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Thursday, December 31, 2015

You Can't Use Everything but Anything Can Stimulate Ideas (BOBs)

Generating scoring opportunities from 'special situations' is critical to compete in close games. Understanding how to execute and defend often defines success and failure. 

Hoops Chalk Talk shares the LOW series with core principles:

1) Staggered screens
2) Staggered screens with screen-the-screener action
3) Back screens

Here's a screen shot from the post. 

Find Leaders and Leaders Find You

Few would dispute that we need leaders. But merely wanting to lead doesn't establish effective leadership. Pistons' Coach Chuck Daly had a saying, "I'm a salesman." But effective sales also means having a worthy product to sell, because selling junk never yields brand or customer loyalty.

Steven M.R. Covey developed the theme of 'Trust' in The Speed of Trust. Leadership flows from both character and competence. Neither alone is sufficient. The world has seen the evils perpetrated by dictatorial megalomaniacs with an effective process and malicious character.

The most honest, well-meaning individual fails miserably without competence in strategy and execution. Warren Buffett said it another way, "you want intelligence, energy, and integrity in business. But without the latter, you're dangerous." 

What qualities should we seek among leaders?  Lolly Daskal shares her ideas - self-awareness, business acumen, connections, culture builders, and flexibility.

We can rearrange this in terms of vision. When we:

Look inward - see who we are and what we dream to be.
Look outward - see people as individuals and as a community.
Look backward - find perspective on history, success, and failure.
Look forward - anticipate the future.
Look downward - see the humbling reality of every person's future.
Look upward - seek inspiration and to inspire.

We rely upon our five senses but infrequently call upon our sixth sense (experience). "Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment." Great discoveries sometimes follow great observation (Fleming's discovery of penicillin) or great patience (Edison's lightbulb a triumph of understanding what didn't work). Some lifesaving decisions come solely from experience, as in professional firefighting as explained in Gary Klein's Sources of Power. 

As coaches, we grow leaders by distributing power to players. They assume responsibility for the team as they learn to call the defenses and offenses and grow with 'shared accountability'. In No Excuse Leadership: Lessons from the US Army's Elite Rangers, Brace Barber reminds us to "seek accountability and take it; to know yourself and seek improvement." But he also cautions us from his experience on patrol that "everyone gets wet." We have to confront inescapable obstacles which always means unpleasantness at best and danger at worst.

Worthy leaders attract followers who want to embrace their positive ideas, choices, and energy. We're all flawed, but the best leaders have fewer flaws and more willingness to change and remake a better version of themselves as needed. In the same way, encourage leaders to emerge and grow on our teams by being better models and better sharers.

Another SLOB from BBallBreakdown

Charlotte Box

Box into Shuffle action

I can't say that I have the positions right...mix and match for your people. 

More on Performance Development and Practice Versus Games

Sometimes we pay lip service to player development. Here are a few examinations of how we could do better. 

Practice versus games. Ohio Youth Soccer Development

"Stated another way, attending well-planned training sessions for SIX MONTHS can produce the same number of ball possessions as SIX YEARS of playing 100 games per season."

Proper practice to game ratios

Most youth academies around the world recognize that a team should maintain a 5 practice to 1 game ratio. The idea is that the "team game" is an expression of what they have learned and the "team practice" is a correction and development process based on what goes on in the game. In a perfect world that means a coach would let his team play with little if any instruction, so the coach can get a true picture of the players' and team needs.

Reality Bytes from Kentucky. This is about MIDDLE SCHOOL basketball...
After the game, I was thinking about the amount of games versus practice time that these teams have. HHS has now played 6 games in the last 9 days. They had 1 practice in the middle of that run. They will be off for the holiday until games on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of next week. I guess they will get a practice in on that Wednesday.  That will be 9 games in 18 days with only 2 practices.

Too Many Games. Training and development guru Alan Stein argues against too many games. I know tons of kids across the country who play more games in a calendar year than LeBron James.

Too Many Games
That is a fundamental problem for 2 reasons:
1. Wear and tear on their growing bodies
2. Lack of emphasis on development (skill work, movement training, etc.)

