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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fast Five: Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf (and a Bonus)

As coaches, we help others find enlightenment; we help them go together where they can't go alone. If we chose to carry five messages or words on a laminated card what might we choose? 

Joshua Medcalf's "Chop Wood, Carry water" shares a powerful allegory of personal growth through a principled life. 

Here are five quotes from the work:

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less."

"You fuel your heart with six things: what you watch, what you read, what you listen to, who you surround yourself with, how you talk to yourself, and what you visualize."

"Your value comes from who you are, not from what you do." 

"Everyone wants to be great, until it's time to do what greatness requires...your greatest challenge during your time here will be faithfully keeping your focus on the process, while surrendering the outcome." 

"The bright lights only expose their lack of faithfulness to their craft in the dark." 

Hearing and understanding the message are not the same. To find solutions, we will need to adhere to and to enhance the process that helped us find previous solutions. In that sense, we are always "building our house" or "pounding the rock." 


Damian Lillard game winner off staggered screen: 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Beat the Pro (Bill Bradley) on Steroids

In Beat the Pro (also known as Bill Bradley), you have a game to 11 by ones but a miss counts as minus three. To win, you must make eleven and miss three or less (must make at least 78.5 percent). 

In this drill (15 and 3) the stakes go way up...make 15 before missing 3 (must make at least 88.2. percent). 

Remember, during games fatigue, defense, and pressure always degrades performance. Competition builds champions.

John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are , profiling Bill Bradley at Princeton, was one of the earliest basketball books I read. 

On Awareness

"There are three kinds of people - those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what's happening." - Tommy Lasorda

As coaches, we have the privilege of seeing a lot of bad basketball and the opportunity to remake it. Because it is a mental game, we need full engagement from each player. "What did you see; what were you thinking?"

In How Good Do You Want to Be, Nick Saban mentions mountaineer Lou Kasischke, quoting "the higher up you go up on a mountain, the more dangerous it gets." In 1996, Kasische, after six weeks of climbing, got within 400 feet of the summit of Everest, and turned back because of the conditions. Four of the six climbers who continued DIED. Awareness is central to success in sports and in life. 

The other night during the first defensive possession of the game, the opposing coach called 'Louisville' and his team tried to run a high ball screen from a spread set. First, our point recognized this and went over the top, mostly because the other team didn't execute. When they did, it usually followed illegal screens (moving screens or set directly behind). Second, awareness per se is insufficient without team communication. Third, the team should immediately recognize "Louisville" henceforth meaning high ball screen. Moreover, total concentration implies both awareness and alertness (reaction), executing the coverage and the protection. 

Too often, we see players "playing" but not fully engaged. The multiple efforts required defensively demand understanding offensive intent and the immediacy of response. Far too often, neither the offense nor defense has clarity of intent or the focused intensity needed to make the next play. 

The best players constantly help their teammates solve this possession. Whether we call it focus, concentration, "locked in", "dialed in", "blocking out distractions", or Saban's "eliminate the clutter." 

Steve Nash Shooting


20 Minute Shooting

Great shooters aren't born, they're made through the commitment, discipline, and sacrifice of practice. 

Nash was a career 180 shooter, meaning that the sum of his shooting percentage (1.822) from the field, three-pointers, and free throws exceeded 180. That's an epic accomplishment. 

For example, Larry Bird was .496, .376, .886 (1.758)
             Magic Johnson was .520, .303, .848  (1.671)

                   Michael Jordan .497, .327, .835 (1.659)
                    Stephen Curry .477, .444, .902 (1.823)
                   Klay Thompson .450, .420, .853 (1.723)

This only compares combined shooting percentages, certainly not comparing the breadth of players' games. 

What it says, however, is that his process, the sum of his preparation and his shot selection achieved stunning success, as over his long career, his numbers approximated that of Steph Curry's brief but scintillating career. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Life-changing Conversations

Who and what make a difference? Has anyone ever changed your life with a conversation? 
As coaches we have the chance to share, teach, and inspire. Forty-four years ago, I remember a coach telling the 17 year-old me, "you're playing because you earned the spot." A few casual words can leave indelible marks. I will never forget that endorsement and confidence booster. 

