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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Articles: Web Gems

Effective Parental Involvement "Address elephants in the room..."

Can you reinvent yourself?  Of aging eagles and Tim Duncan. 

HoopThoughts part III on Tom Thibodeau. “On nights you are not shooting well, there are many other things you can do to help yourselves win.”

Coach K's Greatest USA Basketball Achievements

Free Technology for Coaches.

Beat the Press. Attack. Keep it simple. 


"Little things make big things happen." - John Wooden

Whether you are a coach or a player, you build your portfolio one "move" at a time. We learn big moves from smaller ones. Improving your footwork informs your ability to create separation, and understanding timing helps you wait for screens. Alertness allows you to cut when your defender turns her head. Discipline demands that you set up your cuts.

To do, you must first know. Knowing isn't enough, though.

Whatever 'go to' and 'counter' moves you choose, persistence leads to excellence and rarely to greatness.

Successful Programs

Most leaders want successful programs but how much are they willing to commit and sacrifice to maximize their chances?

The National Federation of State High School Associations shares five habits to build successful programs.

Here are some high points and annotations:

The first trait is to praise loudly and criticize softly. The phrase I recall is "shout praise and whisper criticism." That doesn't mean that we can't coach, correct, and discipline. But distinguishing constructive feedback and mean-spiritedness matter. In "The Legacy Builder" Rod Olson calls it 'Speaking Greatness'. 

The second trait is to try to make everyone in your program feel important. Who and what matters? What traits did your favorite leaders, teachers, and coaches share? They added value and made us feel valuable. Adding value and building your players' self-esteem creates trust. Trust creates loyalty. People do not care about how much you know until they know how much you care. 

Coaches should not talk a lot at practice and keep the athletes moving. Repetition is the mother of all learning. We learn and improve through enhancing our 'neural connections' in the brain. Depositing layers of myelin increases the speed and reliability of nerve transmission, the underpinnings of "muscle memory." In a game with sixty or seventy shots, most players get limited opportunities. Great practice allows each player as many repetitions as possible. Drills like "Kentucky Layups" requiring players to make as many layups in 2 minutes creates competition and helps set rising standards. 

The fourth trait is for coaches to always be willing to suspend or remove disruptive players regardless of their ability. I've been fortunate to have very few 'problem players'. And for the few that I have, I've been able to get them to buy in through patience and belief. That won't always work. Great coaches remove the cancers without hesitation or have the discipline not to bring them into the program in the first place. 

The fifth trait is to always be open to new ideas and techniques. Learning begins with curiosity. We build great brands starting with concepts but fill out through both optimism and relentless construction. Deserving leaders attract followers and develop new leaders. Ideas are the currency of growth. Matthew Kelly promotes 'becoming a better version of yourself.'  Curiosity, reading, study, and a consistent willingness to ask "how can we improve" underpin evolving and durable competitive advantage. 

2015 Offense Update

You change with the times or you fail. Fred Hoiberg has the Bulls evolving.


Quick entry into Early Offense allows more flexibility

Blend individual talent into team concepts

Bulls like to weave into high pick-and-roll (weave, dribble pitch, return)

Defensive overcommits to dribble pitch creates back cuts

Bulls blend concepts:

Bulls also use 'spread' concepts with 4 out or 5 out to allow individual creativity

Discusses drag screen in transition. Unbelievably, some of our middle school players "get it" already

Bulls like 'zipper cuts' into pick and roll. 

Vary personnel to suit your talent. High ball screen with spread (4 rolls to corner) and offense has lots of maneuvering room.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Salesman

Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Daly used to say, "I'm a salesman." And as coaches, we sell all the time.

"This is who we are." Organizational culture reflects the values and behaviors that define a group. Our culture embraces teamwork, the pursuit of quality, and accountability. Players should want to become not only a part of the group but lift up their peers within the group. 

"This is how we play." The system encompasses not only the style of play but all its preparation, details, and nuances. Matching the system to people adds value to both. 

Coaches sell the growth of the individual and the team. Development follows a willingness to share, to work hard, and implies collaboration...more than just passing the ball but working to make the organization measurably better. 

Teamwork allows groups to function at a level greater than the sum of the parts. Teamwork means doing your job in a way that allows everyone in the organization to do their job at a higher plane. We are naturally selfish but by working together we achieve more. 

