Watched the first half of the Lakers game between the Nuggets last night and happened to catch this seemingly ordinary play. Just a failed pass from Carmelo Anthony to a teammate on the fast break that resulted in a turnover. However, as the color commentator remarked, Derek Fisher of the Lakers read the play because Melo had to switch hands to pass the ball. Now, this is not an indictment on Melo, because he's not a natural point guard, but it still underscores the importance to be able to pass with either hand. To be able to transition from dribble to pass without switching hands can be a very useful skill as seen below,

Normally, in the halfcourt, we teach players to make the pass with the outside hand, away from the middle where the defense is usually strong. Therefore, players need to be able to make that pass with either hand depending on whether they are on the left or right side of the court. In the fast break, it's just from dribble to pass, regardless of inside or outside.

For more great skill development and practice insights, check out Geno Auriemma's new All Access Practice DVD. Coach Auriemma is of course the longtime head coach of the UConn women's team. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

Watched most of the second half last night between NC State and Wake Forest. After seeing their lead almost disappear, WF held off the Wolfpack by making some big plays and most importantly what I want to show is that rebounding matters. WF would've lost this game if they didn't outrebound NC State 40-25 including 12-6 on the offensive glass. Consider this, even with the big rebounding edge, the Wolfpack still had 4 more possessions than the WF. Imagine what would have happened if the rebounding was even? Here are some great rebounding highlights from the second half,

The Tap Back:

We all know about boxing out, rebounding position, sending 2 or 3 to the glass, etc... so I won't dwell on that. But I did just want to talk briefly about the tap back. Obviously, if your forwards can grab the ball outright, they should, then go up for the putback before the defense gets set.

But another technique worth considering is the tap back to your guards. A little risky if the defense has 1 or 2 guards on run outs, but if the defense sends 5 to rebound, this can be very effective. Because you only need to get a hand on the ball, it can increase your chances of gaining the possession, just send your best athletic leaper to the glass every time and as long as they get a hand on it and tap it backwards.

Here, the WF player is sandwiched in between 2 NC State players, as he has to reach with only 1 outstretched hand, he's better off just tapping it back to the backcourt where one of his guards can pick it up,


I like what Coach Dino Gaudio has done at Wake Forest in just a couple of years as head coach. Wake Forest has become one of the best rebounding teams in the ACC and indeed in the country. By contrast, NC State is one of the worst rebounding teams in the ACC. Between the rest, I'd say Wake Forest and NC State are pretty equal. Rebounding makes a difference. If I inherited a team today, that didn't have that much skill (shooting, driving), and decent athleticism, I'd make sure we were a rebounding team. If your team rebounds better than your opponents, you will always have an advantage over them offensively and defensively no matter how much more talented they are.

If you like Coach Gaudio or Wake Forest, take a look at Dino Gaudio's DVD on Winning the War on the Boards. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

In between college games I decided to take in some NBA action. The playoff races in the east and the west are going to be really interesting. There are basically 6 teams going for the last 5 spots in the west and they're all bunched up together. Dallas is one of those teams and they're currently in the 8th and final spot. The situation is similar in the east. But the interesting thing is that the Bucks are in 8th and the Bulls are 9th. Bucks coach Scott Skiles was fired from Chicago last year.

Anyways, both teams, Dallas and Milwaukee played tonight. I haven't seen Dallas since way back in November so it was good to see them again. I still think they are playing below their talent, but maybe they're starting to gel together. I liked what they did in the game, going 1v1, spreading the floor, and waiting for the double team to come. Someone would cut to the basket and receive the pass for the layup, take a look,

Read and React to the Double Team:

Very simple. Go iso 1v1 with Dirk, or Howard, spread the floor. Wait for the double team to come,

Now, most teams I watch, the offense is static, and the pass goes to the perimeter. Unless, you plan on just shooting the open shot, the defense will eventually recover, which basically doesn't accomplish anything. So instead, the Mavs send a cutter to the basket and they hit the cutter for the layup. The advantage being, it's extremely difficult to recover against a moving cutter,


I have no idea how the playoffs will all shake out. My heart is with Phoenix, but certainly any combination of teams may make it. Dallas is one of those underperforming teams, but if they get it all together, they could be a team that could upset the Lakers, or the Spurs, or the Nuggets. As for the Bucks, it will be really interesting if they get in and the Bulls are out and vice versa (more interesting vice versa).

Some of y'all Varsity coaches are probably already looking forward to next year. In reflection, this is a great video from one of the most storied coaches in the history of basketball, check out Morgan Wootten's DVD on his 20/20 hindsight. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

You can tell things are starting to get serious with March Madness only a few weeks away. One of the most hottest teams in all of college basketball, LSU against Florida tonight in SEC action. I thought LSU had a pretty decent group of athletes last year, and they really impressed me the way they finished the year with all the turmoil of Coach Brady leaving. So it's not entirely surprising to see them do so well this year, especially since the rest of the SEC took a step backwards this year.

Florida and Coach Billy Donovan really tried to throw a wrench into things tonight. They played a three-quarter run and jump press back into a 2-3 matchup zone. I really thought LSU did a good job breaking both, by being patient and relying on their skills. Here are few sequences from the first half of LSU's zone offense,

Some very basic things that LSU did in the game. First, they hit 3-pointers, 9-for-21 for the game. The other zone offensive tactics included heavy use of pass fakes, the high post, and the behind the defense. I was also impressed how remarkably patient they were, reversing the ball side to side with plenty of guys running the baseline and flashing to the high post.

