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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Basketball: Make Friends with the Dead

Go big. About five percent of everyone ever born is still alive. Make friends with the dead - Dean Smith, Pete Newell, John Wooden, Pete Carril, Pat Summitt. 

Great thinker Charlie Munger made friends with Benjamin Franklin, so much that he named his book, "Poor Charlie's Almanack." 

This reminds me of what Lincoln was alleged to say, "I learn something from everyone I meet, usually what not to do."

My "dead friends" left indelible marks. 

Dean Smith. Where to start? Smith shared that he never felt like a loser, even before he won two National Championships. 
  • Charlie Scott and Smith broke the color barrier.
  • Shot-quality scoring during scrimmaging helped build habits that tended to make UNC the best 'percentage shooters' in the ACC.
  • Coming from behind eight points in 18 seconds to tie Duke and beat them in overtime. Never give up.
  • Humility. "A lion never roars after the kill." 
  • "Four corners" with Phil Ford. It still works. Ford set his watch ten minutes fast to be on Dean Smith Time. 
Pete Newell. Criminally underrated. 
  • His teams beat Wooden's in their final eight meetings. 
  • A coach's primary task was teaching players to "see the game." 
  • "Footwork, balance, maneuvering speed."
  • Big man moves. Teach 'em in the post and translate to the perimeter.
  • Scorer, facilitator, screener. You have to have a skill. 
John Wooden. Every truly great coach is a great leader. 
  • "Make every day your masterpiece."
  • The Pyramid of Success. Coach Sonny Lane introduced it to us in our 'team room' over fifty years ago. The room reeked of sweat, Tuf-Skin, and orange peels.
  • "Little things make big things happen."
  • "Never confuse activity with achievement." 
  • Wooden said that Walton was great because "he never tired of the attention to detail in doing the small things." Watch the win over Memphis State.
Pete Carril. Anyone who knows me can relate to the Carril sense of style. 
  • "The Smart Take from the Strong." Do the mental work. 
  • "Lightbulbs." Get players who light up the court. 
  • "The quality of the shot relates to the quality of the pass." 
  • Condition within drills. 
  • Beating UCLA 1996. The video never gets old.
Pat Summitt. The pioneering 'dynastic' coach. 
  • People forget that like Wooden, she was a great player. 
  • Her "Four Corners" was something entirely different. 
  • Emphasis that playing was a privilege not an entitlement. 
  • Filming the bench. You had better be in the game. 
  • The "Definite Dozen" 

I hope someday when I'm gone that people will 'make friends' with me. 

Lagniappe. Dr. and Phil? 


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Bad Beats

Everyone takes "bad beats," unforgettable losses through bad vision, bad decisions, bad luck, or bad execution. Minimize them. 

Red Auerbach absorbed his worst loss as a prep coach. Up one point late, his in-bounder threw a behind-the-back pass that was intercepted and converted into a layup for a loss. Every thrilling winner has an opposing crushing defeat. All of us suffer soul-crushing losses at some point. 

As a player, we lost in overtime to the two-time defending State Champion. Poor execution against the press was the biggest culprit. Our coach told us we lost not because they were better but because we didn't believe in ourselves. Fate was kind to us as we beat them twice later than season including the sectional championship. 

Poker champion Phil Ivey said that bad beats are part of the game. Overcoming them is part of the process to becoming an elite player. Ivey misreads his hand.

Because vision, decisions, and execution are the setup, bad beats emerge from failures. 

Failed vision. "I did not see that coming." Fred Brown's mysterious pass in the final moments against North Carolina seems like a blind spot. 

Flawed decision making and play. There's not a "specific" bad beat in this video, but a number of issues that contribute to losses. 

  • Habitual immediate dribbling on the catch 
  • Low effort going for loose balls
  • "Cheating the drill" in practice
  • Hot dogging finishes instead of making the easy play
  • Trying to be James Harden

Better execution. The underdog sometimes makes a great play.


That basketball factory Harvard upset top-ranked Stanford in 1998. 

Lagniappe. Hate math? Love angles in attacking the basket.

Basketball: Exceptional Teams

Great teams forge elite collaboration. Coach K likens it to a fist, generating more power than a finger.

What makes exceptional teams? Reflect on personal observations, research, and artificial intelligence.

