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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Basketball and Black Swans

Black swan events are 'unforeseen' catastrophe that in retrospect are potentially predictable or preventable. Nassim Taleb wrote extensively on this in The Black Swan. For example, he wrote about the tragic accident in October 2003 with Siegfried and Roy and the tiger attack at the Mirage Resort and Casino. In retrospect, one easily understands what can go wrong. 

Wikipedia shares,"the main idea in Taleb's book is not to attempt to predict Black Swan events, but to build robustness to negative ones that occur and to be able to exploit positive ones."

We may remember the 1972 Miami Dolphins best for their perfect, undefeated season. But it was backup Earl Morrall who replaced an injured Bob Griese in Week 5 and directed the Dolphins to an unbeaten regular season. Robustness in reserve allowed the Fish to flourish despite significant injury. 

"Havlicek stole the ball" would never have happened without Bill Russell's inbound pass hitting a guy wire supporting the basket (the Black Swan) in 1965. 

Hank Gathers' sudden death was a black swan, as are other deaths or collapse from cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, and dysrhythmia. 

Bill Walton led UCLA to championships and earned two NBA titles with Portland and Boston. But Walton's Bruin backup, Sven Nater was there to develop Walton and prevent a Black Swan event. Nater went on to lead the ABA and the NBA in rebounding, the only player to do so. 

Blueprint Basketball suggests ideas to create Black Swans.

1.Full court press and trapping
2.Half court trapping
3.Switching screens (this has become commonplace)
4.Changing defenses

In preparation for post-season play, I'm concerned about neutralizing youth basketball Black Swans, especially pick-and-roll and backcut offenses and multiple zone defenses. 

We haven't spent much time on zone offense this season...

Lagniappe: Targeting free throws (Xavier newsletter) 

As I recall, in John McPhee's profile on Bill Bradley, A Sense of Where You Are, he described aiming for the center of the four bolts that held the rim on the backboard. That corresponds to the black script on the 'plate' just below the back rim now. On our hoops, that reads "DRAPER." That's the target I recommend for our young players. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Inspire Players by Adding Value

The best motivation arises within. Certain players have IT, Anson Dorrance's "competitive fury." Players are not cosmic vending machines that we feed magical coaching coins. 

As first year medical students, we learned about compliance, getting patients to adopt lifestyle and medication recommendations. But teachers emphasized noncompliance factors - barriers, efficacy, severity, and susceptibility

What barriers demotivate players? Paul Robinson writes in Foundations of Sports Coaching that two demotivational factors are queues (lines) and "drilling for drilling's sake." We tell players to "play with purpose" and we must "coach with purpose." Practices should emphasize technique (skill) and tactics (strategy), conditioning, and the mental game. Examine whether our practices achieve that and ideally combine elements (see Lagniappe). 

Is practice working (efficacy)? The Turkish proverb advises, "measure a thousand times, but cut only once." If practice is working, then we should have specific, measurable progress from both practice and competition. 

If we score "3 by 3 shooting" (half-court) or "3 by 3 by 3" full court over 3 minutes, we should see gains over time. 

If a player's offseason workout includes "Pitino 168", then she should score higher over time. 

How severe is the compliance issue? The ultimate individual consequence is fewer minutes. I divide each half into five, (roughly) three minute segments. That provides fifty three plus minute slots per game. With twelve players, two players get five rotations and ten get four. Everyone gets developmental time and two players earn extra minutes. Rotation brevity demands high effort.

Are you susceptible to 'consequences'? In a developmental program, aside from parental cost, no player should bear performance costs. Playing struggles don't get punished. What's the benefit of telling twelve year-olds, "you're not good enough?" 

Be authentic...but realistic. Dispense praise to praiseworthy actions, but remember to praise effort. Maybe Dean Smith could praise "execution not effort," but that's untrue for youngsters.

Add value. When we're doing our job, success leaves footprints. The team improves and players acknowledge both improvement and feeling valued. Results increase motivation more than motivation produces results. 