Pass Fakes:

Every zone offense needs to use pass fakes, even against a matchup zone. It gives you that extra bit of time to shift the zone or defender with the pass fake then attack the gap. I like the mini pump fake here, I see a lot of guys who take the ball over their head when they pump fake. That wastes too much time. Give a little fake, then take a big lunge, which is exactly what the LSU guard does here,

Work Behind the Defense:

Next to offensive rebounding, the next most underrated tactic is working behind the defense. All zones including matchup zones are ball-oriented, meaning they watch the ball first. Therefore it's easy to lose a player that is running the baseline. Here, the LSU player (O4) seals his defender. Instead of a straight lob pass, O5 comes up to receive the pass and goes hi-low for the easy lay in,

Use the High Post:

Probably the most obvious zone offensive tactic is to use the high-post, where the zone is soft. Everyone knows this, but I still it's worth stating and restating because if you're not a great 3-point shooting team, you're going to have to rely heavily on the high-post for shots,


I thought Florida really came out with a great gameplan tonight on the road, but LSU was up to the challenge. I've always like Trent Johnson and I enjoyed watching his Stanford teams the past few years after Mike Montgomery left. Definitely Coach Trent Johnson deserves a lot of credit for turning around LSU so quickly, but like I said, not entirely surprising given both Johnson's resume and the talent they retained. The SEC looks really weak this year, some are saying only 3 maybe less will get into the tournament. I guess we'll have to see on selection Sunday, but it's looking like LSU is going to get it's shot.

If you like Coach Trent Johnson and his LSU Tigers, then check out Trent Johnson's DVD on Half Court Quick Hitters. Be sure to head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

I usually don't comment on these kinds of topics but I just feel that for the good of the coaching vocation, it is something that should be openly discussed because it strikes at the heart of what we know and love. ESPN's Outside the Lines did a feature report over the weekend about the practice of "package deals." That is, head coaches in the NCAA who hire a person to be an assistant on the staff because of their relationship with a recruit, with the intent of bringing that recruit to their school.

Most of the ESPN segment is common knowledge (at least for most coaches I know). I think there is a bigger issue here that is only addressed at the end of the segment with Coach Phil Martelli. The problem with "package deals" is not that it is against the rules (because it isn't), or the money (all college basketball is about money). The larger issue here is the perception and reality that the vocation of the "basketball coach" has been reduced to that of a hustling snake-oil salesman. It does a disservice to the thousands of coaches who chose the path of dignity and honor. That is not to say that I think any of the individuals who got jobs through "package deals" are bad people, but that we need to be honest with ourselves and call a spade a spade.

"Package deals" happen not just in college basketball (men and women), but in high school as well. I think we all know of coaches without teaching certification who have been hired full-time by schools (which isn't against the rules), because they have stud sons and daughters or coached AAU with the promise of bringing those players to the school.

So much of basketball is about getting the talent, I think we all know that. But I agree with Phil Martelli, more legislation isn't the solution. I think what's lost here is honor among coaches, we should be able to work on the honor system. I'm not so cynical to believe that coaching is all business and nothing else, just as I'm not so naive to believe that coaching is "all about the kids." But I do believe that coaches are human beings, and as humans we are rational, we make conscious decisions. So the reasoning is, why would I as a coach (or athletic director) willingly participate in an action that would damage the integrity of this great vocation? I think as coaches collectively, as a community, we can send a message that coaching still has integrity. Does that mean that such practices will be completely eliminated? Probably not, but at least the greater coaching community will know which programs are the ones that run "cleanly" and those that are not.

Thought-provoking to be sure, and I am sure there are strong opinions either way. If you haven't seen the 12 minute ESPN feature, here it is (Phil Martelli shows up around 10:00),

Another fantastic weekend of action on NCAA schedule. Another Big East clash between ranked teams in Villanova and Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. I was surprised that Syracuse went with M2M most of the game since Jim Boeheim is known to be a zone guy, but I haven't watched enough Syracuse games this year to know if they've been M2M all season. In any case, Villanova just did a good job grinding out a tough win on the road.

I watched a couple of great motion teams this weekend including Texas Tech, Washington St. and West Virginia. Villanova's 4-out 1-in motion offense is also great to watch. They are so well spaced. And they know where they are supposed to be when someone drives, where to drag, where to drift... Here are a couple of sequences I caught from the second half,

4-out 1-in Motion Spacing:

Villanova runs as pure a motion offense as you can get. As such, the real key to their execution is in the spacing, and reading what their teammates are doing. If you have great spacing, it will spread the defense out and allow you to attack the gaps either with penetration or with passing,

A coaching friend asked me the other day to take a look at his team as they prepare for the playoffs. They are great in transition and have some of the best athletes in the region but he said he's tried to figure out why they struggle so much in the half court and can't quite put his finger on it.

I watched the game and their whole problem was summed up with one word - spacing. They played a 4-out offense with some flex but at no period when I watched tape were 4 players all outside of the 3-point line, and we're talking regular HS 3-point line. Because 4 of the 5 offensive players msat inside the 3-point line the majority of the time, the defense sagged and every shot inside of 18 feet was contested. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that they lacked outside shooting, hence they tended to crowd inside the 3-point line.