The coach needs not only to sell but to monitor the buy-in. Participants buy in when they see value, both from tangible results (e.g. wins, statistics, recognition) but intangibles (satisfaction and happiness.)

Net Gains - Articles

HoopThoughts with Part 2 from Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau has a reputation as a task-oriented coach (hard guy) but a wealth of basketball knowledge. You have to embrace his belief in preparation and effort to make a difference.

System development. How should you play? It's always a work in progress.

How to Maximize your Pre-season. Stronger Team blog. Preparation always matters. Not everyone has this degree of time or control.

Running dribble drive or motion? Maybe the penetrate-and-kick drill would help.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Practice Harder

Practice is my favorite part of basketball, the opportunity to grow through acquiring new knowledge and refining old.

Here are my practice principles.

  1. Be ready to go on time
  2. When you get a chance to warm up, warm up your shot. Great shooters purify their form (lay down additional myelin on neurons) and build confidence before moving out. 
  3. Bring enthusiasm to everything you do. 
  4. Leave your comfort zone. Adversity informs success. 
  5. Don't become content. Contentment stops progress. 
  6. Challenge teammates to practice hard. Engage both teammates and coaches. 
  7. Don't cheat the drill. Go hard or go home. Concentrate at all times. 
  8. Track your progress. Push to improve your standard. 
  9. Everything at practice should translate to better game performance
  10. Communicate. We communicate continuously both verbally and nonverbally. 

Articles Du Jour

Tom Thibodeau thoughts shared from HoopThoughts  What price will you pay?

Don Sicko on improving your chances of winning. Play smart (limit fouling) and take care of the ball.

The fall and rise of Rudy Gay. Advanced statistical metrics matter in today's NBA.

"As the twig is bent, so grows the tree." Boston Magazine on the making of Brad Stevens.

The sometimes painful education of a college hoop coach, from Forbes.

What is the unifying theme? What can you learn, what can you teach, and can you make better decisions at every level of the game?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Flip Saunder Passes But His Legacy Lives On

Former Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders passed but I wanted to share some of his clinic notes via former NBA Coach Eric Musselman

Annotated excerpts:

The most important aspect of any defense is communication.

Don't assume your kids know your basketball terminology -- even multi-year returners.  Giving and getting feedback is critical. 

 Three rules of his defense: 1. No layups; 2. Contest all shots; 3. No second shots. No easy baskets. 

Don't defend non-penetrating passes, i.e., passes that go away from the basket. Conversely, defend all penetrating passes.

When you double the post, the shot will come from the opposite corner. I've diagrammed one possible way that happens. 

In transition defense, force the offense to make one more pass. One more pass allow defense to get back and engaged.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wheel of Fortune

This chart from JM Career Coaching (Twitter) informs many important dimensions.

All are important. If you highlighted five, which would you choose? Here are mine:






But if I could add another, it would be understanding the business (products, service, trends, competition). It's hard to establish a sustainable competitive advantage without an integrated philosophy and the ability to build a culture of excellence including continual reassessment and refinement. 

Quick Shooting Drills

Quick shooting drills is really a misnomer because the path to shooting excellence goes through repetition, a willingness to wallow in the mundane. 

On the left, the shooter shoots at the elbow and sprints to the sideline and back for a pass from the rebounder. Repeat. You should have the chance to take at least TEN shots in a minute. Track your progress. 

On the right, it's the Variety Pack. Cones (or chairs) lead to curl into a shot, fade or 'bump', flare, and finally a one-dribble move into a mid-range shot. Enthusiasm gets more repetitions. 

Develop drills that complement your offensive framework. 

Pressure 101

Pressure defense has many purposes. Pressure takes advantage of teams that handle the ball poorly and make poor decisions. It forces tempo. It engages players. It informs the "comeback game." For many teams, 'defense becomes offense' forcing turnovers.

The overlooked phase of basketball is 'conversion', that one to one and one-half second interval between offense and defense and vice versa. Successful teams 'instantly' convert and play with purpose during that conversion.

In the video, Coach Shaka Smart (now at Texas) demonstrates how he wants the press run.

Yes this is "Pressure 101", everybody knows that stuff, with trappers, interceptors (yellow areas), and safety/goaltender. 

Coaches decide whether to trap immediately or wait until the ball is put on the floor and deployment of personnel. Generally, I like to put the most athletic players at "madman" and top of the key, and the least impactful trapper as safety. That flies in the face of conventional wisdom where X5 is often simply the center. I want good decisions, deflections, and steals from the X4, and a lot of pressure from the 'madman' and wings. 