The Arms Race. "Larry Lauer is the director of coaching education and development for the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. Its mission is the study of the benefits and detriments of youth and high school sports on its participants.
In addition to holding a doctorate in exercise and sport science, specifically in sport psychology, Lauer is a former hockey director in North Carolina and works extensively with Michigan Amateur Hockey and its coaching education programs.
I call it an arms race in youth sports where everybody is trying to do more than the next guy to get the best opportunities and advantages. But eventually it’s got to stop somewhere.” 
Too Many Games, 2. Brian McCormick shares. "From the media to college coaches to NBA coaches to Kobe Bryant, everyone believes that teenagers play too many basketball games. Of course, the blame is directed at the players. Why? Do the players make their own schedules or do they follow their team’s schedule? ...If the coach wants fewer games and more focus on skill development, shouldn’t he or she schedule fewer games or participate in fewer offseason tournaments?
A More Comprehensive Approach. The Performance Team. Notre Dame established a multidisciplinary unit including nutrition, chiropractic, athletic training, and injury prevention. 

There's another dimension in play. Parents here pay, often a lot, for youth sports participation. It's around $400/player (we have two sets of twins) and that doesn't include extra health care costs, travel, gym memberships, and more. 

How do parents see 'value', more practice or more games? Last year our team played in two leagues and including tournaments, miscellaneous non-league games and playoffs, we played thirty-nine games. I'm sure that the ratio of practice to games was less than 1:1, especially because we had a lot of snow days. This season, I agreed to coach with one league and we have four hours of practice a week. I'm guessing that our practice to game ratio is somewhere between 3-4:1 now, better but still limited. 

I see value in improvement in the consistency and quality of play, the types of individual and team actions, and the overall growth of the participants. Winning is an added bonus, but shouldn't be the primary success metric. 

ATO Magic and Mischief

Coach Nick's site shares some NBA magical moments and miscreants. First, he illustrates why it's not so easy and second shares some creativity. 

Why it's not easy. 

Broadly though, the lack of relative offensive success in ATOs is probably attributable to a few primary factors:
  1. Offenses are forced to play against a set defense in the half-court.
  2. Given that coaches aren’t miraculously dreaming up new plays, defenses are likely reasonably well prepared for what is coming.
  3. Depending on the situation, defenses can substitute to optimise their lineups.
  4. Perhaps less obviously, ATOs are more strictly patterned and may involve a more robotic response than a reading of what the defense presents.
He shows a myriad of innovative actions including this amazing Raptor bite out of a 4-on-4 set with a player in the backcourt. The positional numbers can be flexed.

Here's a diagram...reminiscent of the Spurs' "Hammer" 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"No Excuse Leadership"

Quote from No Excuse Leadership, Lessons from the U.S. Army's Elite Rangers by Brace Barber:

"In order to accomplish our goals, we need a lot fewer resources than common wisdom would suggest. What you can't do without is determination. Win or lose, you must give it your all and never give up."

Despite our sports metaphors, basketball is not war. But the teachings of the US Army to their elite warriors inform us of the values and commitment necessary for success in any field. 

What Should I Do, Coach? "Help Your Teammates."

I've discussed the concept of 'commander's intent' previously. Pete Newell's concept of basketball was to "get more and better shots than our opponent." So we know what the "end state" should look like. In the very broadest sense, we can sum that up in three words, "help your teammates." But sometimes that has no meaning for younger players.

Nobody can all-encompass what that means, but we can share ideas. Sometimes (for me) that means stay out of the way. We had a big lead the other day and I wanted the girls to run an offense. Instead the point guard fired the ball to the high post on the right and the left wing basket cut and got a perfect pass for a layup. They didn't need coaching.

But "help your teammates" do more - to get more and better shots. Everyone reading this knows all of this. But do are players know and execute? Here are some simple examples:


  • Attack the basket (play with purpose). This stresses the defense and requires them to help.
  • Move (movement kills defense). This means player and ball movement.
  • Get separation. Separate with cutting and screening.
  • Share the ball. "Assisted shots" have higher percentage.
  • Do it right, now. Set up your cuts and screen the defender (we teach screen players not areas).
  • Sprint, don't run. Basketball is not a running game, it's a sprinting game.
  • Rebound selfishly. Putbacks are one of your "four ways to score."
  • Take quality shots. "It's not your shot, it's our shot." There are no "me, too" or "my turn" shots.
  • Space the floor. "Don't play in the traffic."
  • Run wide. "Open passing lanes."

