There is a great article on Basktbawful that documents one of the reasons why the Mavs aren't as good as we all think they are but are improving in one key area, ball movement. I tend to agree with him in that the number of total assists is a key statistic showing the effectiveness and efficiency of your offense. Now, we're speaking half-court offense specifically, because assists can distort the reality, we really need to observe and track half-court efficiency. You want to track individual half-court possessions. Half-court offense must be patient. I took this live clip from the Mavs/Blazers game showing great ball movement which Basketbawful has observed the Mavs to be somewhat improved in this season. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

Sideline to Sideline:

You know the movie Hoosiers, when Gene Hackman tells his team, "3 passes before a shot." I first watched that movie many years ago when it first came out, and as a young kid, I didn't know why or what he meant by that. Why would you want 3 passes before you shoot?? The reason why is because by going sideline to sideline, you force the defense to work to cover you. By doing so, they will eventually break down. If you have 4 guys standing around watching 1 guy try to go 1-on-1, that will most certainly result in a 1-on-5 situation, or a long perimeter shot.

OK, so what are we talking about when we talk about sideline to sideline? Take a look at this sequence,

So O3 is Josh Howard. He moves from the left to the right coming off the stack screen by Dirk Nowitzki and Diop. Now X4 switches to cover Howard. O1, Devin Harris pass fakes to Howard who isn't open so he doesn't pass him the ball.

In the next sequence, O4, Dirk curls around O5, Diop, briefly looks for the ball, then clears to the weak side wing. Devin passes the ball to O2, Jason Terry at the top left of the key.

After Dirk clears to the other wing, Diop will set a flex screen for Howard to goes back to the left corner off of Diop's screen, X4 trails.

Dirk sets a pick on X4 that allows Jason to reverses the ball to Howard in the corner. Dirk then rolls off the screen towards the basket.

Howard bounce passes to Dirk who finishes the play with the emphatic dunk.


I'm always telling my team to be patient. In fact, I probably say those two words, "Be patient", about 50 times in a game. Half-court offense is deliberate. You must move the ball and look for the opportunity to attack. Against teams that play good defense, you have to make them defend you baseline to baseline and sideline to sideline, use the whole court.

The analogy in football is that you must stretch the field. You must throw the deep ball, and run the sweep play every so often to force the defense to defend you deep and from sideline to sideline. If you don't, they will put 8 or more in the box and kill your run game. The same can be said in basketball. If you don't move the ball, the defense will sit back and wait before swarming you.

The most patient offense that I know is the Princeton 5-out offense. It emphasizes passing and cutting. It's deliberate and takes a lot of discipline to play. For a great video that breaks this great offense down, check out Joe Scott's DVD on the Fundamental building Blocks of the Princeton Offense. Coach Scott is the current head coach at Denver and used to be the head coach at Air Force and Princeton, both 5-out teams. Talk about this and many other basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball forum.

I actually watched the Lakers/Nuggets game but there wasn't really any good team basketball clips worth taking, so I took a clip of this from Sportscenter highlights of the Celtics/Knicks game. One of the things I like to emphasize is that good defense usually leads to good offense. If our team is playing good defense, at least we feel we will get some easy baskets off of fast or secondary breaks. Everything starts with your defense in my opinion. We blow out teams, even good teams, when we play good defense. In fact, I don't remember a time where we've ever blown out a good team by just playing good offense, ala the Phoenix Suns. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

Kevin Garnett gets a big time block on his old running mate, Stephon Marbury. That starts the fast-break the other way and Ray Allen strokes the jumper to finish off this great sequence.

Another term you've probably heard me say if you've read my earlier posts, every good offensive play starts with a defensive play. I truly believe in that. I'm a defense first coach and when I scout opponents, I'm always thinking first, how do we stop them, how do we take away their best threat, how do we force them into turnovers. Defense is where as a coach, we have the most influence. Offense is largely dependent on the talent of your players.

A great DVD that breaks down the man-to-man fundamentals is Geno Auriemma's 8 Essential Defensive Drills DVD. Coach Auriemma is the head coach of multiple national championship winning lady Huskies of UConn. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss all of your hoops.

I was at a local high school basketball tournament today and I was watching these two teams play and it was really just painful to watch. One of the teams was using a full-court M2M press, much like the Duke one that I wrote about. The other team was having all kinds of problems breaking the press and before you know it, the score was 20-0. I kept thinking to myself, why does the press-break team have all their players in the backcourt, that is just helping the other team's press. I often like to say that going with your instincts is the best choice. But sometimes it's the opposite of what seems natural that is the best solution to the problem.

Trouble with this press break:

If a team is pressing you hard M2M full-court, it would seem natural that bringing all your players into the backcourt to help is the best solution. After all, if your point-guard is getting doubled and trapped, you would want to bring help, right?? In my opinion, this just helps the pressing team, here's why,

Against a full-court M2M press, by bringing your forwards into the backcourt, you've just increased the number of defenders in the area to 5. Now, all 5 defenders are fully engaged in creating pressure, getting into passing lanes, and generating turnovers. You've basically given the other team a free pass to press you to death making it tremendously easy for the other team to accomplish their goal, while seriously hampering the ability of your players to get through to the frontcourt. After about 10 minutes, the pressing team had forced about 15 turnovers, 7 or so off of steals from attempted dribbling out of the press, 5 off of stolen passes and 3 or so off of throwing the ball out of bounds. A couple of times the point guard made it through, but was so hurried, missed layups badly.

A Better Way to Press Break:

I think you want to start with 3 defenders at half. Have your sideline players do a v-cut to the basket then cut straight deep. This way, the inbounders have the option of the long baseball pass. Keep the middle man on a delay. If not deep, then pass to the nearest wing. They will double the first pass, so an easy reverse to O3 is in order. Once this happens, O4 in the middle will v-cut to the ball, then break deep. At the same time O3 drives hard down the middle, with X3 hopefully in a speed recovery. So, looks something like,

Once your players have broken deep, either the defense follows (which they should if they are in a M2M press) or they will get burned over the top. I don't care which point guard you have, dribbling through 5 defenders is going to result in a lot of turnovers. By clearing the backcourt, you've created more space and now you have the numbers advantage and not the other way around.

