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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Basketball: Expose Young Players to Advanced Concepts, Zipper Actions

The basketball universe spans the globe. Bogdan Karaicic shares ideas about Zipper Actions in a CoachesClinic presentation. I want our middle schoolers exposed to a variety of actions that they will run and defend at higher levels. 

Decide which side to attack for right or left-handed players. (Karaicic screen capture)

Zipper actions into ball screen. Aggressive defense sets up the short roll and extreme pressure on the middle of the defense. 

Coach suggests exploiting several types of mismatches - on ball, closeout, rebounding

The point guard (right) has come off a dribble handoff and starts to penetrate. He passes to the wing to initiate post entry. 

Get the ball back to the PG with a pass and handback into a high PnR. With aggressive defense, the back cut becomes available by design. 

Zipper into PnR with goal of ball reversal. This could lead to a corner 3, a dive for 5 with a delay, or 4 could set a flare screen for 1. A lot of versatility in addition to classic middle PnR. 

Against teams that front the post, zipper with swing and seal gets a possible layup.

Empty a side for a PnR.

Lagniappe: Horns sets from Chris Oliver 

 Lagniappe 2: Lessons from Vogue editor Anna Wintour's MasterClass

Don't fear to put ourselves out there.

We are editors. Decide when to be conventional and when to be disruptive. No matter what we do, everyone won't be on board. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Basketball Coach Randy Brown "Anchors" Notes shared scores of elite coaching lessons. Here are notes from Coach Randy Brown a luminary as coach and mentor for coaches.

He got to 'hang out' with a group of outstanding coaches.
- Learned as much as possible from each coach (sponge) 
- Leverage one relationship with another (networking)
- Excited by the experience. 

How can I get a Graduate Assistant job?
- Do your homework. What positions are available and expiring? 
- "People help people get jobs" via relationships.
- You need people to know and trust you and recommend you.
- If you've got a player, it could help...but not as much as a connected advocate.

Why should they hire you?
- What's your brand
- Make your brand positive. 
- What's your value? 

What are common traits of elite coaches?
- Attention to detail
- Committed to half-court and transition D
- Superior knowledge of what they incorporated

Expect to be challenged. 
- Why do you do what you do? Why is huge. 
- If I don't replicate the game, I'm wasting their time

What is the first thing you would teach? 
- Eye contact and intentional learning. 
- Work on your craft every day.

First rule of interviewing is "show don't tell.

1. I believe in challenging coaches about how they're using their time. Are we teaching the 90 percent that they don't have the ball? Study what happens away from the ball and practice those skills.

2. Teaching communication. Do we teach communication? Be specific and hold players accountable. Feedback.

3. Teaching basketball is seen as a puzzle...not drills. Clarity arises when the pieces fit together. E.g. What is the purpose of defense? He teaches "pieces" not "drills." Define everything. Confusion equals poor execution. Execution follows clarity

4. The Words that We Use. Do we have a program list of terminology?  What is your definition of success? List terminology...
5. Toughness. Have a definition...the ability for players to do exactly what you taught them to do. Positive response to adversity. Being in a stance. Not getting screened. Smart talk. "Be a bad practice lifter." 

6. Roles. Be specific. Let everyone know what they must do for us to succeed. "I speak of roles in terms of what a player can do and what he must do for us to win." Know your role and value. "An open three-point shot is a turnover for another player." Assistants need specific roles, too. 

7. The Top 3. What 3 things can you teach that lead most to winning? People have different ones. PROFOUND! 

8. The Rule of Sticky. 

9. Coach yourself. You have to know what to do and whether you're doing it right. 

10.Teach how to foul less. Research, teach to fix. 


- We are our brand.
- Show don't tell.
- Commit to transition and half-court defense.
- Know and teach your why. 
- Execution follows clarity. 
- Our teaching has to impact winning. 

Lagniappe: Jacob Ammerman shares some Celtics' actions

Monday, April 6, 2020

Basketball: Film Study, Make Know That become Know How

"A picture is worth a thousand words." Video adds so much more. Ask a player, "what did you see?" Be patient because film study is an acquired taste. Video review unlocks the power to change know that to know how

Ball watching presents the first obstacle. Eighty percent of player action takes place off the ball. 

Where do we start? This article shares how Kobe Bryant watched film. "From the start of the preseason until the end of the playoffs, Winter insisted on watching every play of every game with Bryant. It took 4½ hours as they watched film on cassette tapes."