Define the process, the costs and the benefits. Get the "buy in." I often forward the tentative practice schedule to parents to share with players. They see the emphasis on fundamentals first, offensive development, team defense, and execution of special situations. They don't have to agree with it, but recognize there's a process to improve their child and the team. Disorganization would demotivate me as a parent. 

Lagniappe: drills should translate to game play. 

We run through individual elements, with defense and then have players play. They gradually learn offensive and defensive execution and decision-making. I am fortunate to have a very capable assistant so we can run two productive groups at once. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Coaching Basketball, Sports, Stoicism and Lagniappe

Do we have consistent goals in life? Can stoicism improve our basketball coaching? What principles help us? 

Stoics visualize the negative as part of their philosophy. They imagine what can go wrong, the losses they can suffer. They accept that obstacles interfere during life. Marcus Aurelius shared stoic leadership principles in Book 11 of Meditations. Here are a few. 

Coaches are about process as illuminated in a Sports Illustrated article. "Holiday wrote about Nick Saban, the Alabama football coach, for instance, and his famous process, how he refused to be distracted by what might happen in the future, or what had happened in the past. He focused on the next game, the next day, the next hour. He didn’t get emotional, except in press conferences, when yelling at reporters. He focused on what mattered, what he could control."

Control what you can control. We control our preparation, our attitude, study, and choices. Teddy Roosevelt was a sickly child and chose to overcome his illness. "We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out." Alexander Suvorov, the general who never lost, trained his men relentless to win. 

Be present; be objective. We work in the here and now. What happened is done; move on to the next task, the next possession.   

Experience appreciation. If we accepted that our lives and our possessions could disappear, then we would have more gratitude. We would "want what we have." The glass is not half empty or half full. We are grateful for the glass. 

Learn from experience; don't dwell on it. We have to move on and use lessons to improve ourselves. Use the analogy of Ryan Holiday's MVP in The Obstacle is the Way. We bring the MVP (minimal viable product) to the floor at the beginning of the season. We work out the bugs and add new features to produce our best work. 

Seize opportunity from adversity. 199. Tom Brady was the number 199 draft choice of the NFL. A Patriots executive was leaving the stadium in 2001 and noticed the lights on. He asked a custodian why the lights were on. "There's a guy down there, Brady, working out and watching film."

Consistent worthy goals in life include serving others and becoming our better versions. We write our narrative. 
Lagniappe: Stoicism has penetrated pop culture in many disciplines. 


Shuffle shooting. 3 shooters, 3 rebounders, 6 spots, 3 cycles. Maximum score 18 points. 

Practice outline for today: subject to change

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Making Better Basketball Decisions

The Hammer Problem. "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

We add value in our domains by making better decisions. If we have more tools in our toolkit, then we add versatility. That demands understanding problems, examining multiple solutions, and crafting our decision-making. 

When I discussed Plebe year at Annapolis with my former player Lauren, I told her she needed to know five answers, "Yes,sir, No, sir, Aye,aye, sir, Right away, sir, and I don't know but I'll find out, sir." We all benefit from advancing from know that to know how

Tradeoffs define us. The "rich" trade money for time. The "poor" trade time for money. A longer commute means time sacrifice, but perhaps more housing value. While we're doing something not useful (e.g. watching Netflix), we're not studying or solving problems. "Am I confronting the world or am I accepting how it works?" This requires recognizing ego to prevent denial or prideful decisions. 

Better decisions demand better questions. Is there an answer? Is it known? How can we get there? Can we keep it simple so we don’t become confused? These skills apply broadly. 

What few, SIMPLE ways can we solve everyday BASKETBALL problems? 

Probability. Recognize the most probable outcome of your decision. "Is that more likely to be a quality shot or a SHOT TURNOVER?" Do I add more value to the team offensively or defensively? Excelling in your role means implementing probability. As Pete Carril remarked, "non-shooters are always open." 

'Base rates'. Base rates extend probability. They underlie strategies like Hack-a-Shaq, knowing whom to foul in crunch time, and whether or not to foul strategically when leading by three on a final possession. 

