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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Basketball: Passengers, The Right Seats, and a Blessing

No team wants an abundance of passengers. And most players want to be valuable and valued. In Good to Great, Jim Collins advises us to "get the right people in the right seats on the bus." 

Whatever your domain, live your core values every day...teamwork, improvement, accountability. That should reflect toughness, smart basketball, effort, unselfishness. 

EXAMPLE. I was taught and teach the "open to the ball approach" although recognizing the 'head snap' method is equally viable. But ALERTNESS is required either way. The worst of all worlds is poor denial and unalertness of which we were guilty yesterday. Perhaps that's the price of more practice games than practices to this point. I own that

Time management precedes success. That requires organization and carving out periods for reading, writing, and other study. That could include formal study of mental models, bias, mindfulness, and gratitude. 

Mental Models
Cognitive Biases
Mindfulness  (free UCLA mindfulness sessions)

Calm down. Learning about how we think, how we respond to stress, and changing our approach helps us to calm down. We literally change our brain, reducing the stress center (amygdala) and stress hormone production and boosting the learning and memory centers (frontal cortex and hippocampus. 

Ask better questions. Billionaire Sara Blakely asks herself, "Did I spend the majority of my day at what I'm best at?" She uses this as a productivity check. 

There's no one answer. Courage, like confidence, is about balance. Confidence balances doubt and arrogance. Courage balances fear and recklessness. 

It's not about winning or losing; play quality basketball and let the results take care of themselvesFind reasons to believe. Make some high effort plays. Start to believe. Then make some occasional skill plays or toughness plays. Believe more. Add leadership fuel to the fire and increase your belief. 

Lagniappe: I never made anybody a player...

One of our (eighth grader) players scored 35 points in 25 minutes yesterday...and went home and reviewed the how and why we lost. Coaching is a blessing. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Basketball: Thanksgiving Leftover Inspiration Snacks

Stay positive. Don't let temporary setbacks become permanent. Coach Wooden reminded us to "make every day your masterpiece." 

"The Game Honors Toughness."

"Make the next five minutes rock." 

More code tattoo... TTP. "Trust the process." Process > Results

Being sure isn't the same as being right. There is power in saying, "I'm not sure." 

If you don't pay attention to the little things, who will? (My notes from assisting at a game four years ago)

Don't waste time learning what you know. Are you reading, "see Spot run" today? 

When we rob Pietra to play Paula, the dynamic of the team changes. Everything affects everything else. 

Help our players and teams tell great stories. In Belichick, Ian O'Connor shares that the Colts lost an early edition of Bill Belichick because they were unwilling to pay him $10,000 and use of a car. Detroit met his price. A week after the Patriots demolished the future Super Bowl Champion Raiders 48-17, a twenty-something Belichick advised the Lions to innovate. He used a two tight end, two wideout formation and overloaded the weak side of the Patriots Cover 3 defense. The Lions won 30-10. By age 34, Belichick earned his first Super Bowl ring as defensive coordinator of the Giants, beating John Elway's Broncos 39-20. 

Nobody can do their job if they don't know their job. Sweat the details. 
My sister, a former Fortune 500 CEO, shared a story yesterday about interviewing a prospective retail buyer. The candidate said, "if you hire me, you will never regret it." He got the job.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Basketball: Play Joyfully

"Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm."

You have to play basketball. Joy radiates energy and creativity. Seek, see, and feel the joy...or not. Are your favorite basketball people energy givers or energy vampires? 

Joy doesn't need fancy footwear, Nike socks, and shooting sleeves. 

Princeton coach Pete Carril shared, "Light bulbs, that's what I call them. Light bulbs. There's an intangible feeling a coach and a player have that you can delight in. When Armond Hill was at Princeton and he'd go up and down the court in warmups, that's excited me. Frank Sowinski walked onto the court in practice. I could be dead tired: I saw him, I felt good. Billy Omeltchenko. Craig Robinson. I call them light bulbs. They walk on the floor, the light goes on." 

What excites you? What excites the kids? 

What brings the joy? Teammates having moments. Dribble tag or capture the flag can bring joy. Joy flows from effort and execution - the extra pass, defensive anticipation, the well-timed block, "pulling the chair," and acknowledging the passer. Sometimes seeing the last reserve succeed in her minutes or getting a hug from grandparents. 