I don't want to seem overly critical, especially if the losing coach goes home flicks on the computer and reads this and is humiliated. But I'd be very interested to see the game replayed with a different press break. Could it have been a closer game? When the pressing team took off the press, both teams played pretty even the rest of the way, final score was around 60-40.

For more great press breakers, check out Bill Self's DVD on the 1-3-1 press-break. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.

The earlier game saw NC State face Michigan State. I love watching Michigan State because I like the structure of Tom Izzo and his offense. For example, this year their best player is senior guard Drew Neitzel. Much like JJ Reddick in his days at Duke, Drew is a shooter and so alot of MSU's offense is trying to get the ball into Drew's hands where he's open and can hit his deadly shot. In this high-post set (looks almost like a stack set at the high-post), Drew is able to get open on the cross move and double screens down low. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

Stack high-post:

I'm not 100% sure the original play is a stack set at the high-post because they ran the double stagger down low many times and I don't remember them always in the stack up high, but I suppose you could easily run it out of a 1-4 high set.

Like in most stack sets, 1 forward goes right, the other goes left, and the last player comes through the middle. O1, Drew Neitzel bounce passes to O3 at the top of the key. Then starts heading to towards the low block. O2 starts heading towards the other low-block.

Double-screen, cross baseline:

O4 and O5 flare to the 3-point line then come down to set the double screens right away. By this time O1 and O2 should already be close to the low-block. Obviously timing here is critical as the picks have to be there when O1 and O2 cross and both players must make sure they don't run into each other at the mesh.

Finally, O1, Drew Neitzel explodes out of the second screen with his defender trying to trail. The picks have given Drew just enough separation to get off his shot.

Now unfortunately, the live play was whistled right before the shot for a moving screen by either O4 or O5. But it illustrates one of the main ways MSU is able to get Drew Neitzel in a wide open catch and shoot situation.

If you are a big Tom Izzo fan like me and the many MSU fans, then you'll learn a lot from his videos. I've recommended the zone offense DVD, but another I like alot is Coach Izzo's DVD which includes his 'Basketball Smorgasbord' of Drills and Basketball Wisdom. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

Another fantastic night in men's college basketball action. I apologize to you NBA, Euroleague and women's basketball fans, I'll get back to some of that action tomorrow. UNC played Ohio St. tonight in a real scrappy hard fought game. Reminds me of the adult rec league I used to play several years ago, lots of bodies flying around and hard-nosed defense. For UNC, it showed their grit and determination. Though UNC certainly has the talent to play the finesse game, I have a lot of respect for teams that are physical and play a bruising style of basketball, maybe it's the Canadian in me. Anyways, on a night without their starting point-guard (arguably the most important position in basketball) and shooting just 38% from the field, this game had to be won on the glass and with tough defense, and the Tar Heels did both. This terrific sequence shows the kind of hustle we all hope our teams play with. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

When the going gets tough, it's usually the more physical team that will come out on top. As Al Pacino says in the movie Any Given Sunday, "In any fight, it's the guy who's willing to die whose gonna win that inch."

UNC held Ohio St. to 27% from the field and dominated 58-42 on the glass. That's how they won the game tonight.

If you want your team to play with hustle, I absolutely believe that it starts in practice. The way your teams practice, going hard, will determine whether your team plays with hustle. I've never seen a lazy team in practice go out and play with hustle and determination, it just doesn't happen. I watched Bobby Knight run this hustle drill (and many of you probably run something similar).

Basically, a coach stands underneath the basket and just rolls the ball towards the free-throw line. 2 players go out and dive on the ground, whoever comes up with the ball gets up and finishes the play.

Hustle is one of those intangibles, it's also a great talent equalizer. If you don't have as much talent than your opponents, then your players must outwork your opponent every single possession on offense and defense, there is no other way.

Learn to play hard-nosed defense the Bruiser way. Coach Bruiser Flint's DVD is great at showing you drills you can use to teach a non-gambling hard-nosed closeout defense that will pressure the ball and force turnovers without gambling for steals, a must if you have less talent. Have an idea for a drill, or looking for more info, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to join the discussions.

Eric Gordon for Indiana is a terrific talent. But if the Hoosiers are going to go anywhere this season, it will be their forwards like DJ White that will make or break the chances. I highlighted this play mostly to show why it is so important for your forwards to get up and down the floor. This secondary break play which results in a wide open 3-pointer in the corner only works because the forwards are in on the play. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

Forwards Lead the Way:

Every good offensive play begins with a defensive one, as does this play. Off of the missed Georgia Tech shot, there is a quick outlet to Eric Gordon and he's gone down the sideline. O5 is the first one ahead of the whole offense, O4 is the trailer.

O2 runs wide and sets up for the 3-pointer. O4 is the trailer and you'll see in the video, he cuts right through the lane, has his hands high looking for the pass. This occupies the lane and sucks the defense in.


Eric Gordon drives into the middle from the wing drawing the defense in. Now since O4 and O5 are setup under the basket, the defense is packed in so Gordon finds Lance Stemler wide open in the corner.

I think Georgia Tech actually defends this pretty good. All 5 get back, but obviously they get mixed up as nobody picks up Stemler in the corner. But DJ White attracts the full frontal in the post while Mike White does a good job drawing the defense by cutting right through the lane.


I'm guessing most coaches out there don't spend enough time on early offense or secondary break. I know that we don't. We do a lot of 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 drills, but we don't really work 5-on-5 going through a secondary break or early offense. A lot of teams are either fast-break, or half-court. But there is an in-between with the secondary breaks and early offense. Just because all 5 defenders are back, doesn't mean they are ready to defend. Attack early and catch them off-guard or back-pedaling.