1. Make watching film a priority. It takes more time than you think. 
2. Commit to making film study part of your daily process.
3. See the big picture first (spacing, defensive proximity).
4. What was the intent of each team, the attack and defense?
5. Focus on decision-making. 
--What did you see? 
--Where were your teammates?
--Where was the opposition? 
--What was the quality of your choice and the alternatives? 
6. Examine your footwork and balance in detail, offensively and defensively.
7. Separation. How do offenses create and defenses deny separation
8. Study great players and players with great individual moves that apply to you. 

9. Watch film of special situations (e.g. Adam Spinella ATO)

For example, at 27 seconds, watch the modified zipper cut entry followed by an Iverson cut into a basket attack. 

10. Invest time with quality resources. The PGC blog favors:

- Know the why. The ultimate goal is to improve both ourselves and our players.
- Better to watch 10 minutes of video a day than a marathon film session.
- Keep each film session to three main teaching points.
- Review film sessions right before practice. Take the lesson to the court.
- Add a highlight reel to enhance your film session.

11.Get a variety of opinions. Basketball Immersion did. (Excellent) Highlights:

- Evaluate your team’s reads within your offense use video.
- Chart your video breakdown to investigate potential patterns.
- Watch teams and players that provide realistic ideas that you can use and apply.
- Edit games like you are preparing for an opponent.
- Make points to your team about what drives success.
- Find film of good coaches and write down what you see.

12. Find great video breakdowns. 

Coach Daniel shares a variety of themes. He explains "Away" that I call "Tilted Horns."

Coach Nick's channel shares film, analysis, training, and analytics. Hone in on special action, like Leonard's "Isolation Hero Ball" at 1:07.

Chris Oliver's Twitter feed shares daily video.

I reached out to college coach and skills trainer Don Kelbick for suggestions. He graciously suggested: 

"If you have editing software, this is what I would do:
  1. Separate the offense from the defense. It doesn't matter if your cuts are from the same game or different games. By separating them, it will be easier for you to find the specific points you want to emphasize.
  2. Catalogue the cuts. If you can do it within the software, even better. That will let you look for specific actions at the touch of a button.
  3. Find 3 or 4, certainly no more than 5, illustrations of each point you want to emphasize. Your cuts should not just be errors, but good plays as well. If there is something you would like a player to work on, say shots off downscreens, if the player doesn't do that in games, illustrate with opponents. This is about getting better, not winning and losing.
  4. Make your edits be no more than 10 minutes for offense and 10 minutes for defense. Use time and player focus wisely.
Cataloguing the cuts is very important. If you can't do it within the software, use a pen and a pad. That would allow you to keep the sessions short so she maintains a level of concentration, but you can have multiple viewing, each concentrating on a different aspect of her game. You don't have to do it all at once."

Common themes: 

- Steal from the best.Stand on the shoulders of giants.
- Make watching video part of your process. 
- It's not "gotcha." Show what went well and what needs fixing. 
- Have clear goals from a session (e.g. three major teaching points).
- Avoid overkill. I think Doc Rivers said not to use over 13 clips. 

Lagniappe: Professional film review 

Lagniappe 2: A Twitter thread about watching video

Lagniappe 3: Write not to show how much we know but how much there is to know. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Basketball: Fast Five - Giving Back

Give back. It's good and feels good. Take a moment to remember all the people who helped us along the way. "Thanks is the cheapest form of compensation." - Robert Townsend

Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein share how creative director Margaret Johnson made the app Herstory, education about women's contributions to history.  

Do a Public Service Announcement

"Masks are cool." 
No, this kind of mask! Be a trendsetter.

Be open. Eastern cultures say, "Beginner's Mind." The beginner has an empty cup, ready to fill with new information. Help fill those minds.

Experienced practitioners of mindfulness are not hung up on position during meditation. Mindfulness doesn't favor any sect or politics. The video shares an exceptional summary. 

Have fresh eyes. Reassess our situation. What's working and what needs to go? To give well, examine how we give now.

Be in the consciousness of the community. Bring something real to the table. Mr. Rogers said, "look for the helpers." How can we help and whom can we bring in to help? Focus on giving help not getting credit. 

Share better. Be empathetic, understanding the feelings and needs of others, to help them grow and be resilient when struggling. Phil Jackson says, "basketball is sharing." Sharing and basketball are one. 

Say, "yes."  Leadership and sharing overlap. Selfish, arrogant leadership is no leadership at all. Own a legacy of sharing. 

Lagniappe: Shooting "star drill"
We run a variation of star drill. The first round is catch and shoot. The second is shot fake and one dribble right. The third is a sidestep dribble left into a shot. We make an exception for the corner, where the side dribble is always away from the baseline. Adjust the distance to the age and experience of the player. 