Anchoring. "This is what we do. We do what we do." Or we believe what we know, until it's wrong. Kevin Eastman reminds coaches, "Do it better. Do it harder. Change personnel. #%&@, it ain't working." Drew Bledsoe got hurt, and Tom Brady replaced him. Bill Belichick didn't anchor on the (then) three-time Pro Bowler. We anchor on ideas, flawed concepts, or relationships. We're ahead by 15 points with six minutes left and the opponents anchor on playing passive zone defense. That's a losing strategy. 

DNA discoverer J.D. Watson was a racist. He believed in white genetic superiority. His DNA was sequenced and revealed a substantial percentage of African DNA. He disavowed his previous beliefs. Science literally weighed his anchor. 

Circle of competence. It's okay to say, "I don't know." Mentors, coaching, and studies help expand our competence. "Better to remain silent and appear a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." 

Feedback loops. Give and seek feedback on performance. How can I improve? When I was a medical student, my intern told me, "From your writing, I see that you know a lot. You have to speak up during rounds to show that." Thank you, Anne Knowlton. 

Coaches don't correct players to be critical, but to effect change. Change the rules. Playing four-on-four 'no dribble' basketball regularly imposes cut and pass restrictions and stops players from immediately putting the ball on the floor. My game, my rules...

Premortem examination (prospective hindsight). As we head into the postseason, I ask myself, "if it turns out poorly, how will that look?" I forecast three potential problem areas, pick-and-roll defense, back door cuts, and ball sticking, especially against zone defense. We'll work on those this week before the playoffs. 


"If you stand around, then you're asking to sit down." 

Arik Shivek "pass and cut drill." Few players naturally pass and cut. This reinforces passing and cutting. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Realities of Postseason Basketball

Basketball success migrates to thinking persons. Pete Carril wrote The Smart Take from the StrongIt's silly to overstate postseason play in youth basketball, but certain truths prevail. Control what you can control. Here are a few: 

1. Teams bring more intensity. Be prepared to match or exceed it. 

2. A poor start creates an uphill climb. You can't wake up after a quarter. It's 'easier' to play downhill. 

3. "Do more of what's working and less of what isn't." Don't force what isn't there. Carril wrote, "As a player, you want to be good at those things that happen a lot — that cannot be overstated."

4. Better teams have more size, athleticism, and defensive range. This especially impacts passing. "Fall in love with easy." 

5. Good teams surrender fewer transition points. Compensate with fewer mistakes. Carril also shared (about practice), "No drill is any good unless it’s used in some form in the game. There is no transfer of learning."

6. Take care of the basketball. The turnover 'margin of error' is smaller. 

7. Taking away transition baskets (as a subset of easy hoops) is vital. 

8. Get more possessions via rebounds, deflections, and steals by anticipation. 

9. Foul for profit, not from carelessness. 

10.You can't afford "throwaway" possessions on either end. Losing your player, not blocking out, or not calling a screen can determine whether you survive and advance or go home. Focus defines you

11."Dance with the one the brung you." Don't reinvent your team or yourself. These are kids and it's still a game. It's another chance for them to make memories. Be the adult in the room and make it about them.  

Lagniappe: Big Thinkers Think Differently from Lolly Daskal

Think big...but remember the big picture reveals the details. 
Be focused.
Assess risk. 
Ask hard questions. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

MIAA D2 North Tournament

The MIAA posted their sectional brackets. 

The strength of the bracket in on the right. Melrose would most likely have to go through AC, Danvers, and Pentucket to get to the sectional finals. 

No Brainers

We succeed with pedestrian ideas. Postseason preparation begins with review. Wisdom comes with a dialogue between knowledge (usually from others) and experience. When we avoid being stupid in our aggregation, training, and deployment of talented, motivated players, then we can do well. 

"Stupid" includes lack of or unethical recruiting, inattention to fundamentals, and burnout or demotivational coaching. Find and reject stupidity. 

