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Friday, August 31, 2018

Basketball: Narrative and Coaching

Keep the audience (players, fans, readers) engaged. Work the narrative. We don't need a narrator before Game 7 to say, "this is for all the money." Advance the narrative with great dialogue. 

You can't tell stories without drawing from anecdotes. 

Years ago, the officials approached me pre-game asking for their pay. I answered that the league, not the coaches, reimburses the officials. From the tip, we got savaged on every call. Later, the opposing coach came over to me and asked, "did you steal something from those guys? They're killing you." You get what you pay for. 

Another season, we won a playoff game against a very good team from a strong league. Our kids played well, executed in key situations, and won by three. Our opponent had three post players at least three inches taller than our tallest girl. In the handshake line, the opposing coach said, "we would have beaten you if we made shots." Seriously. As David Mamet would say, "unexpected and obvious." It's a make or miss sport.

I worked with a former coach who was working the refs. One said, "if you cross this line, I'm tossing you." My buddy built a wall using the girls' gym bags so he physically couldn't cross the line. Whatever it takes.

Talk about a hostile environment. We played one town infamous for its hometown officials, who doubled as members of their basketball board. Two minutes into the game, their point guard had gone to the ground with the ball (traveled) and habitually used a stiff arm to fend off defenders. No calls. I had the temerity to say, "she can't do that." The official said, "sit down and shut up or I'm running you." I wished I were Peter Falk (Columbo). As a twelve year-old in Little League he was called out sliding into home.  Removing his glass eye, he told the ump, "you need this more than I do." 

UNC women's coach Sylvia Hatchell watched her team sleepwalk through a first half. At halftime, she asked her players to place a hand over their chest. "Anybody feel a heartbeat?" The Lady Tarheels rallied to win after the intermission. 

A coach showed his team a basketball. "The surface of the ball is what there is to know about basketball." He drew a tiny circle on the ball and pointed to it. "This is what you know about basketball. Start paying attention." 

Sometimes, I'm at a loss for words, thinking, "Maybe you should try track..." but "it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." The King James Bible quotes, "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."

But the words players need to hear most, "I believe in you." 

Well-known video of Rajon Rondo sniffing out and defeating an inbounds play based on the set... 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Basketball: Be Eclectic, Incorporating not Copying

Be eclectic. Draw from many resources. Be pleased that players we coach attend camps or play offseason ball for another coach. The height of vanity believes that only we challenge them and help them grow. 

Expand. Charlie Munger says, "be a learning machine" and Kevin Eastman preaches, "be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all." Learn by studying more about what you don't know than what you do. 

Study the best and like the best. How does Munger's partner Warren Buffett become a learning machine? He studies about eighty percent of each working day. And Eastman reads for at least two hours daily. Steve Forbes reads fifty pages a day. George Raveling reads voraciously and shares recommendations

Build your craft. Devote time to strength and conditioning, skill development, film study, game play, and sport psychology. Ask better questions; seek mentors and coaches. Eat better, sleep better. Avoid toxic effects of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Don't succumb to Pat Riley's "Disease of Me." 

Develop your mind. Professional and Olympic athletes practice mindfulness to reduce anxiety and depression, improve attention, reduce stress hormone levels, and raise their level and consistency of performance. Free apps and websites abound. 

Assemble a routine. "We make our habits and our habits make us." Tim Ferriss shares his morning routine, cultivated from hundreds of interviews with achievers. I include sessions, reading, writing, mindfulness, and 15 minutes of guitar practice. As I work through Chris Hadfield's MasterClass on Space Exploration, I get training ideas, information management concepts, thoughts about psychology and teamwork. 

"Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once." This impacts our memory, cognition, and emotional output. 

"Free thinking." Bill Russell said, "Imagination leads to innovation leading to differentiation." Take time to think, to explore the random expanse of your universe. Knowledge workers become more productive with time to think. Coaches are knowledge workers. We can only teach others what we know. As we acquire more knowledge and experience, we move better ideas to the front of the queue and shelve others. Nobody wants or needs a buggy whip.