When inbounds denying, I prefer "hawk" (chest-to-chest) defense from the wings, inviting the lob pass and relying on the anticipation and reaction of second line defenders to make the play. 

Note in the video how Smart realizes that a certain amount of time the ball comes back to 3, and that the opposite wing 'stunts' (fakes) to delay the advance slightly and relies on the athleticism of the 'madman' to get back in the fight. 

Another alternative is to play X3 off the ball initially as an extra defender/centerfielder. This can take on the look of a 2-2-1 (UCLA) trap, modified by inbounds denial.

Regarding denying sidelines penetration ("take away the sideline"), I favor teaching the wing defenders that if they need to defend with the outside foot OUT OF BOUNDS to deny the sideline, do so and recover inbounds after the trap. The goal of trapping is not for the trappers to steal the ball as much as to force bad decisions/bad passes. Trappers should not allow 'gut passes' (through the trap), should not foul, and the goal is forcing passes backward or over the outside shoulder. 

You aren't going to get turnovers and steals every play and good play will occasionally break the press 'cleanly'. It's about establishing tradeoffs in the system and having young players develop consistency.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Platform for Scoring

Coaching younger players, I emphasize the need for "four ways to score." For example, you might score in transition, off dribble drives, one or two dribble moves into a shot, and offensive rebounding. Or you might have a 'go to' and 'counter' post move, free throws, and offensive rebounding.

But you can't seriously believe "I'm a scorer" and lack ways to create separation AND finish.

This leads me into this brief video from "Stronger Team." The Stronger Team develops from better individual play.

You don't need the seemingly infinite portfolio of moves of Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Durant, or Paul Pierce. But you need to create consistent separation through superior footwork, balance, and quickness if not outright speed. And you need to be able to read situations quickly, because ordinarily "you are most open at the moment of the catch."

Ordinarily, front pivoting off the inside foot (left on the left side, right on right) gets you closest to the basket for the initial "look". Think about it. You want your moves to become automatic, executable without thinking. That only happens after exhaustive repetition.

Identify moves that you CAN execute. It doesn't make sense for tiny guards to spend all day in the post or seven footers to "live" on the perimeter. Understand how you can contribute to your team and execute what your coaches want.

Play with purpose. Play north and south. Make the dribble take you somewhere.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Making of a TEAM

Although we completed tryouts, we don't have a TEAM yet. We know that some players on last year's team did not try out and other players who played well elsewhere last year did.

Last year our focus was on TEAMWORK, IMPROVEMENT, and ACCOUNTABILITY. This year, we will work toward TEAMWORK, QUALITY, and ACCOUNTABILITY. It won't be easy.

What makes a TEAM? Teams arise out of authentic concern for each other, with players whose primary concern is making the players around them better. Phil Jackson simply reminds players, "basketball is sharing."

Help your teammates. You help by talking on defense, by moving without the ball, by setting great screens, by moving the basketball, by blocking out to allow a teammate to rebound, through hustling back in transition to overcome numerical disadvantage, by taking 'quality shots'. "It's not your shot, it's our shot." You help by encouraging teammates to play hard, to move on after mistakes and play "in the moment."

You improve your teammate by controlling the controllable - through great attitude, choices, and effort.

The paradox of basketball is developing your craft individually to sacrifice for the good of the organization. You work to get "one band, one sound."

Great teams are about commitment, discipline, effort, gratitude, passion, and sacrifice. Those values translate equally well to family, school, careers, and your other pursuits.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starter Set Box into Multiple Options

Box sets are not so different from either 1-4 or "Horns". I like the action Coaching Toolbox shares to move the defense.
Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 6.43.46 AM
The first action changes the alignment and spacing and yields a possible lob for a layup. If it's not there, 1 can go through to the corner with a high ball screen (2 and 4)...

3 can also use the baseline "Flex" action with 2 reversing the ball to 4 and setting a downscreen for 5 to complete the Flex with 5 getting an elbow jump shot. If you want to "bury" the 1 (strong side corner cut), 3 space up and you have the whole left side for the screen and roll.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Horns Stagger

Horns creates versatile spacing and movement.