When fortune smiles upon us with athletes, simplicity favors teaching game structure, skills, and teamwork. 

The ultimate "no brainer" comes bundled as the player with size, athleticism, skill, knowledge, and psychological resilience. High energy, unselfishness, and leadership enhance the package. She doesn't happen by often. But rare isn't never. My job becomes not to mess her up; help her find more tools and get out of the way.  

Structure overview:

The first "no brainer" is movement. Those games with levers that shoot pingpong balls don't reproduce the game. The game presents symmetry challenges. Understand offense to execute defense. Recognize what is hard to defend to implement offense. 

Offense wants separation, ball and player movement. It also supplies more arrows to the quivers of the best archers. Defense restricts movement and separation, and particularly redirects the ball away from the basket (no middle, "force to tape." 

Defenders must recognize the intent, advantages, and limitations of offense. 

Many coaches run spread offenses. Defensive overeagerness by "taking the cheese," leads to defenders trapped by offensive mousetraps. On the left, major "easy actions" for offense and on the right "no brainer" defensive responsibilities. 

Defense knows that player and ball movement create headaches. This pertains specially to penetration (closer shots or penetrate and pitch for threes) and/or ball reversal creating open shots or closeouts. It informs combinations (multiple actions), like screen and roll, give-and-go, fake-and-cut (backdoor), screen-the-screener, staggered or serial screens, and so on. Experienced defenders communicate and adjust. 

The second part of structure is team coordination of offensive and defensive concepts. This is analogous to military "command and control." Communication is central. Complexity demands practice and patience. Players need time to learn to play together and leverage each other's strengths. 

The third rail of structure is situational play. That includes anything from jump balls, to knowing whether to save balls going out of bounds, and decision-making under time and score pressure. Situational practice is another no brainer. 

Lagniappe: (via Xavier newsletter)

A "box" like set, establish a triangle (top left), which could initiate 'triangle offense' or initiate help-side action (back cut). 4 would ordinarily be higher in traditional triangle. This depends on your personnel, facilitated by bigger guards and finishers. But the "triangle" flows into conventional ball screen action, with the 4 emptying the middle. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

One Page of Basketball Perspective

What belongs on your single page of basketball perspective?
"Get more and better shots than your opponent." - Pete Newell 
"Spacing is offense and offense is spacing."-Chuck Daly "Know your NOs." -Kevin Eastman
No penetration. No middle. No easy baskets. Hard 2's. Ball-you-man. Ball-you-basket. Pressure the ball. Attack the ball. See ball and player. Contest shots without fouling. Helpside "I". Hand discipline. Defend with your feet. Force to tape. Deny the cut. Pass and cut. Space. "Movement kills defense." Separate. Screen the body. Wait, wait, wait for screens. Value the ball. Help your teammates. Possession and possessions. Take quality shots. Eyes make layups. Read the defender(s). Fall in love with the easy play. Better passing makes better shots. Drive to score. Avoid trap zones. Make the D defend the whole court. Rebounding is war. Presume every shot will miss. "Hit and get." Great players "draw 2". Concentration makes anticipation. Have an identity. Highlight reel. Why? Continual ascension. Competitive fury. It's the scoreboard not the scorebook.
Teammates matter. How you play reflects who you are. Think the game. Success leaves footprints. Be here now. Teammates matter. No effort, no minutes. Bench in the game. Letters (W/L) over numbers. Sprint don't run. Never quit. High tempo. The magic is in the work. Ego is the enemy. Repetitions make reputations. Talk. Respect the game. Let the officials officiate. "Two-second rule." Be great teammates. "Pound the rock." Star in your role. Be pleased but not satisfied. Fake it to make it. Distort the zone. Be mindful. Listen. Process over results. Play with purpose. Get better TODAY. What did I learn today? You own your paycheck (minutes). Coaches see everything. Points per possession. "Water the flowers". Perspiration makes inspiration. "The ball is gold." Make some memories. Multiple efforts. Multiple actions. Bring energy. Get over yourself. "Low man wins." Good enough seldom does enough good. Make the coach put you on the floor. "If you don't know, ask." There are NO 50-50 balls. Toughness is a skill. "You'll never regret playing hard." "Play with your heart." 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What's Your Moat?

