points). 

Failed blockouts. An initial offensive rebound (second chance) turns into points half the time. A third chance becomes points eighty percent of the time. 

The quickest means to improvement are better shot selection and reducing DME. 

Lagniappe: Coaches are responsible for adding energy at practice. The coach can never have an "energy day off." 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Basketball: Beating Boeheim's 2-3 Zone, Persist Like the Shaolin

Persistence is power. This story from the Shaolin monks teaches power through small actions and patience. 

Syracuse has one of the best 2-3 zone defenses in basketball. How would Boeheim beat Boeheim? 

Coach Boeheim attacks the Syracuse zone. Ball reversal with "hard passes" and recognition gets an inside attack. 


Coach Nick discusses 'traditional' individual and team zone attack principles:
1) Drive into gaps to Draw 2
2) Dribble over, pass behind

a) 1-3-1 set
b) Low player in slot
c) High post player goes ball side
d) High post looks for seam to pass
e) Ball reversal distorts  zone 
f) If pass to slot low, wing cutter clears defense for high post cutter
g) If pass to high post, wing cutter moves defense and slot comes up

The diagrams show the initial options. 

Tom Izzo's Michigan State "Fist Down" offense attacks the middle of the zone. Click through to read the explanation. It's not kid stuff. 

Via Basketball Immersion, here's a video informing a 2-on-1 via a wing ball screen. 

Here's a diagram of how a ball screen creates a weak side 2-on-1. 
Coach Nick also discusses what works against Syracuse. 

"Gonzaga used a two guard front to force Syracuse to match up." 

With a strong post player, x5 shaded to 5 and Gonzaga got a sneaky baseline cut. We're small at the 1s, so I'm not sure we could make this pass. 

Gonzaga was unpredictable, occupied low defenders, pressuring the middle with their strong post game. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Basketball: What's Your Best Stuff Against a 2-3 Zone?

Our post-season brackets are out and no surprise, we're playing a 100% zone team. At least that affords us a couple of practices to work on it. 

Collect stuff and then winnow it down.

Summary first: Understand our intent (the Main Thing)

1) Find opportunistic transition. 
2) Maintain core concepts of spacing, screening, cutting, and passing. Move the ball. 
3) Drive into gaps to Draw 2 looking to pass.
4) Screen the top of the zone (single or double).
5) High-low and low-high coordination is a key. 
6) Hunt quality shots not just the first shot. 
7) Win the boards because zones have no defined rebounder assignment. 

"Keep the main thing the main thing." Go back to Newellian "get more and better shots than our opponent." Start by developing your theory of what worked, works, and will work. Keep it simple, stupid? Choose from among your best stuff amidst core values of spacing, screening, cutting, passing, and selective dribble penetration. 

If we settle for perimeter passing and "hard 2s" our chances for success are minimal. We'll distill a few from among the choices...but simple is better. 

Beat the zone in transition. Don't settle for low quality shots but take advantage of e speed.

Zones have defined weaknesses. We're not a three-point shooting team but we can screen, pass, and cut. How can we be true to ourselves? 

Screening 101. Single ball side screen from the inside with relocation. 

Box Wham. Overload and screen the middle with option for perimeter shot for 2.  Offensive players have to read the x3 defender's choices. 

Corner pick-and-roll pressures the middle (x5 defender). 

Screen the top from the outside, bringing both posts up. 

Screen to post up. Take advantage of superior personnel/mismatches (above). 

Screening 201. MSU "X" with multiple screens to set up driver. 2 drives and 5 rolls. We're not ready to execute this yet or the MSU "Fist Down" sequence. 

The MSU (Tom Izzo) Fist Down sequence is too hard for our players to grasp and we'd likely just get a bunch of three-second calls with inadequate timing. 

"Double Middle" (could also run from Horns)...screen the top then the middle. 

Screening 201b. Multiple screens to open the middle. The concept is simple. Could we get the entry and finish? 

Driving distorts the zone. 

x5 rotates to stop baseline penetration. 

UNC illustrates this here and the elbow cutter comes into play (circled). 

Coach Daniel's video is illustrative. 

Play together using OVERLOAD. Low-high and high-low actions regularly appear, especially with OVERLOAD (below). 

Interior passing is pivotal (via

Cutting can pressure areas of the zone...but don't force passes. We've scored with the clock continuity offense. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

"Basketball Is Sharing" - Potpourri...concepts, ideas, suggestions, memories

"Basketball is sharing." - Phil Jackson

Share reality, a drill, a story, a quote, a concept, a moment, a suggestion, an idea, a play, a memory. 

