I watched a Championship summary the other day of the Kansas Jayhawks and their remarkable journey this past season to become the 2008 National Champions. Watching the final game live and the way Kansas beat Memphis in overtime was of course unbelievable. But hearing Bill Self recount the moments and the pre-game and post-game speeches were really great to watch and listen to.

I put together the pre-game speech by Coach Bill Self, and a couple of clips Self describing his emotions and what he was telling his team during the comeback from 9 points down with 2 minutes to go, and finally the post-game speech. Here it is,

I know in the past, on some coaching staffs I've been on that went on to the Championship game where we've probably added more pressure than was necessary, that actually was a detriment and made the players more nervous. That is why I love the pre-game speech message by Coach Bill Self so much. Instead of filling up the players' heads with all kinds of hype, overly sentimental gestures, and piling on the pressure of winning, he simply thanked them, thanked them for fulfilling a coach's dream. I like how in this critical moment, just before the big game, Coach Self let his players know how much each of them meant to him and reminded them to simply have fun and cherish the moment. There's nothing worth laboring so hard for if you can't enjoy the process. After all, it is just a game.

In the commentaries in between, I completely agree with Coach Self. I believe that in order to win it all, especially in a one and done situation, it requires a measure of luck. When his team was down 9, he simply reminded everyone to relax. When they were within 4, there were no slumped shoulders, just a quiet confidence.

Finally, his post-game speech was terrific. I especially like where Coach Self said how winning isn't even the most important part. But what was important was to remember how tough the journey was that it took to get to the mountaintop. It was especially the case for the Kansas team with all starters being seniors, it wasn't a 1-year sideshow, it was a multi-year journey from freshman to senior. They certainly did it the right way.

I watched the first half of the game between the San Antonio Silver Stars and Phoenix Mercury tonight in the WNBA and it was a pretty good thumping by the Stars over the Mercury. The Mercury's defense had problems from the get go and they could never get on track the rest of the way.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've used a lot of zone defense on teams that I've coached. But the more and I think about it, I would not use the zone as my base. The Mercury use a matchup zone as their base, then they'll switch to a M2M on occasion (usually when the zone isn't working). But once they switch to M2M, you see them struggle with defending plays like the PNR. Watch this clip with the Mercury first in a zone, then twice in M2M, and the Silver Stars take advantage of the defensive weaknesses each time,

Zone Defense Breaks Down:

The Mercury use a 3-2 matchup zone mostly as their base. It's not a bad defense, but like most zones, there are inherent weaknesses. Here, the Silver Stars use a high-low to get the ball inside, then go back outside for the open 3-pointer. The way the zone is designed, ball-oriented, notice how both the top zone defenders turn and look at the offensive player with the ball,

M2M Problems on the PNR:

My theory, is that because the Mercury use a zone defense as base, when they switch to a M2M, they get all crossed up. On the PNR, the Mercury are trying to hedge the screen here, but on the backside they can't decide if they want to rotate or play straight up. If they're suppose to be straight up, as I've pointed out, the defense is playing to far out. If they're suppose to rotate, it comes too late.

The Silver Stars shot lights out tonight which is kind of out of character for them. I don't think it's a coincidence that they found their stroke against the confused Mercury defense, I think we all agree it's much easy to make shots when you're wide open.


I've written about this before, but I think the Mercury have been scouted as to how they played last year. Teams know to force them to play half-court where they become impatient and take a lot of ill-advised 3-pointers. The zone defense they use as a base continues to be problematic. I'm not sure that there is time left in the season to correct their deficiencies.

For some more great M2M defensive drill info, check out Jamie Dixon's DVD on his 10 Point Shell Drill. 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.

One of the areas that we as coaches always look to improve on is how to handle pressure, whether it is full court presses in the open court, or half court traps on the perimeter. Because if your guards aren't ready to play against pressure, then your team won't even have the chance to get into all that stuff you've practiced for your half-court offense and early offense.

In this short video clip, Coach Tobin Anderson demonstrates how your guards can beat the double-teams and the pressure. Take the trap low, take the trap wide, then rip and pivot.

Obviously if the player is a forward or center and is much taller than the players trying to double-team, he should look to go over the top. But if it's a guard who is of equal or lower height, get low and pivot. Move the defense, then look to either pass out or split the double team,

The absolute worst thing is to turn your back. Once you do that, you have no way of seeing the players in front of you. Also, if you still have your dribble, make sure your players know how to effectively use change of speed to crab dribble then explode.


I've seen teams spend a whole week of practice on their press offense, but zero on the fundamentals of playing against pressure. Press offense is great when you know exactly what your opponent will use. What happens when you play against a team with a different trap or press? Spend another week preparing another press offense? More than any press break, teaching your players how to react to pressure, what to do when they see a double-team coming and making good decisions will ultimately lower your turnover rate more than any press offense.

For more drills and skill development info specific to guard play against pressure, check out Bruce Weber's DVD on press break fundamentals. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.

I went through some video from this past college season and one of the things that came up more than a few times was the flex offense that Tennessee used especially late in games like in the win over then number one Memphis and that thrilling win over Butler to get to the sweet sixteen. I remember Chris Lofton getting a lot of 3-pointers and Tyler Smith getting some great low post position. I also went through some notes and came across a detailed breakdown of what Assistant Coach Jason Shay was calling their "Modified Version of the Flex Offense". Here is an edited version of the notes:

The University of Tennessee's fast break wants to put 3 players on the baseline as fast as we can so that we can put maximum pressure on the opponents transition defense after a made or missed shot. As we get set into our 4-out 1-in modified flex offense, and player movement. The result of this offense should lead to penetrating passes to cutters and screener step-ins for scores. The key is to occupy help defenders through ball movement and keep them busy chasing their man, eventually losing sight of the ball.