Humor and parody bring joy. 

But that doesn't mean it wasn't work, too. Carril said, "Are you kidding me??? FUN???? Do you have any idea how hard this kid has worked here for 4 years. It's HARD WORK, NOT FUN!!!"

Give thanks for our chance to experience the game. Share the joy. 

Lagniappe: Intangibles

  • Ask questions. Learn something. Don't be negative. 
  • Build players who can play in any system.
  • Set individual and team goals. 
  • You can't take only the good and not the bad. 
  • Be efficient. Tempo is a common theme. 

Lagniappe 2: 5 Minutes via Tom Peters and In Search of Excellence

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Basketball: Leadership Lessons from the South Pole and More

Don't get hurt patting ourselves on the back. 

We know leadership when we see it. Leaders make the best timely choices among many options. But without followers, there is no leadership. So leaders must earn followers and having a talented management team matters. 

Failure to separate making the best choice for oneself versus choosing wisely for the group often defines triumph from tragedy.

The polar explorations of Amundsen and Scott illuminate how a series of differences matter.* (table adapted from Wikipedia)

Leadership and logistics are everything. 

Having a supportive cast makes all the difference. Jeremy Lamb discussed Kemba Walker, "In terms of just leadership and as a friend, he's always looking to make people better."

  • Openness to ideas doesn't imply weakness
  • Self-awareness is vital to emotional intelligence. 
  • Followers are willing to hear "I'm not sure" and skeptical of "I'm 100% confident I'm right." 
  • Be open to mentoring. 
  • If we're always right, then we're not properly keeping score. 
History, not our ego, judges us. "The past is not simply the past, but a prism through which the subject filters his own changing self-image," writes Doris Kearns Goodwin. 

Lagniappe: Some people don't think chemistry matters...not Danny Ainge.
Lagniappe 2: John Leonzo podcast on improving practice with Coach Pete Gash. A few excerpts:
  • "Stay ahead of the defense" with movement (identifies concepts)
  • Expand the individual's game in a short time
  • Understand trends (like switching) 

He thinks every drill should be competitive (based on working with Donovan, Crean, and Giannini)

Rapidly move actions from defense to offense in small increments. 

He's a believer in 5 on 0 (we'd call this skeleton). I'm a believer in working vs defense.

Lagniappe 3: Spread into strong and help side attacking

If you have "bigs" with high skills, these actions becomes hard to defend. 

P.S. What's on your reading list? 
I'm crawling through Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek 

On the way - 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Basketball: Random Thoughts, Steal Some!

The game is about relationships. Our culture defines them and as an old guy mentoring young women, I know that I don't know what they're thinking. I don't know what they're hearing. 

Feedback. Are we giving and getting enough? If we're asking the question, then the answer is NO. I'll email the parents about their concerns. 

Oops. That was embarrassing. I invest a lot of time preparing lineups with enough balance with ballhandling, scorers, rebounders, toughness. But that exposes us (at times) with lineups unable to press or otherwise limited. This weekend, I erred in thinking that one player was unavailable, so I labored to fix this on the fly, and it was part of the problem. I don't like to put players in situations where they are overmatched. 

Three words. What three words describe you? What three words describe your team? What three words would someone else use to describe your team?  What three words would you NOT want to hear about your team? I don't want to hear SOFT, SELFISH, or SLOTH. 

Unexpected progress. Teach them how to play. Teach them how to play. How? Last night we split the groups first into BIGS and GUARDS-SWINGS to work on positional skills. In the latter group, they played "20 passes" (a shortened version of "50 passes." A group of four tries to make 20 passes without a steal or turnover. You have to pass, cut, and repeat. We followed that up with four-on-four halfcourt and the ball started moving. 

During the "offensive development phase" the ball kept moving and it started to look like basketball. Sometimes 50 (Spread) created 20 (passes) action because players recognized their work defined their involvement. It's not perfect, but it looked better. 

Firing squad. Nobody gets fired. But if they did, what would be a firing offense? Bad transition defense is high on my list. 

Manna from Heaven. If I found $500, where would I invest it in my team? I'd love to have a youngster who would track game stats (e.g. shot charts, assists, turnovers, rebounds, steals) and present it in a useful format. 