Dean Smith was ahead of his time...on race (Charlie Scott), the draft (Michael Jordan), analytics (points per possession, occasional scrimmage scoring by shot quality). He remarked that he never felt like a loser even prior to winning an NCAA title. 

There are thousands of useful drills. There's no best drill. 

An Arik Shivek drill...we don't do this enough. Everyone cuts and everyone shoots - a layup, a jumper, a basket attack against a closeout. "Movement kills defense" but you have to finish. 

When I worked at Sam Jones' camp, lifetimes (well over forty years) ago, I had to pick up a young Doug Collins at Logan Airport for a guest lecture. Collins confided that he didn't have big hands but learned to trap the ball between his hand a forearm by flexing his wrist. Who knew? 

"The game honors toughness." Nobody says toughness wins in isolation without skill or smarts or unselfishness. But without toughness, other positive qualities seldom emerge. 

Ball reversal travels multiple avenues. Scoring increases with ball reversal and paint touches as defense loses focus and makes mistakes.

Take advantage of moments to build player confidence. Find time to remind players of their strengths and let them know, "I believe in you.

Suggestion box. Understand why. We do a drill called Bradleys, where players hop, hop and shoot. It simulates jumping and grabbing an offensive rebound, and going back up strong with a high finish

Key idea. How are you going to wear down your opponent, both individually and as a team? If you can't answer, you can't expect results. 

Be creative by combining concepts like staggered and elevator screens. 

Help players make memories. Years ago, an area team invited us over for an "extra game" and proceeded to hammer us by about thirty-five points. Naturally, they invited us back the next year and we had a few new players and more experience. We won by 3. We never got invited back after that. 

Lagniappe: How about a misdirection "Flex" action out of 1-3-1?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Basketball - "Success Is not an Entitlement" Plus Simple Zone Actions

"Success is not an entitlement." - Howard Schultz

You all know the success "adages." 

"Success is a choice." - Rick Pitino 

Success means making everyone around you better...teaching, inspiring, tweaking, leading, counseling, supporting. People have different needs at different times. 

What's your primary basketball job? Make the team betterImagine you were the 12th player. Show me how you're making the team better. You're engaged, on time, in shape, practice hard, compete, know the team philosophy, and work to fulfill the program identity and culture. If you can't 'buy in', should you bug out

Success is bringing energy, energizing teammates, and having an edge to execute every day

We've had five to seven players at our three practices (we got an extra session) this week. 

Create progress. Last night we had four hoops, five players, and two coaches, so there was a lot of individual attention. In "elbow to elbow" the player shoots and goes to the opposite elbow for another quick catch and shoot. Track everything. In less than five minutes, the player gets over fifty shots. When my daughters played in high school, I'd expect them to make at least eight out of ten...and they expected to do so. You can't shoot forty percent in practice and expect to be a fifty percent shooter in games. The youngster I worked with last night was consistently making at least six, which is progress for twelves. But better technique - quicker release, consistency of release point and follow-through was short-term success. Later, she made two consecutive three-pointers from the corner...I don't remember seeing her make one before. 

Success means attention to detail...and repetition.

For over twenty minutes, we worked against the side of the zone...ball movement, screening the top or bottom, penetrate and pass, understanding and making the types of shots available. At the beginning, the girls weren't scoring very often...but by the end, they improved a lot. But it's unrealistic to expect huge carryover, with only five players available during school vacation. Celebrate small wins

What are our values and vision? Create opportunity for everyone to play at some level of high school. "Control what you can control." You control ACE - attitude, choices, and effort. You differentiate yourself with exceptional attitude, choices, and effort

Mental model - Inversion. What will destroy us? Don't fall victims to the success killers of sloth (laziness), selfishness, and softness

Fight to impact the world around you every day. 

Lagniappe: simple actions against the 2-3 zone (Pass Behind, Crossbow)

Misdirect and pass behind.

Screening can work remarkably well, but don't expect a layup every time. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Basketball: Creative Time, Emergency Shots, and Small Victories

Leaders need creative time. How do we teach better, lead better, think better?  

Insulate, protect, carve out time. That's usually 6:00 - 7:00 A.M. for me. That's time...everything from Stephen Curry to Ken Burns to Jane Goodall. It's writing time, reading time. Jane Goodall talks about a young chimp who dies of happens with people, too (link to broken-heart syndrome). 

Encourage player creativity. When I'd practice shooting as a kid, I'd spend maybe five percent of the time taking "emergency shots." A crazy shot meant tossing the ball in the air, jumping, catching and shooting. Double pump jump shots...Flyaways...Tip ins of intentional misses. Because once in a blue moon, that's what you're left with. And making that shot might mean the difference between winning and losing. 