In this set  1 hits the post and then sets a doubled staggered screen with 4, leading to a dribble handoff/dribble pitch with 5 on the roll with 3 available for the corner 3 or pullup jumper. 

Queen of the Court

Functional Basketball shares a great approach to involve everyone at practice in competitive, small-sided play. This could work really well for us as we will generally have three baskets available.

Scoring can be creative as well as the drills established in each sector.

You can rotate players (e.g. clockwise) based on production or time. Everyone can maintain their individual score. The drills provided in any area are simply to be determined by the coach. Of course, it's a challenge when there are fewer coaches. 

Miller Time - Early Offense

Archie Miller discusses his transition offense next phase which I'd refer to as "early offense".

His early offense gets an "automatic" signal when a better transition option (e.g. a look ahead layup or open perimeter shot) isn't available.

It creates ball reversal, movement (movement kills defenses), and off ball screens that can create separation or mismatches.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pop Quotes

HoopThoughts shares Gregg Popovich quotes. 


Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them."

“It mostly means that everybody is going to play unselfishly, respect each other’s achievements, play hard enough every night to give yourself a chance to win, to fulfill your role.”

"Coaches are sick puppies. There are always things you can improve and do better. You look at the film, try to keep your standard and get ready for playoffs.”

"It's one of the most enjoyable parts of the business. When you see somebody develop and come into his own, you feel like you did something worthwhile.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Barcelona Set Play Horns

Adjust personnel to maximize opportunity to score.

Tryouts: Getting Noticed

Basketball tryouts happen this week. This isn't a matter of life of death. As a middle school coach, I look at a player through my prism informing player attitude, athleticism, skill, coachability, and aptitude (quickly picking up new information).  But I also look at potential versatility and positional flexibility (you can't have all perimeter or interior players). 

When I am an assistant, I usually lobby for one or two players whom I view as highly "projectable." Years ago I saw an extremely athletic, fluid player who had limited basketball experience. I strongly wanted a chance to work with this player. She became one of our top players and had great potential to be an impactful high school player. Ultimately injuries limited her but she stands out as a "success story" from an evaluation and development stance. 

What makes you stand out at tryouts? I'm not going to waste YOUR time during limited evaluation doing running drills. Basketball fitness and track aren't the same anyway. Basketball is a game of starting and stopping, of quickness and change of direction. The assessment of conditioning and effort comes within the drills themselves. 

Basketball is a game. You have to play basketball; you don't work basketball...the fun occurs through your apprenticeship developing mastery. 

Here are a few thoughts:

Social Intelligence and Basketball

Robert Greene's bestseller, 'Mastery', shares many translatable ideas about social intelligence in career advancement. How can we apply them to basketball?

It's the Work.

Player or coach, your work ethic informs your results. Repetitions make reputations. Michaelangelo's 'Pieta' crafted in his mid-20's, reflected twenty years of craftsmanship. Starting at six years old, he trained ten hours a day, at least fifty hours a week, 2500 hours a year, transforming perspiration into inspiration.

Bill Bradley, from age twelve, practiced over 25 hours a week at the craft that brought Princeton to the Final Four.

Develop the Right Persona.

Does a blustery style mask insecurity? Still waters run deep. We must understand the distinction between what we and others want and need. During my clerkship as a student in medicine, the intern, Anne Knowlton, explained that she noticed a huge difference between my written notes and participation on 'rounds'. "You have to speak up." We have to contribute without disrupting structure and understand the roles of power and ego in our situation. Show the coaches you care by your energy, attitude, and work.

See Yourself as Others See You.

Greene explains that Ignaz Semmelweis' groundbreaking work on maternal infection was largely ignored because of his confrontational style and rancor with his department head. I used to work with a great neurologist in the Navy, Dr. Pleet. With a difficult patient, he would say, "I'd like to think that I'm smarter than all the prior doctors you've seen. But that's not likely. Something about you or your situation is unique and hard to solve." His patients appreciated that he saw them as special.

As a coach I have a clear philosophy about preparation, process, teaching, and communication. But none of that matters unless players and families see it firsthand as authentic and transformative. Criticism and feedback help me to help them. Great players thirst for coaching because they know refinement means improvement.

Engage Your Community.

I'm not Al McGuire, the former Marquette coach and broadcaster. A parent was hounding him about his son's playing time. "You're in insurance, right. You know nothing about basketball. Don't tell me how to coach."  As a player or a coach, you encounter a certain amount of distracting noise. You must learn to focus on the signal and ignore the noise. You can't ignore your supervisor or challenge their authority without accepting the cost. Eventually, in mastery you will find your own niche.