Female heroes. Everyone needs heroes. Society tends to dismiss and devalue women. Only 49 percent of Americans acknowledged being "comfortable" with the possibility of having a woman President. At least they were honest. I've seen a myriad of women disrespected in medicine, whether administrators, physicians, nurses, and others. Our girls need heroes to become actualized. Find heroes for them or at least share ideas on where to Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx. 

Empowerment. Empower the girls. Empower them to succeed and to fail. Put them in positions to succeed humbly and to fail graciously. 

Lagniappe: BOB Stacks. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Basketball: Weekend or Weakened? Solution-focused

Three practices into the season, we embarked on a three-game tournament. Preseason games identify sustainable strengths and and wipeout weaknesses

Psychology tells us that losing feels about twice as bad as winning feels good. Development aside, that rings true. 

Consider bias (sample size, recency - latest results, attribution). Attribution bias is problematic...our brilliance, preparation, and hard work explain success. External factors like conditions, officiating, and bad luck aren't our fault. This overstates our skill and minimizes the role of chance and bad process (coaching, strategy, execution). Bias also dodges accountability.

Offensively, our strength and weakness our interconnected...we need a more balanced attack. We need to finish better both on drives and offensive boards. We largely controlled the boards but didn't capitalize on putbacks. 

Finishing school. Be solution-focused

1) Mikan Drill and Bradleys (hops and high release near the basket)
2) Commando 1-on-1-on-1 rebounding
3) Superman Drill with finishing

Defensive transition: we struggled in one game. 

Review key concepts:

1) Allow no more than three transition baskets per game
2) 1s and 2s back first
3) Stop the ball and shape up 
4) Beat your assignment to half court
5) "It's not a running game; it's a sprinting game."

A pair of transition defense drills. 

Press breaking

Advantage-disadvantage with constraints (e.g. 5 on 7 with no dribbling allowed). We need all players to maintain a competence standard at handling pressure. 

My coaching contributed to the one loss over the weekend. I had not prepared everyone to deal with full court pressure, constructed lineups ill-equipped to handle pressure, and gave them too much rope while the opposing coach targeted those groups. 

Lagniappe: From "The Athletic" ...discipline from Dante Scarnecchia

“I was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps,” Scarnecchia proudly beamed during an interview with The Athletic. “I liked the discipline. I liked the structure."

“Boot camp is hard, man. It’s as hard as it can get. That was back in the day when the drill instructors would get kind of physical with you. It was hard, but it was fair. If you didn’t screw up, they didn’t mess with you."
"They (fellow marines) would do some of the dumbest things, and we’d all have to pay for it. I would say, OK, that’s the way of the world. And that’s really the way in football. Even though everybody is going in the same direction, one guy that’s not can cost the lot.”
Lagniappe 2: So you want to be a leader? Read about leaders, coaches, and their mentors and heroes. Abraham Lincoln's study was George Washington. Teddy Roosevelt read nine volumes about Lincoln. FDR admired Teddy Roosevelt. And Lyndon Johnson said he learned everything from FDR. Read about Dean Smith, Pete Newell, John Wooden, Bob Knight, and Coach K. Extract the best from each and recognize the warts, too.  

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Basketball: Reinforcing 3 Principles from the House of the Mouse - Quality, Tech, Improvement

Bob Iger's had "triple threat" goals for Disney: 

Create Great Content
Leverage Technology

Iger emphasizes the twins of perception and performance.

How do Iger's principles translate to basketball?

Play Quality Basketball
Use All Platforms Available
Improve Every Day

What is quality basketball? You know it when you see it*. Set higher expectations.

*It's not rocket science. 

Use available platforms. 
  • Physical video
  • Online video
  • Study live games "what would I do?"
  • Online clinics (noteworthy is FIBA)
  • Attending clinics
  • Social media
  • Play creation and storage software
  • Analytics
How do we measure improvement? "Winners are trackers." Decide what needs the most improvement and monitor. Our club should track turnovers, assists, and shot charts to understand progress.

Lagniappe: In real estate it's 'location.' In basketball, relocation. 
Lagniappe 2: We like to use DHO action to initiate pick-and-roll sequences, but in this video (beyond our level), DHO triggers perimeter shots. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Basketball, History, and Collaboration Stories

Collaboration means something different to each of us. Is it authentic partnership based upon openness, communication, and free flow of ideas? Or something less - hub and spokes or hierarchy where our word is law? 

