I watched the CBS special on Lebron James that aired on Sunday night. I thought it was a decent interview but I felt that there was a lot of fluff in it. There is a debate about whether all the commodification has had a positive, negative, or neutral value effect on basketball and sports in general. Then there is the whole cult of personality and celebrity culture promoted through professional sports which one could argue has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on the development of youth. Personally, I was surprised and quite disappointed that 60 Minutes would do such a soft piece given its journalistic reputation. I would've liked to have seen more in-depth questions and answers about what Lebron thinks he can do from a societal standpoint -- where he can use his "brand" as he has used "basketball as a mechanism for material wealth" to influence structural change especially in the economically depressed neighborhoods where he grew up.

But irregardless of whether you think that Lebron James as a "brand" represents all that is bad or good about sports and the game of basketball overall, what you cannot deny is that he has an incredible talent, charm, and even a little magic. In the interview, he hits what appears to be an unscripted, done in one take, underhand 3/4 shot. Fake or real, you be the judge,

What an impressive performance by Michigan State last night in beating number one overall Louisville. As a coach, you can look at that win and think to yourself, wow, they really executed their gameplan to a T. Now, on the other hand, I thought that Louisville stayed in their half-court zone defense too long. I know, that is their character, Pitino likes zones and matchup zones, and it would be out of character for them to go straight M2M for a large part of the game. However, I felt the zone defense played right into MSU's strategy, to play the 35 seconds out, wear out the defense, and dictate the tempo.

As for MSU's zone offense, just a tremendous job of doing all the things that you need to do to be successful against a 2-3 zone. They shot the ball well, they rebounded, took advantage of the soft spots. Goran Suton was the difference maker at that high post spot. He made shots, and really dominated, passed the ball over the top of that zone from the high post spot. Take a look,

Stretch the Defense, Make them Work:

MSU's strategy really was to stretch the defense out, use the clock, and make Louisville spend energy on defense so that they would be impatient to score on offense. And it worked. As you saw in the video clip, all defenders were scrambling going back and forth as MSU reversed the ball, over and over and over. That more than anything was the most important factor, it simply wore them out. You can't scramble that much with no reward, and come back on offense and not want to answer right away with quick shots (which Louisville did and missed),

By contrast, MSU had all the energy. It doesn't take much energy to pass the ball around from side to side. The defense is doing all the work. The offensive rebounding by MSU tells the story. After 35 seconds of the offense playing keep away, I don't think any zone defense would have the energy left to find-hit-get?


To be honest, I wasn't too surprised that MSU beat Louisville. I think even if Louisville went to a M2M, they probably would have lost, but maybe the score would have been closer. MSU, really nullified Louisville's press. I was very impressed with UNC yesterday. They've been criticized for having inconsistent half-court defense during the regular season (and rightfully so), but I think throughout the first few rounds of the tournament, they have addressed that problem. If they can maintain that consistency on defense in the final four, they're winning it all.

I can tell MSU's zone offense is all of sudden really popular with the number of people looking for Tom Izzo notes. If you want more info though, check out Tom Izzo's DVD on the 1-3-1 Zone Offense. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

I had a conversation with a coaching friend a few weeks ago about coaching positions available as it inevitably comes up at the end of every varsity season. He is thinking of applying for the varsity head coach at a perennial championship contender. The school is a private school that has a long tradition of winning basketball teams with a very interventionist board of directors, administration, and a very influential alumni association. My friend is certainly qualified for this position by basketball standards and it would represent a significant career progression. However, my friend has only ever coached/teached only at public schools before and thus in my opinion the position is not without its caveats.

With the firing of Billy Gillispie recently from Kentucky, and their Athletic Director saying it was simply "not a good fit," it got me thinking again about how important a responsibility it is as a potential coach to know exactly what is expected of the person before accepting a given position.

As a coach, you need to know what you are comfortable doing and what you are not comfortable doing. For example, being a coach at Kentucky is completely different than being a coach at UTEP or Texas A&M. And we're talking mostly non-basketball related tasks. Coaching at an exceptionally high-profile institution whether in college or high school normally requires the coach to be extremely active in the community, in fundraising, charity work, media events, public relations. It's almost a job within a job. In my opinion, I think it's irresponsible to accept a position at an institution like that, then claim after the fact that these non-basketball related roles do not fall within the ordinary job description of the basketball coach.

So, I guess I'm arguing for a shared accountability. That as coaches, yes, we have a responsibility to properly determine and assess the expectations of such a position (basketball and non-basketball related), and honestly self-evaluate as to whether the position is "the right fit" before accepting such an offer of employment. Athletic Directors must also be transparent in communicating those expectations, and perform proper due diligence in ensuring the candidate they want to ultimately hire actually possesses all the attributes (basketball and non-basketball related) required for the position.

In watching the big game between Pitt and Villanova, and alot of the pundits on the breakdown of how the game ended. I think as coaches, we can all look at those last 2 minutes and come away with some lessons. Villanova almost gave away the game with an ill-advised baseball play trying to beat Pitt's full-court press. Pitt ends up tying the game.

But then, I thought Pitt made a strategic error after Levance Fields made the free-throw to tie the game at 76. With only 5 seconds to go, they decided to go with the full court pressure again,

The pass is made to the middle on the press break, then Scottie Reynolds is able to successfully get a handoff and because of Pitt's ill-advised decision to full-court press, Villanova has a 3-on-2 with 4 seconds left, good odds if you're Villanova,

I know I tend to focus on the negative (just part of my skeptical nature), but I thought Pitt allowed Villanova, and specifically Scottie Reynolds that layup. In my opinion, if Pitt had chosen to send 4 back instead, allowed Scottie Reynolds to receive the ball and just have 1 defender pressure him and make him turn a couple of times, or at least once, with 4 defenders in the paint, I think Villanova would have had to settle for a perimeter shot. Sure, they could've still hit the perimeter shot to win it, but I like those odds better than a 3-on-2. That's just a matter of math.