The word "moat" derives from the French 'mote' or mound, meaning mound or castle on a hill. Ironically, the word describes what is surrounded, not what surrounds. 

In business, your trademark, brand, scale, and products and/or services define your moat. Coaching a team, what defines your moat, your sustainable competitive advantage? And moreover, what liability or "human misjudgments" could undermine your dominant position? 

Charlie Munger's landmark address asserts some of the latter possibilities. For instance, "incentive based bias" affects behavior over many domains. You might call that "cheating" but sometimes it's favoritism. Do you cut the Mayor's grandchild? Do you favor Pietra over Paula in tax policy when Pietra is your donor? Do you "reciprocate" in dealing with 'agents' for players. Or do you publicly overcommit to your community (Administration, fans) doing "whatever it takes" to succeed. 

Steven M.R. Covey shares the tree of trust in The Speed of Trust. Recent NCAA scandals have illuminated coaches with extreme competence but challenged integrity. Coaches who see everything somehow look the other way when it comes to acquiring and supervising their lifeblood, talent. The Gepettos of college hoop shrug when their charges go off to Pleasure Island, unaware that real boys can turn not only themselves but their fathers into donkeys. 

We build our moats with character and consistency. Brett Ledbetter (What Drives Winning) explains, "Rather than separating “who you are as a player” from “who you are as a person,” Ledbetter works hard to unite them because uniting them makes both the performances and the people better." First, high character players are the foundation of our moat.  

Quality teaching and constant learning widen the moat. The best coaches work constantly to improve themselves, to understand big ideas and translate them into their program. Programs use heart-rate monitoring to assess effort, computer programs to train alertness, mindfulness to expand attention, and alternative exercise like pilates to enhance athletes' flexibility. 

Continual self-reflection on strengths and weaknesses with actions to reinforce strengths and mitigate weakness maintain the moat. Self-reflection can involve film study, checklists, analytics measuring performance like points per possession, or mentoring where coaches use assistants or consultants for feedback. 

Control what we can control. We can't always get better players, but we can always help our players become better. That's our ultimate moat. 

Lagniappe: terrific thoughts from Coach Larry Jackson (Xavier Newsletter #70)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Warren Buffett's lesser known partner is Charlie Munger, Harvard trained lawyer, Renaissance man, scholar, master of thinking and applying mental models. According to Buffett, Munger can detect what can go wrong with an idea in a minute.

Occasionally, the investing Universe brings together magical, cosmic synergy to create what Munger called the "Lollapalooza Effect," force multiplication (in either direction) amidst biases that divines special risk or opportunity. Munger values preparation, patience, discipline, and objectivity in cobbling his analysis. 

Can we identify a similar analogy in player evaluation and development? 

Obvious dimensions include elite size and athleticism. Assessments of skill in youth suffer as snapshots and project uncertain trajectory. That demands a philosophical leap of faith, judging motivation and discipline, and intangibles like basketball 'instinct.' The Samuelson highlight video above shows the integrated excellence, skill, cutting, passing, and savoir faire of the elite player. Know how vanquishes know that

Munger asks first what the rational observer sees and would do, and second what subconscious (emotional) biases interfere with arriving at conclusions. Paraphrasing Richard Pryor, I ask, "do you believe your beloved judgment or your lying eyes?" 

Buffett and Munger also adhere to their 'circle of competence' with conviction of YES, NO, or TOO TOUGH TO UNDERSTAND. Fortunately, the too tough to understand seldom applies to the fundamental basketball excellence, just the characters involved. 

With a more advanced young player, it's tempting to abbreviate baby steps of judging footwork, balance, pivoting, protecting the ball. But thorough and thoughtful preparation, Popovichian "pounding the rock" is precisely what produces lollapalooza.

Wedding skill, knowledge, and experience shapes the finished product. Cultivate and seek LOLLAPALOOZA.