Like I said, I was very impressed with the job Jay Wright did in preparing his Villanova team today to pick up the big win on the road, conference game, against a ranked opponent. To me, that shows that they're ready to play for real in March, probably on the road, against ranked opponents. I think Syracuse is a good team, but they rely a little too much on outside shooting, going 12-for-39 from 3-point land tonight. As we all know, shooting is great, but it can be streaky, and in a one-and-done tournament, that's a lot to ask to win 6 straight games based primarily on outside shooting.

If you like Coach Jay Wright and Villanova, then check out Jay Wright's DVD on Drills for his 4-out 1-in Motion Offense. Be sure to head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

This is from Thursday night, George Washington against St. Bonaventure. It was a decent game but the difference really was GW who really turned up the screws defensively and the Bonnies really couldn't handle the pressure all night. GW coach Karl Hobbs used a 1-2-2 full court press that set aggressive traps but didn't look like it expended a lot of energy. Which is important because then they could run it the whole game without being too tired. I captured a few sequences from the first half,

1-2-2 Full Court Press:

GW really uses it as a soft press. They don't trap on the inbounds and they rely on their players getting their hands on the ball in passing lanes and forcing bad passes. They force the ball the sideline and they take away the middle,

Once the ball gets across half, they will usually set a soft trap in the corner. They take away the first pass and leave O1, the least dangerous player on the floor open. If O2 is able to pass up the sideline to O4, they set an aggressive secondary trap,


I like full court presses that you can use all game to dictate tempo but that are soft in that they don't require your players to expend all their energy on defense. The really aggressive full court presses I think are good to use in short spurts, like right after a timeout to surprise the other team, or at the beginning of the game to gain momentum.

If you like Coach Hobbs or George Washington, then check out Karl Hobb's DVD on Transition Offense. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Imagine the basketball brainpower in this room, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his mentor Bobby Knight talking in a way too short interview on ESPN. On losing, I completely agree with Coach K, I hate it when our team deserved to lose. It's better to lose by 1 but deserved to win, then to win a game but deserved to lose. As coaches, I think we all can relate to the notion of losing that lingers. Unfortunately it's a part of coaching, I probably remember 90% of all the losses I've coached in. Meanwhile, I probably only remember 50% of all the wins, mostly the most important ones. Here's the full 2 minute interview,

Also, Coach Knight is completely right about today's kids. They've got so many things going on in their mind. I find it difficult to hold their attention for more than 10 seconds. As coaches, we have to be more creative in how we teach the game so as to build up that focus and concentration.

If you're a big Coach K fan like I am, then you can't go wrong with Mike Krzyzewski's 6-pack DVD Set. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

First I just want to say, that what the Phoenix Suns are doing is really unprecedented. Mid-season coaching changes rarely revamp the entire approach to the game, usually they seek to maintain but add a few changes. Now, understandably, new head coach Alvin Gentry doesn't really have a choice in the matter, still the undertaking is huge.

Though I say the Run and Gun, 7 seconds or less, offense is back. Really, they aren't playing D'Antoni's system. D'Antoni's system was organized based on the spread PNR with some flex. What the Suns are doing now is just the 7 seconds or less part, they're basically running your standard fast break drill all game all the time. Here are some sequences from the first half of yesterday's game,

No real schemes like I mentioned... yet. The keys are: run outs after long shots, shooting the gap on defense, rebounding, and running the lanes. Some pictures to highlight,

First one is the run out. It doesn't just have to be on the shooter. But if you're a run and gun team, you should leak out on any long shot. Here, Barbosa, the Brazilian blur, just beats everyone else down the floor,

In this next sequence, as all players run their lanes, the trailer (in this case Shaq) should be coming straight down the lane, best time to hit them for an easy layup or dunk,

If you want to run and gun, your defense has to take chances. Here, Barbosa shoots the gap, picks up the steal, and it's off to the races. The Suns were one of the worst teams in steals this year, they need to bump that up,

Last but not least, create a numbers advantage. You do that by rebounding, and runnign your lanes hard. Nash rewards Amundson with the alley-oop dunk,


Well, the first two games were good, but until we see the Suns against some better defensive teams like the Lakers or the Celtics, we should probably reserve judgement. But with only a few points separating 9th and 4th in the West, a second half surge could see the Suns vault all the way up to 4th or 3rd by the time playoffs come. If the Suns can maintain their pace, and add at least the same defense they were playing before the all-star break, it could be enough

If you're looking for a real run and gun offense, then check out Dave Arsenault's Running to Win DVD. Coach Arsenault is the head coach of Grinnell College and his Grinnell run and gun is famous for its extremely fast playing style. Be sure to head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Have you ever had coached one of those games where just about everything that could go right, went right? Well, that must've been what Clemson Head Coach Oliver Purnell must've felt at the end of the game after the Tigers put up 59 points to Maryland's 36 points on the way to the rout.

Coaching is all about adjustments. One of the great halftime adjustments that I thought Clemson did was to take advantage of the Terrapins aggressive full-fronting defense by going hi-low, backdoor and curl cuts. Here are two sequences from the 2nd half including a ESPN breakdown of the hi-low,

Hi-Low Against Fronting Post:

If you have a dominant post type player, one thing all coaches have to deal with at some point is against fronting defenses. Now, alot of times I watch games and teams will try a straight lob from the wing. But most defenses now have help from the backside to take that away. With the Hi-Low, you bring the other forward to the high-post or top of the key, thus freeing up the middle for the lob or bounce pass in this case.