It's probably a good time to define terms here. Fast-break is generally referred to 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 after a steal, turnover or rebound. Secondary break generally refers to 3-on-3, 4-on-4 or 5-on-5 after a steal or turnover. Early offense generally refers to offense off of made baskets or sideout, baseline. At least that is what I've been told.

To improve your early offense, Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson has a DVD on transition offense which is a good place to start. Discuss your favorite topics and exchange coaching ideas at the X's and O's Basketball forum.

Caught most of the Duke/Wisconsin game tonight. The Blue Devils have a much different look this year than in year's past, must more uptempo and fast breaking, and it has been reflected in their overall scoring. One of the main reasons why Duke has become such a high-tempo team starts with their press. They don't press all the time, but they do so on occasion and when they do, they are very aggressive with it. Mike Krzyzewski is mostly a M2M coach, and so it is natural that his press is a full-court M2M deny. In this sequence, you'll see how Duke surprises Wisconsin on a made basket and the result is a 3-pointer. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

Nothing really to discuss, it's just an all-out M2M full-court denial. I think the key to the press is Kyle Singler, he uses his 7-foot wingspan to obscure the inbounder and force him to make a bad pass.

Now, in hindsight, it would be easy to say, just throw over the top since the defense is in a face guard denial. But hindsight is 20/20, and when you throw in the element of surprise, it's easy to think that looking back.

I watched the game, and with the exception of a few plays like this, Duke ran a 3/4 M2M which is of course a lot safer but still puts a lot of pressure on the ball. No doubt, Coach Krzyzewski makes a bench call during free-throws to signal the full-court denial. Again, the surprise element is really the key to the play.

I'm not so sure I would've been thrilled with the choice of the 3-pointer at the end, but obviously Scheyer can consistently hit that shot so I guess if I had him on my team, it would be OK.

If you're reading this and it is a family member or friend that happens to be the coach, you really couldn't go wrong with Coach Krzyzewski's 6-pack DVD. Coack K pretty much covers the entire gamut including individual development, zone offense, press break and conditioning. 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.

I watched most of the Wake Forest and Iowa game, and to be honest, it wasn't the prettiest of games to watch. Sometimes you watch a low scoring game and it's good to watch because the defense is really good. Unfortunately, this was mostly just bad offense by both teams. There was one nice play though that I caught where Iowa decided to use an Amoeba, point-zone, 1-1-3 or 1-3-1, can't really tell, but it's one of those. Wake Forest took advantage by using a double back-pick to get an easy basket underneath. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,


Like I mentioned, not exactly sure if the defense is in a 1-1-3, 1-3-1, point zone, or Amoeba, but it was some sort of zone. Iowa only ran it once in the game, and Wake Forest scored an easy basket off of it.

So the setup is pretty straightforward. Ideally I think you want to be in a 1-4 low set,

O2 receives the pass in the corner from O1. I think it is an Amoeba because X2 comes to double the corner with X4. Anyways, O1 dribbles to the wing first, then passes to O2 in the corner. The double comes and O2 dribbles up top to get a better angle for the post-entry.

Double Back-Screen:

Both O4 and O5 will come and set picks on the 2 low defenders. O3 comes off the first screen and just stops dead in the key.

O2 finds O3 underneath wide open. It's important for O5 to bump up to the middle or top of the lane for spacing and to draw X5 up the lane. It's a pretty easy basket, with X3 fighting the screen to recover and defend.


I think it's important to properly scout your opponents. I think Coach Dino Gaudio knew that Iowa would try to run this defense and designed and repped his players on it. In other words, I don't think it was a spontaneous motion-based play, it was a set play to run specifically to counter this kind of zone.

If you are looking for a good zone offense video, take a look at Coach Tom Izzo's DVD on a 1-3-1 zone offense that you can incorporate into your offense. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and other basketball ideas with other coaches.

What Is Your Go-to Move?

I often ask my players to find a go-to move. I think it's important in games that players have a move that they know and can use to create and get their shot off under pressure. It doesn't really matter what the move is really, so long as the player is comfortable with it and that it is effective. Some post guys like the baby hook, others will use a power jump stop, some guys use a cross-over or a reverse layup. I caught the beginning of the Houston Rockets against Los Angeles Clippers game and Sam Cassell used his baseline fadeaway jumper and it reminded me of this concept. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

By emphasizing a go-to move, I don't mean to say that players should not work on their all-round game, because I know that part is important. But in those situations when the shot clock is winding down, I think it's important to have that one move that each player is comfortable performing under pressure. In that pressure situation, you don't want your players thinking too much, just do it as they say.

Here, Sam Cassell has been using his baseline fadeaway jumper since he came into the league 15 years ago. I don't usually like the fadeaway but obviously Sam is comfortable with it and he's been consistent at hitting it. It's his go-to move.

For more individual skill development, check out Phil Martelli's DVD on becoming a better 1-on-1 player. There, you should find plenty of moves to inspire your players with. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches and share your ideas with the community.

I always like watching the Spurs play, because as a coach, I'm always interested to see what cool offensive and defensive sets I will pick up. All the talk about the stars of the NBA, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, etc... when it comes down to it, good fundamental team basketball still wins out. While the Spurs have stars, it's the way they play that makes them successful. For example, put Tony Parker on some other team and he's just another Leandro Barbosa. This was a really cool offensive set that I caught tonight in the win over Seattle, it's kind of neat because it's like a wheel motion, then it goes to a stagger screen. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

Wheel Motion:

How often do you see the wheel motion at this level. But the motion is good because it causes a lot of confusion and lots of switching by the defense. O1 is at top, I've diagrammed a box, but they don't exactly start that way, though if I were to run it at the HS level, I'd probably tell my players to start in a box set.

O4 is Tim Duncan and he comes up to the high post. The other players just wheel around. O3 comes all the way out to the ball-side wing, looking for the pass from O1 if open. Kevin Durant does a good job denying the pass. O2 shifts down but then flares to the wing, again looking for the pass.