Lagniappe: Xavier suggested "Partner Workout" 2006

Double bonus:

Tap play using a screen to create a speed mismatch. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Art, Basketball, and Trust: "Show Me"

"Don't talk of stars burning above, if you're in love, show me." 

Trust wields a double-edged sword. During internship, I found myself "on call" a lot during short-staffing seasonal vacations. The Chief Resident explained, "we need somebody who knows what they're doing." No good deed goes unpunished.

Coaches need players to trust. SHOW ME why you deserve minutes. "Show me, now." 

Steven M.R. Covey writes in The Speed of Trust, "Trust impacts us 24/7, 365 days a year.  It undergirds and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged."

Urban Meyer defines his trust components (vide supra) in Above the Line. He reframes  Greek influencers - ethos (character), logos (logic), and pathos (emotion).

Trust and leadership intertwine. Covey writes, “Over time, I have come to this simple definition of leadership: Leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust.” Leaders create trust. Trust builds loyalty. Loyalty reinforces leadership via positive feedback. 

Leadership comes from above AND below. Players know when they lack enough communication, skill, intensity, or rest and can freely share that with coaches. Coaches can admit mistakes, in tactics or motivation and earn more trust from showing our humanity. Competence does not mean infallibility.  

In the film about trust, Finding Forrester, Sean Connery tells Jamaal, "you write your first draft with your heart and you rewrite with your head." When he corrects Jamaal's manuscript, he asks in the margin, "where are you taking me?" Basketball is not so different, harmonizing the heart and the head, with the coach figuratively wondering, "where are you taking me?" The best players take us to greater trust. 

Trust mirrors VDE - vision, decision, and execution. Without vision, there is no decision. Good decisions offer the possibility of execution. Execution informs results. 

Every practice affords participants (coaches and players) opportunities to gain or lose trust. Mistakes don't terminate trust. But repeating the same faults (selfishness, sloth, tardiness) or actions (turnovers, poor shot selection) erode trust. 

Trust demands reciprocity. Reflect on inspiring trust and how players can earn trust. Remember Covey's quality of relationships. Quality repays time with trust.  


This two guard front sets up two quality scoring initial corner 3 off the back screen and a screen-the-screener option later. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Practice Checklists

I love practice. The worst part of school vacation for me is no practice. Every practice can be better, but how? 

Sure, we have practice schedules, with timelines and activities. Maybe checklists can improve practice

For reference, Atul Gawande wrote, The Checklist Manifesto, the bible of checklists. Michael Simmons and Ian Chew share How to Create a Checklist. Simmons and Chew remind us the best checklists are tested, concise, user-friendly, and critical. I cannot claim this 'first draft' proven in any way. 

Every team has different needs to address their philosophy, culture, and identity. But unifying themes pervade coaching. 

1.What does our team need NOW? These may overlap but not converge with yours...
2.Does practice address the needs? 
3.Why are we needy (knowledge, skill, effort, athleticism, conditioning). Fix root causes.
4.Can we measure progress? 

Checklists don't replace common sense, adjustments on the fly, or intangibles (team health and morale, leadership development). 

They also don't eliminate benefits of simplicity, clarity, and consistency. "Don't cheat the drill. Fall in love with easy...the easy pass, the easy shot. 

Admittedly, we don't have scouting reports, film to review for future opponents, or team-specific game plans. But we also distribute minutes fairly and have limited practice time. 


Another late game play, "Touchdown."

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Hardwood Classroom (Basketball Practice Mindset)

Every player should know she improved each practice. That's the goal anyway. Dispense with distractions. Brian McCormick shares the 'three L's' that don't belong at practice - lines, laps, and lectures

Every activity robs Peter to pay Paul. Lines don't teach. Laps don't spike anaerobic threshold. Three-minute lectures replace three minutes of fundamentals, offensive or defensive transition, team defense or offense. 