  • Communicate. "Silent teams lose."
  • Pressure the ball.
  • Help and recover. With ball pressure, defenders will get beat. No direct drives.
  • Deny the paint.
  • Contest shots without fouling. "No easy shots."
  • Block out. Defensive rebounding is about positioning and toughness.
  • Take a charge...the best play in basketball.
  • Sprint back and think "the ball scores."
  • "Don't turn one mistake into two." Move on, play present, "next play". Every game I see a player turn the ball over or take a bad shot and then double down on it by fouling.  
Education is about changing behavior. Knowledge isn't action. Intent isn't action. Irreplaceable players are those who give the most for the team. Help your teammates.


"Dreamtime is the last part of a player/coach workout when the player decides what to work on."

Dreamtime isn't wasting time, it's using a small part of your developmental time on creative speculation. It might be that time during your workout that you pretend to be 'the guy' (for me that was Sam Jones) taking the critical shot as time wound down. "Too late." 

I saw Sam Jones make about fifty perimeter bank shots in a row at his camp (as an NBA retiree). I got to play against Sam (free throws) as the camp free throw champion. I volunteered to go first, because my rationale was that if I could make ten in a row, that would put so much pressure on everyone else that I'd win. 

You might work on your dribbling and finishing to be Phil Ford during the delay game. 

I didn't call it Dreamtime...I called it "emergency shots". Emergency shots included fallaways, "flyaways" (severe drift), non-dominant hand jumpers, double pump shots, and so forth. Emergency shots constituted about five percent of shooting (e.g. 15 of 300).

I knew these were all "low-quality shots" that my coach called "sh#t shots" but had a place in emergencies. A regular dose of Dreamtime shots would earn you bench time. 

Was Dreamtime a waste of time? I took one Dreamtime shot in high school, a double-pump jumper from the left elbow in a sectional championship game that went into overtime. Somehow, it went in, a bad shot with a good result. 

Dreamtime forces you to leave your comfort zone and enter an alternative deliberate practice. I encourage you to consider and discuss Dreamtime with your players. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Elements Baked into Practice

"Becoming is better than being."Carol S. Dweck, "Mindset"

I love practice. It's my favorite part of basketball by a lot. Practice allows us to develop our philosophy, culture, and identity. Practice defines who we are and what we do. 

What elements belong in practice? There's no easy answer, but we need:

1) Bring daily clarity on practice intent.
2) Translate practice into games. 
3) Communicate and connect...greet every player every day, early in practice. Be warm AND demanding. 
4) Our job is finding solutions.
5) Practice informs our tempo. "We play fast." 

I want every evolution in practice to transition into games.

General thoughts. 

1) Every player should believe they're better after every practice. 
2) Players need to know why for every evolution. Each practice is your clinic.
3) Every drill or practice segment should add value. 
4) Special situations (e.g. BOB, SLOB, late and close) demand daily attention. Include them via scrimmages (e.g. offense-defense-offense). 
5) The coach and point guards must energize practice every day. 
6) For maximum efficiency, condition within drills (e.g. transition). 
7) It's a game. Share joy. You have to PLAY basketball, not WORK basketball. 
8) Whenever possible, teach in sound bytes, not speeches. "Eyes make layups." 
9) Give and get feedback. What they know is not what you think they know.
10) There's always a lesson to be taught and learned by all of us.
Special considerations.

1) Consider the 80/20 rule. We can't always invest eighty percent of our time on the twenty percent most important. But we can emphasize what we believe is most important. 
2) It's one thing to lose a game; it's another to lose your team. 
3) "Never be a child's last coach." 
4) Write it down. Players need notebooks, too.
5) Feel gratitude. Show appreciation. Everyone needs to feel valued.  

Horns Versus 2-3 Zone

I have an interesting team...small, quick, and aggressive. Our 5s are learning to put the ball on the floor and create. 

Here are some actions they 'developed' yesterday. They had never tried to run 'horns' against zone. The put up 31 points in the second half, which is a lot for 7th-grade girls. 

1 entered to our 5, who faced up and attacked. One time she got directly to the basket but missed the layup. Our 3s shoot okay which forces X3 out. On a couple of possessions 3 cut behind X3 for a pass and basket attack and got fouled. 

We're not great at ball reversal, yet. But 5 is a willing passer and that should set up flare screen action for 1 (off 4), 5 also is developing a decent mid-range shot, and our 2s will be open on the weak side. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Separate and Finish

One of the more dramatic and obvious limitations of being an 'older' coach is the inability to demonstrate most intermediate to advanced 'basketball' moves. I don't have the luxury of young, athletic and talented assistants.