My coaches talked family and schoolwork, discipline and sacrifice, and personal responsibility. Winning was a consequence of doing the right things every day. 

Later, as a 24 year-old medical student, I heard the advice of my Intern (Anne Knowlton), who said, "I think you know a lot, but you've got to speak up if every else is going to know." 

We need to recognize and appreciate our invisible influence in shaping lives. After parents, teachers and coaches can most transform, or traumatize, young people. How we approach that opportunity can't be left to chance.

We must hold their attention, earn their trust, and value them as people. Every day presents a teachable moment. Before the game tonight, I told a couple of players about a practice in the Middle Ages, going to the market to buy a piglet to raise for food. Unscrupulous merchants would sometimes put a kitten in a sack and sell the feline to unsuspecting families. When they got home they opened the package and "let the cat out of the bag." That also left them a victim of buying a "pig in a poke" (not inspecting the merchandise). They were literally "holding the bag." 

When we add value to their lives, they can "buy in" as we sell our culture, philosophy, and team identity. We share best when we can truly say, "I believe in you." And when they respond best, "I can do that." 

We can be warm and demanding, critical without demeaning. Relentless positivity doesn't ignore mistakes and recognizes high effort even when we lose. We can lose games but not lose our players' minds and hearts. 

It's great to win. Everyone prefers winning but defining success means more than numbers. Maintaining the relationships, respect, and trust of our basketball community defines our broad narrative. We build that story on a framework of life-changing conversations. 


"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." - Anonymous

Fallen angels litter the sports pages. Guys with great athleticism and a track record of success who lack the character and maturity to translate talent into successful careers and productive lives...

The most extreme is Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriot now permanent inmate. The more mundane is Johnny Manziel, who seems beset by substance abuse with an overhanging domestic abuse profile. They make Cleveland's Josh Gordon seem more like a petty criminal with serial weed violations. 

But all failures begin with a lack of self-control and discipline. Boston's Antoine Walker squandered a hundred million dollar career earnings. How many other promising players failed to translate skill without will because they were content to cash checks and left fortunes on the table because "making the NBA" without "building a reputation" was enough? 

As coaches and 'talent evaluators', we need to be character evaluators. Nick Saban discusses losing out on a star recruit who is a bad guy. Paraphrasing, he says "if he goes to a rival he can beat you once a year. If he's on your team, he beats you every day." 

When a talented player "fails" to earn a role, I wonder whether too much Xbox, skirt-chasing, and clubbing undermined excellence. 

Tim S. Grover describes the pain of excellence in his seminal work, "Relentless". He writes, "Being relentless means demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever demand of you, knowing that every time you stop, you can still do more. You must do more.” 

If excellence is important and greatness a goal, then it has to be an everyday target. We don't get to pick and choose when we sacrifice to prepare and practice. 

Successful players and coaches invest their time. The "baggage handlers" waste it.  

14 in 90 Via Coaching Toolbox

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

Directly stolen from as basketball lives in the public domain. It's not a paradigm shift like the Fosbury Flop...

We'll use closer spots and consider both shots off the catch and a 1 dribble move. For the latter, we'll have to allot more time. I don't have any players whom I expect to be able to make 14 in 90, but maybe 10 in 90 is a possibility. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

BBall Breakdown Shares "In the Film Room" with Annotations

Coach Nick shares his film review with DeAndre Bembry. Young players don't watch enough film, film that is essential to gain better understanding of the game. I'll provide some annotations and share Coach Nick's video. 

1:10 Coach asks about a role for DeAndre. Defining roles helps create expectations.
2:23 Classic Bob Knight teaching...DeAndre sees his defender high. He takes him higher and cuts backdoor. Setting up the cut is pivotal to completing the action. Pressure defense invites backdoor cuts and screens. 
4:30 Creating separation off the dribble...often there will be helpside corner 3 setup off the baseline drive (Coach Nick discusses this later).
5:36 Attacking off the catch. When the ball sticks separation suffers. Coach emphasizes the difficulty of getting to the rim against superior competition. 
8:40 DeAndre discusses reading the closeout. 
9:43 NBA indoctrination...taking more 3-point shots than mid-range jumpers (corner 3s or get all the way to the rim...)
11:30 It's what you do without the ball. DeAndre works without the ball to get open, then attacks and finishes with a reverse layup off two feet. Players need multiple finishes...and need to know how to use the rim as protection. He also discusses the need to play both with the ball and without the ball.
14:34 Vintage 2016 NBA...penetrate and dish for 3. Note how the perimeter player relocates to open the passing lane. 
15:05 Deception with the high ball screen turning into a backdoor cut. He sees the defender lose sight of him, not classic 'head-turning' but close enough. 
16:55 Shooting off the bounce with step-back to get separation. 
17:08 Obliquely references mindset re: reading ball screens and defenders. 