Early Offense:

To get into the offense, 3 players in this case 2, 3, and 5 sprint to the baseline as fast as they can with a post rim run to the ball side block. The 1 can push the ball up either side of the floor. 5 fills the ball-side block. Passing will help teams advance the ball up the floor quicker than dribbling it. The trail post will fill opposite the point guard. The first option is to advance pass the ball to the 5 if he can beat the other team down the floor,

With the 2 wings out wide and below the free throw line, the 1 can advance pass to 3 or skip pass to 2 for a shot, a post entry or a drive,

Ball Reversal:

This offense is predicated on the ball changing sides of the floor. The ball must be swung from side-to-side. If he cannot advance the ball up the floor, 1 drives the ball into scoring range and quickly reverses it to 4 or skips it to 2,

Another way to reverse the ball is for 4 to set a transitional ball screen or v-cut into the key area. When the ball changes from one side of the floor to the other, there is a baseline flex screen in which the 5 will set a backscreen for 3. When he catches the ball, the 4 will look for the cutter (3) or screener (5). The screener has the option to step-in and seal, or step-out. If he doesn't receive the ball, 5 must step-out to keep the floor balanced and stay within the framework of the offense.

After making the pass, the 1 will step out behind the ball for an outlet and a quick ball reversal. By stepping 1 out immediately, 4 has four available receivers. In theory, 1 and 4 should pass back and forth up front while 2, 3 and 5 could set the baseline screens,

Down Screen:

1 also can down screen like true flex. If the screener is your best shooter or playmaker and a post is up top, he can downscreen for the guard to come up and look to attack,

On a forward to guard pass, 4 to 2, there is a backside exchange, occupying the help-side defenders. The 4 steps out towards the sideline for the outlet and a quick ball reversal. 3 has a primary post isolation opportunity with no weak-side help,


I'm a big fan of the flex offense as a base offense to use for any team as it both reinforces the basic offensive fundamentals and because it is as true of an equal opportunity offense as it gets. Now obviously, at the higher levels you want to adjust it to your team's offensive strengths, whether that is in the post or on the perimeter.

As for Tennessee, with the loss of Chris Lofton I think Coach Bruce Pearl will continue to use the Flex offense and probably even more now that Lofton is gone. Their biggest weakness will be their backcourt, so the flex will allow them to get into their offense quickly without depending on a playmaking guard to initiate.

If you're a Tennessee or Bruce Pearl fan like me, then you'll want to check out the Tennessee 2-pack DVD on Player Development. Assistant Coach Jason Shay goes through a lot of their skill development drills that they use in Tennessee. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

What a final match. It had everything, drama, suspense, passion, both teams played unbelievable, put everything out there and in the end, Team USA was just a little better, barely. Though defensively, both teams could've have played better, I felt that Spain really couldn't have done any more to stop Team USA, and Team Spain were hitting some unbelievable shots that Team USA couldn't have defended any better.

Obviously, the big plays in the 4th quarter were the 4-point play by Kobe Bryant and 3-pointer by Dwyane Wade with 2 minutes to go and up by 4. Though in my opinion I thought Lebron James was the key to the win. Bryant got the scores, but I felt Lebron made all the big clutch plays even though they probably didn't get noticed much.

Hustle on Defense and Offense:

With 5 minutes to go and Team USA up by 9, this was one of those sequences where you look back and say, this could've been a potential 4 point swing either way. Thankfully for Team USA it went their way. First, after a Team Spain miss, and a battle for the defensive board, the ball is tipped by Dwight Howard. It should've gone out of bounds but Lebron chases the loose ball and saves it to his teammate,

Then Lebron runs the floor, gets the ball and goes up for the laypup. He misses, but gets the offensive rebound and goes up strong and scores, Team USA stretches the lead to 11,

High Post Zone Offense:

When Coach K put Lebron in the game at that high post position against the zone, that was a key tactical substitution. Once Lebron got the ball in the high post, the defense must respect his ability to attack the rim with 1 dribble or less. Watch as 3 Spanish defenders converge on Lebron, he gets one dribble off then pitches it out to an open Dwyane Wade who hit that huge 3-pointer that put the game away,

Defensive Rebounding:

Rebounding wins games. In a game where the bigger Spanish team actually outrebounded Team USA 37-31, it's WHEN you get the rebounds that matter. After Team Spain misses a 3-pointer, you can see Pao Gasol actually try to push Lebron who has position to get the rebound. Lebron doesn't budge, skys for the rebound and pulls it down. Danger averted,


Team USA were never really in a tight game going into the 4th quarter prior to this game so we never knew how they would respond or who they would go to. Now we know. Kobe and Lebron made the big plays down the stretch and one has to wonder if they win this game without them. It was a well-deserved win for Team USA and Team Spain played their guts out, fighting and clawing their way for every basket. It was fitting that the best game of the tournament was also the Gold medal game, the way it's supposed to be.

For more great winning strategies from a truly great basketball mind, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on Playbook for Success. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and other basketball topics.