But never let what you can't do stand in the way of what you can do. There's a world of great video demonstrations of moves to separate and finish. This all falls under the rubric of 'four ways to score'. You need a 'go to' and 'counter' move to supplement scoring in transition, making free throws, and occasional offensive rebounds. Even if you are a "deadly" shooter, you still need to find enough 'blue sky' to rain down your shot.

You don't need everything on a brief video like this, but you need SOMETHING. It's the rule of 2s, 2 minutes to watch and learn, 2 weeks to practice the move to become comfortable, and 2 months to introduce your new skill into your game.

That's the challenge if you're up for it. Inform FOUR WAYS to SCORE.

Thoughts on Coach Bob Knight

Recently, I posted a (for this blog) popular piece on Dean Smith...which leads me to another contemporary, Bob Knight of Indiana and later Texas Tech.

I've previously posted about his book, "The Power of Negative Thinking" which belongs on every serious coach's bookshelf.

Challenges of aging include immediate, short-term, and long-term recall, which is one reason I write...about basketball, stock trading, and rarely about medicine. But the bigger reason is maintaining discipline, a specialty of Coach Knight.

Warren Buffett tells a story about being asked to participate in a hole-in-one contest in a celebrity golf tournament. For ten dollars, you got a shot to win ten thousand dollars. Buffett declined, "If I'm not disciplined in the small things, how can I be disciplined in the big things?"

Since the information contained is from my memory, I apologize in advance for any errors or inconsistencies. Knight attended Ohio State, where he played on an NCAA Championship team in the mid-1960s. Knight is one of the few coaches to have played on and coached NCAA Champions.

Coach Knight has a strong sense of history, as he studied History and Government at OSU. He later coached at Army, which reinforced his value for discipline. Pete Newell (Cal) was one of his coaching idols; he believed Newell was the greatest teacher of basketball. For anyone who hasn't read Newell, I think you're missing out (Basketball Methods and others).

Knight is credited with developing motion offense, although I think it dates back earlier, for example to Newell's "Reverse Action" offense. Coach Knight had strong beliefs about how the game should be played. For example, he wasn't a huge on-ball screen coach because he thought that impaired spacing. He preferred downscreens away from the ball.

A few important thoughts he had included, "Basketball is a game of mistakes." In the book, Knight, he discussed this in detail, arguing that most high school championships aren't won because of great plays but by few mistakes. Another memorable Knight quote is "just because I want you on the floor, doesn't mean I want you to shoot." Because you play ninety percent of the game without the ball, your value isn't confined to scoring. He believed that "free shooting" was detrimental to player development because it didn't simulate game play.

The Knight drills that we use from time to time are half-court four-on-four (without dribbling), something I call "Indiana" which involves three-on-three with serial cross-screens and downscreens, 'advantage-disadvantage' (e.g. four on five or five on seven), and 'change' where the coach blows the whistle and the ball is dropped and offense becomes defense and vice versa.

In Knight he expressed hurt about his dismissal from Indiana, especially considering that he claimed to have raised FIFTY MILLION dollars for the university, in addition to having won three national titles at IU.

One oversimplification of coaching is stratifying coaches into "task-oriented" versus "relationship-oriented". Connection and communication always matter, but for the most part, Knight combined the two although he is often first associated with the infamous "chair toss".

One "knock" on Knight players was that they often didn't improve a lot as professionals, because they already had such a great basketball foundation from Coach Knight. If you choose to invest your time studying Coach Knight, it should be reading The Power of Negative Thinking. 

Non-dominant Hand Drills

Alan Stein shares non-dominant hand drills. The difference between an ordinary player and an extraordinary one is her willingness to go beyond, to "do more to become more."

Attacking the basket is where the rubber meets the road. Core offensive basketball skills include cutting, pivoting, dribbling, rebounding, passing, and shooting. 

These drills work your pivoting (on the back or reverse pivot, your back leads), dribbling, and finishing (shooting) at the rim. At our level, I limit the "tricky dribbling" and work on crossovers, hesitations,  combinations, and some back dribbling into crossovers (avoiding traps). 