The interview emphasizes the importance of having a specific plan to develop the breadth of your game. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Leadership Paragon: Jack Clark

Another steal!

Jack Clark is one of my favorite coaches to study. He balances education, leadership, and coaching and articulates his values clearly. Add his extreme success at the National and International level and he is exemplary. 

"Why guess when you can know?" 

In the video, he describes the many dimensions to the position. 

Leadership: "The ability to make those around you better." Clark believes that individual empowerment creates leadership and grows the team. Leadership is not based on rank. 

You listen to Coach Clark and you know that you would run through that wall for him. 

It's "SIMTLE" -

Leadership (everyone in the organization is expected to lead)

Fast Five: Management Ideas of Nick Saban

The Leadership Case Studies group publishes little books distilling leadership from successful people. For Sabanophiles I recommend Monte Burke's Saban which is an in-depth profile (warts and all) of Coach Saban and his entourage. A big part of Saban's philosophy is getting everyone on the same page. 

Here are a few examples worth remembering:

1) Coach Saban developed his ethos washing cars for his father's service station. If he did an unsatisfactory job, his father made him rewash the entire car. The experience taught him to do the job right the first time.

2) The broad outline of Management Ideas divides Saban's approach into MINDSET, PROCESS, and PERFORMANCE.

3) MINDSET demands total focus on doing what is necessary to be successful.

4) PROCESS, specifically what Saban calls "The Process" reflects the teaching and incorporation of doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.

5) PERFORMANCE specifies concentration and execution of the NEXT PLAY (so common throughout coaching). Great players and businesses execute IN THE MOMENT.

In 1998, a 4-4 MSU went into top-ranked OSU at Columbus a twenty-eight point underdog. So often the kicking game betrayed Saban...not that day. 

Bonus: A few Saban quotes:

"Life is hard."

No one can respect you if you don’t have knowledge about what you’re supposed to do.

“Champions are rare. Everybody has some chance, some opportunity to change and improve, but not everybody takes advantage. Be somebody who does.” 

“Win” to me means What Is Important Now.

The process is clearly defined but where do you fail? The discipline to execute.

Monday, July 25, 2016

BOB Winners

End of game BOBs via YouTube. It looks and sounds like Mike Fratello. 

There are a lot of screen the screener (STS) actions baked in. 

I've added FastModel diagrams. Adjust to personnel. 

Stagger with STS principles. 

Curl with STS action. 

Rescreen with STS action. 

Loser Tag

"To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing; it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge." - Summer Sanders

Jason Williams called out Charles Barkley for being a loser. "Nobody wanted (him) on their team because he was a loser. So that's what I think about that." Our society is obsessed with winning, to the extent that people feel comfortable labeling others as losers, selfish, underachievers.

It takes no effort to find great players who never won professional championships, Barkley, Dan Marino, Ted Williams. Dean Smith wrote that prior to winning an NCAA title that he didn't believe that he was a loser.

John Wooden spent years developing his Pyramid of Success and definition of success, "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming." Winning is not a prerequisite, because he recognized you could compete and lose or play poorly and win. 

This mindset spills into society, where the public loses its collective minds over removal of grade point averages and not awarding a valedictorian. "It's the everyone gets a trophy mentality." The more nuanced approach recognizes different grading systems and communities and the surprisingly high incidence of mental health problems among adolescents attributed to competitiveness and academic pressures.

The best learning is experiential - we learn from what we do. But that also implies that if we teach our children that there are only winners or losers, they perpetuate those flawed lessons.

The worst reputation we can have in sports is being "soft"...a complex indictment of lacking physical and mental toughness. But sometimes our best effort will not matter how much foresight, preparation, and practice we exert.