Be intentional and focused while incorporating information into your process. We're not getting older; we're getting better. Knowledge multiplies, as does kindness, but also hate. 

Kevin Eastman says, "success leaves footprints." Maybe footprints leave success. 

We regularly discuss movement to basket cut, screen, and cut to open areas. Cutting to empty space and remove help reflects basketball IQ, too. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Basketball: In Search of Kryptonite

"Players only love you when they're playing." - Fleetwood Mac, Dreams 

Kryptonite keeps us watching Superman. He has almost unlimited powers, but there's Kryptonite. 

UMBC found Virginia's Kryptonite. Kansas found the Kryptonite for Duke's unorthodox 4-1 zone. Kryptonite is out there. Our job is finding it. It helps us discover David Mamet's end of the hero's journey, recognition and reversal of tragedy. 

Kryptonite is specific to a given opponent. You can't bring a knife to a gunfight*

Kryptonite appears in mismatches, strategy, and special circumstances. The element of surprise has a role, too. Superman's no dope.  

Kryptonite materializes in the form of full court pressure, transition offense, containment half court defense, or a myriad of combinations. Jerry Tarkanian used the Amoeba Defense as Kryptonite, Dale Brown had the Freak. Hack-a-Shaq had a greenish tint. 

Phil Woolpert and Red Auerbach had Bill Russell as their green machine. Rollie Massimino's Kryptonite for Georgetown was Harold Jensen. 

The Heat used the 2-3 with mixed results. The Celtics like a Diamond Zone late against SLOBs. Everyone searches for vulnerability

Even great teams have weaknesses. In Why the Best Are the Best, Kevin Eastman shares an analysis of a Celtics-Lakers game during their peak. He counted thirty-two (32) Laker points allowed by small defensive breakdowns. Kryptonite resides in executing small details

Lagniappe: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. 

Kevin Eastman in Why the Best Are the Best talks about the three days - yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Yesterday was about education and evaluation. Today is execution. Tomorrow reflects preparation. 

In the spirit of alliteration, I'll argue for EDUCATION, EXECUTION, and EVOLUTION. Yesterday we knew who we were, today who we are, and tomorrow we forge whom we become. 

Lagniappe 2. "Without the ball." 

What are you doing without the ball? Can you cut to open spots, to score, or to set up your shot? Some thought J.J. Redick too slow to be an effective NBA player. But hard work and craft allow Redick to pick his spots. 

Lagniappe 3. "Get past hard."

Chris Hadfield,, on Space Exploration

Make practice realistic. During spacewalk simulation in the "Neutral Buoyancy Tank" (pool) in Houston for eight hours, every movement you make 40 feet underwater is resisted by the pressurized spacesuit. That's miserable. And so is wearing a diaper before and during your time in the suit. Get past hard
*James Coburn in original The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Basketball: Worthy Opponent

I want us to be a worthy opponent, not just competitively but holistically. 

What defines a worthy opponent
Play hard.
Play smart; know the game.
Play unselfishly.
Take advantage of opportunities and mismatches.  

How do we become more worthy

Communicate well verbally and nonverbally. 
Never have a bad practice. "Chop wood, carry water." 
Work to understand and execute an intentional game plan. 
Respect coaches, teammates, opponents, officials, and the game.
Show sportsmanship regardless of the score.
Gear up (leave the gym in better condition than you found it).

As a coach, how can I promote worthiness? 

Align our priorities and values - family first, school second, basketball third
Be relentlessly positive. 
Promote a culture of TEAM. 
Model excellence. 
Teach the game well. 
Create a memorable player experience where each player feels valued and learns.

As a person, how can I become more worthy? 

Be fully engaged.
Use time wisely and leave my comfort zone.  
Copy worthy models.
Commit to growth. 
Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat


FastModel Sports shares a checklist of behaviors and knowledge. Can we make the list more manageable? 