Fake Handoff, Stagger Screen, 3-pointer:

What the Spurs love to do is have Tim Duncan come up to receive the pass at the top of the key. Duncan is such a good passing forward that it works well when he does a handoff or just passes because he's tall and his passes are accurate. They even go hi-lo sometimes.

What happens here is Tim Duncan fakes the handoff to Jacques Vaughn, pivots, and fires the pass to Manu Ginobili. O3, Ginobili, comes from the ball-side and cuts through the lane and comes off the stagger screens set by Bruce Bowen and Matt Bonner. He receives a perfect bounce pass from Tim Duncan, right in the hands chest-high and Ginobili just catches and shoots, and hits.

The reason why this works is that Kevin Durant gets screened out, and the switch doesn't happen soon enough which gives Ginobili that fraction of a second he needs to fire away.

Coach Gregg Popovich's DVD on his favorite drills is both informative, practical and relatively new. I like Coach Popovic because he's an old school guy that knows how the game is supposed to be played. Check out all the discussions of this and many other basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball forum.

I watched most of the second half tonight between the Mavs and the Bucks, and it was a great game through and through. I thought the key to the win for the Bucks was their use of a matchup zone. First they used a 2-3 matchup, and when the Mavs hit a couple of late 3-pointers (Jason Terry was deadly tonight), they went to a 3-2 matchup and the Mavs started to miss. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

3-2 Matchup zone

With the matchup zone, it's critical to know your assignments because of all the switching. I'm going to start diagramming at the point where the ball has been reversed to the corner. At this point, X1's man is actually across the court so he shifts over to cover. That leaves X4, Yi Jianli to zone cover O4, Dirk Nowitzki.

O2 does a basket cut once O4 gets the ball back up top. X2 follows O2 into the lane. With X3 rotating to cover O1, Jason Terry, in the corner and X1 covering Devin Harris, the 3-2 zone is maintained.

Finally, Dirk drives middle and Yi stops him at the free-throw line. X1 comes to help and Dirk passes to O2, Devin Harris who takes the 3-pointer. He actually gets a pretty good shot off and probably should've made that shot, but with the shot clock running out, it was a little rushed.

I think overall, the matchup did very well for the Bucks. It forced the Mavs to use up the clock and take some hurried shots. With a 24 second shot clock, I think the matchup zone does a good job of forcing teams to use up all the clock and thus take a rushed shot. In a high school game, I'm not sure how well it would do given that in some states there is no shot clock so the offense could theoretically hold the ball forever.

The matchup zone is not an easy defense to implement. Assignments are key here and you must spend a lot of time going on air to go through all the permutations of cutters, gap responsibility on penetration and any M2M switches.

For more video info, take a look at Paul Hewitt's DVD on his 3-2 point zone defense. Coach Hewitt is the head coach at Georgia Tech. Talk about your favorite basketball coaching topics at the X's and O's Basketball forum.

Marcus Ginyard of UNC, shows proper shoulder to hip drive.

I was reading some notes the other day and one of the things that I read from Kevin Eastman was his 'must-dos' for offensive skill development.

1. Hard Dribble. Eastman states that, "If we know you have a soft dribble we trap you on the dribble). You should add some sort of pound dribble to your list of ball-handling drills to hammer this point home.

2. Get your shoulders to the defenders hips on dribble penetration. This is the attack position which allows you to turn the corner and beat the defender. Once you are able to turn the corner, the defender is most vulnerable and must speed step to recover or help.

3. Keep the ball high. This is especially the case for posts. There are so many reasons why you must keep the ball above your shoulders. This is one of the most common mistakes you see in forwards, is that they bring the ball down and when they come back up, they've lost the ball.

4. Be ready on the catch. This is otherwise known as the triple threat. Whether or not you receive in a jump stop or 1 step pivot. Players should receive the ball in the hands chest high and be ready to make a move once they get the ball. When coaches and players talk about the speed of the game, it's often in reference to this. Every level you go up, defenses react quicker, so offensively, players must also be quicker. Be ready to make a move on the catch, not after.

There was actually a fifth must-do, but the notes did not capture it, but nevertheless, these four are big ones to emphasize.

I watch a lot of live basketball and I always watch players in warmup. When you watch a lot of basketball, you eventually find that it's easy to tell the good teams from the bad teams without knowing a single thing about either team. Just watch how they do the little things. Like the guards when they penetrate, do they attack the defender's hips or do they do a wide arc. Do the forwards keep the ball high or are they all over the place with the ball. When they catch the ball, do they look like they will do something with it.

For some more position specific skills that will help you with your players, take a look at Coach Kevin Eastman's DVD on quality skill development. As always, you can discuss this and many more coaching topics at the X's and O's of Basketball forum.

I decided to pick this play from the various clips even though Iowa lost the game because I've seen some questions lately about how to play against teams that are really putting a lot of ball pressure on the perimeter. In these situations, I like to bring the players up high and then go backdoor as most times the defense is over committed. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.


This was one of the first plays run in the game, as you can see the score is 0-0 just after 1 minute of play. Bradley really played great defense in this game and they would eventually win by about 10. I like Coach Todd Lickliter though, the new coach at Iowa. His teams at Butler always executed very well in the half-court and I really enjoy watching good execution.

Anyways, here is the play,

I'm not 100% sure this play is run out of the box set, but it appears to be. It could be a 1-4 high set. In any case, one of the guards goes to the corner, O3 in this case will come off a downscreen and come to meet the ball from O4.

Give and go, backdoor:

Pretty simple, O5 comes up and sets the upscreen for O1 who goes backdoor and gets the pass back from O3 and lays it up.

I think against teams that are chest-to-chest and hard-deny, you want to bring your players up high so that passes are easier to make against the pressure. Then go to the open part of the court underneath taking advantage of the overplay and making the pressure work against the defense.