That doesn't prevent us from practicing winning behaviors: study, preparation, practice, positive attitude, intensity, sharing, teamwork. But we can separate negative behaviors from 'bad' people. 

My mother had an expression, "who died and made you king?" I think it's better expressed as "what qualifies you to judge another?" Society gains when we cooperate to lift others up rather than celebrate their shortcomings. But unfortunately, sacrifice will sometimes be viewed as weakness and sharing as lacking a killer instinct.

Daniel Makepeace on Twitter observes, "Ripping others behind their back says more about YOU than them." Yes, we struggle to 'turn the other cheek' when we feel wronged...and I know nobody who doesn't feel that way sometimes. We have a choice about whether we keep playing "Loser Tag."

Waiting for a Star to Fall

Stars don't fall into your lap. We've got to develop our own, meaning an 'expansive' approach to skills and creativity. 

I'm far past the point where I can demonstrate a lot of skills, but many sites have excellent video to study. 

Finishing at the rim is critical. 

Work on reverse layups from both sides with both hands (footwork often dictates the finish). 

Floaters advantage the scorer with an emphasis on quickness and high release. 

Excellent 'portfolio' of finishes. 

USA Men Simple Actions

When you execute well, you embrace simple. I didn't watch the whole game and mostly the NBAers just freelanced. They ran the simplest of a SLOB to get into a high ball screen that turned into an open jumpshot. 

SLOB into dribble handoff (DHO) for inbounder with great spacing. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Samsonite" Shooting Drill

We regularly run this drill although I've always called it "3 pass transition everyone shoots."


I haven't established a 'standard' but we will. 

As If

Dr. L. Michael Hall discussed a concept of "As If". He paraphrases W. T. Gallwey in The Inner Game of Tennis, with an "As If Frame." "Imagine that he is a movie director and you are an actor who plays tennis and you take on and adopt various qualities that I call for as a director. So when you are called to adopt "supreme self-assurance" you just step into that role and play that part." 

When I am in a meeting, I imagine that when speaking, I will speak in support, in opposition with reasons, or seek to get or to add clarity to the discussion. Because I may not have any authority or influence, I remember Del Harris' five levels of communication:

"Go nuts." (Extreme displeasure with unsatisfactory performance or behavior." I have only used "Go nuts" once, when a previous team adopted the fetal position and just let the opposition push them all over the gym. 

When coaching, I want to coach "as if" I am the best coach I can be and seek to become a better version of the coach I am. When I can convince players to play "as if" they are the best they can be and work to become their better version, good things will happen. 

Finding a balance between mindfulness (conscious openness and curiosity) and mindlessness (non-judgmental awareness) creates a tremendous challenge for coaches and players. The former allows us to broaden the scope and depth of our technical, tactical, and relational skills. The latter helps us form and modify our perspective and approach. We constantly work to develop our team's hardware (skill, athleticism, execution) while attentive to their software (decision-making, resilience, emotion, and psychology). The "As If" framework can help us bridge the gaps. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

BOB Horns 15 (Screens)

Divising high probability situational scoring plays presents both challenge and creative fun for coaches. I tell our players that when post players set high, always expect them to come to the basket and when they set low, expect them to cross-screen or set backscreens and then return low. 

Not saying that I agree, but we face almost 90 percent zone defense, usually 2-3. 

Two ball side screens here are designed either to open the block or force defensive rotation and set up ball reversal. 

Core Beliefs on Transition

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

Success in basketball often correlates with the capacity to apply and to withstand pressure. And the transition game (fast break, running game) pressures defenses to get back, to communicate, to shape up, and to defend both the basket and perimeter, and can defeat zone defense.

What core concepts belong to transition? What are the defense's goals and how can we overcome them? 

Transition means having a commitment to running (and superb conditioning), to scoring in transition, and acceptance of the 'lack of control' (team independence) during transition. There may be a trade off between higher risk (occasional errant passes) in return for higher reward (layups). Transition teams need a transition mentality. 

Fastbreak efficiency (per possession) 2015-2016 NBA season. There is an association between fastbreak efficiency and offensive efficiency, but you see teams with good offensive efficiency (San Antonio, LA Clippers, and Cleveland) that are not strong fast break teams. 