Behave professionally (off and on the court).
Care properly for your body. 
Improve your mental preparation. 
Embrace responsibility, role, and respect.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Basketball: Isolation Moves for Posts...Outside In

Coaches teach the big picture and the details. Every team needs to find ways to score and to succeed one-on-one. We're undersized so I work from the perimeter (outside to in) with our young girls. Here's the progression (not saying it's great).

With vacations and other activities limiting participation, the emphasis is on individual actions, one-on-one, and two-on-two (especially pick-and-roll, give-and-go, pass and relocate for shot). 

I begin with emphasizing reverse pivot footwork with basket attack without defense. I then add defense, face up with ball protection, and encourage "reading" the defense. There is always a two dribble limit. "Good players need two dribbles, excellent one, and elite players often none." 

We demonstrate ISOLATION from a 4 out, 1 in set to illustrate how the initial action might apply. 

Klay Thompson scored 60 POINTS holding the ball for 90 seconds and using 11 DRIBBLES

Attend to details of athletic position, low shoulders, quickness, and playing under control without overly interrupting the evolving flow state of play. I first ask the players watching to explain needy technique, "she went left, dribbling with her right hand" or "she didn't protect the ball as she faced the basket." 

Then, layer in front pivot actions, from simple face up, to rip through, and rip into reverse via either crossover or spin back. The player can drive or take a pull-up depending on the defense. Initial 'discomfort' begins to fade as the players see the value of counter moves

Next, the player receives the ball and selects any of the above options against defense...with a two dribble limit. The emphasis is using proper footwork (without traveling), creating separation, and taking an 'accountable' shot for her team. 

We discussed accountability in context with other *bility values like ability, adaptability, availability, durability, possibility, and responsibility. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Basketball: Talent Isn't Enough, Bridging the Gaps

Player evaluation lives within shades of gray. We study players from quantifiable and qualitative angles. Size, athleticism, and statistics-based performance stand as firm bolts. Basketball IQ, leadership, resilience, character, and emotional stability are softer nuts. 

How do we bridge the gap between the measurables and intangibles

Astroball informs how the Houston Astros innovated their approach to STOUTS (statistics plus scouts) to rise from the worst team in baseball to the 2017 champions. 

SI Jinx reversed...the June 30, 2014 cover. 

Michael Lewis profiled Rockets GM Daryl Morey in The Undoing Project. Morey shared that the top three predictors of NBA draftee success are 1) college program attended, 2) college performance, and 3) draft age (younger the better). That leaves holes for foreign players and future high school draftees. 

It's still an imperfect science. 

Third pick in the 2015 NBA draft, NCAA Champion, Duke one-and-done Jahlil Okafor has seen performance and minutes decline. Pundits have advanced lack of perimeter skills, conditioning, and poor defense as Okafor's undoing. As a rookie, he had self-inflicted maturity issues with speeding and The Lifenightclub incidents. Time will tell whether another change of scenery (New Orleans) affects Okafor. 

The most notable performers from the 2015 draft so far are Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Devon Booker (13). The jury is out on many...and to be fair, all are getting well paid to do what they love

Astroball writer Ben Reiter profiles a relative unknown, Javier, from Puerto Rico, son of a laborer. Javier began baseball training at age 5, learned English as part of his training, and impressed Astros executives with his maturity, avoidance of 'party life', and eye contact during his interview. They decided to draft Javier with their one-one (first round top pick). The rest is history for Carlos Javier Correa, Jr. 

Former Patriots assistance Michael Lombardi addressed character in an interview. Lombardi developed contacts within SEC sororities to get character reviews (some would call that dirt) on SEC football standouts. He said that the college women gave accurate (and willing) information about a prospect's behavior. 

Working hard and being a 'quality' person won't make a good player a great player. But lack of effort and a shady personality will certainly undermine a talented player's chance at elite status. Teams want to reduce uncertainty during selection and contract process and seek better predictors of how 'soft' player profiling projects talent into performance. Measuring a player's commitment and relentlessness (e.g. KAT and Correa) is likely to have more impact over time. 


FastModel Sports shares insights on the Game Model. They reorganize the concept of offense, defense, and conversion and make suggestions on breaking down each phase. For example, they divide offense into construction, penetration, and execution. They suggest using Game Modeling for both teaching and postgame evaluation. 