If you're a Villanova or Jay Wright fan, check out the Jay Wright DVD on Late Game Situations. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

Most of the games today were blowouts, the most surprising was Arizona and Louisville. Arizona had the talent, athleticism, and skill to beat Louisville, but their play was lethargic, they did not look like a team playing in the Sweet 16 against the number one overall seed, but more like a regular season game.

But the Michigan State win over Kansas was a great game. MSU gets a ton of credit for coming from behind to tie then take the lead on a tough Kansas team. Ultimately, Kansas just made too many turnovers at the wrong times. It was a great finish for MSU. With the game tied, under 1 minute to go, half of the shot clock down, MSU goes with the 1-4 low isolation with their best player Kalin Lucas going 1v1,

1-4 Low Isolation:

I like the 1-4 low isolation because it gives your best player the freedom to go either way, unlike a wing isolation. Also, I like it because with the rest of the players flattened out, it really does give your best player the most open space to make a play, against at most 1 defender.

Now, should the defense choose to double to get the ball out of your best players hands, then that should mean someone else is wide open, especially if your offense is spread properly. What also works really well is running a high screen, as most teams switch all screens at the end of the game, you can get a quick-on-slow or a big-on-little mismatch.

Last but not least, should your best player miss the shot, your forwards O4 and O5 should be in great position coming from underneath to sneak in for the offensive rebound. How many times have you seen it where it wasn't the initial shot that won the game, but the offensive putback.


The Elite Eight is set now. Michigan State is playing Louisville. A tough matchup, but the Spartans have the toughness and tenacity to face Louisville's daunting full court press. But all the matchups on paper look very intriguing and I think they could go either way. In my opinion, the safest number one seed probably is UConn. Missouri is good, but I think UConn can use Thabeet in the middle to throw over the top of their press.

If you are a big Michigan State or Coach Izzo fan, then you'll enjoy Tom Izzo's DVD on his Philosophy and Practice Drills. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

I know I wrote about Pitt just a few days ago, but I just thought that last night's win over Xavier was just a great game to follow-up on, especially with the way Pitt finished the game. You know, as a coach, we always talk about building leaders, players who step up and make plays. Levance Fields of Pitt epitomized that role last night.

In the last two minutes, he made three key plays. First, he trailed the fast break and when Dixon messed up the open court dunk, Fields was there to put it back. Second, he steps up and hits a huge 3-pointer to give Pitt the lead. Third, he steps into a steal and gets the basket that sealed the win,

What I wanted to highlight here specifically is what a leader is all about. In this first sequence, when Jermaine Dixon missed the open court dunk, Fields is there to put it back. That part is just standard "doing your job" part. What I really liked to see is what Fields did right after, he immediately told Dixon to get up and get back on defense,

That's a team. That's a what a leader does. He picks up his teammates when they've made a bad mistake. He pulls them together and gets them focused on the next step. As a coach, that is what you want. It isn't about you shouting out instructions to your players, telling them what they did wrong, what to do, where to go. Your job is to educate them so that they make their own decisions, so that they know themselves what to do next. That is when you know that you've done your job as a coach.


So far, my bracket is looking pretty good. My upsets are out, but that shouldn't be a surprise because well the favorites should be winning anyways. I think Arizona is a dangerous trap team. They are seeded 12th, but as Rick Pitino said himself on ESPN radio, Arizona has 3 NBA players, they do not play like a 12th seed. I think all the controversy surrounding Jim Calhoun and UConn with the recruiting allegations will only serve to bring them closer together, making it an "us versus the world" type of motivation. Well, should be a great weekend ahead.

If you're a Pitt or Jamie Dixon fan, check out the Jamie Dixon DVD 5-pack. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

One of the big things that I've noticed with the Celtics this season as compared to last season has been their inability to contain dribble penetration. I watched the early ESPN game between the Magic and the Celtics and was really surprised how Orlando was able to penetrate the lane pretty much at will. Yes, the Celtics tried to rotate and help, but against a good team like the Magic, they either found their shooters, or Howard cleaned up the offensive rebound as a result. If you can't stop penetration, the rest of your defense simply breaks down. Here are some sequences from the first half,

Attention to Detail:

I just wanted to point out a couple of small things that make a big difference. There isn't anything strategic that the Celtics are doing wrong. They run the same defense they've always been running. But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. The first one to point out is on the help defense forcing to the baseline. This is a very standard M2M defensive principle, force the dribbler to baseline help. However, this play only works if the help defender successfully cuts the dribbler off at the baseline, preventing him from making that pass along the baseline, and making him pivot and turn back,

Next point. I hate it when my players bail out on their check, and attempt the wrap around poke. One in ten, they will actually force the turnover. Nine in ten, it results in a bad play for us as a defense. There is no substitute for moving your feet, and keeping your check in front of you,


I guess it's important to point out that everything is relative. The Celtics are still the league's best in opponent FG% (42.9, they were at 41.9 at the end of last season). And I know that Kevin Garnett has been away for some time, and he was taking it slow tonight. Still, I think that with essentially the same core, the same coaching staff especially with the defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau, the Celtics should be better, and they will have to be during the playoffs or they could be bounced early.

For a new video on defensive skill development, check out Pat Clatchey's DVD on Championship Defensive Drills. Coach Clatchey is a high school coach and was selected as a head coach for the 2009 McDonalds All-American game. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

I've always liked to watch players and see their tendencies, what they do exceptionally well, what their weaknesses are. I've been meaning to watch some Miami Heat games for a while now since they've been the talk of the pundits. Dwyane Wade specifically has been speculated as this season's MVP with the big numbers he's been putting up.

I've always taken for granted how good Dwyane Wade is, but I've never really tried to see what is so exceptional about him. Of course we know he's explosive, relentless at attacking the rim, but so are so many other guys. What makes Wade so unique is that he gets to the rim in the least amount of strides and dribbles possible. In 1 long stride, Wade covers more ground than some other guys cover in 2 or 3. Here are a few sequences from the second half of their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday,

In layup drills, I like emphasizing taking as few dribbles as possible. I don't like it when guys dribble too much. In that way, I'd be a critic of Steve Nash's game. I love Steve Nash for so many things he does, but it does bug me when he over-dribbles (Iverson does the same).