Many of you have heard a lot of buzz recently about the new Read and React Offensive System, which was created by Rick Torbett from Better Basketball. Some very respectable coaches, including 2008 NCAA Champion Bill Self from Kansas University, have been raving about it. Coach Torbett has written some articles on the offense, and I wanted to share with you three very interesting points from one of his articles. Here's the excerpt:

"In the mid-to-late-90’s, after nearly twenty years in coaching, three incidents came together to create a turning point in my entire approach towards offense, developing players, and building teams:

1. Using the previous season’s videotapes, I charted all the points we scored from free throws, offensive rebounds, fast breaks, set plays, broken plays, etc., and found an unsettlingly ratio. 80% of our points came from broken plays, transition, and other PRINCIPLED basketball. We only scored the way our set plays were designed about 20% of the time. But in practice, the ratio was the opposite: we spent 80% of our offensive time on set plays and less than 20% of the time on PRINCIPLED basketball. I had to ask myself why I was spending 80% of our time on only 20% of our point production?

2. After a rather average season, my assistant coach asked me if I was happy. I replied, “Not particularly.” He asked what I would do differently if I could scrap our entire program and start all over. I said that I would teach our kids how to play the entire game by principle. He then asked, “Why don’t you do it?” The honest answer was: I didn’t know how. I had a lot of pieces, a lot of 2-man and 3-man principles, but not the entire thing. The whole thing seemed like a pretty tall order: to create a seamless offensive system that would encompass transition offense, man-to-man offense, and zone offense without contradiction, and without being limited to only one “set” (5-Out or 4-Out or 3-Out), and without needing a certain type of players, or players ideal for a particular style of play. (Stay tuned, the Read and React Offense does it!)

3. At about the same time, I experienced some success with a team built around six players who played together from 7th grade to 12th grade. We went to the Final 4 their last two years. Were they talented? Yes, but not to the extent you might think. Only two went on to play on the college level. Their real talent was their coordinated effort. They “knew” each other. They moved like a school of fish. Was I responsible for this? Had I suddenly become a coaching genius? No. Our success was due mostly to the fact that they had played together for six years. In fact, each year they were in the program was characterized by fewer plays and more principles."
To read this entire article or learn about the Read and React DVDs, you can visit: http://www.betterbasketball.com/readandreact/articles.html

Two terrific games at the Olympics today in Beijing. First, Spain with the gutsy win over Lithuania in the early game. Then Team USA beating a resilient Argentinian team that almost took it to the Americans without Manu Ginobili who went down in the first quarter with an ankle injury.

A lot of people will point to the apparent phantom foul call by the referee on the 3-point shot by Carmelo Anthony to close out the half as the play that changed the game. Certainly from a momentum standpoint, that halted the ferocious 2nd quarter surge by the Argentinians. But I felt that Team USA came out of halftime with a different mentality on attacking the zone that frustrated them so much in that 2nd quarter. Credit to Coach K for making the necessary adjustments during halftime. Really, the Americans didn't do anything special scheme wise. I saw 1 or 2 nice BLOB plays they used against the zone inbounds, but other than that Team USA just kept to basics to beat the zone.

Early Postup:

Just because it is a zone defense doesn't mean you can't fast break or run an early offense. In fact, one of the best ways to beat the zone is for your forwards to go key to key and gain an early postup advantage. That is exactly what Dwight Howard does here getting very deep postup position in the lane,

Skip Passes:

Probably the most significant change Team USA made coming out of halftime was moving the ball side to side. It's that old hoosiers line "3 passes before you shoot". Nothing fancy here, Team USA is spread in a 4-out 1-in, and they just move the ball from side to side and Dwight Howard is going from block to block. Eventually, there is a breakdown in the zone defense with all the side to side action and allows Howard inside position for the dunk,

Use Pump Fakes:

This is probably just lack of preparation and scouting by Argentina who from what I understand don't like running the zone defense. Here, Scola goes back to play the ball after the pass out from the post to the wing. Kidd receives the ball and gives a head fake, Scola bites on the fake and jumps at him (bad mistake as we all know Kidd can't shoot well), Kidd dumps off a nice bounce pass to Chris Bosh who nails the shot from the short corner,

Offensive Rebounding:

Last but not least, you can almost single handily beat a zone defense if you have great offensive rebounding. Because the defense is playing the ball, it is elementary for your forwards to get underneath the defense and grab the rebounds. In fact Team USA outrebounded Argentina 16-9 on the offensive glass and 43 to 32 overall. Off the 3-pointer miss, Dwyane Wade flies into the open lane and skies to tap the ball back to his teammates,


Zone defenses can work extremely when used by a less athletic team trying to nullify the athletic advantage. Zone defenses can become a killer to beat offensively if your team is undisciplined and makes bad decisions no matter how athletic you are. In the first half, when Argentina reluctantly switched to the zone, that is exactly what happened. Team USA settled for 3-pointers, didn't share the ball and just didn't play smart overall. In the second half, they started to pass the ball, get offensive rebounds, and make smart decisions, and it worked.

Tomorrow, Team USA faces Spain in a rematch of their round robin game. The difference I felt in that game was the toughness factor. Team USA bullied the Spanish players around for 40 minutes and they didn't know quite how to respond. We'll see if Team Spain is up for the challenge. They seemed able to toughen it out against a solid Lithuanian team so who knows.