Collaboration begins with our attitude, the mix of confidence (self-belief) and humility (full respect for the thoughts and lives of others, not just ours). 

Hire tough. Collaboration implies others. Assemble a worthy team. Fire fast (if incompetent). Lincoln's inability to remove General George McClellan early during the Civil War was almost his undoing.  McClellan's timidity led to defeats from lack of aggression. The Celtics had more talent last season but more collaboration early this season. It's not a "that guy" thing. Collaboration is anti-fragile. 

Collaboration demands active listening and intent to understand. Without either, no collaboration exists. The absence of either may appear via either verbal or non-verbal communication or both. During the Coal Strike of 1902, Teddy Roosevelt brought coal mine owners and miners to the White House to encourage a settlement. He used the power of the bully pulpit to force collaboration. Steve Kerr's willingness to listen to videographer Nick U'Ren substituted Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bogut and helped bring the Warriors a championship.

Set the tone. When there is no give and all take - frustration, bitterness, and anger follow. Inauthentic sharing shows virtue signaling, not virtue. In a fragmented society, everyone will not hear our message the same way. Get feedback, "what is your understanding?" 

Be consistent. Collaboration doesn't work on a 'when I feel like it" platform. Leaders 'share the wealth' and create new leaders. Remember Nassim Taleb's Silver Rule, "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.

Credit the team. Collaboration means giving others credit while accepting responsibility when a plan fails. Nobody likes glory hounds and finger pointers. Shared accountability is a hard lesson. Jonas Salk's unwillingness to credit other scientists contributing to development of polio vaccine embittered much of the scientific community. Dean Smith made sure to credit non-stars who contributed to victory. Everyone likes appreciation. 

Make our word matter. Follow through. In The Best, Tina Turner sings, "Give me a lifetime of promises and a world of dreams." Make it happen.  

Lagniappe: Screens (off the ball). Worth your 10 minute investment. 

1. Take the proper angle. 
2. Communicate (intent to screen).
3. Sprint to screen.
4. Set up the cut. Wait for it. Better to be late than early. 
5. Headhunt (screen the body, not the space).
6. Read the defender at the level of the screen. 
7. Screener. "You are the second cutter." 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Basketball: Hot Letters and Decision-Making

Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness and self-control. Some call that temperament

Abraham Lincoln wrote what were called "hot letters."  Underperformance earned blistering written criticism; Lincoln put many of these letters aside and finished them with "Never sent. Never signed." Lincoln knew these letters could inflict irreversible damage. Writing them cooled his angst and allowed him to reevaluate his positions. 

President Obama used a similar approach, firing off angry letters...into the wastebasket. 

Another approach is the "24 hour rule." Delay and reconsider our position before sending an email or communication we might regret. 

In James Kerr's Legacy, he distinguishes between "red head" and "blue head." "Switch from ‘red head’ — tight-inhibited, result-oriented, anxious, aggressive, overcompensating, desperate; to ‘blue head’ — loose, expressive, at the moment, calm, clear, accurate, untasked." Stay in control

Decision by committee often produces inferior results, as good ideas die at the altar of senior management. GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan tabled discussions with too much consensus (above). Dissent has value in decision-making. 

When everyone agrees, we lack the best input. This applied to Lincoln and his Team of Rivals with Seward, Stanton, and Bates. This mattered to FDR with advisors like George C. Marshall who was unafraid to disagree with the President. "Marshall insisted on speaking “truth to power.This held for Barack Obama when Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State, with whom he frequently disagreed. 

Never sacrifice thinking for immediacy. 

Lagniappe: Young players often underestimate the value of playing without the ball. 
A simple spread offense with brilliant backdoor cut and pass. We can't execute this...but we can practice and see what happens. 

Lagniappe 2:  

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Basketball: Priorites Plus Double Teaching Lagniappe

"I know there are a lot of experts in this league that have it all figured out. Unfortunately, I'm not in that group." - Bill Belichick

Focus on your priorities. Name them, define them, share them. 
  1. Help players be their best versions of themselves as people.
  2. Help players play their best team basketball.
  3. Help players grow individually and as better teammates. 
Winning is important but not a top priority for youth basketball. Easy to say, harder to prove.

Bob Iger says in his MasterClass, too many priorities dilute focus and time on each strategy. As Disney CEO he prioritized quality content, leveraging technology, and growth. 