Personal Observations:

1. Talent. There's a literature of "Talent Is Overrated" but good luck winning without talent. In the technique, tactics, physicality, and psychology hierarchy, talent leads. Great teams have 'possession enders' who score, force stops, and rebound.

2. Technique. If one offense - DDM, Triangle, Princeton were best, everyone would use it and advantage would disappear. The same goes for defense. How you play matters more than what you run. Coherence, playing as one separates teams. 

3. Consistency matters, the ability to play more good possessions. Play harder for longer

4. Make moments in the big moments. Exceptional teams find an extra gear when needed.

5. Unity. Great teams have clear identity, clear communication, and work off the same script. 

Study greatness. And share. Don Yaeger interviewed over a hundred coaches looking for insights. 

Yaeger's search wasn't unique. Leadership author Simon Sinek asks, "what's your 'why'?" Put a team under the microscope. What do we see? Long before the Red Sox won anything, there was a saying, "25 guys, 25 cabs." Great teams win collectively, greater than the sum of their parts. 

When Coach Mike Krzyzewski coached USA Basketball, he showed them great teams - on military bases and on a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. The trips informed superstars about the meaning of sacrifice for a common goal. 

Yaeger asks, "what kind of a leader does our team need?" Can we be the type of leader the team needs or who we are? 

Exceptional teams have both high IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence). That impacts communication and self-regulation. 

To reach the level of great teams, reevaluate everything:
- Player development (individual and team actions)
- Strategy 
- Strength and conditioning
- Resilience and sport psychology

Winning becomes the result of great process. 

Great teams have great competitors. Competition can create conflict and selfishness. 

This reduces to "this is who we are together" and "that is what we do." 

Artificial Intelligence answer:

Great teams typically possess the following characteristics:

  1. Clear communication: Great teams communicate openly and honestly, with respect for one another's perspectives and opinions.

  2. Shared goals and vision: Great teams share a common purpose and vision, and are committed to achieving shared goals.

  3. Trust: Great teams trust one another and have confidence in each other's abilities, which allows for collaboration and innovation.

  4. Diversity: Great teams are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, which allows for a wide range of ideas and approaches.

  5. Accountability: Great teams hold each other accountable for their actions and responsibilities, which creates a culture of ownership and responsibility.

  6. Flexibility: Great teams are adaptable and flexible, able to pivot and adjust as needed to meet changing circumstances.

  7. Positive attitude: Great teams have a positive, can-do attitude, and are motivated to overcome obstacles and achieve success.

  8. Continuous learning: Great teams are committed to continuous learning and improvement, seeking out new knowledge and skills to stay ahead of the curve.

  9. Supportive culture: Great teams create a supportive and inclusive culture that fosters creativity, innovation, and growth.

Overall, great teams are characterized by a shared sense of purpose, mutual respect and trust, diverse perspectives and skills, and a commitment to ongoing learning and improvement.

Lagniappe. Hard work and professional work live on separate planes. 

Basketball Lessons from Reading Including "The Boys in the Boat"

Study sport and the world to choose among possible futures. 

"Leaders are readers." The Boys in the Boat weaves a tapestry of sport, society, and politics blending rowing, the Depression, and the rise of fascism in the early 1930s. 

Today, the basketball community feels uncertainty amidst a banking crisis and political polarization. It's not just partisan in Washington, but basketball recycles coaches of questionable character while denying deserving candidates who toil in the shadows. 

Dan Brown shares history amidst lyrical prose:  

“It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.”

(Comment: How much pain and effort can we take?)

“You had to give yourself up to it spiritually; you had to surrender yourself absolutely to it. When you were done and walked away from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart... And a lot of life is like that too, the parts that really matter anyway.”

(Comment: Great teams have shared vision, shared sacrifice, and shared success.)

“Every man in the boat had absolute confidence in every one of his mates... Why they won cannot be attributed to individuals, not even to stroke Dun Hume. Heartfelt cooperation all spring was responsible for the victory.”

(Comment: Basketball teaches indelible lessons about teamwork for those willing to learn.)

Keep our eyes open to world events. Remember the saying, "history doesn't repeat but it rhymes." That matters with both economics and politics.

(Comment: ignoring injustice doesn't stop it.)

“It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead.”

(Comment: Choose full engagement not distraction. Be all in on the signal and ignore the noise.")

“The ability to yield, to bend, to give way, to accommodate, he said, was sometimes a source of strength in men as well as in wood, so long as it was helmed by inner resolve and by principle.”