More info for you coaches on zone offense, this is Ronnie Arrow's DVD on his Inside/Outside Zone Offense. Coach Arrow is the head coach of the University of South Alabama. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Unfortunately I was only able to catch the Spain vs Croatia game last night but thankfully it was a great game. I thought Spain came out fired up early and Croatia could never quite make up the necessary ground after being down 10-1.

One of the things that I like about Spain and especially their forwards and big men is the way they set screens. Specifically Marc and Pao Gasol, we've all seen Pao playing for the Lakers, he does a great job. But Marc does a great job as well, really gets into a nice wide stance. Let's also not forget that it takes 2 to tango. In any screen, on-ball or off-ball, it takes a combination of the screener and mover working together to make it work and Spain does it all very well.

Stay Wide:

Get wide son! Of course, the bigger you are, the wider you can get. Though you don't want to get your feet too much wider than shoulder width. When you have a wide base, you cover more area and your feet are firmly planted. I've watched too many screens where the screener almost had feet together and the defender could easily get around or through the screener.

Be Patient, Shoulder to Hip:

In the previous pictures, there was a gap between screener and mover. Mainly because the defender was playing off their check. You hear as a coach that movers should be shoulder to hip with the screener so that the defender cannot squeeze through. That may not always be the case, especially when the defender is playing off in which case you have to see whether the defense will hedge, trap, or go underneath. However, if the defender is playing 1 hand away or hand on hip, then you definitely want your movers to go shoulder to hip with the screener so that the defender cannot squeeze in between, like so,


Spain moves on to the semi-finals starting tomorrow night to face Lithuania. I suspect Spain to come out and play hard, especially after that tragic plane crash in Madrid today. Those events usually fire up players, gives them more motivation. Lithuania is a very good team, and I think it could very well come down to a last possession in the 4th quarter.

If your a regular at coaching clinics every year, you'll recognize the name Don Meyer. If you want a nice guide to coaching you should check out Don Meyer's new DVD on Basketball the Don Meyer Way. Coach Meyer is the head coach of DivII Northern State University and the second winningest coach in college basketball history. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Now that the games count for real, all the pressure is now on all the remaining 8 teams in Beijing to bring home the bacon, none more than Team USA. After doubling up on Germany, Team USA will face Team Australia in the quarterfinals. Though I expect Team USA to win the game, I don't think they will come anywhere near doubling them up.

Team Australia and Team USA have already played, in the pre-Olympic tournament. In that game, Team USA struggled with Team Australia. I highlighted Team Australia's offense which at the time did not have Andrew Bogut in the lineup. I watched Australia dismantle the top team in Group A, Lithuania, and was extremely impressed with their offense especially. Now, I know that Lithuania had already locked up top spot in Group A and were probably only going about 90%, it was the way they won that impressed me. They didn't get a lot of cheapy fast break points, most of their scoring came from execution off their half-court offense, which will obviously be a major factor in their game against Team USA.

Multiple Sets:

What I like about Australia's offense is their versatility. They're most popular sets are the 2-3 high and 1-2-2 but I've seen them go 4-out 1-in and even 1-4 low. Here is the 2-3 high,

Here is their 1-2-2,

Backdoor Cuts, Give and Gos:

What Australia loves to do out of their set offense is to go backdoor and give and go. So, off their 2-3, their first cut is a flex cut and a look to the cutter. In their 1-2-2, you'll see the forward pops out to receive the pass up top, then looks for the corner wing to go backdoor,

Team USA will really have to be cognizant of the backdoors. Since we expect them to come out with their aggressive man defense, they will be especially vulnerable to getting backdoored, Coach K will remember just this past March when Duke almost lost to Belmont in the first round by getting backdoored.

Inside Out:

The major difference between the pre-Olympic game and tomorrow's game is the presence of Andrew Bogut. With Bogut, the American's have to respect his ability to post up and make plays 1v1. With help from the top, that will allow Australia's many shooters to get open shots,

I think for defensive purposes, Coach K will go with Dwight Howard anytime Bogut is on the floor, so that they won't have to double and have Howard play him straight up. I think both Bosh and Boozer just give up a little too much height to Bogut to cover him 1v1.

Pick and Roll:

Now, the past couple of games against Greece and Spain, we saw Team USA clean up their defensive coverage of the PNR. They'll need to continue to do that, except, they'll need to watch for Australia's shooters. The roll in this case is not as important as defending the pick and pop or just ball-screen for the quick jumper. Australia has some outstanding 3-point shooters that can cause a lot of problems,

Early Offense 3-pointer:

I don't expect Team USA will have too many problems with Australia trying to outrun them, but I highlight this just because it is something that we've seen Australia run on more than one occasion. They like to run 5 guys hard, and Patrick Mills will hit the trailer for the open 3-pointer,

Team USA likes to do this with Michael Redd in a lead position rather than a trailer, but nonetheless, the scouting is report is out there, Australia will shoot these early 3-pointers, and hit them, when open.


In my opinion Australia could very well give Team USA it's biggest test yet and if they go on to win Gold they may look back at this game and feel relieved that they came away with the win. Australia is extremely balanced, they have size and speed. They have toughness, after all it was Patrick Mills who refused to back down from a minor tussle in the warmup game. I think the deciding factor could very come down to whether Team USA can make outside shots and from the free throw line.