NBA Offensive efficiency (2015-2016 season). 

The defense wants to deny the 'easy' shots meaning layups and, in today's world, uncontested threes. That means to delay, to deny penetration, and to react as quickly as possible to the open perimeter shooter. They would like to force the offense to make more passes to allow the transition defense to get back into the fight. For zone teams, that also means to set up their defense as quickly and completely as possible.

You need to match your team's personnel and personality with your offensive philosophy. 

In general, you might divide the fast break into initiation, mid-break, and finishing. Some might also add 'early offense' out of transition, but I don't choose to do so. 

You can break off the miss, off turnovers/steals, and after scores (made baskets and free throws). 

Initiation: zone defenses are well-primed to initiate the break, generally out of 'triangle' rebound, no break. I favor getting the outlet pass somewhere between the foul line and hash. Two guard front zones have two players in ideal locations to break. 

I teach guards to receive the ball with their backs to the sideline (so they can see the court), with the goal of 1) pivoting on the lead foot and 2) getting the next pass to midcourt. Just as the defense wants to beat their man to midcourt, the offense should have the symmetrical goal. 

Mid-break. Spacing stresses the defense. In the "Laker 'Showtime' break", wings were taught to run with their outside foot at the sideline. 

Whenever possible, advance the break from the middle, allowing the ballhandler choice to attack either side. We teach the ballhandler to 'open the side' of the best shooter. If the better shooter is on the left, then the ballhandler would drift slightly right. In the 3-on-2 situation, this should afford the shooter more space. 

Finishing: With a 3-on-2 attack, I teach the priority for the wing recipient as 1) open perimeter shot, 2) touch pass for layup, and 3) upfake and drive against the overaggressive closeout. I don't teach wings to 'cross' under the basket. I'd rather space them in the corners and run early offense from there (often horns or motion options). 

I cannot improve on Herb Brown's Preparing for Special Situations and STEAL directly some of his principles!

1) Ballhandlers protect, push, and keep the dribble in front to prevent the steal.
2) Look ahead. 
3) Pass ahead. 
4) Teams that only run on misses are vulnerable because they don't expect opponents to run on makes.
5) Decide on a designated inbounder versus nearest big man after a make. 
6) A wing crossing on the baseline can curl, post, go strongside corner, upblock the high post in UCLA action, or diagonally screen the trailer. 
7) Consider inbounding from the left side as teams expect the opposite. 
8) Run wide and spread the defense. (If I had a dollar for every time I've yelled "run wide", I could probably retire.)
9) The middle man should step toward the elbow in the direction of the pass to make room for the trailer basket cutting. 
10) Consider the first big man run middle to get post position in the middle of the lane (Kevin Eastman's "homeowner" concept). 

Offensively, our success correlates with our ability to score in transition. Defensively, as a "press team" we sacrifice occasional fast breaks in return for points off defense. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Core Concept: Screen the Screener

"Never confuse activity with achievement." - John Wooden

Having an offensive philosophy includes both core understanding of the game and an openness to the possibilities of player and ball movement. "Good offense creates separation and open shots." Great offense excels at spacing, cutting, screening, and passing.

Screen the screener action challenges defenses to cope with player movement via screening and cutting, opening up mismatches and shots. 

Often devastating BOB with STS action. 

"Set a screen, get a screen" a.k.a. "set one, get one." Flex action invariably creates open shots and can be run out of different sets, as Wes Kosel shows here

 Simple Box Lob

SLOB into game winner 3. 

Everything looks simple until execution - waiting, setting up cuts, cutting aggressively, and shotmaking come into play. But players must understand the power of teamwork and imagination to create great scoring chances. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On the IRT

"We teach, we lead, and we teach leadership." Or do we? 

What concrete steps have I made to teach my players leadership? Before I examine that, what 'curriculum' belongs under the leadership rubric? In other words, what shared qualities belong among leaders? 

In The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey shares his 'tree' that divides leadership among who you are and what you do. 

The 1992 "Just Another Girl on the I.R.T." examined one girl's struggle to escape the ordinary and achieve success. Instead of the Interborough Rapid Transit, IRT means Inspiration, Respect, and Trust as critical elements of leadership. 