Hat tip: Radius Athletics. 

I'm studying these notes from Coach Tim Brady

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Basketball: The Campfire

"At the end of the day, what do human beings do? We gather around the campfire." - David Mamet, in MasterClass

We tell stories. We share emotions and experiences. "Do you remember that time we were hunting mammoths, blah blah blah?"

The campfire can be a postgame message, the bus on the road, the locker room, a group texting on their cellphones, the television, or computer. 

Sometimes the story is "unexpected and obvious" and others simply remarkable. 

Grainy video rekindles childhood memories. One person's hero is another's villain

"Campfire scenes" can be funny and epic

The message can inspire.

The campfire may reveal the exhaustion of victory. 

The rare fan experience shares the campfire too literally.

Emotions explode as actions are revealed. 

Drama doesn't have to teach or moralize. 


Unexpected and obvious...passing and finishing. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Basketball: The Five Things

"There's always another test." Once I saw a twenty-something salesperson who came for shortness of breath. They worked on commission, had a taxing travel schedule, and previous extensive testing (x-ray, breathing tests, lab) were all unrevealing (normal). Their physical examination was unremarkable. 

I told the patient my provisional diagnosis and wrote a prescription for one dose of a pill, saying this won't solve your problem but likely will diagnose it. 

They sheepishly called me the next day and said, "I'm fine. The medication totally relieved my symptoms." It was a Valium. Stress does a number on us

We can always find another drill. There's always another exercise or motivational phrase. 

Playwright David Mamet studied Brazilian jujitsu. He said that if you mastered the five things they taught in the first month, nobody could defeat you. What are OUR five tasks? 

1. Win the defensive one-on-one battles. Master Newell's footwork, balance, maneuvering speed. Contain the dribble, deny the cuts, contest shots without fouling. When we can't contain our individual assignments, we have no shot at success.

2. Move without the ball. If defense is about denying separation (and resultant open shots), then offense demands separating in space and time. 

3. Move the ball. "Movement kills defense." Great teams know that defense withers under the stress of player and ball movement. The 1986 Celtics and the Spurs of recent years made memories with movement. 

4. Make quality shots. Be accountable to your teammates for the shots you take. "Non-shooters are always open." Living on a prayer doesn't work. This "summer shooting" post is one of my most popular messages. Track everything. 

5. Get me the ball. We need possession. Value the ball. "The ball is gold." Take care of the ball on offense and get me the ball (defense and rebounding). The ball is the smartest thing on the court. It finds the best players. 

The podcast emphasizes the combination of decision-making and skill. Skill development via small sided games promotes better decision and execution with extra touches relative to five-on-five play. Many of us 'learned' to play not via youth practice but playing the game at a playground. "If you don't have a defender, then you don't have a decision." 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Basketball and More: Thinking about Thinking (Post 1600)

Thinking doesn't replace action. But doing without thinking inevitably "follows a lit fuse."

We have an "automatic" thinking system (reflexive, System 1, X-system) and a deliberate one (reflective, System 2, C-system). When a car speeds at us, we don't 'decide', we jump out of the way. But judgments for complex problems benefit from more processing. Use both well. 

We're a storytelling species. We remember and celebrate great stories. Learn the acronym SUCCESS with simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional stories in the mold of the Heath brothers Made to Stick. Tommy Heinsohn earned his second induction to Springfield, this time as a coach. He shared the importance of communication and how Hank Finkel had to fill in against the great Wilt Chamberlain in LA. In the third quarter, Finkel gets his hand caught in the net (story begins at about 12:45 in the video). Check it out. 

From MasterClass, the great David Mamet. 

Big ideas translate across domains. Develop simple mental models to solve hard problems. Whether it's sample size, the clarity of Occam's Razor, self-interest or confirmation bias, use a latticework of decision tools. For example, the web of incentive-based bias played a prominent role during the recent NCAA basketball scandal. 