Well, it's finally here. For all you coaches out there dying to learn the Walberg Dribble Drive Motion offense from Walberg himself, Vance Walberg's brand new 2-DVD Set on the DDM has finally arrived. Get it today. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

It's middle of August and most of you high school coaches are probably itching to get at it when school starts. Though formal practices are still at least 3 months away, it's never too early to start thinking of skill development drills.

I was looking through some notes the other day and found some gems from a coaches notebook from France. I've seen similar team drill work stuff at a college practice I was at once. The great part of these drills is that if your kids are motivated, they can practice these on their own in open gyms, at the playground, backyard, etc..

2-4 Ball Pass Dribble:

These are great at working hand-eye coordination as well as team work with your partner. You can have 3 sets of pairs, working on different things and after 5-10 minute intervals switch. Best to pair up like players, guards with guards, forwards with forwards,

(a) 2 Balls Back & Forth. Players face each other & with one hand pass the ball back & forth, keeping the ball on the same side.

(b) 2 or 4 Balls Circle around. Players face each other & pass ball with one
hand, catch, skip the ball across to their other hand, then pass.

(c) 2 Balls 1 Bounce & 1 Chest Pass. Players face each other, 1 player
throws a 2 hand chest pass, the other a 2 hand bounce pass. Alternate hands (direction) for all categories.

Station Work:

Here are some more ideas to use in your breakdowns during practices. Working on foot quickness, 1v1 jab series, balance and dexterity. You can specify 3-5 minutes each station then rotate and repeat each drill 2 or 3 times.

1. Player makes quick 2 foot jumps across the line & back working along the length of the foul line. Coach & player pass the ball to & fro. This can progress to the player jumping & passing the ball around the waist as they jump.

2. Player is in triple threat stance and with one lead foot makes as many jab steps as possible. Wrap through the legs next time through.

3. Player stands on one leg and rolls the ball on the floor around the 4 pylons in a figure 8. Swap legs next time through.

4. Player balances on 2 H shaped blocks or workout balls whilst coach passes ball back and forth. The cross beam being a 4cm dowel.


The dribble pass drills are also great during extended warmups, the kind where kids are waiting in the hallways and stuff. I love checking out other coaches practices simply to pick up new drills and stuff. Though I think that in-season it's important not to vary the drills too much so that the kids can commit them to memory and focus on the little things, I do think as coaches, the more drills we can go to, the better.

If you're looking for some more skill development stuff, dribbling drills, etc..., take a look at Tom Crean's new DVD on Dynamic Skills which has some excellent stuff on post skills as well. Coach Crean of course is the new head coach for Indiana University. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

After the first 4 games of the round robin, Team USA is now 4-0 with their most convincing win this time over undefeated Spain. I think Team USA needed to win the game more than Team Spain as Team USA needed to maintain their aura of being undefeated. Overall, I thought the game was played fundamentally different by both teams. Team Spain, relied on their skill while Team USA went with brute force. On this night brute force won, bigtime.

That is not to say that Team USA didn't have skill, they had their best shooting game since the Olympics started. But from the opening tip, Team USA asserted itself physically and I thought Team Spain was a little put off. Team Spain had trouble adjusting to Team USA's physicality and it just wore them down. The top aggressors in my opinion started with Lebron who was just a beast, then Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade followed by Dwight Howard.

Go at the Defense:

How many times do you hear coaches say, "Go at him!". Well, easier said than done. Lucky Team USA has guys like Lebron. I always liked to have a couple of football players on my teams. Because they bring that kind of mentality, they're not afraid of "going at guys" and putting them to the ground. These two plays here happened in the first quarter and I thought they set the tone, they let Team Spain know that "we're here and if you get in our way, we'll go through you",

In this sequence, Chris Paul sees the help defense in the lane but attacks him, not around him. Forget about the charge, just go at the rim and let the referee make the call (the call was defensive block). Once you wear down your opponents, many times they will just get out of the way next time, knowing that you won't hesitate to "go right at him",

In this last sequence, the Spanish defender does successfully take the charge (according to the refs), but took one heck of a shot in the chest by Dwyane Wade. Again, be the aggressor, don't go around the defense, go through them. I can't show the video (IOC and China censors, fight the hypocrisy!!), but if you saw it live like I did, you can bet that guy will think twice about getting in the way of Dwyane next time,

Split the Trap:

We've seen Chris Paul do this many a time in the NBA regular season. Here, he splits the attempted open court double-team going full speed. That's a tough thing to do if you think about it, and you certainly wouldn't fault CP3 if he chose to pull-back and go around. But if you play aggressive and attack the defense, it leads to 3v1 opportunities,


Obviously it was a huge win for Team USA. They finish up the round robin with a meaningless game against Germany (who unfortunately got robbed by the referees against China). They will play Australia in the quarters, then likely Argentina in the semis. If they hit their shots like they were today against the zone, and play aggressive, I don't see anyone that can match them pound for pound. As for Team Spain, they didn't play all out today, they certainly pulled back a little. If they face Team USA in the gold medal game, they have to find more toughness or they'll get tossed like ragdolls like they did today.