The setup is the fronting defense. As you can see, if they just tried a straight lob, the help side would intercept and it would result in a turnover,

Booker from Clemson seals his defender outside, and the other forward comes up to the high post. By doing so, he positions himself for a much better passing angle than from the wing,

The bounce pass is not used often enough, a great choice here to thread the ball in and also because it's quicker than the lob. One could argue that it's a greater chance of a deflection, but still, it did work magically,


Clemson just absolutely blew the doors off this game in the second half. Part of it was Maryland's bad defense for sure, but Clemson simply didn't miss for 20 minutes. They were hitting 3-pointers, fast-break, backdoor, etc... Maryland just looked shell-shocked, after the first 10 minutes they went from down by 5 to down by 20. Don't look know, but Clemson just surpassed Duke in the ACC standings, I think they could be a sleeper team for the tournament.

If you like Coach Purnell or Clemson, then check out Oliver Purnell's DVD on Forcing the Action. The DVD shows Purnell's full court press defense which Clemson uses the entire game. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

I actually did watch most of the UConn vs Pitt game earlier, what a terrific game, a terrific finish. But since I did a post about Coach Jim Calhoun yesterday, I thought I would switch it up a bit and go with Texas vs Texas A&M in the later game. After a great start, conference play has been pretty rough for A&M so far, they've been competitive, but just haven't put together a complete game. I thought they did that tonight against Texas and as a result pulled out a huge win.

One of the big things A&M did was that they went with a junk defense to take away the scoring threat of AJ Abrams. And it worked too, Abrams only finished with 7 points on 3-for-12 shooting including 1-for-7 from the 3-point line. The junk defense they went with was the diamond-and-1 defense. I took a few clips from the second half,

Diamond and One Junk Defense:

I've never used a diamond and 1 defense, when I've gone junk it's mostly box and 1. But I think the diamond has some unique advantages. In the box and 1, you are vulnerable to penetration of the gap from the top and the shot as well. Like the 1-1-3 vs the 2-3, the 1 man front up top allows you to put pressure on the ball up top easier, against penetration and the shot,

While the diamond and 1 did take away Abrams as a scoring threat, I thought Texas did a decent job (obviously not good enough though because they lost) exploiting the middle of the diamond. That is where the box is probably stronger, against the middle area.


I usually don't like junk defenses. But I think if you are playing against a team that has that 1 dominant threat (I know, that is pretty much most Varsity teams), then it works well in stretches. Like anything though, teams adjust, especially late in the season so good teams have usually seen every kind of defense thrown at them. Still, I think it can be an effective change-up to use, something to keep in the repertoire.

I don't think there's any video out there teaching the diamond and one, but if you're interested in the junk stuff, you might want to look at Homer Drew's DVD on the Box and 1 defense. As always, don't forget to check out the the X's and O's of Basketball forum to get all your hoops fill.

This is actually about 2 weeks old but I've been a little slow going through some stuff lately and only came across it today. PTI's Kornheiser and Wilbon interviewing UConn head coach Jim Calhoun. Definitely one of the best coaches in the game, I'd like to sit and pick his brain for an afternoon.

A few things that Coach Calhoun mentioned that were especially poignant. First, talking about defending the PNR with a dominant shot blocker like Hasheem Thabeet, it gives you the advantage of always trapping the ball-screen or at least a hard hedge, and zoning up 3v4 on the backend.

Next was fouls. The first thing I look for when I get the stat sheet at halftime is turnovers, next is fouls. Fouls against is an important stat because it reveals who the aggressor is. Of course, you have to adjust based on the officiating, but if there is a big differential between your fouls and fouls against, it is significant beyond just the numbers. Another stat related is 3-pt FGA. The more 3-pointers your team attempts, the less fouls against you will have. So, unless you shoot the 3-pointer above 50%, watch the number of 3s you're taking in a half/game.

Lastly, I like at the end of the clip where Coach Calhoun was talking about FOCUS. I especially liked when he talked about his 2006 team and how that was a great team, filled with stud players, but lacked focus. As y'all Varsity coaches are headed towards playoffs, remember the f-o-c-u-s.

Anyways, some interesting stuff for sure, here is the video clip in case you missed it:

If you are a big Jim Calhoun fan like me, and you want an unprecedented look at his practices, then you definitely want to check out Jim Calhoun's brand new 3-pack DVD on UConn's All Access Practices. That's 360 minutes worth of video on an NCAA Div1 practice, doesn't get any better than that. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

Another great basketball viewing day. I watched most of the NBA All-Star festivities on TNT today, call me a sucker but I still enjoy watching all those cheesy competitions, even the slam dunk competition, Nate Robinson is my hero.

Back to some seriousness though, I watched the first half of the Villanova vs West Virginia game last night and was really surprised when WVU had something like a 20 point lead heading into the half. WVU was the home team, but still, Villanova had been scoring in triple digits most of the week so I definitely thought they would be at least around 40 by half. When they got behind, they tried to trap and press WVU and the WVU lead actually increased. Take a look at a few sequences of their press break along with a ESPN breakdown,

Reverse That Ball:

Don't want to spend too much time explaining as I think the ESPN clip did a good job breaking it down. But I do want to emphasize the seemingly trivial, yet crucial concept of ball reversal.

I don't like to scheme a specific press break, I prefer to teach basic rules and principles:

1. Always have a safety
2. Reverse the ball
3. Have your tallest and most capable forward in the middle

When possible, you do want to attack and score especially while the press is vulnerable after a ball reversal. But the priority is to get into halfcourt.