Inversion (consider the opposite) is a powerful framework. When UCONN sought a new women's basketball coach in 1985, administrators promised the team they'd get the best woman coach available. The players responded that they wanted the best coach available. The rest is history after the arrival of Luigi "Geno" Auriemma.

Do the research. The Feynman Technique includes researching and distilling a topic. We have unprecedented access to information. Do the hard work of breaking it down.

Premortem analysis. Before starting big programs, solicit input on flaws, weaknesses, risks, choke points, and possible unintended consequences. Alfred P. Sloan knew that consensus might mean nobody was thinking

The smartest guy in the room can be wrong; good ideas can come from anywhere. John Meriwether's powerful investment strategy went belly up because of "fat tails" in When Genius Failed. Steve Kerr took videographer Nick U'ren's observations on small ball and the Warriors rode Andre Iguodala's insertion into the lineup to an NBA title. 

Strong ideology and public commitment can be disastrous where we're wrong. We may stick to bad decisions ('sunk costs') or allow faulty FRAMING to cloud our thinking. So does knowing where the bodies are buried. Permanent warfare occurs because few alternatives are proposed, leading to 'muddling through'. Teams hang onto overpaid, nonproductive players using similar thinking. 

People know how to build a coalition by inciting bias AGAINST others (age, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, politics). Some say that USC's defeat of Alabama in 1970 did more to integrate the South than any political policy. We need to see "negative evaluation" arguments in context. What does the 'hero' want? As Mamet teaches, "Why does (s)he want it? What happens if they don't get it? Why now?" 

We're wired to fail. We can accept that or think about thinking. Kevin Eastman wrote in Why the Best Are the Best, "we may have the freedom of choice, but we do not have the freedom of the consequence." Become our better versions. Speak greatness. Start by thinking better. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Basketball: Kevin Eastman's *Bility Branding and Quadruple Lagniappe

Words matter. 962 English words end in -bility. 

In Kevin Eastman's Why the Best Are the Best, he discusses a handful of relevant *Bility words for basketball. Here's a hint - nobility, edibility, and immobility aren't among them. 

The former Celtics' assistant and Clippers' VP of Basketball Operations discusses the *bility words in his chapter on Accountability. For example, Bill Belichick says that "durability is more important than ability." 

In addition to sharing examples of accountability, Coach Eastman encourages us to develop our own *bility lists and our definitions. To me, accountability means holding yourself to a high standard of performance

Here are four *bility brands that I favor and why. 

Accountability. Our team values include teamwork, improvement, and accountability. It's not MY team, it's YOUR team. Having positive attitude, making good choices, and showing great effort show accountability to each other. 

Adaptability. Darwin actually wrote, that it's not survival of the fittest but the most adaptable. 

Adaptability recognizes that conditions change and survivors change with them. Adaptable teams can play fast or slow, from ahead or behind, and have the resilience to overcome adversity like losses and injury. 

Responsibility. Basketball is just one part of your life. Be balanced. High character players are responsible at home, in the classroom, and to their community. Responsible players show up on time, fired up, and ready to go. 

Possibility. I want players not to focus on where they've been but where they can go. Becoming your better version requires the vision and commitment to see what you can be. 

Chris Oliver shares "pinch post from anywhere" creating 1-4 spacing, dribble pitch, and screen across options. 

Lagniappe 2:

Blend form shooting with range extension. Fall in love with easy. Here's the drill:

1) Start close to the basket.
2) Make three consecutive shots.
3) Step back about two feet. Make another three consecutive shots. 
4) When you miss two in a row, move closer to your previous range.
5) Volume success shooting produces consistency and confidence. 

Steal every great idea that you can and modify them to become your own. "Good artists borrow; great artists steal." - Picasso 

Lagniappe 3:

Find style that works for you and make it yours. 

Lagniappe 4:

Great shooters score toward the back of the goal. Note this overhead view of Herbie Hancock's hands. He plays most of the keys at the back end of the key, not just the flats and the sharps. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Basketball Conversations: Hangdogs and Magic Words

I recently began Herbie Hancock's MasterClass on Jazz. I know next to nothing about jazz, but I know that jazz musicians communicate with their instruments. 