In these sequences, I counted specifically how many dribbles he took. In this first clip, from the top of the key, Wade takes 3 dribbles and about 5 strides (this one is more complicated because Wade has to weave around the semi-hedge from the ball screen) before he hands the ball off,

In the second sequence, from the center line against a full half-court defense, he takes 4 dribbles and 8 strides total before the dunk,

In this last sequence, after getting the steal, Wade takes an amazing 2 dribbles and 8 strides from the top of his key all the way for the layup,


It's really quite interesting what the Miami Heat have been able to do. With Boston fading, and Orlando fading the past couple of months, all of a sudden, the Heat are looking like the prime time challengers to Lebron James. With Jermaine O'Neal, they have a legitimate center now since they lost Shaq last year, and they have a ton of athleticism. It will be quite the matchup to see the Heat go up against the Cavs.

For more skill development specifically for guards, take a look at Ganon Baker's DVD on Triple Threat to Create Space. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Still stuck on that Pitt game from Sunday. One of the things that stuck out at the end of the first half was this play where on the 1-and-1 free-throws, OSU (and Pitt too) falls asleep, and the shooter (Levance Fields) rushes in to grab the rebound and call timeout. This is precisely why it's vital that your players are constantly aware of the time/score situation at all times.

It's one of the reasons why as a coach I don't like to shout instructions to players who are either shooting or lined up at the free-throw block. I see coaches do it alot and I just think that it distracts the players from what they need to be doing, and that is focusing on boxing out and grabbing the rebound. You can see one of the OSU players with his head turned towards the OSU bench and just before Fields shoots the FT, the camera shows OSU head coach Travis Ford talking to a player on the FT block.


It may be minor in the grand scale of things, but it's the attention to details that usually makes the big difference in the long run. You want your players to have good court awareness, part of that abstract term that is loosely thrown around called Basketball IQ. I think as coaches, we certainly have a hand in developing that knowledge and awareness.

For some more info 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.

The weekend was just a cornucopia of frenzy, intense excitment, excruciating moments of anticipation, disappointment, and euphoria -- that is the opening rounds of March Madness. I caught most of the Pitt versus Oklahoma State game. It was a pretty close game throughout due to OSU playing their matchup zone for most of the game while Pitt going through their patient offense.

I highlighted these clips because I like how Pitt use a lot of bunch/stack/mesh combined with screens and misdirection to create open shot opportunities against OSU's matchup zone. Take a look,

Pitt's zone offense was pretty straight forward. They reversed the ball from side to side, and ran cutters through the lane constantly. All the time waiting for OSU's matchup zone to breakdown due to bad communication, usually due to a late switch, or no switch at all. Here, they run a cutter inside, as the 2 offensive players stack up, the guard explodes out of the stack and gets a downscreen, ends up with an open 3-pointer,


Here, it is just a standard stagger screen with the cutter going thru and fading into the corner. The defender gets caught chasing, then trying to go over the top. The switch comes but is way too late,


The cross route plays on mis-direction. This really messes up the matchup zone, because the criss-cross action really tests the communication ability and quick decision-making of the defense. The one foward down low sets 3 screens, in different directions,


I really like Pitt and the way they've played all season. They're not the kind of team that can blow you out because they're patient on offense and they like to go deep into the clock. But they are one heckuva hard team to beat. I have them going to the final four and going on to play UConn in the championship game. Who knows if that is going to happen, but I do like Pitt's methodical approach, they are very resilient.

If you're interested in more zone offense from Coach Jamie Dixon, take a look at Jamie Dixon's DVD on the 3-out 2-in zone offense. Join the many coaches already talking about their favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Another great day of first round action last night, better than Thursday with the Siena vs OSU game going to 2OTs, and what about Wisconsin beating FSU in OT, you can't under-estimate a Bo Ryan coached team. I watched most of the Louisville vs Morehead St. game and credit to Morehead St. for playing disciplined, patient basketball. Louisville just wore them down though.

Basketball is a game of runs, its all about momentum. Louisville is one of those teams that just pressures you the whole game and once they get on one of their runs, you can just about call it. Right out of halftime, Louisville put incredible pressure, forced a few turnovers, and in a span of about 5 minutes, it was game over.

Run and Jump:

Louisville runs a lot of what Rick Pitino is famous for, his full court matchup press. It usually setup like a box press, but it's half M2M too. They run a lot of run and jump too instead of a straight trap. Here, the dribbler goes hard up the left side. There is a defender coming up from the right side. The dribbler doesn't necessarily see the second defender coming because X1's body is shielding him and forcing left,

Once the jump switch is made, you can see the dribbler falls down. Maybe it was coincidental, but it was also probably due to the surprise of the defender who comes at him who he does not expect. Also, you can see that X1 is basically zoned up in order to anticipate a pass. The weak side defender is splitting 2 players,

The run and jump is preferable to a straight trap because you don't leave a numbers advantage for the other team. But it is harder to execute because you have to disguise the jump switch, and requires more attention to detail by your players.


Louisville's pressure defense is the best in the tournament this year. Most of their offense feeds off of their pressure defense, and because they pressure you all game with incredible athletes, they are banking on the fact that they will wear opponents out over 40 minutes. But it is a feedback mechanism of sorts because they get into their full court matchup press off of offensive makes. So they need to make shots, in order to get into their defense, which gets them more easy shots. If there is one vulnerability it is that their half-court offense is not incredibly efficient, relying more on outside shooting.

If you like Louisville and Coach Rick Pitino, then definitely check out Rick Pitino's 4-Pack DVD which included his press defense. A great deal at $79.99 considering it is 4 DVDs. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

We're coming into coaching clinic season. Feel free to email me if you want to promote your coaching clinic. This one looks to be a good one:

4th Annual Ontario On-Court Coaches Clinic
June 5-6, 2009
St Denis Centre, Windsor, Ontario
(1 minute across the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit)

Looking for a basketball coaching clinic this Spring?