Make the big time where you are and concentrate on adding value to your community. The amalgam of good work, the right dose of leadership and humility, self-assessment and correction, and patience help you navigate the social intelligence challenges.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Execution Defines Performance

Young players often lack 'vision' of the game. Coach Daniel provides video breakdown from the LA Lakers' summer league action, instructive for young eyes.

0:32 It's not what you name it. Two-guard front with back screen/shuffle cut.
1:04 Floppy-like action with staggered screens
2:15 After initial screen center on top has opportunity for isolation
3:01 Excessive HOLDING the ball creates nothing
3:32 Two-guard front into HIGH BALLSCREEN
4:40 Horns into simplest option HIGH BALLSCREEN
5:07 Odd screen-and-roll defense leads to paint penetration
5:37 Horns into double staggered screens
5:49 Horns into similar action but morphs into DRIBBLE PITCH and roll (pretty)
6:39 Horns into FLEX action (here the cross screen gets rewarded)
7:41 Pindown screens
8:08 FLOPPY into postup (easy to see how wing screen an option instead)

Watching NBA action (even without the top players), we can envision how to create separation for quality scoring chances.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


The contemporary trend in basketball is "PACE and SPACE." Fans and players enjoy playing a fast paced game and the percentage of three-point shots steadily rises.

As a young player, you should focus on becoming able to play within the evolving system and of course in the specific system advocated by your coaches. Whatever the system you play in, the more simple yet flexible the better. You need to be able to rebound, play in space (pass, dribble, and catch on the move), and make open shots.

The 'pace and space' system demands a lot from its players - defensive rebounding prowess, effective outlet passing (a defensive rebound is not complete without safe initial advancement), good decisions on the move, and a transition system.

Without effective defensive rebounding (ideally greater than 75 percent of shots), a team won't be able to launch transition. If you're allowing 30-40 percent offensive rebounding, then you'll simply be losing on the glass.

You won't get many full-length of the court 'Kevin Love' passes but at least keep "look ahead/pass ahead" in your mind. The OUTLET RECEIVER should have her back to the sideline with good VISION of the next play, potentially a pass ahead or aggressive advancement, preferably to the middle.

If the outlet goes to the middle, that simplifies the spacing/movement (above).

WINGS should run wide. In the famous "Laker Break" of Showtime, wings were expected to have the outside foot at the sideline at midcourt. Run wide. Wings must become proficient perimeter shooters. "Poor shooters are always open," as defenders rotate to scorers. Wings need to have three plays in mind with the 'advantage' break - perimeter shot, touch pass, or upfake and drive for an intended layup.

The FIRST BIG runs to the BLOCK. Which block (ballside or opposite) depends on the coaching philosophy. Either way, this helps pin the low defender(s) which opens up the perimeter shot. I'm not a big fan of crossing the wings (above) as I think it takes more time and energy than the value it creates. That doesn't make it wrong.

On some occasions, the big can set a DRAG SCREEN to free the penetrator.

"Don't be a HOLDER." The longer you hold the ball (> 2 seconds), the greater the chance for closeouts, defensive rotation, and players getting back in defensive transition. Effective playmaking has always been informed by DECISION-MAKING and ACCURACY (passing/shooting).

No matter what your transition plan, you need continuation into an early offense when the defense halts transition, with either motion or continuity offenses, sets, and breakdown strategies for late in the shot clock or end-of-periods. That's another discussion.


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

However it came about (this isn't a new drill for us), the players benefit and it's one of their favorites.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Best Plays Plus Diagrams

Zak Boisvert shares a variety of terrific plays from the 2015 NCAA Tournament. I've added diagrams of a few that I found intriguing or that I thought we could adapt (or steal). Coach Boisvert supplies the video and I add some diagrams using FastModel Sports software.

Coaches adapt style to their preferences and personnel.

Selected BOB plays

Another route into high ball screen (left).                   High ball screen to "draw" corner 3 defense

DHO SET into post entry                                            Cross screen action off DHO

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Positivity in Psychology

"Control what you can control." We can only control our attitude, choices, and effort. We cannot control most of what goes on around us.

Barbara Fredrickson of North Carolina presents highlights about positivity.