Celebrate small victories. At the end of practice last night, every player shoots two free throws (encouraged by teammates). The last two shooters both made two. Nice.

Study creative people. That doesn't mean just basketball. Walter Isaacson's books on Da Vinci and Ben Franklin are tremendous. How did they see the world differently. Leonardo was left-handed, illegitimate, uneducated, and gay...not fashionable during his time. But he was a genius of multiple media of art (painting, sculpture), math, science, music (invented instruments), weaponry, and more. 

Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci oil was unique for its time...a three-dimensional quality, three- quarter pose, distinctive sharpness of foreground versus background based on his studies of light. 

Never say no. This is hard. I've violated that rule (and look where I am not). We were offered additional practice tonight. I'll be there. 

Learn the language. When we hear something we don't know, check it out. 

Find something to say. Everything won't resonate with readers, friends, or students. But something will. To become a writer, write. To become a coach, teach. 

Lagniappe: last night we spent almost half of voluntary (school vacation) practice on two-on-two and three-on-three actions. But we need to devote some time to "zone zones" practice. 

Work against the "front" of zones demonstrating critical spacing.

Practice 3-on-3 versus the front or the side of a zone. Challenge players to get the best possible shot or add constraints - insist on getting shots in the paint or demand a screen before a shot.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Basketball: Fast Five, Key Messages from Shonda Rhime's WRITER'S ROOM (Plus SSGs)

Our lives tell stories. Fear spawns silence...silence from leadership, silence on the court, silence instead of a forceful, consistent message. Silence never tells the best story possible. 

Engagement matters. Performance matters. You matter. Everyone needs to be involved and valued in the 'story.' 

Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal) has a wonderful MasterClass on writing for television. Many ideas translate across platforms

Her class on the Writer's Room was particularly illustrative. Here are some highlights that work for our "room":

1. Study all episodes. A writer studied "what the difference was" between every first draft, production draft, final draft, and the show. That tells you what the process is supposed to look like. (Why did stuff work or not work?) See which players enhance the process and the end product through effort and attention to detail. As Ron Howard says, "the movie is made in the editing room." 

2. Embrace the culture of the room. Find a way to fit in and add value. Find solutions for problems that hold the team back. Communicate more and better. 

3. Be energetic and contribute. "Make sure you talk." "Try to be useful, be helpful, be kind, and be nice. Be the first one there and the last one to leave. Always." This might sound obvious, but you're making an impression every day. Management guru Tom Peters echoes, "Every day is showtime." 

4. "You have to be willing to fight for your opinion." Every idea won't be great or even good, but you need a presence. What is your talent? How are you making the team the best it can be? Preparation is everything. Want your teammates to respect your game, your ethos, your attitude

5. Your performance and contribution relate to character (role). Your opportunity derives from your role...what are you bringing to the table? 

Lagniappe: Monday's practice focus was on shooting. Today's practice will focus on skills for half and small-sided group play (2 v 2, 3 v 3) for the second half. Players must learn to create together. You don't learn how to run campaigns by solely reading about campaigns. You won't master SSG in one practice or five. Remember, these children don't live at the playground. 

Sampler of 2 v 2 concepts

Sampler of 3 v 3 concepts 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Basketball: What Inspires Today's Youth?

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room." - Socrates, 469 - 399 B.C.

We teach a lot of great kids. A former player's mother said, "she's every bit as good and helpful at home as she is on the court." But what inspires today's youth? Here are some suggestions. 

Model excellence. Children see our example and follow it. They see our level of commitment and preparation. They value our attention and time. 

Be here now. Pope John Paul II said, "the future starts today, not tomorrow." What happens today is the foundation for tomorrow. But it's not enough to make the team; contribute. Act like you deserve to be part of the team. You do! 

Share the truth. Players want to hear the truth. Kevin Eastman explains how NBA players want and need the truth. "We didn't mince words or names when we talked to our team... We wanted the correction to be direct, honest, factual — but not demeaning." If we want to be a solid, consistent team, then we must shoot better. 

"Catch people in the act of doing something right." Praise the praiseworthy but don't
give false praise, either. 

Energize. I remember my summer at Officer Indoctrination School (OIS, Newport, RI) where our platoon leader, LT Unruh constantly energized our group. His energy helped push us through the daily routine of classroom work, military drilling, exercise, room and personnel inspections and more. 

Speak greatness. In the Legacy Builders, Rod Olson describes speaking greatness. Empower our players. Sometimes a single word matters. Replace "that was good BUT" by "that was good AND..."