We have some advantages over other clinics:
Multiple on-court sessions with the clinicians so you can fully understand their concepts.
Cost – We are already less expensive that any other clinic of its kind but if you respond with the words X0BLOG on your registration we will discount you and your staff to $80.00 US/$90 CDN per coach (an additional $20.00 savings on an already low price).
Question periods with the clinicians. Due to our more intimate setting coaches are allowed to interact more directly with the clinicians who are more than willing to talk basketball.
Accommodations are cheap in Windsor. Search on any hotel internet site for some great deals.
Social get-together. Our Friday night social has brought coaches together for years in a great fun setting that makes it a great networking experience.


Vance Walberg—University of Massachusetts
Mastering the Dribble Drive Motion Offense

Larry Shyatt—University of Florida
Florida Defensive System: Developing a Defensive Mindset

Mike Katz—University of Toronto
Philosophy, Plays and Inbound Situations

Check out some video of some of our clinicians (Simply click play on the video at the bottom of the page for a preview of what is to come at our clinic):

Vance Walberg

Larry Shyatt

Go to http://www.cobacamp.com/coachesClinic.html or contact
Coach Oliver at coliver@uwindsor.ca today for a brochure

The first few days of the NCAA tournament are always the most exciting but also the most overwhelming, too many games, too many teams. There were some great games and even an upset or two. The only game I watched beginning to end was between LSU and Butler. I picked LSU to be the sleeper (if you can call them that) of the tournament and they played very well in their narrow first round win over a good Butler team.

I just wanted to highlight these plays because I think it shows what LSU does best. They are a great defensive team in the half court that rebounds extremely well. There defense then in turns feeds their offense off the primary break which they run very efficiently. Take a look,

Most of it was self-evident so I don't want to go into any unnecessary breakdowns. But one thing I wanted to point out was the doubling and jamming of the defensive rebound by Butler. In fact, Butler ran this throughout the game. The more and more I think about it, jamming the rebounder is only effective if the team you are jamming is less athletic than you are,

I'm not sure if it was a strategic decision by Brad Stevens to jam the defensive rebounder, or if the players just spontaneously did it themselves, but LSU capitalized on it at least 3 or 4 times in the game. If you do the math, that's like 6-8 points. The final score was 74-71 for LSU. Those points could have made the difference between an LSU win or a Butler win.


If you look at the various 1v8 games coming up: Louisville vs OSU/Siena; UConn vs Texas A&M; Pitt vs Okla St./Tenn; UNC vs LSU; I'd have to say LSU probably has the best chance at the upset. I've watched LSU several times throughout this season and I am very impressed by them. Coach Trent Johnson inherited a very talented, experienced team and he's won big games at Stanford before, and I think he can win a big game in the next round or 2 or 3.

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.

Big showdown between potential Eastern Conference finals opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Orlando Magic last night. It was a close game all the way throughout. The Cavs are just unbelievably good at home, but the Magic played well, they just came up a rebound, a stop, a shot short of coming away with the upset.

There were two plays I especially liked that really showcase why I like recruiting guys from the football season for basketball. It's one of those things you can't really teach, but having that mentality to seek contact, to get to the rim expecting contact. That's what the great drivers like Lebron or Allen Iverson have. It's no coincidence that both were big time football players in their high school days. Take a look at Lebron,

It's one of the intangibles that you can't really teach, it's a trait. It's why certain kids also shouldn't play football. If you don't want to hit or get hit, it's dangerous to play football. That's why when I coach football, I look for linebacker types or free-safety types, and ask them to play basketball. Often times, I find great tough players who are usually very athletic and are also great rebounders. I sell it to the football guys that basketball is a fun way to stay in shape after football season and also they can still hit other guys (which they all love to do).

OK, back to Lebron here. In the first clip, Lebron knows, in fact he expects Dwight Howard to step up for help defense. Most guys would just jump stop and kick the ball out, or fadeaway. Lebron instead goes right up to the rim as if Howard wasn't there. The key point being that he doesn't just jump into Howard, but he jumps as if he is going through Howard to the rim,

In the next clip, there's only 3.3 seconds on the clock so they run a simple give and go off the inbound. Lebron receives the pass back and he goes straight to the rim. Again, he anticipates the contact even though it doesn't come. He doesn't jump into the defender, he jumps as he is going straight to the rim,

Jumping into and jumping thru is an important distinction I like to make because sometimes players get the impression that they just want to get contact and get fouled. If you do that, more likely than not, you won't score, and secondly the refs will ignore the call. The key is that you want to go up like you're going up for a regular play. If Lebron simply jumped into a defender, he doesn't score in the second sequence.


I have to say that the Cavs are looking pretty formidable right now. Boston is fading, Orlando has been inconsistently recently. I like Miami right now, with Jermaine O'Neal, they're looking a little like when Shaq was there. Dwyane Wade is playing out of this world. But back to Lebron, I think the Cavs have the skill around him to make a deep run into June.

For a brand new video on skill development and specifically toughness, check out Pat Clatchey's DVD on Ball Security and Toughness Drills. Coach Clatchey is a high school coach and was selected as a head coach for the 2009 McDonalds All-American game. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

Went through some recorded NBA games from over the weekend. From the Lakers versus Mavs game, I liked this one play because I think every team should have a UCLA cut somewhere in their offense. It's one of the great half-court plays in basketball. It's so simple, and yet it is so effective.