In preparation against teams that use alot of pressure. I like doing walkthroughs the day before. Just so that the players get an idea what they will see and how our press break will work. But I do like the generic press break because it will work against any pressure (even M2M) and doesn't require the players to remember any complicated schemes.


Bob Higgins has WVU playing some solid ball right now. You can't tell me that WVU isn't a tournament team, the way they've played recently. They had a hot start, cooled off a little, but look like they're hitting their stride just in time. As for Villanova, I think they'll be fine, 6 games left before the Big East tournament and they already beat Syracuse earlier last week.

If you like West Virgina like I do (spent some months in Morgantown in a previous life) or Bob Huggins, then check out Bob Huggins' 2-Pack DVD on Man Defense and Intense Practice Drills. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Well that was weird, another college game where some mental errors at the end of the fourth quarter cost the team the game. This time, it was UCLA against Arizona State who pulled off the upset. A lot of talk in the news about West Coast bias and to some extent I agree, the PAC-10 is decent by probably a little overrated based on what I've seen.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand. The situation is: 35 seconds to go, ASU up by 2 and inbounding from the sideline in their backcourt. UCLA is in full court pressure. Watch what happens in the next minute or so of play,

Now, as you can hear Len Elmore of ESPN say, it was just zeal. I agree and disagree somewhat. Obviously that was not what UCLA's Aboya wanted to do. But you definitely don't expect it from a Senior, at that stage in the game. To give up 2 free throws, and the ball back, probably sealed the win for ASU.

To add insult to injury, UCLA lets ASU's Glasser to catch the ball, avoid all the defenders who don't really try hard enough to foul him, and he dribbles all the way down to find a teammate for the alley-oop. Just not very cerebral.


I've watched a few UCLA games this past season and they're just not as tough as they used to be in past years. They have a lot of individual talent, but they don't play as well as a unit. Case and point, ASU's half-court zone game UCLA problems all game, just wasn't patient enough. They played decent defense, but not the kind of really hard-nosed style we've been used to the past few years. A lot of more double-teaming to compensate.

I think ASU is kind of a Jekyll and Hyde team. I've seen them play really well, and sometimes they rely on Harden way too much. Their zone is a double-edged sword. Against teams that have an average half-court offense it works reasonably well, but against well-organized, well-prepared teams, not so well.

For a great video on building winning teams and players, take a look at Coach Morgan Wooten's DVD on coaching to win. Coach Wooten is probably the most successful high school basketball coach ever at DeMatha Catholic before retiring. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss all of your hoops.

I don't think the UNC vs. Duke rivalry will ever get tired. I think as coaches all across the world there are those games between the 2 rival teams/schools and it almost doesn't matter whether you win the championship at the end of the season, you better win the rivalry game. I love the atmosphere, basketball is so much more intimate than football, because of the indoor court, the noise gets amplified.

Well, in case you didn't catch the 2009 version of the best rivalry in basketball, it was another barnburner. In the end, Ty Lawson took control and shredded the Duke defense over and over. It was like watching the same play over and over. While Lawson and Coach Roy Williams certainly get most of the credit for capitalizing, I felt Duke failed to adjust to the penetration. Here are three sequences from the decisive second half,

Against Overly Aggressive Defense:

I like Duke's defense. It's an aggressive up the line/on the line M2M defense. But like all defenses, there are ways to break it. Against pressure, you have to attack the basket. Either with backdoor basket cuts, or in this case, through dribble penetration. When you have a player like Lawson who has a great first step, and a defense that plays 1 arm length away ball pressure, you attack it. Duke's Nolan Smith is too close, then gambles on the steal and gets burned on the crossover,

In this case, there is a ball-screen set for Lawson. He uses it and Duke's David MacClure attempts to hard switch but because of his forward momentum and lack of lateral quickness, Lawson beats him with a crossover and easily down the lane for a layup,

Here, another ball screen but Lawson doesn't use it. Gerald Henderson gets caught hedging on the wrong side, and Paulus is playing to close and is too slow to keep up with Lawson who heads straight for the rim,


I was surprised that Coach Mike Krzyzewski did not make a defensive adjustment, very surprised. An easy adjustment that I thought would have made a big difference if they chose to go underneath and soft switch and stay in the paint against Lawson. I know that Lawson has been shooting the 3-pointer very well all year, but I think that switching up would have forced UNC to re-adapt. Maybe Lawson would still go on to hit a bunch of 3s but maybe not. With the way Duke's defense was playing, there was no way they were going to stop Lawson.

If you are a big Roy Williams fan like I am, then check out Roy Williams' DVD on Tar Heel Offense and Transition Drills. Talk early offense at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

What a wild finish tonight on ESPN between the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats in SEC conference play. On the one hand, it was just great basketball, but on the other hand, also some poor judgment and execution. It is easy to look back in hindsight, but as I've said again, it's the only way we learn. As humans, we have memory, it is the hope that history will not repeat itself.

The situation is that the score is tied 65-65, 11 seconds to go, 7 seconds left on the shot clock, Kentucky ball to be inbounded at halfcourt. Here are the last few sequences (with a few bits taken out to save the length),

Foul Before the Shot or Not at All:

So Meeks of Kentucky hits a huge 3-pointer to go ahead by 3. 4 seconds left in the game, Florida elects not to take a timeout (I would have, but that's neither here nor there). Calathes dribbles all the way down and with .6 seconds left on the clock, he takes a 3-pointer... but is fouled!!! Three free throws to tie the game coming. You can just see Billy Gillispie's face. He's thinking, "Why the foul!!! just .6 seconds left in the game... Just let him shoot it from there."