(Comment: This reminds us of Bruce Lee's admonition to "be like water." Be adaptable to circumstances.)

“But there was a Germany the boys could not see, a Germany that was hidden from them, either by design or by time. It wasn’t just that the signs - ‘Für Juden verboten,’ ‘Juden sind hier unerwünscht’ - had been removed, or that the Gypsies had been rounded up and taken away, or that the vicious Stürmer newspaper had been withdrawn from the racks in the tobacco shops in Kopenick. There were larger, darker, more enveloping secrets all around them.”

(Comment: Literature echoes history. See not only what's in the light but what lurks in the shadows. Averting our eyes allows others to be blinded.)

I believe "Boys in the Boat" is one of the important books of our time and one worth reading and study as a team.

Lagniappe. Take better notes. Players win on the court and in the classroom. Coaches win when we help build great students, great leaders, and great people. Excellence is a full-time business. 

  • Handwritten notes are better.
  • Revise notes
  • Attend to details
  • Decipher what's important (the speaker will share)
  • Stay focused until the end
  • Replay the lecture if you have a choice

Friday, March 24, 2023

Basketball: Focus on Culture, Mindset, and Process

High performance demands extraordinary focus. How? Start with Charlie Munger's reminder, "Invert, Always Invert." 

What is the opposite of focus? The opposite is distraction. The world surrounds us with distraction - cellphones, streaming media, social media, television, and more. 

Read about focus here.  

As coaches and life-long learners, where should we focus? 

1. Culture

Our middle school team culture had three "narrow-focus" priorities:

  • Teamwork "It's the scoreboard not the scorebook."
  • Improvement. "Get better today."
  • Accountability. "Hold ourselves to high standards."
Winning was not the top priority. But from the two three-year groups of middle school players coached, we've had two in state championship games during the past three years. They learned how to play and how to win. 

2. Mindset 
  • Hard work builds success. "Do unrequired work."
  • Adopt good ideas from all around us. "Good artists borrow, great artists steal - Picasso"
  • Study greatness (players, coaches, systems). Some rubs off. 
3. Process
  • Build and track habits. "We make habits; habits make us."
  • Obsess preparation and skill development "Obsess the product." - Sara Blakely 
  • Find mentors.
  • Use Pomodoro technique (25 minutes on, 5 off). Focus fatigues.
  • Have a mindfulness practice, proven to improve focus. 
Embrace culture, mindset, and process

Lagniappe. Timed multi-level shooting drill that extends some of the "30 buckets" drill that we ran for mid-range shooting.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Basketball: Deceleration

"Basketball is a game of separation." Explosiveness. Acceleration. Change of direction and change of pace. 

Unheralded or unheard is deceleration. Some guys go zero to sixty and some can go sixty to zero. 

This is an important video as it shows how James Harden gets so much separation with deceleration off EITHER foot and how quickly he rebalances. 

The video emphasizes that the deceleration allows him many options - pullup, step back, crossover, and drive. 

It's unnatural and must be trained.

The video shares ideas on how. 

Preventing Cramps in High Intensity Athletics, The Science Is Frustrating

Muscle cramps cause immediate and total disability. Let's review why they may happen and the limited data on how to limit them. This data is not encouraging. 

What is a muscle cramp? An involuntary and painful muscle contraction.

Why do they occur? "The specific etiology is not well understood."


"Exercise-associated muscle cramps are the most frequent condition requiring medical/therapeutic intervention during sports."

"Heat-associated muscle cramping is often seen during sports and rigorous exercise or physical activity. In this situation, large losses of sweat and electrolytes are believed to be the underlying pathologic mechanism."

"About 80% of the affected muscle area is the calf."

"In healthy and sporting subjects there is no direct relationship between the depletion of fluids and the alteration of electrolyte balance as a definite cause of cramps."

"(Regarding patients with disease) Predisposing factors could include electrolyte disturbances or neurological disorders, hormonal and metabolic disorders, and compressions of nerve roots or compressed arterial vessels. Other predisposing factors could be related to the constant consumption of drugs, such as diuretics, beta-blockers, and statins."

"Stretching before physical activity does not prevent the appearance of a probable cramp."


"Prevention in healthy subjects could involve correct heating before physical activity and adequate hydration. For the different pathologies also characterized by the appearance of cramps, there are no accepted guidelines as valid on the pharmacological approach in any pathological state."