It's one of those things you hear over and over, guys working on core strength. If you or your players are looking to get stronger, check out Alan Stein's DVD on Strength & Power Training for just $29.99. Coach Stein is the strength and conditioning coach for Montrose Christian working with the likes of Kevin Durant. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Just finishing watching the first half of the big Team USA win over Greece yesterday at the Olympics in Beijing. What you really noticed from the get go was that Team USA was going to play aggressive in your face defense. They can afford to do that, because athletically they are much better than Greece. They can afford to play chest to chest, gamble on steals, because the risk-to-reward ratio is much lower due to their athletic advantage. Team USA did double and trap a lot in the second quarter, but I think it was mostly just the aggressive ball pressure that disrupted Greece's rhythm preventing them from getting into their offense.

The other major difference, other than the incredible ball-pressure was that when Greece did get into their PNR offense, Team USA did a great job with help side defense then recover on the reversal. That is not to say that they prevented every PNR from scoring, but that they did a much better job than they did in 2006. Offensively, I though Team USA did what they needed to do, though they still struggled from the line and were still inconsistent from beyond the arc. But back to the defense.

Ball Pressure:

From the opening tip, Team USA brought the pressure and never let up. In this opening play, you can see Dwight Howard going chest to chest with his check on the perimeter. I don't know why you don't see this more often, I've always felt that if a forward or center is out on the perimeter to receive the pass, get up in their grill. Make it difficult to pass the ball, disrupt their offense. The reason why they have the forward out there is because of their height, they can pass over the top to cutters going to the basket. So on defense, you should make it as difficult as possible to make that pass, only give them the option of going with a bounce pass to the perimeter instead,

More pressure here. This time on handoffs. Watch here as Dwyane Wade gets in tight to prevent the handoff. If the offense is giving room between the handoff, as a defender you can shoot the gap and prevent the handoff. The downside is that they can play misdirection and go the other way, but Team USA is athletic enough to recover if that were the case. Instead, it prevents the handoff, and the forward is forced to pivot back and look for a wing pass instead, shaving more time off the clock,

When I talked about gambling on defense, here is a great example of that. The ball is in the post, and the other defenders are in help. Deron Williams is in great ball-you-man position but he's anticipating the pass. When the pass is attempted, he jumps it and deflects it. Now, if he fails to get the tip, again, he's quick enough to recover back to his man,

PNR Defense:

Overall, Team USA was consistent in their PNR defense. They would soft-switch to prevent the shot, and bring a help defender to protect the basket. Once the ball was reversed to the open man, they would recover (sometimes giving up a temporary open shot). It was perfect, but I thought it was effective enough, especially given their aggressive on ball pressure which prevented Greece from getting set offensively in the first place. Notice here that Carmelo Anthony is in the lane while his check is actually at the 3-point line. The ball is eventually swung to Melo's check but being the athlete that he is, Melo is able to recover,


The biggest test for Team USA of course is tonight against Spain. However, since both Team USA and Team Spain have secured their spots in the next round, I'm not sure whether either or both will try to show too much of their hand this game, knowing that they will probably face each other in the finals down the line. It's an interesting paradox as a coach, you want to win of course, but do you show all your stuff in the preliminary round? You can go both ways, it's a tough call for sure.

For more on aggressive ball pressure on defense, you should check out Chris Lowery's DVD on Halfcourt M2M Defense. Coach Lowery is the brains behind the Southern Illinois tenacious defense. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

From last night, Croatia beat Russia in Group A action at the Olympics in Beijing in a mild upset. Some of you probably watched it and can conclude as do I that Croatia is probably the best team in Group A and will probably go on to win Group A. I watched Croatia play in the qualifiers last month, especially that great double OT game where they beat Germany.

People who watch Croatia will immediately notice their familiarity with one another. But beyond that, what makes them so good is their shooting. True to the European stereotype of great shooters, this Croatian team is full of sharp shooting snipers. In their win over Australia, they went 12-for-16 from 3-point. In the win over Russia, they went 8-for-15 from 3-point and 25-for-29 from the line. The Croatians run a lot of stagger screens to spring their shooters for catch and shoot situations. They also have a lot of quick draw shooters who are extremely difficult to defend.

The Quick Draw:

At the end of the game against Team Russia, Croatia hit some key 3-pointers down the stretch. Both of these shots below were straight off the dribble. This is one of the key advantages of developing the quick draw, you can get your shot off from the dribble in many cases before the defender can close out. The first one here is from Roko-Leni Ukic. You'll notice that the defender is in decent position, though a little further (ideal position is to be 1 arms length away). If you have a quick draw though, it's not a problem to go from dribble to shot,

In this second crucial shot by Zoran Planinic, you'll notice that the Russian defender actually has his arms down and is also farther than 1 arms length away. With a quick draw, that is as good as a wide open shot,

To be clear, there is a difference between having a quick draw and shooting when half-defended, and just chucking up a quickie. Notice in each of the screenshots above, the player is in their shot pocket before the defender is 1 arms length away. You don't have a quick draw if you're not in your shot pocket before the defender gets to you. Big difference.

So, the question needs to be asked, did Team Russia just play bad defense? In my opinion, no. Ideally, you'd like to be 1 arms length away, but with the threat of the dribble drive, you have to hedge a little, get your arm up but at the same time give a little distance so you won't get dusted. It's a tough decision either way. That is precisely why playing a team full of shooters is scary. Because if they are hitting all their shots, it's almost impossible to defend. Stephen Curry from Davidson this past March proved that much.


If there is any downside to Croatia, it's that they are extremely young. So while they may have great chemistry, will their youth be a detriment to them against an experienced team like Argentina or Lithuania? We'll have to find out. As for Team Russia, I think consistency has been their major deficiency so far. Sometimes they look like world-beaters, then they will make a really bad play or two and erase any gains they just had. If they can put it all together, they are as good as any.