"Positive emotions bring out the best in us," and our emotions inform our physical (cellular) development.

Changing ourselves isn't easy, "it takes as much effort as lowering cholesterol or losing weight." Fredrickson and colleagues have shown improved physical symptoms and neurohumoral effects (e.g. increased vagal tone) changing heart rate variability. Roland Carlstedt has shown reductions in heart rate variability with improved psychological strength (athletically).

Certainly, some coaches are well-known for their transformative psychology. Phil Jackson, Brad Stevens, and Shaka Smart quickly come to mind.

Positivity slideshow 1 from mcada99

Positive individuals and teams have higher positive:negative ratios that emerge with a combination of increasing positive emotion and diminishing negative thoughts. 

What Drives Winning

Brief video from Brett Ledbetter, whose excellent book "What Drives Winning" is one of my favorites.

"We just wanted to have the best practice we could every day." - Don Meyer

"Championship coaches want to direct energy into what's in their control."

"Your process is what drives your result."

"Character drives everything...when you have a lot of it, it drives upward...character is the foundation upon which you win." - Mike Krzyzewski

Skills can be developed...including character.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Never Assume Anything

Buzz Williams shares a video about the perils of "assumption." College Bowl contestants may buzz in to answer before they have the full question. A spelling bee contestant can get additional information such as meaning, use, or origin. And in sports, we may make poor decisions or execution by ignoring what must be done. We can err in making assumptions about ourselves or our opponents, which can create fatal errors. General Joseph Hooker's missteps led to defeat by General Robert E. Lee at Chancellorsville. General Custer's assumptions about Sitting Bull's forces proved disastrous at Little Big Horn.

I don't like to help across to double the post because if rotation fails (see X2), you might surrender an uncontested layup. I've seen multiple failed rotations cost a team a sectional championship.

Success follows preparation, practice, feedback, repetitions, and refinement.

Correct usage may be "never presume anything." There is a crude saying about what ASSUME does. Never assume anything.

Notes on Notes

Clinic notes help coaches to expand their knowledge base and to organize their thoughts. Here are excerpts from LA Clippers clinic notes and I provide annotations.

Offensive goals are to score easy baskets and take high percentage shots.
Defensive goals are to force hard shots and to defend the rim.

Comment: symmetry exists between what we want offensively and what we want to prevent defensively. Coach Pete Newell reminds us that "we want to get more and better shots than our opposition." 

The Rules of Transition Defense:
Stop the offense for two passes.
1. Point guard gets back and defends the paint first
• He must fight the running big for 3 seconds until the 5 can get back to help him
• IF the ball gets thrown inside, the guards objectives are to get a STEAL or a CHARGE
2. The 2nd guard is responsible for picking the ball up at half court

Comment: defense commences the moment the shot is taken. Everyone has an assignment. It's not enough to 'get back', as you need to play with purpose, especially taking away layups and uncontested threes. 

*If you can get two guys back, TANDEM
*If you can get three guys back, TRIANGLE

Comment: Shape up, geometrically. Deny (penetration) and delay (until help comes).

Successful coaches are coaches who have responses to changing situations
and should always strive to be able to counter the moves of opposing coaches.” – Pete Newell

Comment: Kevin Eastman notes that when your plan isn't working - do it harder, do it better, change personnel, and then consider strategic change. 

We have 5 defensive MUSTS:
1. Sprint back and set your defense
2. Shrink the floor and the protect the paint
3. Close out hard and contest the shot
4. Help the defense by eliminating needless fouls
5. Block out and gang rebound. Rebound as a team.

Comment: Pressure the ball, no paint, challenge shots without fouling, and allow only one bad shot. I'm only guessing, but (number 4) I think our  team fouls more shots that have no chance of going in than higher percentage shots. 

Pick and Roll Coverage:
In an NBA game, on average, there are 94 possessions… 74 of them will have a P&R action in them. Therefore, your Pick and Roll defense will have a direct impact on how good of a defensive team you will be.
Comment: In studies of college players, less than a third understood what the coaching staff was trying to accomplish and similar numbers cared. You need to get and give feedback to recognize whether players 'get it'. Are you going to show/hedge/fake trap, trap, or ICE? 