"The prevention of cramps through the intake of magnesium in healthy people, in neurological patients or in pregnant women, is not confirmed in the literature."

"However, the patient should be informed that despite the availability of a vast number of medications, their efficacy is low and unpredictable."

Electrolyte solutions may be preferred over water intake. "The study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that people who drank electrolyte enhanced water during and after exercise were less susceptible to muscle cramps than those who drank pure water."

Are there two types

"Skeletal muscle overload and fatigue can prompt muscle cramping locally in the overworked muscle fibers, and these cramps can be treated effectively with passive stretching and massage or by modifying the exercise intensity and load. In contrast, extensive sweating and a consequent significant whole-body exchangeable sodium deficit caused by insufficient dietary sodium intake to offset sweat sodium losses can lead to a contracted interstitial fluid compartment and more widespread skeletal muscle cramping, even when there is minimal or no muscle overload and fatigue."

"The information presented here supports the contention that there are two primary categories of exercise-associated muscle cramps - those related to muscle overload and fatigue and those skeletal muscle cramps associated with a sweat-induced sodium deficit (exertional heat cramps)."


  • Two theories exist - muscle fatigue and "dehydration"
  • Cramps are among the most common conditions treated. 
  • The literature is limited on prevention
  • Neither magnesium nor other meds are well-proven
  • For those thought to be "salty sweaters" salt and water replenishment make the most sense.
Here is the AI take:

Leg cramps can be a common problem for athletes, especially those who participate in high-intensity or endurance activities. Here are some approaches that can help prevent leg cramps:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Dehydration is a leading cause of leg cramps, so it's essential to stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, including water and sports drinks, to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.

  2. Stretch and Warm-Up: Stretching and warming up your muscles before exercising can help prevent muscle cramps. Make sure to focus on stretching the muscles in your legs, including your calves and hamstrings.

  3. Gradual Increase in Exercise Intensity: Gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts can help prevent leg cramps. If you're just starting out or returning to exercise after a break, take it slow and gradually build up your endurance and intensity over time.

  4. Proper Footwear: Make sure to wear comfortable and supportive shoes that fit properly. Ill-fitting shoes or shoes that lack support can contribute to muscle cramps.

  5. Adequate Nutrition: Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help prevent leg cramps. Make sure to consume enough carbohydrates, protein, and other nutrients to fuel your body during exercise.

  6. Massage: Massaging your legs before and after exercise can help prevent leg cramps. Use a foam roller or massage ball to target the muscles in your legs.

  7. Rest and Recovery: Make sure to give your body enough time to rest and recover between workouts. Overtraining can increase the risk of muscle cramps and other injuries.

By following these approaches, athletes can reduce the risk of leg cramps and perform at their best during their workouts and competitions.

I have email out to a lead researcher in the field and will add his comments if I get a response. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Basketball: Competitive Development Drills

Always look for stuff to steal and share. 

"Every day is player development day." Development works along a continuum. If we send a player to high school who is ready to contribute as a freshman, multiple things must happen:

1) The player needs opportunity to compete for minutes and role. That doesn't always happen.

2) The development arc must continue. Players need both a growth mindset and coaching to further that development.

3) Number 1 and 2 must coalesce with Anson Dorrance's "competitive cauldron" into "continual ascension."

What are some actions I believe do that? 

  •  5 versus 7 advantage-disadvantage full court press break, no dribbling. This teaches passing and cutting against pressure. It is competitive and is "hard practice to make games easier." Downside is you need more players. 
  • "Ten seconds to glory." The coach passes to the player at the top and offense gets ten seconds to score. Floppy action +/- postup or even a quick cross screen. 
  • Rollouts. I got this from an Indiana HS coach while on vacation in the islands somewhere. Teaches closeouts and team defense. Add constraints like offense needs a pass, a paint touch, or a screen before a shot.  
  • O-D-O. Three possession games (offense, defense, offense) that start with an ATO, BOB, or SLOB. Can play 5-on-5 or 4-on-4. It's competitive, has offense, defense, conversion, and works on special situations. I've had officials congratulate us about our execution on special situations. We call the drill, "specials." And the players love it because it's a form of scrimmage. 
  • "Laterals" defense and offense flip the ball to each other while moving left or right. Offense decides when and how to attack.