For some great shooting tips from a former great shooter and now head coach at New Mexico, check out Steve Alford's DVD on The Shot. 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 you're wondering why I don't have a Youtube clip as I usually have, you'll have to ask the IOC as they asked Youtube to shut me down. I'm not sure why they think this inconsequential educational blog is a threat to their Olympic brand, but I suppose it's a matter of principle. It is unclear whether my account will be reinstated but I'm appealing it now. Freedom of speech is a myth, big brother is everywhere!!

Watching a recording from the other night in a great matchup between Lithuania and Argentina which Lithuania won with a game-winning 3-pointer. It was a great game and it was a shame it had to come down to 1 shot, but it did. It was a pretty simple play by Lithuania, but poorly defended by Argentina which allowed Lithuania to get an open shot.

One thing you'll also notice that's much different between FIBA and NBA are the timeouts. This is especially evident at end of games. In FIBA, a timeout can only be called from the bench in a dead ball situation. So, if the ball is live (shot miss then rebound), you can't call a timeout, you just keep playing. This is significant because in the NBA, you see all the time when the game is tied, one team shoots, misses, the defense rebounds then timeout. In FIBA, you have to just keep playing.

Why is this significant?? Offensively, in my opinion, it's not such a big issue. Most teams already know what their end of game plays will be, who will take the last shot, the play reads, etc... Defensively, is where it comes into play. First, you can't make substitutions for defensive shut-down specialists. Second, you won't be able to make the necessary adjustments from a timeout situation.

Lithuania 1-4 Low PNR:

So, to set the situation, Argentina had a chance with 30 seconds running a PNR with Manu Ginobili handling the ball. Lithuania hedged the screen, and forced Ginobili to shoot a tough fadaway from near the corner which he missed badly.

Lithuania's end of game play here is very basic. They setup 1-4 low, and O5 comes up to set the screen for the O1. O5 rolls to the basket while O4 comes up to the 3-point line. Argentina's strategy is to play the ball and switch on O5 rolling underneath. X1 gets caught on the low switch and doesn't rotate to O4. O1 finds and open O4 for the open shot,

Argentina's Defensive Lapse:

What really causes the open shot is the defensive lapse. X4 goes to cover O5 rolling to the basket. X1 and X5 are caught in no man's land. It should be X5 on O1 and X1 should rotate to cover O4 earlier but it's too late and it's an open 3-pointer,

It's hard to put the blame on Manu Ginobili (X1) here. Basically they got their lines crossed defensively and got confused with their assignments. They realized that but not before it was too late.


If Team Argentina had a timeout in between offense/defense like they do in NBA, they could've schemed that. But of course, this is FIBA and everyone plays by the same FIBA rules. In my opinion, that's the beauty of the FIBA game, it's much more spontaneous, not so scripted. It's more of a players game where the team that is more focused will have the advantage. In the NBA or NCAA game, coaches have much more control over the game which is good for coaches, but it makes the game much less entertaining to watch for the average viewer.

For a brand new video from a great coach, check out Bob McKillop's new DVD on Winning Special Situations including BLOB and SLOB. Coach McKillop is the head coach of Davidson College whom we all remember for their memorable run in this past year's NCAA Tournament. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

A bunch of great games last night in Beijing. I only watched 3 of the 5 games but all featured great play. I wish I caught the Lithuania vs Argentina game. Anyways, this post is all about Spain vs Greece, probably the most anticipated matchup of the first night. For most of the game, Greece was actually pretty close and they made a great run in the final couple of minutes.

First off, after watching the whole game, it was evident that Spain is the better team. Spain's defense was terrific and their shooting was on as usual. Greece, despite their struggles shooting wise, I thought they played a good all-around game, just not enough to beat Spain on this night. On offense, the Greeks were great at turning Spanish TOs into fast break points, and their PNR offense was still working despite Spain's stifling defense, they just missed some easy lay ins.

I liked what Greece showed defensively. They are a very physical team. In the NBA, most of the stuff would get called as fouls, but in FIBA, you're allowed to bump and impede the offensive player. Pao Gasol, perhaps still used to NBA rules, got knocked out of rhythm a few times. Also, Greece showed they can full-court press anybody, trapping Spain on more than one occasion. And we're not talking about some ordinary guard, they did this against Jose Calderon, and we know that Calderon is one of the better point-guards in the world right now. Here are the full clips, offense in the beginning, defense at the end (apologize for the fuzzy ones at the end, bad satellite feed),

3:25 PST Update: Unfortunately, it seems like the Orwellian Olympic Committee (IOC) doesn't like me posting my usual clips, so you'll just have to take my word for it about Greece's offense and defense...

Be Physical:

I watched that Road to Redemption series earlier in the week and they had a whole segment with Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer talking about the big difference in FIBA allowing physicality. You can bump cutters, contact off the ball is generally not called, and in post defense you are allowed 2 hands in the back of the post-player. Here (fuzzy, I know), the Greek defender basically humps Gasol from behind so hard that it actually dislodges the ball,

Greece's Full-Court Press:

I'm actually very surprised more teams don't full-court press. I know Team USA has a soft 1-man press with Kobe. In FIBA rules, you only have 8 seconds to cross half-court, that 2 seconds less makes a huge difference. As you can see, even your traditional press break of the retreat dribble, reversing the ball and go, isn't enough time to cross in 8 seconds,

Now, having said that, after Greece cut the 20 point lead to 11, they called a timeout. After the timeout, Spain ran a give and go press break that cut right through the press. Still, I think the press is a tactic that can be used with great effectiveness in FIBA rules. We'll have to see how much more we'll see it used in later games.