When we're playing well (and we're improving), everyone sees more cutting and passing and less dribbling. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"On Success" from Brad Stevens

What must you do?  Create a sense of purpose. Get players 'all in'. Recognize that depth can create desire for more opportunity

The same characteristics make success in both college and in professional basketball:

Being a great teammate
Being accountable 
Being tough
Doing the right thing
Doing it every day 

What is the greatest challenge? "You better bring it or you will get beat." 

Seventh Graders CAN Execute Simple NBA Plays

Our primary offense is whatever the 7th-grade girls version of 'The System' is. But sometimes we do run simple plays that generate quality scoring chances for the girls. It's even better when it's not a 'play' per se, but improvisation a.k.a. playing basketball.

Here are a few that require minimal insight:

More than simple...horns into simple back cut (high-low action) as X4 defender anticipated backscreen for 1. 

In the perfect world, our 5 is a power 3. Most X5 defenders aren't expecting the screen from the 4.

We were up about seven with about 2:30 left and I called a timeout to run a Warriors play. The girls ran the play perfectly, including looking off the entry pass. Game over. 

Improving Focus Skills

Listen up. Before each game, we coaches meet with players to educate and (ideally) inspire. Yesterday, I discussed Joseph Campbell's 1949 epic Hero with a 1000 Faces.

Campbell describes unifying themes in heroic literature and entertainment. My point was that we 'fight' as a team. Metaphorically, the team embarks on the season's heroic journey. 

I notice (with middle school players) that sometimes their attention wanders (probably the fascinating subject matter). How can we improve our players' listening and attention skills

The highlights:

Listening is a HABIT

Clear your mind to focus on the here and now

Carve out a LOCATION for study 


Get your REST. In "The Winner's Brain" the authors show the definitive relationship between rest, brain structure and function. I recommend the winning concepts (exercise, brain stimulation, proper diet, adequate sleep) but the distillate obviates reading the whole book. 

Abbreviated article summary:

  • Focus is a muscle: The more time you spend focusing, the better you will get.
  • Clear your head: Got concerns? Write them down. Make a plan... then get to work.
  • Location, location, location: Go where there are no distractions.
  • Stop being reactive: Turn phone notifications off. No interruptions.
  • Get your sleep: More sleep means better performance.

If you want to be a hero, then you have to pay attention. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Look into your crystal ball. Where do you see yourself in ten years? What does the portrait above your mantle show? How can you make that happen? What can prevent it? 

Art imitates life.

"Veteran in a New Field" - Winslow Homer, 1865

Purpose matters. Leaving war behind (coat and canteen, bottom right), the veteran moves forward with an abundant harvest. The scythe, the Grim Reaper's death instrument, becomes the hero's tool for prosperity. What must we leave behind and carry ahead?

Legend has it that a young Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) saved money to buy a blue bicycle in Louisville. Within a week, someone had stolen it. When he stepped into the ring, he vowed to 'whup' the person he felt had stolen his bike. He brought purpose into the ring.

What path do we choose? A victory is meaningless without a worthy opponent. To achieve at a high level, the true competitor competes against her internal standard. The acronym FACE describes our alchemy of fear and anxiety into challenge and excellence. At your best, compete to make each possession productive. 

Without FEAR, there is no courage. Without ANXIETY, we cannot know peace. Without a CHALLENGE, we cannot overcome. Without knowing EXCELLENCE, what standard do we pursue? 

Graphic from "Building a Purpose-Driven Business"

We can transform our world one day at a time. Purposefully. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Creighton Burns Coaching Principles and Practice

Creighton Burns has coached for over forty-five years and is a former Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year. He has earned a reputation for passion about coaching and teaching basketball. 

Sharing some of Coach Burns' excellence is a great present for all of us. I've seen many of these principles taught elsewhere. I've always been impressed by coaches' generosity and willingness to share. 

First, his Postulates of Coaching Basketball. Part II 


It is not what you teach, but it is what you emphasize! It is not what you know, it is how you teach and what your players know (Coach George Raveling always says this). 

When coaching use the ’sandwich” method of coaching. For every negative criticism you make of a player “sandwich” it between two positive comments. (John Wooden was big on this). 

If you are going to have a championship team, each player must give up his personal agenda for the good of the team. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Second, his massive contributions to Coach Jackson's Pages. 

Third, lessons from Coaching Toolbox

Fourth, Coach Burns' website

Fifth, another site with a heavy Coach Burns insight

Sixth, Coach Burns practice principles

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. 