Here, it's a give and go, handoff to UCLA cut with Fischer, Ariza, and Gasol setting the screen. I like the butt screen by Gasol as well, it's good because I think it's inconspicuous. Take a look,

Handoff to UCLA Cut:

The setup is the familiar 1-2-2 setup. Gasol on the ball side elbow. Fischer bringing up the ball. Ariza on the ball side corner comes up to receive the pass from Fischer who after passing keeps running at Ariza,

After the initial pass, Ariza hands off the ball back to Fischer who dribbles to the wing. At this point, Gasol is still facing the basket but is preparing for the butt screen as he feels Ariza's defender on his back,

Ariza, seeing the butt screen by Gasol, then cuts hard to the basket. Nowitzki (X4) and Correa (X3) don't communicate effectively on defense and so Ariza is free all the way for the easy layup,


Now, obviously, if you run this play over and over again, the defense will adjust either with the switch down low or with a sag on the screen, etc... But the UCLA screen/cut is still one of the best plays to use because it takes advantage of teams who don't communicate on defense. I also like the UCLA cut as a secondary break option before you settle into your motion offense.

In a great video combining different cuts like the UCLA cut, check out Dave Leitao's DVD on his '32' Motion Offense and Cuts. Coach Leitao is the former head coach of Virginia. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

I've been following the NBA off and on in between college and high school games and took in my first full game in a while tonight between the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Hornets. It's amazing how in the Western Conference, 2 thru 8 are all bunched up between 4 points of each other. The Rockets are amazingly in 3rd right now, and the Hornets are sixth.

The game was decent, good intensity, a lot of good defense. I think the Rockets just played with more poise, from being at home. Without Yao, they really shared the ball well together I thought. This offensive play here is pretty neat I thought. It's a double stagger for a curl cut. They ran a few times, but here are a couple of sequences from the 2nd half,

Double Stagger for Curl:

The breakdown in the video showed the basics, but I'd like to add to it. The basic setup is a 1-2-2 with the wings flattened out to the corners. O4 comes up to receive the ball, O1 passes to O4. O5 sets the first screen, O1 goes to set the second of the stagger screen. O3 begins to setup his cut by going baseline, then v-cut back to the stagger,

O3 curls around the double-stagger and receives the ball from O4. Now, since X3 has decided to trail on the screen, O3 cuts straight to the rim. Van Wafer and Artest both did this in the video sequence. And since the lane is essentially free of defenders, it's basically a layup or dunk. The other option is that if X2 comes all the way for help, O2 should be wide open for the corner 3.

This is the added part. If the defense adjusts with X3 going underneath instead, anticipating the drive, O3 can simply take the open mid-range jumper from the elbow,

I watched a varsity high school game the other day, and the one team ran the curl series over and over for their best player and it worked like clockwork. If the defender chased, drive to the basket. If the defender sagged underneath, wide open mid-range all game long.


If I run pro-set plays, I like ones that are simple, with not too many iterations, but with options. That way, it's similar to a motion offense where the players can read the defense and execute the best play in that situation. I think the Rockets are a decent team, but without McGrady and with Yao off and on, I'm not sure how good they are in a 7-game series. The Hornets have lost some of the lustre from the past couple of seasons, the chemistry seems a little off.

A relatively new release here, legendary UNC head coach Dean Smith's DVD on the Shuffle Offense. Not sure who uses the shuffle these days exclusively, but good if you want some more info on screen, cut and fill stuff. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

Well, the tournament of 65 is set, as always, there are some teams who probably deserved to make it and others not so much. I watched a bunch of coach interviews on CBS and ESPN today and this one with Coach Bill Self of Kansas really stands out. The reporter asks Coach Self, "when did you start enjoying to coach this team?" It was a very astute question and a very revealing answer. I watched Kansas earlier in November and December, and they weren't very good. I wrote earlier in the month how it was remarkable that Coach Self was able to get the team to adapt. Anyways, here is the short interview (question comes around 0:51 left),

Coach Self's answer is very interesting. Because as a coach, especially a successful one that has just won the national championship, there is an expectation of yourself, of your players to maintain that level of play. But his point is very well taken, every year is a different situation. Players graduate, go on to the pros, etc... Is it realistic to expect the same from different players year over year?

I contrast this philosophy with coach Billy Donovan at Florida. After the Gators missed the NCAA's last year, Donovan blasted the team saying he was "not excited about these guys being sophomores." He also locked the players out of the practice facility and banned them from wearing any Florida gear, saying they lacked the willingness to do the grunt work that defined the team that won two championships.

Now that Florida has missed the NCAA's for the 2nd year in a row after their back-to-back championships, and Kansas has secured a #3 seed with all their freshmen, it makes you wonder. Similarly, Memphis, after making that mid-season change with Tyreke Evans at point-guard, is back with a #2 seed (some say should have been #1) also having lost almost all their players.

I guess it comes down to whether or not as a coach you should have the same standard year in and year out. Or whether you should adjust your expectations every year? The answer would seem to be obvious, but it appears more difficult to do than it is to say.

If you like Kansas and Coach Self, take a look at Bill Self's DVD on Better Practices. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Another big day, switched between college games and some high school as well. I think I'm suffering from basketball overload, but it's all good, it's good to be a basketball fan in March. The Arizona St. versus USC game was by far the best. USC was behind but 10+ at halftime but stormed back and finally took their first lead with under a minute left. I thought they made some huge defensive plays down the stretch to take the game.

If there is one major advantage of a team that uses M2M as their base as opposed to the team that uses a zone as their base is that when a game gets really close down the stretch, the M2M team almost always has the edge. In the last few minutes, teams will usually go M2M when it's within 1 or 2 baskets. In that situation, the team that is most comfortable playing M2M usually wins out. In this case, ASU uses a 2-3 zone as their base, USC is mostly M2M. Under 2 minutes, ASU went to M2M, gave up a couple of FTs, USC just went with their base, and instead came away with 2 huge stops, the ones that sealed the win,

Great 1v1 Defense:

It's why in practice, you have to spend time doing 1v1 defense, and with all of your players. ASU runs a high screen and USC switches all screens late in the game. Hardin makes a couple of plays at the basket, but he gets stopped twice. The first one, USC's Hackett steps up and makes a great defensive play to take the charge,

In this second sequence, after the switch, USC's Gibson is guarding Hardin this time. Same play, Hardin drives left and Gibson is able to go stride for stride and get a hand on the ball on the way up, collects the rebound after the block,


I don't mean to be preachy, but I guess my message is, don't fall in love with zone defenses. I think all kinds of zone defenses and presses play a big role in team defense, especially when changing things up for momentum, or to trap and pressure the ball. But in my opinion, when players get used to zones, they forget some of their M2M fundamentals. Once that happens, it's difficult to rely on it when it counts the most, in the clutch, and that's the worst time for a player to forget some of their M2M defensive fundamentals. For that single reason alone, I would pick M2M as a base defense over zone.