A variation is using a float dribble to initiate the attack. 
  • Box drills with defense. Offensive player at the elbow, back to the basket with defender behind. Offense backspin flips to herself to start action. Can start with front or back pivot into basket attack, shot, one dribble shot, whatever. "Footwork game" and "shoulders game" teaching. 
  • 1 vs 1 vs 1. We're not Michigan State. Girls don't get shoulder pads and helmets. Toughness offensive rebounding drill

Lagniappe. From Coach Hacks. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Feet to the Fire: "What Are You Doing to Make Teammates Better?"

Many coaches have exit interviews with players to inform them of strengths, areas of need, and to get feedback. Hard conversations demand multiple adults be present. Nobody needs accusations of "Coach demeaned me" or "Coach doesn't support me."

Not every player "gets it," so include the question, "what are you doing to make teammates better?" Don't be the player about whom the coach says privately, "she's great from the neck down." 

The interview isn't a hatchet job but a serious conversation which can be buttressed by data or video if needed. 

This isn't designed to be comprehensive, but a springboard, a platform of ideas. Remember the Popovich quote, "get over yourself." 

We can start with "what does making teammates better mean for you?" Here are just a few possible player answers:

1. "I am an unselfish, willing passer." 

2. "I take care of the basketball to give the team better possessions." 

3. "I prioritize spacing to give teammates room to operate." 

4. "I move without the ball to give teammates options." 

5. "I live the Jay Bilas principle, "It's not your shot, it's our shot." 

6. "I sprint back fully engaged in transition looking to stop the ball or protect the basket, whichever is needed." 

7. "I play team defense because "the ball scores" not just my cover." 

8. "I contest shots without fouling." 

9. "On loose balls, I'm first to the floor to give us more possessions." 

10."When I'm on the bench, I'm in the game, supporting teammates." 

11."I bring energy to the court and energize teammates both in practice and during the games."

12."I am never a distraction because my behavior and choices impact the team."

Lagniappe. Shooting drills from Coach DeMarco's site with guest Demetrius Ware.  

Two Player Workout Actions to Consider

Find a workout partner and get after it. How?

No post can or will be comprehensive. Present ideas on how to make players better, which make teams better. "Every day is player development day." 

1. Warm up with Villanova Get 50 

2. Partner competitive shooting drills with rebounder

  • Elbow-to-elbow and elbow-to-sideline
  • Pitino quarters 
  • 251 (three-point shooting)
  • Shooting off 'screens' 

3. Drills with defense

  • Box drills 
  • Wing attack 
  • Live dribble attack (float dribble, negative step)
  • Post moves with defense

4. One-on-one 

  • Standard game to agreed number (e.g. 7, 11)
  • Initiate play from corners, wings, top, elbows, posts
  • Build in free throws after a set number of baskets, as each player takes three
"Winners are trackers." Track results. 
"Make practice hard so games are easy." 
"10-80-10." Top ten percenters drag teammates into the top 10%
"Champions do extra." - James Kerr, "Legacy"
"Repetitions make reputations." 

Lagniappe. I joke with Cecilia about expectations.  


Monday, March 20, 2023

Basketball: My Favorite Box Set BOBs

Run different actions from the same sets, the same actions from different sets, or different actions from different sets. 


If you have a strong 1 and 5 duo, "15" creates havoc with shots for your one or an inside pick-and-roll for a capable finisher. 

This 15 option has value, too. 


Paired back screens (better used later after another play) with 3 slipping the back screen. 


This play screens the middle with the 5 screening twice to open up the 4 (or the 2 if x3 stays home) for a shot. It's not as popular as "America's Play," the screen for the inbounder corner 3, but it's getting there. 


If you have a great post mismatch, Boom, Boomer, or Boomerang can work. 

"Angle" STS 

"Angle" relies on screen-the-screener action. One of my core principles for defenders is, "Bigs away come back into play." 


Screen-the-screener action which has wreaked havoc against man defenses. 

"America's Play" 

You've all seen it, faced it. But I feel obligated to show it. 

"Zipper Curl" 

Clippers' action with zipper entry and then screen-the-screener curl/lob potential. 


This blends screen-the-screener action with a delayed diagonal screen that can create an open three or a layup. 

All this being said, most teams only need a handful of actions, beyond which chaos ensues. Better to invest time in execution and skill-building than having a dozen choices. 

Lagniappe. Add something for a rainy day.