Inspiration follows 'modeling', how we care, communicate, and connect with players. That includes both verbal and nonverbal communication. 

Respect must be earned, not distributed with a title. A degree (like an M.D.) is meaningless unless professional behavior backstops it. I knew one physician in training many years ago who demanded her students and peers call her "Commander", although she had inferior clinical and interpersonal skills. She wanted titular respect when she lacked professional qualities. 

We teach trust when we are honest and transparent in our relationships, explain expectations and roles, and listen sincerely. We can't make promises that we can't keep...but we must recognize and reward effort and progress. 

When share leadership examples and principles from our experience and reading. My high school coach, Ellis 'Sonny' Lane, emphasized relentlessness using a quote from "Butch Cassidy"...

Two key takeaways from David Cottrell's Monday Morning Leadership were 1) the Main Thing is the Main Thing and 2) People don't quit jobs, they quit people. Stay focused and make sure everyone shares the same focus and treat people right. Bill Walsh's The Score Takes Care of Itself reminds us to adhere to our "Standards of Performance". Never compromise who you are or what you stand for. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

SLOB Fake Elevator 555 Screen

Maybe we can borrow from football with a "screen pass". Just spitballing with FastDraw. I think this might work. 

In Basketball Methods, Pete Newell discusses the role of the pivot man, whose skills determine whether she becomes a screener, passer, scorer, or a combination. Thoughts? 

The ideal entry is to 1 with a slight delay from 2 initially. 3 and 5 set the "screen pass", faking an elevator screen. 

This sets up a series of off-ball and a possible ball screen. First look is for 1 hitting 2 off the curl. Second is for 4 off of 5 screen. Third is a ball screen from 5 for 1. 

7 Deadly Sins of Losing Versus CCDs

"Most basketball games are not won, they are lost... victory favors the team making the fewest mistakes." - Bobby Knight 

We're familiar with the seven deadly sins. 

Coaches can remember hundreds of ways to lose a basketball game. The Coaching Toolbox breaks it down into seven. I can name that tune in four "starting with CCD". 

1) First C = Cardinal rules
I don't know who said this first. I associate it with Morgan Wootten. 

We all want players to "play smart." 

Terry Bradshaw played smart enough to get to Canton. 

2) Second C = Comeback game. 

I think of Frank Reich and the Buffalo Bills beating the Houston Oilers after trailing 35-3. Regardless of the sport, you need a way to recover...usually with pressure, turning defense into offense. "Stops make runs." 

3) Delay Game - offensive and defensive.

Having played in the "pre-shot clock" era, I remember the value of getting a lead, especially against a potentially stronger team. If you could control the ball and make free throws, it made comebacks tough, especially as teams accumulated fouls. Ball control teams can play from the front, but predominantly 'zone' teams who play half court offense can struggle with deficits. You need delay strategies and delay personnel. 

Phil Ford was the king of offensive delay. 

Defensively, you have a plan to trap, stay, run and jump, or 'lengthen the game' with pace and take away space. Similarly, you need defensive delay strategy and personnel. 

4) Simplify. 

"No shot" means no shot except a wide open layup by someone who can make a wide open layup. "No foul" means DO NOT FOUL. "Ball pressure" means that you can reach out and touch the ballhandler. "Get the ball inside" means that if the guard cannot or will not pass, she's coming out to find someone who can and will. Don Meyer discussed blind enthusiasm, sophisticated complexity, and mature simplicity as coaching stages. Simplicity rules!

Fast Five: Advice for Players

Del Harris has discussed the 'levels of communication' with players. I'll accept that as fact, but it's about tone more than content. Yes, how we say what we say matters, but we don't want to understate our meaning. 

We share some messages with different words. Different folks require different strokes. 

1) "The magic is in the work" equals "do more to become more; become more to do more." Kevin Eastman might say to an NBA player, "you are your responsible for your paycheck". 

2) "We make our choices and our choices make us" echoes "decisions determine destiny." 

3) "Control what you can control." We control our attitude and our responses to the variables and challenges life throws us. We control whether we spend our time or invest it. We control how hard we 'get after IT'. "If you want to change the world, then you have to change yourself." 