Be realistic. In Mastering the Market Cycle, Howard Marks writes, "That’s one of the crazy things: in the real world, things generally fluctuate between “pretty good” and “not so hot”. With young players, that's especially true. 

Add value. Gregg Popovich preaches, "technique beats tactics." Building skill adds the most value for players and teams.  

Ask for more. Create higher expectation and accountability...holding each teammate to a higher standard. It won't ever be perfect. 

"Two is one and one are none." Teamwork is the ethos of the Navy SEALs. The buddy system is their reason to be. 

"Never be a child's last coach." Never remove hope or joy from players. If players feel compelled to quit a sport because of us, we're doing it wrong. 

Build Them Up. Find a reason to share, "I believe in you." 

Kim Kotecki of Escape Adulthood suggests dream chasing and a childhood bucket list
Addicted to social media. Maybe Inspire My Kids has something for you. 

Do you have a Jar of Awesome? I do. 

Have you done Shawn Achor's 21 day challenge to find more happiness? 

We inspire our players through the lives and the truths we share with them. It won't be easy, just worth the effort. 

Lagniappe: The details (from Shawn Ellis) of the Sean Achor 21-day Challenge

Shawn developed what he calls the “21-Day Challenge,” in which you pick one of five researched habits and try it out for 21 days in a row to create a positive habit. Doing so actually rewires — or trains — your brain to be more positive.
Here are the five habits to choose from:

  1. Three Gratitudes: Pause to take note of three new things each day that you are grateful for. Doing so will help your brain start to retrain its pattern of scanning the world, looking not just for the negative inputs but for the positive ones.
  2. Journaling: Similar to the gratitude practice, but in this case, detail — in writing — one positive experience each day. This will help you find meaning in the activities of the day, rather than just noticing the task itself.
  3. Exercise: Exercising for 10 minutes a day not only brings physical benefits, but it also teaches your brain to believe your behavior matters, which then carries (positively) into other activities throughout the day.
  4. Meditation: Take just two minutes per day to simply breathe and focus on your breath going in and out. Doing so will train your mind to focus, reduce stress, and help you be more present in this moment.
  5. Random Acts of Kindness: This can be something simple, and Shawn suggests writing one positive email to praise or thank someone each day. Not only does it benefit the recipient, but it also increases your feeling of social support.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Basketball: Why Is the 'Special' Leader Special?

Secret sauce? If the recipe were easy, EVERYONE would have it. 

Jon Gordon shares truths about the process. 
Throw out some names - Bill Belichick, Greg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Doc Rivers, Nick Saban, Scotty Bowman. What ingredients spiced the sauce? 

Coaches at the professional level overflow with sport-specific knowledge. Nobody equates Bill Belichick's forty plus years in professional football with Alex Cora's baseball resume, but even a rookie manager has experience backstopped with supportive organizations and analytics. 

Coaches get labels as task-oriented (hard guys) or relationship-centered (player's coaches). The best coaches, the ones deserving emulation, combine both. The hard guys wear people out and players gradually run down the relationship guys. 

In Getting to Us, Seth Davis profiles elite coaches. He informs us of their PEAK domains (performance, emotion, authenticity, knowledge). 

In The Speed of Truth, Stephen M.R. Covey separates the ingredients into CHARACTER and COMPETENCE. A leader could have strong intent and no integrity or be capable in some areas yet unable to fashion results. 

Who is elite and underappreciated? 

From Rant Sports (2013), "(Erik) Spoelstra has led the team to five playoff appearances, 50 postseason wins, three straight NBA finals appearances and consecutive championships. He is the franchise leader in win percentage, playoff victories and titles, accomplishing all of this in only five short seasons." 

NBA head coaches winning percentage as of June 14, 2018. Coaches highlighted in green are those spending entire career with current franchise. Excellence creates continuity and continuity likely contributes to excellence. 

Jon Gordon and Mike Smith shared their coaching values in You Win the Locker Room First. 

From You Win the Locker Room First. 

They emphasize that leaders develop character, not just talent. Conversely, Pat Riley notes that winners often become victims of "the Disease of Me," where money, recognition, and roles supersede winning. 

Every caring coach struggles to find the balance between competing forces of technique and tactics, confidence-building and correction. Circle back to Jon Gordon's advice, "pursue excellence today." 

Don't lose the baby with the bathwater. Free throws taken is an element of Dean Oliver's Big Four analytics. Fouls get individual opponents in foul trouble. Fouls create bonus and double bonus situation. And even shooting 70 percent (on two free throws) yields 1.4 points per possession, analytics-friendly results.