Coaches maximize limited resources - time, personnel, and attention. In Above the LineUrban Meyer emphasizes attitude and readiness. When players cross the red line, they're expected ready. "The rule is that once they cross that red line, they are not only running – they are prepared to give all they’ve got." But young players aren't at OSU. Raise expectations

Strive to practice with higher energy, tempo, and efficiency

Players should heed Coach Meyer's advice to "Get Your Mind Right – What you focus on, how you talk to yourself, productive vs negative mindset." The court is their atelier, the hardwood classroom. Whenever appropriate, praise the praiseworthy, especially effort. 

Emphasize competitive practices, the struggle (borot'sya) to become your best and challenge teammates to be their best. Players share accountability. Rotating drills encourages versatility and excellence within the competitive cauldron

Alternate high intensity training with lower intensity activity. Free throw practice affords a convenient time to provide water breaks. 

Offense-defense-offense (O-D-O) provides an alternative to scrimmage that initiates three possession activity with a free throw, BOB, or SLOB. We can extend each three possession game a possession or two at our discretion. 

But within O-D-O or small sided games (e.g. 3-on-3 or 2-2), prioritize spacing, player and ball movement, your offensive emphasis (e.g. pick-and-roll, off-ball screens), and particularly shot selection. 

To teach spacing and movement, regularly practice 4-on-4 (no dribble) with the third group rotating to alternative activity (usually free throws). 

Practice should elevate not demoralize. Be demanding without demeaning. We aren't in the business of demotivation. 

Nobody coaches to rob children of self-esteem. Practice can't be drudgery. Accomplished teams PLAY basketball and miserable teams WORK it. 

Lagniappe: Full court "game winner" actions

Middle 'go'

 Side 'go'

Diamond 'X' Go


Friday, February 16, 2018

PTRW (Play the Right Way) "You Know It When You See It."

PTRW. "Play the right way." What does that mean on a granular level? Well-coached teams find and develop more players doing the right things. If we ask players about the meaning of PTRW what will they say? 

Telling players to "play hard" or "be aggressive" is vague. 

Show players how playing hard looks. "Catch people in the act of doing the right thing.

Ask players to give examples of doing the right things. What makes a good individual action? What defines a good team action? 

Remind players: 

"Good defense comes from multiple efforts."

"Good offense comes from multiple actions.

Excellence departs from ordinary. You know it when you see it. 

Kentucky demonstrates the "classic" transition defense drill...communication is key. 

Most coaches expect players to respect the game. Have players explain what that means. Demand unselfishness, intelligence, relentlessness. Inform them how players disrespect the game (e.g. dishonoring opponents, teammates, and officials, running up the score, dirty play, disinterested play). 

PTRW implies thorough preparation and assiduous practice. You know it when you see it. 

Lagniappe: 2 plays from FastModel Sports

 SLOB into middle drive.

Horns slice cut, if not available...wing ball screen. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fight Through Complacency as the Season Winds Down

"Sports doesn't build character; it reveals it." Practice and games teach us about our nature.
Thought leader Michael Mauboussin keeps a decision journal to help him learn from his decisions. After 'evolutions', I ruminate about the lessons dispensed:

What went well? 
What went poorly?
What can we do better? 
What are the enduring lessons? 

Two things we didn't do well (in victory) were defend the give-and-go and contest shots. Both require awareness and reaction. Eighty percent of the game is mental, and concentration skills complement physical ability. 

At practice, players didn't recognize the deficiency. So we worked on defending the give-and-go repeatedly out of shell. 

Life rewards work, patience, and balance. Confidence finds middle ground between uncertainty and arrogance. Sports teaches lessons, especially the fragility of arrogance. Coach Auriemma has said, "the only thing worse than losing is winning all the time." 


"Movement kills defenses." One of the simplest actions against the 2-3 zone is passing and cutting. Above, the ball is swung to the corner and the wing (3) cuts through looking for the ball. This pressures x5, the middle defender. If she picks up 3 quickly, then 5 can roll behind for a short shot of the glass (the bank is always open). If 3 receives the ball, 5 can roll to the middle for a 'small-area' 2 on 1.