After developing priorities, how will we implement our strategy? 
- Mentor teamwork in communication (coach-player, coach-coach, player-player).
- Enlist allies (ask parents for support in team-building).
- Play a team-focused style. That doesn't preclude isolation. 
- Be available for off-season work.
- Promote all players publicly and thank them for their contributions.
- Support players with letters of recommendation and reach out to advance their future.

Bills' Coach Sean McDermott sent an opening message to his team: 
“That’s our vision on a day-to-day basis, and that standard is to be a playoff-caliber football team, and that means every day. That’s what it gets back to in terms of earning the right to win. How we meet, how we talk, how we work out, how we practice when we do practice, how we play – that’s the standard we’re trying to get to every day.”

Lagniappe: A basic teaching video on ball screens raises key points. What are your priorities? How do you create (or prevent) advantage? We don't have to agree with everything, but we need reasons why to agree or disagree. 

"Most of the time our ball screens are probably going to stretch out two dribbles." Create advantage. 

Lagniappe 2: "quarterback layups." Players love this drill. 
- Practice from both the right and left sides.
- Both players start with hands on the ball.
- The chaser (defender) holds her hands loosely on the top and bottom of the ball.
- The chaser has both feet outside the three-point line.
- Offense straddles the three-point line, outside the defender. 
- Offense snatches the ball and attacks the basket and the chaser pressures. 
- NO CONTACT is allowed (to limit injury risk). 

I've limited this drill because it gets too physical. But last night we brought it back and players showed more explosiveness and attacked the basket in one dribble. Progress. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Basketball: Practice "Yes and No" and Tips from Doris Kearns Goodwin

What are your practice principles? 

- Be good at what you do a lot.
- Limit how many things you intend to be good at. 
- Give and get feedback .
- Get the best assistant(s) you can.
- Create sustainable competitive advantage. 

- Degree of transparency 
- Style of play 
- Amount of time spent on pressing and handling pressure

Self-belief to the point of arrogance is the height of vanity. Seek understanding not validation. There is no best way, only a search for better ways. 


Lagniappe 2: Stories and Tips from Doris Kearns Goodwin

You may get to like your boss. Doris Kearns (Goodwin) wrote an article excoriating President Lyndon Johnson - then was selected to be a White House Fellow. As a 24 year-old, fervently anti-war, Goodwin was viewed as a challenge by Johnson. She grew to admire LBJ, but acknowledged the deep scar on his presidency left by Vietnam. 

Goodwin defines leadership as the "ability to use talent, skills, and emotional intelligence to mobilize people to a common make a positive difference in people's lives.

She notes that Presidents she studies were mostly self-made although born with some valued traits. "Nobody gets away with being brilliant and not working." 

Lincoln - empathy and language

Teddy Roosevelt - insatiable curiosity 

FDR - optimism

LBJ - unbounded energy

Declaring ourselves a leader doesn't make it so. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Basketball: Villanova Xs and Os

Let's examine some Villanova actions. The yin and the yang compete...freedom and spontaneity with organized action. 

1. Spread slip from 4-out spacing (Video link) ...step up and slip down. 

Villanova's roll and replace adds high low actions to pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop. 

3. Horns stagger. 

The Wildcats run the stagger a little differently sending both posts to screen. It's easy to envision more options. 

4. BOB Series

Empty the help side and get a basket cut. 

5. SLOB Winner


Invest more time wisely by learning new information not reinforcing idiosyncratic opinions. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Basketball: Thinking About Practice

"When you come to the fork in the road, take it." - Yogi Berra

How we cultivate our garden informs the harvest. Starting at the end - results - isn't the way. There is no hay in the barn...

Attention is always the first price paid. 

The mental checklist check starts with the Bill Parcells MUST NEED WANT system. We MUST continue fundamental practice. We NEED to input some zone offense and some rudimentary sets before our first 'practice games' this weekend. 

On the left is the 'first cut' practice plan. On the right is an edited version. It can still change. Operating at a high tempo is critical

Here's the "Tufts reverse layup" pregame warmup drill. 

Frito-Lay (free throw line to layup competitive to 21...each make counts 1. Can run at multiple baskets. 

With 13 players, I will assign one player (for awhile) to "permanent offense" for extra skill work and conditioning. 

Multiple activities inform competition and defense. We're not going to succeed playing 0-0 games.