Everyone is circling the USA vs Greece game as the first big test for Team USA. The key for Team USA is how they defend Greece's devastating PNR offense, hence Coach K stressed it in his press conference earlier in the week. Defensively, that is Team USA's biggest weakness. In watching their game against Australia who ran a lot of high PNRs (like Greece), Team USA did not have a unified strategy on how to defend the PNR. Lebron would hedge, Bosh stayed underneath and Carmelo switched. As for the physicality, expect to see a lot of Howard and Boozer down low against Greece.

For more full-court pressing info, take a look at 2008 NCAA Coach of the Year Keno Davis' DVD on his full court press. Coach Davis is the head coach at Providence College in the NCAA. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.

Its the doldrums of summer, AAU tournaments wrapped up, high school not yet ready, football getting ready. What better to keep your players sharp for the upcoming season than shooting drills. Here are a couple that I found that should be both a good workout and good to improve shooting.

Billy Donovan - Beat Your Favorite Pro:

I've never run this drill before but it really looks like a fun drill. One of those drills that are great for a couple of players (like a coach and a player, or alum and a player) that go on and on until the janitor at the school says "I wanna go home, lights going out now".

1. Start by shooting one foul shot. If you make it you get one point. If you miss the pro gets three.

2. All remaining shots will be game speed jumpshots. Work on different moves and shots. Each time you make a jumper you get one point. Each time you miss, the pro gets two points. Game is played to 11 points.

3. This is a great drill and a super way to
end a workout. Go hard! Get better!

Coach Donovan also adds the point that you can make it a full-court drill as well, for extra conditioning...

Offense to Defense Individual Drill:

Got this drill from some notes from a 5-star clinic where David Adkins was speaking. Coach Adkins has coached at Montrose Christian and DeMatha, both national prep powerhouses. In the words of Coach Adkins:

We use another drill that we call the Nate James Drill. In this drill, the player works on his conditioning and absorbing contact to finish plays around the basket. The player starts the drill with a power lay up and backpedals to simulate transitioning to defense. A chair is placed at the 3 point line. When the player sees the chair in his peripheral vision he curls around it, attacking the opposite elbow where he will receive a pass for a jump shot. Regardless of making or missing the shot, the player gets his rebound and finishes with a lay up without dribbling and then proceeds to backpedal continuing the drill. A coach with a blocking pad can be used providing resistance as the player finishes each power lay up. The drill ends when a certain number of shots are taken or when a certain number of shots are made.

In this drill, the player must focus on making shots after a simulated transition element. The player must also focus on finishing lay ups with contact, despite fatigue. The chair can be moved anywhere on the 3 point line to vary the location of the shot or moved back to increase the distance of the shot taken. Various dribble moves can be implemented into this drill as well, including:
1) catch and explode into dribble jumper,
2) shot fake/shot,
3) shot fake/one dribble pull up, and
4) being creative with other one dribble or two dribble moves.

For more great offseason individual skill work, take a look at Billy Donovan's DVD on Individual Skill Development within your Offense. Coach Donovan is the head coach for the 2-time National Championship winning University of Florida. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

Two games in a row heading into the main tournament and Team USA has not only looked beatable, but lackluster. I thought they would easily beat Team Australia but I was totally wrong. Australia played aggressive, ran great offensive sets, settled into their pack-line defense, and out-played Team USA. All without their best player, Andrew Bogut. If it weren't for some bad TOs (much like Team Russia), they would've beat Team USA.

I was very impressed with Team Australia's offense. I watched them play Angola earlier where they mostly ran post-entries into Bogut. Without Bogut in this game, they instead went through several offensive sets. 2-3 high, 1-4 high, handoff and high PNR. I took several clips of all of them except for the PNR plays because frankly, the PNR plays were more bad defense by Team USA. Here they are,

2-3 High and UCLA Cut:

I like the 2-3 high set. Especially against an aggressive Team USA defense. Bring your players up high so that the passes are shorter and there is less chance of getting deflected.

In this play out of the inbounds, they run a simple UCLA screen off the 2-3 high set and Team USA gets caught over the top with the lob,

Handoff Play:

I really like the handoff play. It must be my football roots, because my favorite football offenses I ran were the veer and triple option. Because your back is turned to the defense, you can handoff the ball or fake it, then turn and go. Lebron gets caught anticipating the handoff and Anderson spins to the basket creating a 2v1 opportunity,


I thought Australia was the aggressor on this night. They went right at Team USA from the start and were not intimidated by Team USA at all. To the credit of Team USA though, guys like Lebron and Chris Bosh stepped up the intensity to match the Aussies. Against the packline defense Australia used, I felt Lebron was most effective. Much like the NBA season, Lebron proved he can go 1v5 and still get AND1 opportunities, which he did.

On the 1-4 high offense which is very similar to the 2-3 high, a new DVD from Luther Riley on 15 Quick Hitters from the 1-4 High is worth looking into. Coach Riley is a high school coach in Mississippi as well with Nike Basketball. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.