If you're looking for more M2M defense info, then check out Sean Miller's new DVD on Dominating Man-to-Man Defense. Coach Miller is the head coach of Xavier who creates a fantastic newsletter, you can sign up for it here. 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.

It's a crazy time to be a basketball fan. Lots of local varsity hoop watching along with all the college action with the conference championships going on. I want to give props to Vancouver College Prep and specifically Junior guard Phil Scrubb for an outstanding game and the game winning bucket, they've punched their ticket to the finals of the BC High School Provincial Championship on Sunday.

Back to the college action, some fantastic games including that crazy 6OT game last night between UConn and Syracuse, that's almost 2 complete games back to back. Tonight, I took in Mizzou and Oklahoma State for the right to play Baylor for the Big 12 Championship. The game wasn't all that pretty to watch, but I felt the difference in the game (a close one) was a turnover here, a bad shot there, all generated off of Mizzou's soft press. Here are a few sequences from the second half,

I think a lot of people believe that a press has to be aggressive, take big risks, jump the passing lanes, etc... But when you get to these big championship games, the one and dones against skilled athletic teams, a soft press is much better. You may not force as many turnovers, or bad shots, but remember, the game could come down to just that 1 bad turnover or bad shot. In other words, don't take unnecessary risks that may leave your backend defense vulnerable to easy layups, but put enough pressure on the ball to get that 1 or 2 key defensive plays that might just win the game from you.

The last two sequences were examples of their soft press which they ran off and on in the second half. They only ran this one Run and Jump press just once. It's very basic but it was effective due to the element of surprise. If you run these stunts too much, the offense will adjust. So, X1 guides the ball-handler along the sideline. X4 steps up to double. X2 backfills for X4. X5 splits O5 and O2,

From the video, obviously it worked really well and caught the Cowboys by surprise.


In a close game like this one, Mizzou winning by 8, it's the one turnover, the one bad shot, which makes the difference. Oklahoma St. shot 21-for-59 (36%) while Mizzou shot 24-for-64 (38%). Oklahoma St. had 16 turnovers, Mizzou 10. Not huge margins, but again, it didn't need to be.

If you want your teams to play defense like Mizzou, then check out Mike Anderson's DVD on 40 minutes of hell. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

If I ever get the chance to, I would like to dig deeper, do an academic study into the human psychology and sociological aspects of coaching. It fascinates me to see how coaches motivate, gameplan, and deal with winning and losing. From over the weekend, ESPN got an inside look at Billy Gillispie and the Kentucky Wildcats as they prepared for, played, and lost to Georgia at home.

It's been a rough ride so far this season for Coach Gillispie but with the SEC Conference Tourney starting right now against Ole Miss, maybe they can turn their season around, miracles do happen, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. If you like Kentucky and Gillispie, 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.

Took in the Horizon League Conference Championship game last night between Butler and Cleveland St. Butler is ranked 16 and sat atop the Horizon League regular season while Cleveland St. was third but had that amazing win over ranked Syracuse earlier in the year.

The Butler Bulldogs went with a packline defense in the first half and for the most part, it kept the Vikings in check. I didn't see the second half, but Cleveland St. ended up winning the game by hitting seven three pointers, or 21 of their 28 second half points to upset the Bulldogs. Nevertheless, I wanted to highlight Butler's packline defense in the first half, take a look,

5 in the Paint:

In your basic packline, all the help side defenders play ball-you-man within the 3-point perimeter like so,

When the ball gets into the lane either through penetration or through post-entry, all 5 players collapse into the paint. In this first sequence, it comes off of a hedge on the screen and roll,

In this second sequence, Cleveland St. is able to penetrate into the lane, all 5 players collapse into the paint, but the ball is kicked out to the perimeter. The result is a wide-open 3-pointer. That is what you give up when you go packline,

Finally, Cleveland St. is again able to penetrate but all 5 players collapse. With nowhere to go, the guard attempts a pass to one of his forwards, but because there are 5 defenders clustered in the paint, the ball is deflected and the result is a turnover,

With 5 in the paint, you also have a higher chance on short rebounds, but you will most likely give up long rebounds (which if the offense is attempting 3-pointers, are more prevalent).


I didn't watch the second half, but Cleveland St. started off the half hitting six straight 3-pointers. I think if it were me, I would have switched off the pack line, maybe with a pack-and-1 to take away the 3-point shooter. I'm not sure what coach Brad Stevens did, but obviously Cleveland St. was able to hit a number of 3-pointers to finish 10-for-19 overall and come away with the upset win.

For more info on defense against dribble penetration, take a look at Lon Kruger's DVD on Winning Every Possession with Defense. Coach Kruger is the head coach at UNLV. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

With only one marquee matchup in college basketball tonight, I went through some recorded NBA games and took in the Eastern conference battle from Sunday between Boston and Orlando. Both teams were rollin' around Christmas time but both are sputtering a little now, Orlando especially.