Dean Smith, An Iconic Figure in Basketball History and North Carolina

So many great basketball coaches and basketball minds comprise collective coaching wisdom. How do you decide among Auerbach and Wooden, Newell and Knight, Smith and Krzyzewski, Auriemma and Summitt, Meyer and Jackson? Why choose one? We are wired to learn by observation. If we thirst for success, study leaders in your field...see what works and what fails. 

As an example, I'll share some Dean Smith ideas, concepts, and memories...most of all I think of him as a man of great intellect and great compassion, a really compelling figure. 

Coach Smith strongly believed in the value of shot selection. His teams invariably led the ACC in shooting percentage. In fact, Carolina sometimes scrimmaged with points assigned by shot quality. For example, a layup (made or missed was +2), a turnover minus 2, and a low quality shot zero. 

He believed in team basketball. Therefore the joke, "who was the only man who kept Michael Jordan under twenty points a game?" Dean Smith. 

He believed in a quantitative approach to games and tracked points per possession long before analytics became fashionable. That may have originated from his background as a math major in college. 

He valued training men, not just basketball players. He used to have a "thought for the day" that players had to remember and were tested on. 

He took a lot of heat for not winning a National Championship early in his career. He truly believed that goal (his teams ultimately won two) didn't define him or his teams as winners or losers. 

His father had played an African-American student as a young coach. Smith broke that barrier at UNC as well with Charlie Scott

His book "Basketball, Multiple Offense and Defense" belongs on the shelf (or E-reader) of any serious basketball coach. 

During his career, he was deeply involved in trying to eliminate the death penalty in North Carolina. 

This is an iconic photograph of Coach Smith after WINNING the 1982 National Championship. It symbolizes the cost of victory far more than any triumph. 

Here are a few quotes from Coach Smith: 

A lion never roars after a kill. 

The coach’s job is to be part servant in helping each player reach his goal within the team concept. 

I would never recruit a player who yells at his teammates, disrespected his high school coach, or scores 33 points a game and his team goes 10-10.

“I was very demanding, but the role of a head coach is that of a demanding teacher. Demands must be coupled with true caring for the students. 

“The focus should be on the players. I'm here a long time. You can call me in the summer. Our seniors will be gone.”

Better Habits, Better Basketball

We sow a thought and reap an act.
We sow an act and reap a habit.
We sow a habit and reap a character.
We sow a character and reap a destiny.

We make our habits and our habits make us. I have productive habits like reading and writing (readers debate that) and non-productive ones like coffee and candy consumption. As coaches, we struggle to build great habits for our players. What habits do you teach and model for your players?

I can't control when players do their homework but because we practice Monday and Wednesday 7:15 - 9:15 I expect responsibility; I expect players to complete homework before practice. During my daughters' senior year (23-1), all six seniors were on the honor roll. That means good study habits, habits that translate onto the court. 

Tim Grover writes in Relentless, «Do. The. Work. Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear»

All communication runs through parents, but the players have a practice schedule available before practice. The intent is teaching the importance of planning and preparation.

I have to stretch before practice (dynamic stretching) for self-preservation. Players should recognize the potential for injury prevention. 

Do you want to become a serious player? Build better habits. "Warm up your shot." What solid player would walk onto the practice court and start shooting threes? 

Really. But I see players grab a ball and immediately start taking outside shots. As many times as I remind them about "form shooting", confidence, and proper shooting warmup, it's never enough. You can't become a quality shooter without a quality process. 

"North and south." You succeed offensively in basketball by learning to attack the basket...north and south. 

"Play out of a stance." When I see players in 'stand up' mode, I see lack of commitment, lack of discipline, lack of energy, and lack of intent. When I see five players without stances, I see a team that has quit. 

"Block out." Everyone has used the drill where a coach or manager shoots and five players block out. I remember one game in high school where a shot went up, everyone blocked out, and the ball landed in the middle of the key. One of my teammates just grabbed it. 

So many habits are fundamental to success - setting up cuts, facing up, waiting for screens, exploding out of moves, and so forth. 

It's not Pygmalion or Pinocchio. We don't transform inanimate objects into players. Players build habits, one day at a time, to experience excellence. At our best we inspire, teach, and share and at their worst, some destroy dreams. What habits do you encourage? What habits encourage you? 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Horns Ideas

Create opportunities for your best scorers in their favorite situations. "Horns" helps open up the middle and clears bigs away from the basket.There are hundreds of ways to run horns, but I tell players I want them to play, not run play "four hundred sixty-eight." In fact, during practice, our best creativity occurs when players act against a defense that "knows" the play. Improvisation is central to basketball success. 