For me as a coach, it goes back to that old adage, foul him at halfcourt before he takes a shot and make him shoot 2 free throws instead, ball game. I know, a lot of coaches out there disagree, but if you're going to foul, definitely foul before the shot or not at all is my main point.

Free Throws Win Ball Games:

How many times have you heard that old adage, and every single season, it's come up with me personally with my teams and just watching games on TV. The usual reliable Calathes, who you can hear the ESPN broadcaster say had just made nine free throws in a row in the game, couldn't make the ones that counted most.

It's like what coach John Calipari said last year when reporters were asking him about the Memphis Tigers' free-throw problems, and he always replied, "We'll make them when it counts." Well, it is one thing to say it and another for your team to do it. Free throws win ball games, there really isn't anything else, that pretty much sums it up.


It was really unfortunate for Florida because they had played quite well, especially on the road, and especially since the whole Billy Donovan - Kentucky thing a couple of years ago. It was especially unfortunate for Nick Calathes, who had a career game, 33 points. If there is any solace both teams can come away with is that it's still February, with plenty of basketball left to play in the season.

If you like Billy Gillispie and Kentucky, then check out Billy Gillispie's DVD on his In Your Face Defensive Drills. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

From yesterday, the epic Kobe vs Lebron battle, the Lakers against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. I was disappointed by the Cavs, I thought they would play with more emotion but it turned out the Lakers were the hungrier team. Kobe made some unbelievable plays, and he apparently had the flu to boot. And despite all that, the Cavs were just a few plays from tying and winning the game.

I thought the Lakers did a decent job defending Lebron. I think they could've been even better, but given Lebron's 5-for-20, 16 point statline, it was a good enough to win. The whole key with Lebron is to force him to give the ball up or smother him with numbers. The Cavs have the depth to hurt you if you do that, but relatively speaking, that is the best option. Here were 2 sequences that I though really showed what the Lakers were trying to do, to overload the strong-side,

Create a Numbers Advantage:

Just some pictures. In a straight up situation, you overload on the strong-side wherever Lebron has the ball, and the other players zone up behind. It's just a numbers game. It's like in football, when you play against a tough runner, you load up the box with 8 players. Yes you sacrifice some in your pass coverage, but you've got to do something to stop the freight train coming at you,

Hedge and Contain:

Usually when you hedge a ball screen, the hedger has to recover as quickly as possible to his original check to prevent a pass to a basket cut or a pop out jumper. Against Lebron, the Lakers hedge, then they stay and contain. They basically take their chances with Ilgauskas or Varejao, in this case Ilgauskas is wide open,


The Lakers look like a team on a mission right now. They definitely will miss Andrew Bynum but I think the team they have now is good enough to win it all, in fact I felt that way last year too. They had a bad finals, but if they can keep their focus, nothing is stopping them. As for Lebron, he's the most formidable player in the NBA right now. I don't know if there is a scheme or player in the world that can really shut him down. With an upgraded supporting cast, this could be the matchup we see in June.

It's coming down to playoff time for those of you Varsity coaches. For more a new video on some high-intensity practice drills, check out Jamie Dixon's DVD on Competitive Practice Drills. Coach Dixon is the head coach at University of Pittsburgh. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

From last night's ESPN game of the night, the Memphis Tigers on the road against the Gonzaga Bulldogs. A lot has been made about Memphis Coach John Calipari making the switch to have Tyreke Evans play the point. I always thought that for the dribble drive motion offense, you should have your best player as the point, since you want your playmaker handling the ball, regardless of their size/speed. Of course, they need to handle the ball, but I think with the dribble drive, there are really 3 positions: the primary penetrator (your best all around scorer); the finishing/rebounding forward; the shooter.

I've watched a few Memphis games over the season and I think they've really gotten back to tradition dribble drive. I thought even last year, they veered away from it, especially when teams went zone, but I'm seeing a rededication to the ddm principles even against a zone. The move to put Tyreke Evans at the point just makes sense from a ddm point of view. He's not as quick as a Derrick Rose, but he can instead use his size and height advantage instead. Here are a few sequences,

Drive, Kick, Dump:

I won't spend too much time breaking the DDM down since you can look at the many prior posts. But just wanted to highlight the main principles of drive, the drive and kick, and the drive and dump. First the drive against a M2M defense, also notice that there is no ball screen,

Drive and kick. The shooter flattens to the baseline making it harder for the defender to closeout,

Drive and dump. The forward realizes that the drive is coming at him, so he relocates to the other block, gets the pass, and puts it back,


I think it's important to have an open mind as a coach. You have a player like Tyreke Evans, he's 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, traditional thinking is that he's your SF/wing, SG maybe. But with an offense like the DDM which is highly dependent on a capable playmaker with the ball on the dribble, it makes sense to have your best player (whomever that is, regardless of size/speed) be that playmaker. Like I said, of course they need to be a good ball-handler, but I think that's almost a prerequisite for any guard/wing nowadays anyways. So, the fit is perfect, and I think you'll see Memphis rise up the rankings. I think they certainly are good enough to be a top 5 team again, top 10 for sure.

For more great dribble drive video info from the originator himself, take a look at Vance Walberg's 2-DVD Set on the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

More motion offense, this time from Bruce Weber's Fighting Illini of Illinois. They use what Bruce Weber calls a 5-man motion offense. It is similar to the blocker-mover in that there is no set continuity or pattern, it's predicated on screening and cutting. Unlike the blocker-mover though, the screeners who cut to the basket or pop out, become the primary scoring options.