One of the big things I noticed was how the Magic were unsuccessful many times at getting Dwight Howard the ball. I haven't seen that many Magic games, but from the limited video I've seen, I definitely think there is some blame to go around both with Howard himself and his teammates. No question though, the Magic aren't going anywhere unless they get Howard on a roll. Take a look,

Some pictures to see what's going on here. In this first sequence, Howard is able to pin his man down low. The pass comes, and hits Howard right on the hands but he's just not able to hang on. I know there was a foul called on the play against the Celtics, but still, Howard needs to be able to catch that ball. Shaq in this respect is the master, he can catch a pass like that with one hand,

In this next sequence, Howard comes off the pick and roll and both defenders go towards the ball. Howard is rolling to the basket with only a guard down on help side. Feed him the ball. Instead, Turkoglu shoots the 3. That's another thing. I know the Magic are one of the best 3-point FG% shooters at 39% but I think they should work inside-out instead,

This last sequence is similar to the first one in that Howard just isn't working hard enough to get position. He's going chest to chest with Powe, when instead he should be using a swim move or a step through move to gain the position. He gives up and tries to set a screen for Lewis in the corner,


It still amazes me that Dwight Howard does not take the most shots on his team, he's third behind Lewis and Turkoglu. That's not to say that both those guys can't score, but you've got Dwight Howard on your team. Heck Howard shoots 57% from the field and averages more points than Lewis and Turkoglu despite taking less shots. I know that the NBA and all of basketball is on the guard trend these days, but still, when you've got a guy that can dunk on a 13-foot basket, you've got to find a way to get him more than 20 ppg.

For more skill development stuff for your bigs, check out Ganon Baker's new DVD on Post Player Development. Footwork, contact and positioning are what Coach Baker stresses. Discuss your favorite offensive plays at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

I had a conversation with another coach the other day about offensive moves and then somehow the topic transition into a debate over traveling. Then the discussion got philosophical when we started debating over what the rules say and what the officials will actually call, between high school and professional, etc...

Anyways, that got me thinking and I found this clip from ESPN just the other day even though it was published a month ago.

What is traveling and does it still matter? Coach John Wooden says he doesn't like watching the NBA because all they do is dunk and travel with the ball. Does traveling diminish from the purity of the game or does it benefit the game? Should they re-evaluate the rules to loosen up what is defined as a travel, then enforce it consistently? Or just let it all go and let the players dictate what should and shouldn't be called?

Or is Greg Oden right? Are the rules just too complicated. Here is the rule on traveling from the FIBA Rules Handbook 2008:

Art. 25 Travelling
25.1 Definition
25.1.1 Travelling is the illegal movement of one foot or both feet beyond the limits outlined in this article, in any direction, while holding a live ball on the playing court.
25.1.2 A pivot is the legal movement in which a player who is holding a live ball on the playing court steps once or more than once in any direction with the same foot, while the other foot, called the pivot foot, is kept at its point of contact with the floor.
25.2 Rule
25.2.1 Establishing a pivot foot for a player who catches a live ball on the playing
• While standing with both feet on the floor:
▬ The moment one foot is lifted, the other foot becomes the pivot foot.
• While moving:
▬ If one foot is touching the floor, that foot becomes the pivot foot.
▬ If both feet are off the floor and the player lands on both feet simultaneously,
the moment one foot is lifted, the other foot becomes the pivot foot.
▬ If both feet are off the floor and the player lands on one foot, then that foot
becomes the pivot foot. If a player jumps off that foot and comes to a stop
landing on both feet simultaneously, then neither foot is a pivot foot.
25.2.2 Progressing with the ball for a player who has established a pivot foot while
having the control of a live ball on the playing court:
• While standing with both feet on the floor:
▬ To start a dribble, the pivot foot may not be lifted before the ball is released
from the hand(s).
▬ To pass or shoot for a field goal, the player may jump off a pivot foot, but
neither foot may be returned to the floor before the ball is released from the
• While moving:
▬ To pass or shoot for a field goal, the player may jump off a pivot foot and land on one foot or both feet simultaneously. After that, one foot or both feet may be lifted from the floor but neither foot may be returned to the floor before the ball is released from the hand(s).
▬ To start a dribble, the pivot foot may not be lifted before the ball is released
from the hand(s).
• While coming to a stop when neither foot is the pivot foot:
▬ To start a dribble, neither foot may be lifted before the ball is released from
the hand(s).
▬ To pass or shoot for a field goal, one foot or both feet may be lifted but may
not be returned to the floor before the ball is released from the hand(s).
25.2.3 Player falling, lying or sitting on the floor:
• It is legal when a player falls and slides on the floor while holding the ball or,
while lying or sitting on the floor, gains control of the ball.
• It is a violation if the player then rolls or attempts to stand up while holding the ball.

From last night's game between Duke and North Carolina. Another classic between the two bitter rivals that went wire to wire until the final minute. I thought once again, Ty Lawson was the difference in the game. At the end, when UNC needed the baskets, he came up with a couple of huge plays that Duke just couldn't stop.

I really like this play here though from Senior forward Bobby Frasor of UNC. Coach Roy Williams calls a timeout, UNC has a 7 point lead just over 1 minute to go, he needs one big stop to put an end to the game, he puts in Frasor off the bench. Frasor goes into the game, help side defense and gets the tie-up on the ball, possession arrow UNC, game-set-match. Take a look,

Basketball is one of those games where only 5 players get to play on the floor. Out of those 5 players, 3 probably take 80% of the shots, that's just life. It's tough for bench players and of course they're frustrated, they wanna play, they've practiced hard all week, all month, all season. But basketball is a lot more than just scoring, everyone knows that, it just needs more emphasis. Be the player that will go into the game to get a big defensive stop. Be the player that will rebound and set screens. It may not show up on the scoresheet, but the little things matter, and coaches do notice. Coach Williams could have kept his starters on for the last two minutes, but he purposely called the timeout to put Frasor in to get that stop. As a coach, there's nothing more satisfying than to have players step in off the bench and make those kinds of plays when the team needs it the most. And you have to love Frasor's attitude as well, he makes the big play and he's fired up right after, he knows his role and he takes it seriously.


Well, the end of the regular season is here. Some wild games over the weekend, especially that buzzer beater by Alabama over Tennessee. The ACC looks really strong again and looks like some good teams are on the outside looking in from the Big East. As for UNC and Duke, UNC will go as far as their defense can take them, Duke will go as far as their shooting will take them, which means with a little luck on their side, each can go all the way.