The other option against aggressive pressure is to go with a 1-4 low. In that case, you basically have 1-on-1 with your best dribble-drive. The 1-4 low is also good at nullifying the pressure by flattening out the defense, but I don't like the 1-4 low as much because the defense is sitting in the lane waiting for you. So more often than not you will settle for a midrange semi-contested shot.

If you're interested in learning more about the box set and plays run out of the box, you should take a look at Kelvin Sampson's DVD on the Box Continuity set. Thanks for reading, enjoy the holidays. Check out all the coaching discussions going on at the X's and O's Basketball forum.

I made this clip out of the Sportscenter highlights because I think the Southern Illinois Salukis and by extension Coach Chris Lowery are the perfect example of a team that has become extremely good almost entirely through their defense. You look at their lineup and only one of their players was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school. They lost 61-58 to number one seed Kansas last year in the sweet sixteen. I don't want to over-generalize, but it is a heck of alot easier to coach and win when you have the athletes. Watch the clip and continue reading below,

Most of you coaches are heading into the season under these same circumstances as the Sakulis. A lucky few have the athletes and from that there will be many options for you. For most others, the way to win and achieve success is through defense. It must be through defense as that is the only area where you can nullify your opponents talent advantage. The sloppier the game, the more physical and scrappy it is will be to your advantage, much like the Sakulis.

Now, obviously you can't be completely void of all talent and ability (if you are, I've been there before as well). But what you absolutely must have is a dedicated group of players that have the right work ethic. Because good defense requires hard work. They must be willing to go through tough practices, lots of conditioning and footwork drills and most importantly they must all buy into the goal of winning through relentless defense. Your players must be more disciplined than your opponents to negate all their advantages.

The key to the Salukis defense is simple, all out ball pressure on the perimeter. They don't give you an inch and they stop all penetration. They also work extremely well together behind the play to help and recover. Their games are usually in the 50s and they usually only score 60 themselves. Though they do trap and double, they don't rely much on zone traps or presses, they are almost exclusively half-court M2M with traps set on the sideline.

Looking for more defensive drills to help turn your program around? Take a look at Coach Chris Lowery's DVD on his essential defensive drills. Coach takes you through 2-on-1 breakdowns for transition defense, working his way through to 5-on-5. Coach Lowery has taken his Salukis to the NCAA tournament each of the past 3 years since he has been head coach. Get your hoops talk fill with other coaches by going to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

Chris Lofton tries to break an early season slump

One of my fellow writers at published an article today on the early season struggles of Chris Lofton at Tennessee. This had me thinking as coaches about the different approaches to the situation.

Shooting is just one of those things that sometimes will go south for some unknown reason, often at the worst of times. I think in many instances, when players are slumping with their shot, it's a mental thing. They're thinking about it too much. And when you think too much, you tend to hesitate which makes things even worse.

So sensitive it can be, that sometimes as a coach you don't even want to talk about it. Because by talking about it, again it puts more pressure to perform, you don't want to jinx your own players. It's like when someone has a phobia, the more you talk that person about it, the more nervous they get. It's sometimes easier to not talk about and just try to shoot your way out of it.

I remember our best player last year got into a shooting slump, in the first game of our season ending tournament. We managed to win our first game, despite a terrible shooting effort where he only scored 4 points. We survived another game using our tenacious defense, but in the semifinal game, it finally caught up with us. Over that three-game stretch, our best player had his worst shooting stretch that we've ever seen. It wasn't anything mechanical, he just wasn't hitting shots he was hitting all year. Finally, in our consolation game, he was hitting everything, 3s, midrange, teardrop. It was a little late, but still we ended our season on a positive note.

Anyways, I know it's a slow news day on Thanksgiving but thought I would throw this out there in case anyone has any thoughts on this subject. Take a look at Ray Allen's tips on becoming a better shooter. Also, Coach Steve Smith's new DVD on team shooting drills is worth a look.

For all you aspiring forwards and centers, please watch Kevin Garnett here in this play. Posting up and scoring in the low block is always easier when you catch the defense in that momentary lapse as they are getting back on defense. It is infinitely more difficult once the defense has settled in. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Now, this early offense is following a made basket. You see all 5 players getting down the court right away, running their lanes. O2 and O3 are out wide setting up at the ball-side wing, and weak-side corner. O4 is the first one down the court and looks to post up right away. O5 is the trailer.

The beauty of good early offense is that there are infinitely more easy options to score. Garnett gets the ball down low and his defender barely moves. Now, X5 comes down to double team him but it's not a hard trap. So Garnett does a quick turn around mini-hook shot. Notice O3 is wide open in the corner which was another option Garnett could've gone to.

Coach Roy Williams has a great DVD on his Secrets of the UNC secondary Break. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

Caught this from the highlights tonight. This play is from the Illinois/Oklahoma St. game tonight at the Maui Invitational. I think against a M2M team that isn't switching, it can really create some problems as you'll see. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

That's why video is such a cool thing. If I just diagrammed this play, you would probably say, it looks good on paper but in real life, the defense will just play over top of the screen and you'd never get that open 3-pointer. But as you can see in the video, it does work. It works so well in fact that X2 and X3 get crossed up at the mesh point (the point where O2 and O3 meet) and bump into each other. Then they get screened out by the forwards.

X4 actually does a heads up play and switches to try to closeout on O2 the shooter but its obviously too late here.

If you want to learn more about the Illinois 5 man motion offense, take a look at Bruce Weber's DVD on his motion offense. Hope you enjoy your turkey tomorrow and afterwards check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops.

Duke Inbounds for 3-pointer

If your team is inbounding the ball, one of the things you can look for as an audible, is whether or not the inbounder is being defended. If not, the pass back could yield a wide open shot as was the case from last night's game between Duke and Illinois. This will happen when teams pack the paint looking to defend the easy layup, and give up the inbounder instead. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Duke starts out in a basic box set, standard in many inbounds play. Jon Scheyer, O1, the inbounder realizes that his defender is all the way in the paint, protecting the basket, this is his key to call an audible.