Regardless of the 'end state', spacing, cutting, screening, and passing well are the means to the end. 

Create a top of the key '3' or an isolation for your 3 with an elevator screen. 

1 can pass and screen away for any player. 

1 dribbles at the 3, setting up a possible back cut strong side while a weakside double stagger creates for 2. 

The possibilities are many, but it's about players seeing the opportunities and executing.  

BBallBreakdown Breaks Down the Spurs Defense

What can we learn from Coach Nick's breakdown of the Spurs defense? Don't sleep on the Spurs.

  • The Spurs net differential is only slightly below the Warriors
  • Their defensive efficiency could be the best in the NBA in the past 41 years
  • Amazingly Leonard is only fifth on the Spurs in defensive rating but has a big impact on those around him
  • LaMarcus Aldridge is providing great protection in the lane as is David West
  • At 3:21 Diaw gets caught as the Celtics run the Spurs' "loop" but Ginobili and West provide great help to prevent Olynyk from getting an easy hoop
  • Great teams fight to win each possession. At 3:50 the Spurs show "multiple efforts" to win a possession. 
  • At 4:50 the Spurs have Leonard on the ball and "Ice" the high ball screen. 
  • Coach Nick reinforces the "Hard 2" concept
  • At 5:37 Coach shows another dimension to the Spurs limiting 3-point shooting: ball pressure
  • At 6:07 the Spurs "Ice" the side ball screen with the baseline force. In my opinion, one reason the Celtics have been inconsistent lately is the absence of Marcus Smart defensively. For a young player, Smart really "gets it." 
  • At 6:58 the emphasis goes to communication. There's the "E-L-C" (early, loud, continuous) teaching on communicating. 
  • The summary? The Spurs communicate, pressure the ball, keep the ball out of the paint, limit 3s, and contest everything without fouling. Those are great messages for young players and teams with high aspirations. 
On my semi-weekly cable TV show, I lamented what passes for low "basketball IQ" these days. I suspect a big part is players not watching much tape. Yes, it was painful to see those 8 mm black grainy mistakes, but they were instrumental in ramping up our vision. 

Leadership Notes

Great share from Coaching Toolbox.

A few stolen excerpts...

Dean SmithThe greatest leaders I’ve known are absolutely devoted to their people. There’s no way to fake it. They put their people in the center of their thinking. They treat their employees with dignity and respect, and they don’t embarrass them or berate them.

John Maxwell self-evaluation questions:

Am I Taking Others to a Higher Level? This question has to do with mission. As a leader, you’re in the people development business. 

Am I Taking Care of Today? How you treat today speaks volumes about your likelihood of success. Because I’ve learned that the secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.


“I’m not remotely interested in being just good.” Vince Lombardi to Green Bay Packers during his first meeting with the team after being named the new Packer Coach.

"Success leaves footprints." - Kevin Eastman

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Brutal Reality

In Jim Collins' Good to Great he examines how companies became and maintained greatness with sustained competitive advantage. 

Here's a slide from a Powerpoint presentation by Kirk Wakefield about Good to Great:

Whether coach or player, we face situations where the status quo presents an insurmountable obstacle. Collins tells us to face the brutal reality. Kevin Eastman says it slightly differently, "#$%& it ain't working." 

Eastman follows that with possibilities, "Do it harder, do it better, change personnel, and finally change strategy." Assuredly, we need to recognize when course corrections become necessary. 

When I was a high school player, we were 8-1, facing the three-time defending state champion in our gym. We lost a hard-fought game 70-68, primarily because we struggled against their press. After the game, there was a forty-five-minute 'lesson' with a lot of soul searching. Coach Lane remarked, "There's only one reason you lost this game because their shirts said "Lexington". They're not the better team and you won't ever lose to them again." Coach confronted two brutal realities - we needed to handle the press better and we didn't fully believe in ourselves. 

After that, we practiced breaking the press with 'advantage-disadvantage', first with five-on-seven without dribbling, then with dribbling added back. 

Later that season, at 15-3 we traveled to Lexington for a rematch, pinning a seventeen point defeat on the defending titlists, handling their press easily. And a few weeks later in the final rematch, we won the Division I sectional championship in Boston Garden against that same team, 56-55 in overtime. 