This is from ESPN, Steve Lavin breaks down a few sequences of the Illinois 5-man motion offense. They take advantage of the "soft" spots on the floor, the short corner and high post. They usually start in a 5-out or 1-2-2 set with a ball-screen then a roll to the basket. There is not traditional post-up. The ball is constantly reversed while the weak side executes screen and replace. With all the constant movement, precise cuts, and screening, the defense usually gets caught out of position.

I watched the game today between Illinois and Purdue and against a very intense defense from Purdue, the Illini executed their offense very well. The thing is, as long as your team has confident, solid ball handlers, pressure defense shouldn't preclude you from running your offense, especially a motion offense. Because of all the movement, the defense ends up scrambling instead of pressuring and you get good looks anyways.

For more info from the man himself, check out Bruce Weber's DVD on the 5 Man Motion Offense. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

A small schedule last night in college basketball action, catching some great games today. The University of South Florida beat number eight Marquette last night. I saw most of the second half. Most people will say it was slow boring ball, and the final score in the 50s reflected that, but as a coach, I enjoyed watching both teams play hard defense and execute a slow methodical motion offense.

I wasn't able to capture enough video, but I was able to gather enough about USF's offense to recognize that it was a form of a blocker-mover motion offense. It is predicated around setting screens for the movers, and screen the screener action for the forwards. Here are a few sequences,

Blocker-Mover Motion Offense:

This is a slow developing, patient offense, predicated on constant motion, no set pattern, and screen the screener action. As such, there really isn't any point to diagram it because it is a true motion, free-flowing offense. Depending on your personnel, most blocker mover teams use 3 blockers and 2 movers. It looks like USF uses 2 blockers and 3 movers. All movement is positioned around one of the forwards, whether he is at the high or the low post. The offense must read the defense and try to work for open shots for the best shooter on the floor, often coming off of double screens.

The blockers are usually divided up as free blockers and lane-to-lane blockers. They have the freedom to go and set a screen for a mover, set a stagger, or a blur screen.

Rules for blockers after setting a screen are: screen and re-screen; or cut the basket; or another blocker can come and set a lane-to-lane screen for the screener. The blocker should always wait for a 2-second count after screening before choosing the next option, to allow for the play to develop.


As you can imagine, this kind of offense takes a lot of practice, and a lot of basketball intuition to play effectively. It is slow developing, and the criticism is that most players usually get lazy and jack up 3-pointers. On the plus side, if players really buy into the system, move with a purpose and pass the ball around, it can result in great shot opportunities both inside and outside. The other plus side of this kind of offense is that your team should be competitive in every game, because it emphasizes ball possession, and keeps the tempo of the game low, thereby reducing the overall number of possessions in a game. It can frustrate a team that wants to run all the time, and force them to play half-court defense for the whole 35 seconds.

There are many variations of the blocker-mover motion. Coach Bobby Knight uses one version. The "orthodox" blocker mover offense is Dick Bennett's Blocker-Mover Motion Offense which he used at Washington State and his son still uses there at WSU. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

BTW, I had to switch up the ads on the site, you know to pay the bills. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this has caused you faithful readers.

From ESPN, this is a nice five minute segment with NBA legend Mark Price on the art of shooting the basketball. I love all the technologies that they use in the video. Probably more than us high school coaches can afford with our shrinking budgets. But I think all you really need is a camera and a laptop and you can simulate what they are doing in the segment. I think using video is a great way to show players where their faults and corrections are. It's a lot easier to show someone what they're doing wrong by watching it on replay than to re-enact it.

Couple of great points from the segment. Don't raise your head before the ball, let your arms and ball dictate the motion. A good symptom of this is when players end up fading away instead of finishing slightly forward.

We all know about keeping the shooting elbow in, but also talked about the follow-through. Mark Price emphasized finishing with two hands high, not something I've thought about but makes sense in terms of keeping your body square and not twisted.

For a unique look on how to strategically incorporate the 3-pointer into your offense, check out Billy Donovan's DVD on Shooting and Defending the 3-pointer. Coach Donovan is the head coach of the University of Florida. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

My goodness, in the past 2 games Lebron James has simply been dominating in the 4th quarter. Against the Pistons, the Cavs used a pick and roll and the Pistons just couldn't stay with. If they went underneath the screen, Lebron just got his running start then went around. On the switch, Lebron simply ran over top of Iverson is too small to guard. If they doubled, he found Z in the corner for the 3-pointer,

Against the Knicks tonight, the Cavs simply spread the floor because they knew that nobody on the Knicks could guard Lebron 1v1, and any help coming would leave a shooter open. The Knicks chose not to double, and so Lebron burned them. Look at all that space,

Enough to leave a coach scratchin' his head. Should we double, or not. Should we switch or fight through. The Cavs really look unbeatable at the moment. The only thing that I haven't seen a lot of teams try is to force double on the perimeter to get the ball out of Lebron's hands. Or attempt to trap him on the PNR.

For more late game pointers, take a look at Steve Smith's DVD on End of Game Situations. Coach Smith has built Oak Hill Academy into a prep school powerhouse with famous alums in the likes of Jerry Stackhouse and Team USA's own Carmelo Anthony. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Caught the late game yesterday in Mountain West conference play between Wyoming and New Mexico. Coach Steve Alford had the Lobos on a roll all night and it was great shooting and a tough packline defense that soundly trounced the Cowboys of Wyoming. I thought that Wyoming stuck with their 2-3 zone too long while New Mexico went on like a 15-0 run as they hit back to back to back 3-pointers.