Basketball Podcast: Nenad Trunic with Chris Oliver

FIBA Europe professor Nenad Trunic shares with Chris Oliver. His defensive ethos is that teaching must be rigid on defense, more freedom on offense. 

Defending the ball screen:
- Five player defense
- Starts four on four (opens space)
- Defensive teaching includes aggressiveness
- Ballhandler defense (BD) - pressure, influence the offensive player
- Hard show/hedge and recover (second most aggressive after trap)
- Always start with teaching aggressive defense
- Screener defender (SD) must inform defender before the free throw line 
- SD not obliged to let screener go where he wants "no face cuts"
- BD push ball to opposite side of screen
- SD one hand denying the passing lane 
- Third player (ball side) must be playing denial
- Fourth player (corner) is playing help and recover 

- 3 will likely lift on the roll and x3 is critical because of shorter closeout. But it depends on the skill of the corner shooter.
- Doesn't like two hand up closeout because he feels it causes slow feet
- His first principle is don't allow direct drive.
- Closeout with hand up on the shooting hand 
- "Recover with hands up and in the passing lane." (Chris Oliver)
- CO asks whether Trunic believes in "X-out" but sounds open to exceptions
- CO asks about switching... depends on personnel. 
- CO asks about going under... depends on shooter range (naturally)
- Not enough teams punish switching by getting inside mismatches...trend is punishing perimeter mismatches

Common mistakes:
- No ball pressure
- Face cut of screener (don't let screeners run free)
- Miscommunication
- Help side defenders not jumping to the ball
- When defense 'icing' (forces laterally), lack of ball pressure
- Big player responsibility is to control level of the ball (problem if good shooting big)

Practically, teams want to force mid-range and not spot-up threes. Trunic doesn't teach "fly by" on threes. 

Teaches guards to move laterally first after the switch (because bigs usually aren't as nimble laterally)

New trends: "there is poison and medicine for that" 
- Monotonous games (not enough intensity)
- Best teams have great intensity and pressure (fewer games in EuroLeague)
- Pick-and-roll 4 with 5 (not entirely new)
- Downscreen into PnR (hard for defense)
- Box and 1 defense

Adapts his systems to his players (seeing handoffs and flare screens)
He thinks simple sets may become the trend

Make life easier for your shooters (coming off downscreens isn't the easiest)
Classification - fast break, secondary break, sets

"Fast break is any numerical or space advantage."

He prefers four out, one in secondary action. 
He likes exchanges 4/5 to create high/low (Villanova like?)

How does Serbia get such great teams with 8M population? (This is the golden section.)
- Hard work, fighting mentality (toughness)  
- "Talented coaches can build talented players." Not so many strong youth coaches.
- High volume of practices.
- Starts with coaches willing to sacrifice.
- Too many coaches trying to copy top coaches' offense. 
- Not enough skill with non-dominant hand***
- Too many coaches deviating from fundamentals (especially layups)
- Too much computers, not enough drills. 
- Emphasizes fundamentals, physical development, intensity
- Not enough emphasis on proper technique (I see so few players waiting for screen, even good players). 
- It's about creating good habits, not just time in the gym. 

Lagniappe: (from the playbook)

Professor Trunic talked about the value of getting inside mismatches. Here's one.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Basketball: Personal Growth as a Coach, Invest Our Time

Better or worse? Set program priorities now. Social distancing has made group practice impossible. Do what we can.  

Plan practices. When practice planning, I have a "short list" of activities to help construct practice. Activities change from time to time. 

Work on your drill book. If you don't have one, start one on Google Drive. This adds special value for younger coaches. 

Refine your playbook. I use FastModel sports, with a variety of categories: 
Game winners
Half-court offense 
Tap plays
Zone offense 

Some categories have too few examples. Others have too many...I have over sixty baseline-out-of-bounds plays, far more than we could ever use. Sometimes just scrolling through a category gives me fresh ideas. 

For example, this resembles a "Reverse America's Play" that we haven't used. 

From over 50 Horns sets, here's a UCONN Women's horns set they ran for Kia Nurse...left a simple backscreen facilitates a give-and-go. Right, there's a bump and slip. 

Film study. Youtube has an endless amount of video for study, including video on learning to study video. 

Coach Nick discusses how to watch film. I like his idea to consider watching one player and how her actions impact the game. 

Reading. Pick a subject, coach, or author to study. Consider coaches Newell, Wooden, Popovich, Etorre Messina, or Dean Smith. Few people become well-rounded without reading. Most successful coaches have a library. 