In basketball, we hold many types of conversations - player to player, player to coach, coach to coach. Conversations take many forms and subjects, verbal and non-verbal, role and minutes, instruction, correction, discipline, and more. Some conversations are informal and easy, others quite hard. When the coach doesn't play you, she's having a hard conversation with you. It may not be fair or right, but it's a message. 

When players roll their eyes, look away or down, or give the 'hangdog' look, they send attitude, readiness, and resilience messages. Do you want this dog in your fight? 

Empower our players when appropriate. Find the magic words. "I believe in you." 

Plan hard conversations. Kevin Eastman emphasizes TRUTH in his first chapter on words in Why the Best Are the Best...telling the truth, taking the truth, and living the truth. Players need to hear the truth about role changes, minutes, and expectations. 

Improve our conversations during every aspect of practice and games. Be precise and detail-oriented with clarity and simplicity. Basketball demands efficient use of time and space

Timeout as conversation. Take a "timeout" during practice and simulate a game timeout. Use the whiteboard; then ask players to repeat your commander's intent. When they can't execute in practice, they won't execute during games. 

Drill as conversation. We have a "layup" drill that builds a conversation. 

The drill progresses through a ball screen drive, screen and pass to roller, slip the screen, and handoff options. Add defenders to make the layup drill more game realistic. 

Lagniappe: (via Radius Athletics)

Diagonal advance pass. We're young. We can't execute this pass.  

Monday, August 20, 2018

Basketball: Points Don't Grow On Trees*

Points don't grow on trees, well, almost never. If you have "Tree" Rollins or figurative trees like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Kevin McHale, then they did. 

"The code is more what you call a guideline..." 

We should know where OUR and OPPONENT points arise. "Do more of what works and less of what doesn't." For example, UCONN's Geno Auriemma expects a third of points in transition, a third from set plays, and a third on threes. There'll be overlap, getting threes in transition or from sets. How he separates that, I don't know. 

With young (middle school) players, we get few threes, seldom more than 1 or 2 per game, so I'm discounting them. 

First, where do points NOT arise? We never score from bad shots, forced shots, shot turnovers, or as my coach called them "$H#T shots." We don't score on our turnovers, offensive rebounds we don't get, or missed free throws

Consider separating scoring into categories like: 

Set offense (man and zone)
Put backs
Specials (BOBs and SLOBs)
Free throws

That informs our strengths and weaknesses. Despite lacking size, we rebounded well (eyeball test), but finished poorly on put backs. "Don't break the glass." 

We can also inform scoring by using shot charts. We saw how flawed three-point shooting became the undoing of both the Celtics and the Rockets in conference finals this season. 

The NBA uses advanced metrics by player...(2016-2017, LeBron in orange). As previously discussed, we know that 2018 NBA high points per possession come off cutting and low from post ups

They examine points from isolation, spot ups, off screens, off handoffs, transition, pick and roll handler and roller, as cutter, put backs, and post ups. We lack the time and manpower to categorize to this degree. 

The top team in the NBA in percentage points scored on free throws was Charlotte and the lowest was Sacramento (12.4%). 

Golden State scored the most points per game in transition and Portland the least (8.4). The Celtics scored only 9.6 ppg in transition. Each team decides the relevance of those statistics. Coach Brad Stevens remarked, "99.9% of the time, the numbers don't drive decisions, they validate them." 

Last season the Eastern Conference had several teams among the leaders in defensive transition points allowed and Chicago had the worst stats at 1.15 points/possession but they allowed few transition opportunities. Phoenix allowed over 20 points per game in transition. 

We want to score "easy" baskets, meaning transition, layups, put backs, and open midrange shots. For now, free throws aren't easy for us. My sense is that our highest points per type of play also flow from cutting (give-and-go, back door plays) although that's strictly eyeball test. It's no coincidence that occurs by generating assists. During the Olympics, the USAWNT had a game where they assisted on 40 of 48 baskets, reflecting Coach Auriemma's philosophy. 