On defense, I really liked what the Lobos did, essentially running a combo or junk defense. They run a packline defense, but they adjusted it to take away Wyoming's best player Brandon Ewing. At times, they left other Wyoming players wide open to shoot 3-pointers, which they missed. Here are a few sequences from throughout the game,

Packline Defense:

When Brandon Ewing went to the bench, New Mexico went with the traditional packline. Everyone 1 foot inside the 3-point line, the ball defender closing out hard on the ball with high hands,

Pack And 1:

When Brandon Ewing was on the floor, New Mexico would switch up to a Pack and 1. Basically, once the ball was passed out of Ewing, X1 would stay with in denial defense. The ball defender was closing out hard with high hands. The other 3 players were in normal packline position,


I like the packline defense generally because it allows you to keep M2M principles but adjust it based on the situation as shown by New Mexico last night. You can still play up the line on the line as an option out of packline as well. So basically, you can play up, down, or a mixture of both depending on the opponent. In a way, it's probably easier for your players to run than switching up different zone defenses, especially if you want your players to still keep their M2M principles in the back of their mind.

For more info on New Mexico and how they practice their defense, take a look at Steve Alford's DVD on M2M Progression Drills. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

The new number one ranked UConn Huskies on the road to take on number seven ranked Louisville. I wasn't surprised that UConn won the game, despite being on the road. UConn is probably the most balanced team in the country. They may not have the pure speed of a UNC, the pressure defense of a Duke, but the Huskies can beat anyone because they can play any game, fast or slow.

I really like UConn's half-court 3-out 2-in offense. Their ability to beak Louisville's press was the primary reason why they won the game, but I think that UConn's half-court offense is their biggest asset because they utilize the talent of their players as Coach Jim Calhoun is known for developing great players. They move the ball from side to side and attack the gaps in the offense. Here are some sequences along with a Dick Vitale breakdown,

Attacking the Gaps:

A lot of drive and kick, DDM principles at work. They incorporate good spacing, ball movement, and court awareness into everything they do. They're patient, and wait for the defense to become compromised, then they attack the gaps,


Besides the turnovers, I felt that UConn's ability to execute in the half-court was the difference in the game, especially late when UConn was sitting on the lead. As I mentioned in another post, Louisville may have the best full-court defense in college basketball, but right now, they have some problems scoring in the half-court. What that means is that they can beat the mediocre to bad teams, but against good teams that can handle Louisville's pressure defense like UConn, it's going to be a problem. They're going to have to learn to execute better in the halfcourt or they won't go all the way in March.

If you want to learn more about UConn's 3-out 2-in motion offense, take a look at Jim Calhoun's DVD on the 3-out 2-in Motion Offense. To discuss this and other basketball coaching topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

What a great game yesterday in the SEC between South Carolina and Kentucky. Was back and forth most of the way, some great shots, great defense, and a fantastic finish with a great game winning shot from USC. I think USC is highly underrated. They beat a ranked Baylor team, Florida, and now Kentucky with losses to ranked Tennessee and Clemson. Coach Darrin Horn's first year at USC has certainly been very impressive so far.

Anyways, what I wanted to highlight from the game was the fact that rebounding, and specifically in this case offensive rebounding matters. If you dominate your opponent on the glass on both sides, you'll win more times than not no matter how well your offense plays. Kentucky shot a better percentage (52-42%), but USC had a 18-8 offensive rebound edge, and USC ended up winning the game. Here are a few sequences:

Coaching Strategy:

As a coach, what you can directly control is how many to send to the glass. Sometimes coaches tend to under prepare in this very important aspect. To have an effective offensive rebounding strategy, you need to know exactly how many to send to the glass, and also to make sure you have safeties so that you won't get burned badly the other way. USC sends both forwards to the glass on every shot. They will also have a wing come in to rebound down when possible. The 2 guards always back up for the safety,

Offensive Drill Work:

Assuming you have the kinds of players that make good rebounders (tall, athletic, strong, high leapers), they need to have a nose for the ball, they need to understand angles. Just a couple of things to watch for. First, is recognizing that when your defender helps on defense, gives you the best opportunity for an offensive rebound,

The other technique that I've seen and heard Coach Bobby Knight talk alot about is the tap back. Obviously if you get the rebound 2 feet away, just go back up. But the tap back to your guard is something that needs to be taught and drilled. There is a difference between a rebound for a putback and a rebound for another possession, your players need to understand the difference and implement it in games,


When I first started out, I didn't used to put that much emphasis into rebounding. Of course, we all know that rebounding is important, but it always seemed like 1v1 defense, or shooting was more important. Then one year, I had the privilege of helping coach a team that had some great natural rebounders. We didn't always have the best talent on the floor, the best defense, or offense, but we went 23-2 and reached the final game of the final tournament of the year because of our ability to rebound (offensively and defensively). Rebounding matters. Yes, to some extent it depends on your players' individual abilities (height, strength, vert, etc...) but it also depends a lot on attitude and coaching style.

For a great new video on rebounding drills, take a look at Dino Gaudio's DVD on Winning the War on the Boards. Coach Gaudio is the head coach at former number one ranked Wake Forest. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.