Be PATIENT! “The only way to beat patience is with more patience.”
Comment: Although the article discusses patience in terms of pressing, it has more general applicability. Mastery or even competence requires belief (in yourself and your system) and time. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Winning with Less Talent

John Wooden is well-known for saying, "don't whine, don't complain, and don't make excuses." He was also famous for having a lot of great basketball players, leading to ten NCAA titles.

Many coaches don't have the luxury of great talent. As coaches, our task is to get the most from our players, not to whine about not having enough talent.

If a team plays well enough to defeat a team with superior talent, it probably won't be by a large margin. That necessitates a commitment to another Wooden adage, "little things make big things happen."

Less talented teams must:



Maximize possessions by REBOUNDING


Inferior talent has to play hard, limit both physical and mental mistakes, and communicate (teamwork) at both ends of the court.

Sometimes you need something extraordinary to happen as well. Villanova took only ten shots in the second half but made nine en route to its historic upset over Georgetown.  About the only area where Villanova didn't excel was in committing 17 turnovers against the ferocious Georgetown press. They overcame that with exceptional shooting efficiency in the pre-shot clock and pre-three point goal era.

Villanova shot almost 79 percent, made 16 more free throws, held Patrick Ewing to two offensive rebounds,

The bottom line is that the same qualities that can help a good team overachieve can help an excellent team become great.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Deal Breakers

Part of your apprenticeship as players and coaches informs "this is how we do it here." Often many ways exist to handle a problem, but everyone must be on the same page.

There are deal breakers for BOTH coaches and players.

  1. When coaches don't define players' roles, disappointment inevitably follows. 
  2. When coaches are perceived as unfair, players tune out. 
  3. When coaches don't emphasize philosophy and details, players become confused. 
  4. When coaches don't teach, players can't learn. 
  5. When coaches don't bring energy, players can't take energy. 
  6. When coaches don't prepare, teams demonstrate disorganization. 
  7. When coaches coach to "pick up a check", players don't care. 
  8. When coaches don't demand smart situational play, players get sloppy. 
  9. When coaches don't know the game, players get short-changed. 
  10. When coaches disrespect players, players quit. 
  1. When players don't show up on time, they disrupt team activities. 
  2. When players don't show up ready to go, they devalue practice. 
  3. When players don't commit academically, they hurt themselves and the team. 
  4. When players are selfish, teammates stop working. 
  5. When players criticize teammates, they bring the team down. 
  6. When players don't concentrate, they don't anticipate and then react slowly. 
  7. When players don't work hard in practice, they cheat themselves. 
  8. When players don't take care of themselves, they can't contribute. 
  9. When players abuse tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, they must go. 
  10. When minutes mean more than success, it's time to find a new sport. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Multiple Means to Get Entry into an Offense

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

We teach spacing, cutting, screening, and passing as the core elements of offense. We want to execute the same concepts from different sets.

We practice a "continuous dribble handoff" offense with the 5 opposite the ball, near the midpost. Arete Hoops provides a different look into similar concepts. The diagrams are lifted directly.

The "Four Corners" look gets the "Point Forward" the ball at the top. Obviously, this can establish one-on-one if your center can put the ball on the floor. If you have a strong pick-and-roll team then you can immediately see a spread pick-and-roll version at the top. 

The more common action is guards cutting low (reminiscent of Triangle Offense) and forwards lift.

The center can "Dribble At" either wing to begin a downhill drive via dribble handoff.

On the overplay, Dribble At creates backdoor action.

On the weak side (help side) you have options such as back screen/flare screen or down screen for the player on the baseline to create opportunities and occupy the defense.

Arete Hoops emphasizes that everyone is involved and that "touching the ball energizes."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The Culture of Intent

Several years ago we had Newton North volleyball coach Richard Barton on our biweekly cable television show. Coach Barton believed that "intent" keyed player development, especially powerful hitting, a hallmark of his teams. 

CoachingToolbox discusses intent and culture. Intent expresses direction, purpose, and meaning. Without intent, progress becomes haphazard, random, and arbitrary. 

Here are a few highlights.

It all starts with the coach because if the coach is intentional about trying to create a great team culture and experience for the kids, the chances are much greater that it will end up that way. Coaches who are intentional about what they want to see happen have more success at seeing their goals come true. 

Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching calls these a team’s “Core Covenants.” The best covenants are focused on behavioral characteristics. When a team sets up covenants for behavior within the program, they are creating the culture that they seek. By focusing on behavioral characteristics, these teams are zeroing in on things they have control over – not results and outcomes that have all kinds of variables that influence them.