For more Roy Williams on video, check out Roy Williams' DVD on UNC's Numbered Secondary Break. 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.

Making the Right Hustle Plays

The games are really starting to get turned up now, tomorrow is going to be wild with UNC and Duke going at it again. Watched the early game this morning between Big East opponents UConn versus Pittsburgh. The atmosphere was great and both teams didn't disappoint bringing everything they had.

A couple of plays early in the second half I wanted to highlight. As I mentioned, with the games being that much more important now that we're in March, players put that extra hustle diving for loose balls. But one thing to keep in mind is to make sure players know when to save the ball and when not to save the ball. Take a look,

Most of y'all have probably heard the rule never save the ball under your own defensive basket. The only problem with that rule is that it discourages players to hustle for loose balls, because they'll just tell you "Oh, it was under our own basket so I didn't want to give the ball away." But if you know where your teammate is going to be, no matter if it is under your basket or not, you should save the ball to that teammate. Here Blair of Pitt knows where Fields is, has control of the ball, and so he throws it high up in the air where he knows Fields can get it,

In this play, the UConn player is diving at the ball and without knowing where his teammates are, he saves it along the ground where Fields of Pitt picks it up and passes it to a teammate for an and1,


It's difficult to criticize players for diving for loose balls and hustling. But I think a general rule you can use is, you should always dive for a loose ball, but only save it if you know where your teammate is. I know, its tough to make that split-second decision but it is something you can practice which therefore means players can get an idea of what to do. The safest is to say, never save the ball under your own basket, but the downside is that players lose the incentive for diving for loose balls.

For more winning secrets from the smartest basketball mind alive, look no further than Hubie Brown's 2-pack DVD that has Volumes I and II from his Secrets of Winning Basketball series, definitely worth checking out for any Hubie Brown fan. Discuss your favorite offenses at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

Coach Bobby Knight on ESPN talking about the shot fake, the most important offensive move in basketball. I tend to agree with Coach Knight, the shot fake isn't used enough. With many of y'all in offseason, it's a great time to work 1-on-1 with some players on making sure they're getting into triple threat out of a jump stop, shot fake, jab step, etc... Take a look,

Couple of things to add. I like coaching players to use a shorter shot fake, because if you bring the ball up over the head, it takes too much time to get into a long lunge or back into the shot pocket. Also, I think it's important to teach players how to properly react after a shot fake (if defender does a fly by, closes out, or doesn't do anything). This may seem obvious, but unless its explained and drilled, you'd be surprised at what some players think.

For more offensive development drill info, take a look at Bruce Weber's DVD on Offensive Skill Development. Coach Weber is the head coach at University of Illinois. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

For some of the conferences it is already playoff time and I caught one of those tournament games in the Patriot league tonight between American University and Lafayette. I haven't watched any Patriot league games all year, so I didn't have a good frame of reference, but American did look very efficient and prepared. They did end up blowing out Lafayette but I did manage to catch this great defensive possession from the first half,

I don't know about y'all, but I just love watching teams that play great M2M defense, that really compete on that side. You tell so much more about an individual's character, the anatomy of the team, based on how they play defense. Do they take pride in stopping their check? Do they communicate? Do they help each other out? Do they compete the whole 35 seconds?

In this great sequence, the Eagles do 3 of the 4 things above (can't really tell if they are communicating, I guess we can assume they do). First, the defender slides and successfully stops the penetration and forces the dribbler to pick up the ball,

Here, the Eagles collapse on the ball on help defense against penetration, forcing the pass way back to midcourt,

And of course, the result of the play is a shot clock violation, so they successfully competed for the full 35 seconds.


American University is a major roll heading into the Patriot League tournament. Granted, the Patriot League isn't that high on the RPI, and they lost by a lot to the only 2 ranked teams they played (OU and Georgetown). But assuming they win the tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament, I think if by chance they good a decent seed like a 10, they could upset in the first round. But who really knows...

For more ideas for defensive practice drills, take a look at Tony Barone's new DVD on Defensive Development Drills. Coach Barone is the Director of Player Personnel for the Memphis Grizzlies. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

Watched the ACC matchup between the Duke Blue Devils and the Florida State Seminoles. FSU played very well, and probably did deserve the win as much as Duke, but it came down to execution down the stretch, Duke just played with more confidence and made the right plays, chalk it up to experience.

What really struck me though watching Duke in the second half was how much better their spread offense was this year as compared to last year. Now, certainly the personnel factor has something to do with it, but another factor was the extension of the 3-point line. You would think that for a 3-point shooting team like Duke, that would be a bad thing, but it actually helps to stretch the defense even more creating more gaps to penetrate and also leads to more open 3-point shots. Take a look at a few sequences of their spread offense in the second half,

2008 Versus 2009:

If you want more diagram breakdown of Duke's spread offense, then click here. What I want to do here is just a quick illustration of how much of a difference the extension of the 3-point line has made. This first picture is from last season (07/08) between Duke and Wisconsin. Watch how the weak side defenders are able to stay close to the paint despite Duke's spread,

Now, from last night's game. I know the PNR is slightly different from the top of the key as opposed to the wing. But still, you can see that the help side is at least 1 or 2 steps further away from the paint. That 1 or 2 step can mean the difference between a layup or dunk, and a defensive stop. Also, the defense has that extra 1 or 2 steps to help and recover, makes a big difference,


Ultimately for Duke though, their success in the spread offense will largely be determined with how they shoot the 3-pointer. On this night, they were decent going 10-for-30. But in a one and done tournament format, all it takes is one bad half, and they could be bounced. In comparing 07-08 and this season, Duke is slightly down (38% vs 34%) in 3-point shooting percentage. Still, I like the spread offense especially since they've stretched the 3-point line, a lot more gaps to penetrate into.

Big Duke fan?? Check out Mike Krzyzewski's DVD on Skill Drills for Defense. 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.