O4 pops out to the wing and receives the inbounds from O1. Seeing that his defender is still protecting the basket, O1 quickly goes to the corner after the pass.

O4 passes the ball back to O1 who has setup for the 3-pointer. X1 tries to closeout, but is too far away and too late. Scheyer lets the 3-point shot go and nails it.

Remember, you want to key on the inbounds defender. If that player is not defending the inbounds, that is your key that you can run a quick pass back to the inbounder for an open shot.

From looking at the video, it appears that X1 was designed to protect the basket. In my opinion, I've always like straight up M2M on inbounds. Though I think it is important to protect the paint, I think you have to rely on your players to play solid M2M. I'd rather give up a contested shot in the paint than a wide open 3-pointer.

For a great video on defense and rebounding, take a look at Tom Izzo's DVD on drills for M2M defense and rebounding. Happy Thanksgiving and be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to get your hoops talk fill.

Watched most of the game between Marquette and Oklahoma St. earlier today. Marquette won the game mostly through good half-court execution and a solid defensive effort. This particular play I like very much because it's a handoff play (my most recent fascination). It's also run out of the box set which I know from some of you coaches out there like very much. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.


My personal opinion is that you run the box set when you have forwards who are athletic but not particularly skilled low post players. Much like a flex, there are plenty of screen the screener action you can run out of it. We ran it one year and I was quite satisfied with the results.

The setup for this particular play is your typical box set. Your guards are setup on opposite corners, your PG is up top.

O3 sets a cross screen for O4 who cuts high to the wing but just above the 3-point line. O5 sets a stationary screen from the low block where O2 cuts under and comes around. After O1 passes the ball to O4 at the wing, he cuts towards the opposite wing, O3 does the same after setting his screen heading towards the corner.

Handoff and attack:

O2 comes to receive the handoff pass from O4 and curls around the screen of O4. At this point, there are a number of options that O2 can do.

If O2 is open, especially if his defender cheats underneath, he can take the 3-pointer. Otherwise, O5 is setting the upscreen and O2 can attack the hoop, which he does in this case. O1 and specifically O3 drag to the wing and corner respectively. If O2 cannot score of the layup or dunk, he can kick it out to O3 for the 3-pointer which he does in this case.


I like the box set a lot. It's very versatile in what you can run out of it. I watched a few highlights from the MSU/UCLA game tonight and MSU ran a nice box play using flex screens, the defense forgot to switch and the forward got an easy basket.

I'm also a big fan of the handoff. It's a very deceptive play and can really create problems for defenses whether it is M2M or zone. Marquette uses the dribble weave extensively as well.

There are a few Tom Crean videos worth looking at, Coach Crean has released a 4-pack that includes his post/perimeter drills, game action drills, competitive drills and setting the tone for the season DVDs all in one convenient package. There are Tom Crean notes in the downloads section of the X's and O's of Basketball forum so be sure to check them out as well.

While aggressive M2M defense is at the core of Ben Howland and the Men's UCLA basketball team, aggressive M2M defense is the heart of the Kathy Olivier and the Women's UCLA basketball team as well. The UCLA women's team doesn't quite have the recruits yet, but their defense is going to allow them to win most games this year, so far they are out to a quick 2-0 start. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Now, I realize that Cal-Poly isn't the toughest of opponents, and that UCLA doesn't have the quickness to stay with a team like Stanford. But defense is defense. If you work hard, closeout, and get chest-to-chest with your check, you will limit your opponents open looks. I really like how the UCLA defenders are all denying 1 pass away and forcing the dribblers baseline then cutting off the penetration. Also, they get their hands in the passing lanes and get a ton of deflections.

And just like the UCLA men's team, just because you play M2M defense, doesn't mean you won't force turnovers and steals.

The new DVD from coach Geno Auriemma on the Four Cornerstones of Half-court Defense is really a must see, regardless of whether you are coaching men or women. As usual, check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes.

Duke's Backdoor Zone Buster

As the high school season gets ready to start for many of you, inevitably a hot topic for most coaches are zone offense sets and things to run. Watching Duke highlights this morning I found a couple of clips from Sportscenter showing a nice backdoor screen and cut by Duke that worked on more than one occasion in their win over Princeton. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Remember, with the zone, the defense is reacting to the ball. So everyone jumps to the ball. So, one of the ways to beat the zone is to reverse the ball and go behind the defense to go backdoor.

A couple of things to note,

- Spacing, you must have good spacing against the zone or the defense will be able to guard more players at the same time while still jumping to the ball.

- Ball movement, I would say a minimum of 3 passes everytime you play against a zone. You can't be effective against the zone unless you move the ball.

- Back picks, the back pick almost always works against the zone because they defenders are watching the ball and not the man. When O4 comes up to set the back pick on X4, X4 doesn't have enough time to react before it's already too late.

If your a fan of Duke basketball and you want to know everything about the way their zone offense works, then you need to take a look at Mike Krzyzewski's DVD on Attacking the Zone. For more great basketball discussions, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball forum.

While it is true that many of the NBA teams have resorted to 1-on-1 play with little semblance of a true offensive set or team basketball, there are a few teams that still play basketball the right way. The Utah Jazz are one of those teams. Many times you'll watch an NBA game and 1 guy will have the ball, and 4 guys are standing there watching. Not the case with Utah. They are always moving, cutting to the basket, setting off-ball screens, making the defense guard them. In this clip, you'll see a sequence where the Jazz start out 4-out 1-in and run through a variety of options before Carlos Boozer takes it into the paint for an And1 play. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.


This starts out very much like Bo Ryan's Swing offense, the emphasis is to get the ball into the post, O5, where Carlos Boozer is nearly unstoppable against 1 defender.

Once the ball gets into the post, Boozer can choose to make a move and score. O2 comes and sets an upscreen for O1. Instead of scoring, Boozer decides to pass it to Deron Williams, O1. Now lets give NJ credit, they actually play pretty good M2M defense as Jason Kidd cuts off the baseline drive on Williams.