4)  "You cannot separate how you play from who you are." Grateful, conscientious people don't become lazy or ball hogs on the court. Character drives the process. 

from Ledbetter, What Drives Winning. 

Everyone cannot become a great player; everyone can be a great teammate

5) "I believe in you" ultimately is contingent on the reciprocal, "I can do that." After a player's parents, we have a chance to make indelible positive (or negative) marks on lives. What we say in the heat of the moment is seared into memory

Authenticity has value to the degree that authenticity creates value. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sharpen the Axe

The "Anna Karenina" Practice

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Similarly, good practices are all alike; every poor practice is poor in its own way.

Punctuality. Players are dependent on transportation from families. They also have many activities, so as much as I want to run on "Dean Smith Time", that ain't happening. But I'm acknowledging my Navy experience carries over wanting players to be dressed (shoes tied, hair tied down) and ready to go. 

Energy. The coach and the point guards have to bring the energy. I have one (point guard) "It's go time" that can be a little over the top...but that is a beautiful thing. 

Attentiveness. Paying attention is the first price. Active listening matters. Listening translates to every discipline. We only learn while we're listening, not speaking. Occasionally, we can check this by handing out pens and 3 x 5 cards. I draw up a play and the players have to reproduce the play on the card. Work in progress. 

Detail-oriented. Everyone hates sloppy basketball. Disorganized, random, helter-skelter practice just wastes players' time. They deserve better. Coaches deserve better. 

Adaptability. How can players learn to play 'situational basketball' unless it's practiced?

Avoid the L's. Brian McCormick reminds coaches that laps, lines, and lectures don't produce basketball players. "Repetitions make reputations." 

Communication. "Silent teams are losing teams." Another work in progress. Younger players often don't want to be seen as 'too vocal' but developing leadership is another or our tasks. Communication, especially on defense, has to be "early, loud, and often." 

Focus. At most, we get two two-hour blocks of practice a week. That has to encompass skill building and team building. If I install a new play, we are going to include it immediately in our O-D-O (offense-defense-offense) segments. 

Balance. Offense requires skill and timing. Defense requires grit and effort. The latter are a priority, but the former get time emphasis. 

Fun. Do players radiate joy? You have to PLAY ball. Teams that only WORK ball seldom ENJOY success. 

Innovation. Players get bored with the same, old, boring drills. Change the constraints (rules) and complexity. 

Competition. Players can compete against themselves, against teammates, and against the clock. How many corner threes can you make in a minute? How many dribbles does it take to advance the ball the length of the court? How many layups (Kentucky Layups) can the team make in two minutes. Use a free throw to 'confirm' a win in a drill. 

There's much more to discuss (breaks, conditioning, style of practice schedule (e.g. restorative versus acquisitive), timing within annual schedule, etc. But practice (decisions determine destiny) mints the currency of excellence. Invest it don't spend it. 

What are the biggest three items that 'set you off' for 'bad practice'? 

Monday, July 18, 2016

2 + 1 vs 3 (Shorthanded versus Pressure)

Purpose: defeat pressure

Constraints: "3" cannot enter until ball crosses midcourt; 4 only enters ball.

Complexity: initial 2 versus 3 pressure (could play 3 +1 versus 4 or number of your choice)
options: 1) no dribbling, 2) limit number of dribbles, 3) defense to offense after stop or score

Feedback: importance of moving without the ball and passing early to open player

Note: I frequently like to constrain dribbling, forcing emphasis on cutting. 

Quick Hitter...Stagger Empty

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

Via Wes Kosel via 

Nice staggered screen combined with clear out action

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Book Shelf: What Have You Been Reading Lately?

Intellectual curiosity and reading belong to successful coaching and leadership. About forty percent of Americans NEVER read a book. What a loss! Reading a book a week or even a month can open new dimensions and hidden worlds. Reading is the primary predictor of career success.

Here are some of my recent choices and current selections:

Recently finished:

1) Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger
2) Raylan by Elmore Leonard (okay, okay a rare non-fiction book)
3) Leadership Lessons of Gregg Popovich by Leadership Case Studies (ghost written)

In progress:

1) 21st Century Basketball Practice  by Brian McCormick
2) The Inner Game of Tennis by W. T. Gallwey

Recently reviewed (notes)

The Success Equation by Michael Mauboussin