Coach could have massaged our damaged egos and shown us unconditional love despite a flawed performance. But he challenged us and demanded more because he was unwilling to accept less. A "performance-focused, feedback-rich" harsh message and deliberate practice (process) changed results. 

If you have the right people on your team, the right communication style, and the competence to grow your people, confronting the brutal reality gives you a chance at success. But that downstream approach still requires that you 'hired tough', built trust, and have the competence and leadership to recognize and solve problems. 

A couple of months short of forty-three years later, I think the lesson was worth hearing. 

Servant Leadership Slideshare

10 Principles Of Servant Leadership from Sompong Yusoontorn

I teach basketball because it provides a means of helping young people grow. They grow physically, emotionally (self-regulation), psychologically (positivity, resilience), and spiritually (commitment to team). The practice time (two hours twice a week at night) demands that they develop responsibility (for their schoolwork) and accountability (to their families and to each other).

To lead is to serve. When they come together, they develop interpersonal skills and incorporate values of commitment, discipline, effort, respect, sacrifice, and teamwork.

Some of the best leaders on teams that I coached don't even play basketball anymore. They separated themselves (positively) as leaders by their authenticity, compassion, and selflessness.

Energize the People on the Bus

"Your being yourself is going to raise the energy level in the room."

"I really put a premium on trying to surround myself in life with those people."

"Who can make us better because of their presence?"

"He's the best leader and giver that I've ever been around."

What Does Your Program Stand for?

If you're reading this, you've arrived because you're passionate about basketball and you care about the players. You want to see and share quality basketball not the extracurricular, "look at me" baloney. You want your player's and your team's actions to reflect your brand. What do people see and think when your program gets mentioned?

Respect the game. Respect your opponent. Respect the officials. Respect your teammates. Respect your coaches. Reckless, selfish, thoughtless play shows a lack of self-respect. Any organization which disrespects its people isn't worth your attention. 

Great teamwork doesn't guarantee success. But a lack of teamwork guarantees something less. The best players make everyone around them better. Not everyone can be a great player, but everyone can be a better teammate and ultimately a great teammate.
Effort defines you. Effort is the sum of the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual inputs in your life. When you consistently give your best you show accountability to your team.  Giving your best effort daily helps you and everyone around you grow.

Process is the sum of how you go about your business. Process reflects your intent, character, preparation, self-regulation, and contributes to execution. When you develop an effective process and focus on adhering on it to the best of your ability, incremental changes become magnified over time.

What you don't see highlighted is results. Respect, teamwork, effort, and process add to create results beyond the sum of the parts. When you examine your program, what does it project?

Tiger (BOB)

Simplicity often rules. Last night at practice, I 'test drove' a play we used to use in junior high school almost fifty years ago. When I introduce a new play, I don't tell the defense what's coming and see how they (and the offense) react. 

First, this obviously gets run against man-to-man
Second, it often generates a switch
Third, the screener is almost always open on the roll
Fourth, neither the offense nor the defense knows who is getting screened. 
Fifth, eventually the screener get a free 'slip' to the basket. 
Sixth, you can run the 3 through and get an elevator screen from the top.
Seventh, you can align the offense along the lane line and bring the screen from the side

In other words, this simple set generates lots of flexibility, mismatches, and creates some high-quality scoring chances much of the time.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hand Signals

Life is about connection and communication, and communication embodies both verbal and non-verbal messages. Empower your players with non-verbal signals, especially hand signals. These can supplement your other communication methods and codes (e.g. colors, numbers, et cetera). 

The specifics of the signals can vary according to your needs, but I offer a few examples for consideration:

Head patting  = base offense

Fist = pick and roll

Fist without the ball = I am setting you a screen

Hand across chest = I want you to set a screen for me

Pass receiver open hand = where I want the ball

Pass receiver closed hand = intent to cut backdoor

Pass receiver hands in 'catch position' = intent to shoot 

Ballhandler circles off hand = cutting through

We have others to call for 'requested actions' like 'scissors action, slipping a screen, or 'blind pig' ) - No, it's not Sooo-eee...

Sometimes a simple act of staring at a player by another player can be an effective signal. 

I want the players to have as much 'ownership' for the game as possible as they receive guidance and priorities and become the architects of their basketball destiny.