Now on the weak-side, Andrei Kirilenko cuts hard to the basket looking for the pass. He doesn't get it so he circles back out.

Next, Deron Williams passes back to Carlos Boozer who has popped out to close to the elbow.

Now, again you'll notice that always everyone is cutting and filling. Nobody is idle. So after Deron passes the ball, he goes back to the corner and circles back up to the wing. O2 now moves to fill the top of the key. O3 is at the free-throw line and does a basket cut looking for the pass, doesn't get it so clears out.

In this final sequence, Andrei Kirilenko, O4, comes and sets a quick ball-screen and rolls to the basket. Boozer doesn't really use the screen but it works somewhat anyways and he just does a quick hop step into the paint and baby hooks it and gets fouled to boot.


If you're looking for some drills to help with the 4-out 1-in, take a look at a few breakdown drills I wrote about earlier. When you watch good players run this kind of motion offense, it looks really tight. It's easy to see why Jerry Sloan is the longest tenured head coach in the NBA, his players play the game the right way. They pass the ball, the move well, and they get good shots. And in case you are wondering, Utah did win this game handily 102-75.

There are plenty of notes on motion offense principles but I would highly recommend taking a look at coach John Carrier's notes, he does a great job breaking down the many options out of a 4-out 1-in, he's a guru of the offense. You can find them at the X's and O's Basketball forum. For video instruction, one video worth taking a look at for sure is Jay Wright's DVD on Breakdown Drills for the 4-out Motion Offense. Coach Wright is the highly successful coach at Villanova, currently ranked 20th in the latest AP Poll (Nov 19, 2007).

Jumping the Ball-screen

I took some clips from this women's basketball game that I watched a part of between UC Santa Barbara and Loyola Marymount. While there are many ways you can defend against your vanilla ball-screen, UCSB showed how the jump technique can really work well if executed properly. I personally like the trap, but the jump has that element of surprise which can really mess the offense up pretty good as seen here. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

What happens here is that the dribbler does not attack the ball-screen hard. She kind of straddles the screen. The jump technique by the screener's defender works really well here because the dribbler has not committed fully to using the screen so by attacking the dribbler, that moment of indecision results in the turnover.

It's a safe play because the jump happens on the perimeter where the offense is not really a threat to score.

For an old video but a good one from one of my favorite coaches, Geno Auriemma's DVD on 8 essential defensive drills is a good one to look at for defensive ideas for your practice. As usual, check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes.

This is a nice clip from Sportscenter on Luke Walton and his recent fascination with the in between the legs pass. He did it again yesterday against the Bulls on a fast break, a nice one by the way in which all 5 players touched the ball.

Though I don't advocate using the in between the legs pass, I think in the greater picture, the bounce pass is a great pass to use because I think it gets the ball to the offensive player in a better position many times than a straight pass. Here is the edited clip,

If you're looking for more passing specific drills to use in your practices, take a look at Ganon Baker's DVD on passing drills. Get your hoops talk fill with other coaches by going to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

The Louisville Cardinals played today and I had the chance to take some clips from the vaunted Rick Pitino pressure defense. In most cases, they ran a 2-2-1 sideline matchup press. What I really wanted to show in the video is that when you run a full-court press, the goal isn't always necessarily to get steals. There is a mis-conception that steals are the only goal of running a full-court press. When you run full-court pressure, it forces the opposing team to speed up their play and make decisions they wouldn't normally make without pressure. Just because a team has "broken" the press doesn't mean they will actually score. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Before I draw up one example from the clips, here are the points of emphasis,

1. Forces bad shots. If you are a pressure team, you'll know from experience that good pressure will force the opposing team to take bad shots in transition. The reason for this is once the press is broken, teams are always taught to "make the defense pay". Well, this usually means taking a 3-pointer on the run, or in the video, a jumper with 3-defenders on him.

2. Forces bad passes. This is the most important one. Most teams will break your press with a fast dribbler, a Leandro Barbosa type player. Problem is, most of the time when they play top speed, they are out of control. If you're the defensive team, out of control is good, out of control means throwing the ball away. In the video, there are 2 plays that almost seem like deja vu. Also, you'll see on the inbounds, pressure just makes the offense make bad plays they wouldn't normally make.

3. Creates steals. Most obviously, a good pressure team will get plenty of steals off of all of the above.

Pitino's 2-2-1 Matchup Press:

On the surface, it appears to be your average 2-2-1 press, but it's much more than that, it's a matchup press in that in addition to maintaining the 2-2-1 form, they also man up.

So each player has a man, but must also trap in the traditional trapping zones of a 2-2-1. So when O4 comes down from the sideline, X4 must pickup.

Trap Sideline, force reversal:

Once the ball has been inbounded to the sideline, X4 and X1 are suppose to trap the defender there. You see this many times in the video. This will rarely result in a play for the defense, but forces the offense to reverse the ball back to the safety.

Once the ball goes to the safety, the offense has the option to dribble out to the other sideline/middle or complete the ball reversal to the other side. In this case, X1 and X3 go to trap O3.

Take away middle, force cross-court:

Each defender has picked up a man, but since this is a pressure defense with two players trapping, one offensive player is left open, O2 on the other side of the court.

This is where we want the offense to throw the ball to. X2 is actually defending 2 people, O2 and and O1 in the middle. Since O1 is more of a threat, X2 is mostly covering O1. If the pass is attempted to O2, X2 will move while the pass is in the air to recover to O2. In this case, the pass was long and the result is a turnover.


Remember, the goal of your press shouldn't always be a steal. Pressure defense is more about forcing the team to play at a tempo that they aren't normally used to. They will take bad shots, they will throw the ball away, that is just human nature. People get uncomfortable when hurried. Looking at the boxscore, Jackson St. turned the ball over 16 times, while Louisville picked up just 5 steals. Looking at that box score you wouldn't think that the pressure defense made a big difference but it shows up in more ways than the boxscore indicates.