Mindfulness. Mindfulness has many 'clinical' effects including resistance to anxiety and depression, improved sleep, better memory, lower blood pressure, enhanced immunity, lower circulating stress hormones, reduce risk of dementia, higher focus, and better grades and standardized test scores.

Who uses or used mindfulness? Just about every NBA team, Michael Jordan, Kobe, Phil Jackson, KAT, and more. 

"The heart of meditation is allowing thoughts to come and go."

Here's a link to a Google Presentation

Here's a link to FREE UCLA mindfulness scripts (self-explanatory).

Here's my favorite (short) mindfulness script, "Lion Mind or Dog Mind?" 

Online coaching clinics. Youtube shares an "infinite" amount of free content. FIBA videos, individual development by many trainers like Drew Hanlen, Don Kelbick, and many more. Study coaches like Hubie Brown, Jay Wright, and Mike Krzyzewski or players. 

Virtual coaching clinics abound, like this one organized by Lason Perkins. Thanks, Coach! 

Writing. Why write? Writing forces us to read, study, think, organize, and edit. I believe Director Ron Howard's quote, "the director (coach) is the keeper of the story." Daily writing demands discipline to produce content that I want to read. 

Take advantage of social distancing to restructure our teaching and learning.  As Coach Wooden said, "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." 


- Take advantage of social distancing to improve as a coach.
- Refine our drill book.
- Edit our play book.
- Strengthen our mind and body with mindfulness training. 
- Read, study, watch film and coaching clinics to see the game better. 

Lagniappe: via @Coach_DeMarco 
Great spacing with the offense getting an isolation against the zone. Good offense gives defense a chance to make mistakes. 

Lagniappe 2: attacking the PnR defense with screener walling off defense and occupying help with flare screen. (Images from Coach Dan Sokolovsky, underrated talk).

 Quick "show" is dissolving. Note flare screen forming at bottom of screen 

Screener sprints to get "under" hedger.

Driver has a step and screener defender is walled off just below the foul line. 

Sokolovsky's presentation also showed other ways to attack the early, hard show (hedge, fake trap) including the short roll and flipping the high ball screen allowing the ballhandler to crossover for either a drive or shot. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Smartest Thing on a Court? If a Basketball Could Talk...

Talking babies and dogs grab our attention. But what about a talking basketball? 

"I'm the smartest thing on the court. I find the best players-shooter, passer, rebounder."

"Don't let her steal me." Protect the ball.  

"What's with the catch and dribble?" Don Kelbick says, "think shot first." There's no shut up and dribble.

"You're dribbling the air out of me." They don't pay by the bounce. 

"I can't come to you if I can't see you." The ball is a camera.

"You don't own me; find an open player." Pass. 

"I love the feel of going through the net." Not the brick house... 

"If you want me, dive on the floor." I want you to want me. 

"Good players need two dribbles; excellent players need one; elite players don't have to bounce me." 

"Earn my respect." Play with purpose.

"Block out if you want me."  

"I'm gold. Don't you want me."

Lagniappe: Screen the middle of the zone. 
Lagniappe 2: Designating screening to get a three

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Basketball: Great Sets - Master a Handful and Kill Your Darlings

Be like orcas. Apex predators run winning plays. "Great offense is multiple actions."

What do we struggle to defend? Keep your list of hard-to-defend actions.
- Great drivers
- Sharp cuts including back door
- Pick-and-roll
- Off-ball screens
- Staggered screens
- Screen-the-screener 

Distill this to cutting, simple and complex screens, and isolation

Develop a playbook of these actions, then ruthlessly edit. If we struggle to defend these, they'll probably be hard for opponents. Understanding how defense works helps us. 


Spread give-and-go. As x1 jumps to the ball, fake and go behind.

A game proven BOB, cutting with screening creates opportunity. 

Back door cuts 

Carla Berube took actions like this from Tufts to Princeton. 

PnR into a corner back cut. 

Ball screens. Make then different and unexpected. 

Horns PnR across, adjust roles to your personnel.

High ball screen planned corner 3. 4 has to be prepared to drift up. 

Off-ball screens/mismatches

If you have the dominant post player, flaunt it. 

The Bucks have a nuclear option with the "Greek Freak." 

Staggered screens 

Iverson cut out of box set

Traditional Iverson cut


Iverson screen-the-screener

BOB backscreens into STS action (we scored five layups in one game).

Horns Spain PnR (Screen the roller) 

SLOB Zipper entry into zipper screener STS 

The sixty-four dollar question is how much time to allocate to technique and tactics, the "prime cut" versus "cinematic tricks." 


Set high expectations. 

Lagniappe 2: Shooting conditioning drill from TeachHoops