If a coach is intentional about establishing covenants, s/he creates a much more favorable chance of having them be lived in her or his program. But it takes work.

What kind of experience do you promote (that applies equally to your family, job, business, hobbies)? I want players to feel valued, energized, positive, to show curiosity, to share, and look forward to practice and the time they are privileged to spend with their teammates. They should reminisce about the program enthusiastically and eagerly look forward to the opportunity to try out for the next season (want to not have to). 

When players create a great shared experience, that translates into their daily activities. We can control our intent and demonstrate it through our attitude, choices ("Speaking Greatness", process), and effort (preparation, energy, sacrifice, persistence). We cannot leave culture and process to chance. Players know. Intent breeds trust and trust promotes loyalty. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


We need an identity as coaches and teams, "this is who we are and this is how we play." 

As a coach, I am an aggregator (of information), educator, innovator, mentor, and motivator. Define and refine. Phil Jackson's "Basketball is sharing" defines purpose. Preparation and practice help refine a process to build successful people. The basketball court serves as a life laboratory, where passion and sharing matter more than talent. 

Coach Bob Starkey with his wonderful HoopThoughs has a couple of great shares from Detroit Pistons practice via Steve Finamore:

Detroit Pistons Practice Part I

Detroit Pistons Practice Part 2


- Coach Van Gundy has said in the past that attending a clinic should not change your 
overall philosophy.  Beyond clinics, SVG suggested to go out and watch people practice. I 
agree. In the past, I have found attending practices has helped me so much as a coach.

- Coach Van Gundy is one of the best I have ever seen teach the game.  He makes it so 
simple to understand. He’s teaching pro’s why it’s so important to get back on defense.

What are your rules on getting back on defense?

- Lots of energy. Lots of talking. Everyone was involved and engaged and encouraging each other.

- Assistant coach Brendan Malone stopped the action and shouted, “When you catch the ball, look at the rim.”

I love practice. When you watch a practice, pretend you are blind. You should feel the energy, the teaching, the willing sacrifice. Coaches aren't permitted to have a bad practice (I had one this summer when I was ill). Practice separates those who grow their craft from everyone else. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Patrick Hunt Discusses International Hoop Trends

International basketball trends evolve to create better separation and shot quality. Think how offensive actions can combine to create scoring chances. 

Major Topics

Turnout cuts
Staggered down screens
Pick-and-roll concepts

Part 1: Turnout cuts. 

Players must communicate, reinforce the details and demand feedback 
"Heel, hip, hand." 
Force defense to make hard decisions. 
Defense INFORMS cutter ACTION.
Both cutter and screener must READ defense
Coach wants screener to CALL action "Basket" with Straight, "Flare", "Curl" (and pop), "Elbow" with post option for either pop or basket, and "Back cut" on overplay
PART method teaching: add cutter defense first
Second PART adds defense to SCREENER/Post with strong footwork instruction

Part 2: Staggered downscreens


Cutter comes off staggered screens (screeners taught to jump stop)
Bottom screen to "Basket"
Top screener "Pop"
Reinforce the detail with offensive communications (vocalized)
Practice skills well. Don't waste opportunities. 
Cutters must wait (tendency to leave early). 
Cutter has options at each screen (see below for trail option)
Favors screeners signaling screens. 
Note they are screening areas not headhunting (screening body)

Reading defense is critical.

If defender X3 plays low, change the angle of the screen and flare to the perimeter. 
Adds defense gradually
"Offensive communication helps the clarity of options."

Part 3: Pick-and-roll/Ball screens

"Hesitation, evaluation, separation"
Speed not always superior...
Always encouraging communication, e.g. screener calls "basket" or "pop" and has the option to slip
Expects ballhandler to have one-bounce and two-bounce jumpshot
Wants guards to learn to "split" aggressive show/hedge
Guards must be able to shoot from the perimeter to combat defender who goes under.
Discusses development of 'runner' (floater) with defensive challenge
PART teaching with SIDE screen and corner teammate as prelude to 3-on-3
Emphasis on making screener dangerous threat (see below)

3 lifts to present passing lane and has shot and pass options

Occupied low post turns into screen-the-screener action. 

Coach emphasizes combination actions, using varying sequences such as turnout cut, staggered double, and pick-and-roll (1:31.46)