Rick Pitino released a VHS tape on his pressure defense over 10 years ago which hasn't made it to DVD yet. If you're looking into more pressure defense ideas, Coach Bruce Pearl's new DVD called the Encyclopedia on pressure defense has plenty to offer in most pressure systems. As usual, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

I was watching the Washington vs Utah game the other night and this inbounds play was one that stuck out in my mind. It's a pretty neat play because it's almost like a peekabo play, which door will they choose. It's good because it's a really safe play and has a few counters which should give you some options to score off of. As I've posted before, I would rather have an inbounds that is extremely safe even if it doesn't score as much as another play.


Since Washington doesn't really number their guards, basically either of the guards can inbounds the ball. The three forwards are lined up along the side of the key facing the sideline ball-side.

Now, since the defense will be playing inside the key, to protect the basket, your forwards will basically pivot away then meet each other foot-to-foot. The timing is important because they must wait for O1 to come through before screening. O5 does a fake like he will also screen then cuts to the basket and seals the defender looking for the quick hitter. If X1 cheats and goes low, O2 should lob it over X1's head to O1.


There are many counters you can run, but this is a basic counter that I saw Washington run. What happens is you have O5 and O4 set the screen low side instead. So O1 fakes high, then goes low.

O3 will fake to screen and cut to the basket looking for the quick hitter. On either the initial or counter play, the O1 guard was open usually for a jumper if he chose to take it, in this case Justin Dentmon or Venoy Overton.

For more information, there is a Winning Hoops DVD with over 70 baseline inbounds plays. There are tons of inbounds stuff uploaded at the X's and O's Basketball Forum so be sure to take a look and see what is there.

When going through highlights tonight, I found this clip interesting in the game between the Pacers and Jazz. What it shows is the need for proper communication on defense. In this case, the 2 defenders get in each other's way as the offensive players cross. This allows the split second for Mike Dunleavy Jr. to shoot his deadly 3-pointer. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

In this play here, Mike Dunleavy Jr. comes underneath teammate Shawne Williams for the spot up 3-pointer. Their defenders get crossed up because they haven't communicated with each other.

Now, since Dunleavy Jr. is a good shooter, I would've recommended that Gordan Giricek and Ronnie Brewer switch on the fly to make sure that he didn't get the ball. Actually, I think even if they didn't switch, because Brewer is late getting to the spot, it gets worse when Giricek gets in his way. Basically, you need to know who the shooters are on the other team, and communicated to make sure you don't leave them open. In this case, the cross mesh caused a momentary lapse which led to just enough time for Dunleavy to hit the open 3-pointer.

I watched some games last year with a local varsity high school team. They were one of the top teams and on defense, they always communicated. You could see players constantly talking, pointing, and helping each other out. True team defense requires that each and every person on the team is on the same page, that everyone knows what the goals are going into each game. Sometimes it's to double the post, or stopping baseline penetration, or making sure the opposing team's best shooter doesn't get the ball.

If your looking for some defensive drills and ideas for your team to use in practice, take a look at the latest 5Star DVD on Defensive Philosophy and drills. Some good ideas to help you develop a team identity on defense and to focus on specific team goals going into each game.
Feel the need to talk hoops, check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to get your hoops fill.

I don't claim to be an expert in human kinetics but I do know that the old method of static stretching is going by the wayside with more and more people adopting the dynamic stretching methods. This was taken from a set of notes on a sample dynamic workout that you can use. We use this for our JV team before every practice and game. It is designed to get the blood going and engage the basketball specific muscles. You use the width of the court to perform each exercise going one way and back each time. It's supposed to only take 5 minutes to do.

1. Quarter-speed jog/Back pedal

2. Toe walk/Heel walk - a toe walk is when the athlete completing extends onto their toes and a heel walk is when the athlete pulls the toes back to the shins

3. Skip forward/Skip Backward

4. Forward Lunge/Backward Lunge – in the forward lunge the athlete should ensure the knee does not extend beyond the toes and the knee of the back leg should be inches above the floor

5. Half-speed defensive slides – the athlete should attempt to stay low and slow to warm-up the groin area, ensure the legs are apart and do not bob up and down

6. Half-speed jog/Back pedal – the athlete should attempt to reach slightly back with the legs when doing the back pedal

7. Carioca – the athlete starts perpendicular to the sideline. If the athlete begins with their right foot – the right foot crosses over in front of the body and then the next step with the right foot goes behind the body

8. Crossover step – the athlete starts perpendicular to the sideline. If the athlete begins with their right foot on every step with the right foot the right knee comes up and across the body then the athlete completes several short steps and again the right knee comes up and across the body

9. Front step-over/Reverse step-over – the athlete moves forward bringing the right leg across the left leg and then the left crosses over the right

10. Three quarter sprint/Back pedal – the athlete should attempt to reach back more aggressively with the legs when doing the back pedal

11. Three quarter speed defensive slides – again the athlete should attempt to stay low on these defensive slides to warm-up the groin area

12. High knees/Butt kicks – the athlete runs across the floor bringing the knees up and the heels to the butt as quickly as possible and then on the way back the athlete points the knees down and brings the heels to the butt as quickly as possible

13. Frankenstein walk – this is a walk to increase the dynamic flexibility of the hamstring muscles; the athlete extends the arms straight in front and kick a straight leg up to meet the hands

14. Straight leg bound – the athlete pushes hard off the ball of the foot and extends straight legs forward moving quickly across the floor

15. Full speed sprint/Back pedal – the athlete should attempt to reach back with the legs, as far as possible, when doing the back pedal

I posted earlier with some Alan Stein tips and video. Check out Alan Stein's DVD on active warmups, with a price of only $29.99, it's all the more reason to pick it up. There are few Alan Stein clinic notes you can download from the X's and O's Basketball Forum so be sure to go and check it out.