Ideally, we'd have data on scoring by both play type and types of shots taken

All that said, the best laid plans often won't play. My primary goal is developing youth players for high school not maximizing wins. In a 'win-driven' league, teams are going to apply zone pressure and fall back into zone defense (usually 2-3). I can't change that, so we need to spend time defeating pressure (advantage-disadvantage drills) and paint touches/ball reversal against zones. For now (summer), that means working on quicker decision-making, better passing, finishing, and shooting fundamentals. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Basketball: Simple Exercises for Core Athleticism

Coach Pete Newell prioritized footwork, balance, and maneuvering speed. "You play 100 percent of the game with your feet." 

We don't need expensive equipment; we need imagination. 


Front and back pivots. Hop into a jump stop and practice front and back pivots with a ball. Protect the ball from an imaginary defender during the process. 

Jump rope. In high school, we started practice with five-minutes of jumping rope.  Okay, we led the league in jumping rope...

USA basketball suggests five jumprope exercises to promote quickness and coordination. 


The Hexagon. Use duct tape or chalk and lay out a hexagon (six equal sides) and quickly jump in and out of the hexagon, first clockwise and counterclockwise. 

One-legged jumps

Alan Stein emphasizes PRACTICAL, SAFE jumping exercises off one leg in this video - including POGO (like Pogo Stick), box jump onto two feet, and SPEED SKATER (side to side). He notes the importance of developing explosiveness symmetrically with each leg. 

Maneuvering speed:

Maneuvering speed implies both how quickly you move but moving under control. 

3 Cone Drill. 3CD does impact basketball footwork. Defensively, crossover steps relate to 'catch up' speed. 

With the basketball, I advocate training to score layups with one dribble from the three-point line and two dribbles from half-court. With younger players, we usually ask them to score on two dribbles from the hash. If you're not playing quickly, you can't complete those tasks. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Basketball: "Setting the Table"

Someone has to set the table. Don't "have to." "Get to." Set the table with energy and purpose. Metaphorically, setting the table happens on many levels. We eat with our eyes first but a meal involves all of our senses. 

Alice Waters sets her table for guests with purpose and rituals. (From

Organizational level. Set an organizational table with standards of excellence at every level. Bill Walsh's The Score Takes Care of Itself presents the paradigm of purpose at every level of the organization. Geno Auriemma's UCONN Huskies are near the top of women's college basketball every year, on the court and in the classroom. Academic success is not optional. 

Personnel level. Jim Collins in Good to Great shared the necessity of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. Hire tough. Find people not only committed to doing the job right but whom you can work with comfortably. Value them by building their leadership skills. Leaders make leaders. 

Coaching level. Set the table by serving our staff. Share high expectations and the means to achieve them. We need a clear philosophy, strong culture, and an identity in which we can take pride. "This is who we are; that is who we are not." Differentiate ourselves. Communication and integrity build trust; trust begets loyalty. Loyalty is earned not bestowed. "Make the big time where you are." 

Practice level. Define your goals and how they're achievable at every practice. Time is our invaluable, limited resource. Teach without lecturing. Skill building demands discomfort. Decisions determine destiny through our rituals (habits) and repetition. Every activity needs to translate to game play. Efficiency comes from practicing at the highest sustainable tempo

Player level. Players buy in when they get authenticity, compassion, and value. We're failing if they're wondering if we care. A "performance-focused, feedback rich" environment can sustain a culture where players can succeed in their role. Individual attention fosters mental (game knowledge) and emotional (resilience) toughness, athleticism, and skill. 

Teammate level. Players impact each other continuously on and off the court. They decide how and what they share, their energy, and accountability. Everyone chooses whether to be a great teammate.  Sherri Coale confided how her team saw a player withdraw when she wasn't scoring. The player's parent wouldn't talk to the young woman if she didn't score. 

Setting the table well means having a positive attitude, making unselfish choices, and bringing relentless effort. 


Bill Wuczynski shared the Boston College transition workout via Chris Oliver.