Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I hope all of your coaching dreams come true in 2010 and we'll see y'all next year...

From the only game on the Saturday college basketball schedule, I was able to catch the whole game start to finish between Seton Hall and West Virginia in their Big East conference play opener, and a great game it was. I'm a big West Virginia fan, but Seton Hall definitely exposed some of WVU's weaknesses on this night.

We know that Bobby Gonzalez is a big fan of full court pressure, and so it was no surprise to see Seton Hall play with the intensity they did. But what I wanted to show in these couple of clips late in the game and in OT was how quick Seton Hall gets into their press. They waste no time celebrating, as soon as they get a score, they are setup in the box press,

Definitely something you need to drill and practice, because the natural instinct for players after they score is to pump their fist, backpedal, etc... For a pressure team, it's a mindset, you score, you get into position for the press, there isn't any time to spare.

Also notice that by simply hastening into position for the press, WVU started to rush as well. It's almost a natural instinct when you see the other team scrambling, to scramble yourself. After the score here, the inbounds is to the player closest with 3 defenders closing in. If WVU had been more patient, they could've gotten a better inbounds,

The flip side is true, you need to drill your players to relax, and play under control when the other team wants to create chaos and play extremely fast. That is what WVU failed to do in that final minute (and they missed a bunch of FTs as well).

Finally, I showed the first clip there because I thought it was important to see how to recover after the press is broken. It's important for you players to play under control and not foul or give up easy points. You have to pressure the ball hard, but you also have to play under control and recover when you are beaten.

I've been watching Seton Hall and their press for a while now and I'm always impressed by the energy they play with. If you want to know more about their full court pressure system, check out Bobby Gonzalez's 3-pack DVD on Full Court Defense which includes his 1-2-2 Containment Press, white/black full-court matchup press, and 9 Competitive Practice Drills. Definitely worth getting if you like how Seton Hall plays.

Like most of y'all I woke up today with the news that Urban Meyer, the highly successful football coach for the University of Florida at the peak of his coaching career, has decided to resign due to health concerns and to spend more time with his young family. We spend so much time taking care of others, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves.

So with this being the holidays, this is a not so subtle reminder to all of us, all of you coaches out there, to make sure you take care of yourselves and your families first.

Happy Holidays, thank you for all of your support, and hope you and your families have a great break.

A great all-access segment by NBA TV on Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, in anticipation of the big Christmas day game between the Lakers and the Cavs. I talked to a stock-broker friend the other day, and he told me that if there was just one thing he wished he could be an expert in, it would be psychology. It's the same in coaching and teaching, psychology is by far the most important factor in becoming successful.

I think all coaches seek to reach that higher level of engagement, where as coaches we are guiding rather than dictating. Where the players are take responsibility for their own improvement and the improvement of the team. It's definitely not easy, and requires that you have some background in psychology and sociology. But when it clicks, you just know that you've reached the nirvana of teaching.

Another great weekend of college basketball games. Some interesting finishes like the Xavier vs Butler game. Today, I was able to watch some recorded video of the Illinois and Georgia game and in watching the game it was evident why they were able to win the game despite being the inferior team talent and skill-wise. Their team defense was able to overcome what they lacked in their individual defensive matchups. They were able to force the Illini to settle for jumpers and they rebounded extremely well.

Specifically in one area, I thought the Bulldogs did an outstanding job all night, and that was in how they handled ball screens. Late in the game, these are 2 examples of where they rotated well on the backside, and also forced the Illini into tough shots,

Whenever you hedge hard or trap the ball screen, it is essential that the rest of your team rotates to protect the basket first and foremost. Your weakside defenders must drop down into the lane, and the weakside wing should split the 2 outside players,

In the second sequence, with the game on the line, the Bulldogs hedge hard on the ball screen again, preventing the PG from turning the corner. As the seconds tick down, the McCamey of the Illini decides to take his defender 1v1, good choice because he is quicker, but without the ball screen, the play is essentially 1v5 with the help defense in great position to force McCamey to force up a mid-lane floater that ricochets off the rim,

Team defense is hard to implement because it requires all 5 players to communicate and execute properly. But when you have buy in and players work at it, it can work tremendously to your advantage especially if you are lacking in really good individual defenders.

For more ideas on defending ball screens in a M2M defense, check out Mark Fox's DVD on Building a M2M Defense. Mark Fox is in his first year as head coach at Georgia and was previously head coach at Nevada for several years.

Throughout the year, I think its important to constantly assess how well your practices are being executed. Making adjustments along the way, and finding out what your players can do well, what they need to continue working on, and in which ways do they respond best to. Mostly obvious stuff, but sometimes coaching, teaching, family, etc... can get in the way of reflection. Here are some essential questions based on some notes I dug up by Mike Dunlap on practice planning and assessment:

Time Allotment and Tempo

Do you have a practice schedule worked out for the year?

It's important for your players, parents, other teachers, and administration to know when practices are taking place. In the 24/7 world we live in now, this is a must. Do your players respond better to morning, afterschool, or evening practices? Be prepared to adjust to your team's needs.

How efficient are your practices?

As coaches, we often complain about the lack of practice time, but have you asked yourself exactly how you are utilizing the practice time you have? How many times are players standing around waiting in line? How much time are players simulating the tempo of real game situations? Lastly, but most importantly are you setting aside enough time for teaching?

Process and Emphasis

What is your process for teaching?

Dunlap's 5 laws of learning: 1) Tell them 2) Show them 3) Have them show you 4) Correct the demonstration 5) Repetition. What is your methodology, whole or part? Whole at the beginning of the season, part at the end, according to Dunlap. Is your process the best way to reach your players, could there be a better way?

What do you emphasize?

You can't be everything, you are what you emphasize, simplicity with detail. You should develop your own vocabulary with your players to help with the key concepts you want them to grasp. Test your players every day, do they get what you are trying to emphasize and why?

Why are you doing what you are doing?

As a coach, you need to have a vision, a credo, a mission statement. Know where you are going as a team, then ask yourself "where are we at currently, and how do we get to where we want to go?"

Assessment and Evaluation

What are your expectations?

Assume nothing, make sure everything you are asking your players to do is exactly what you require them to do. Peer pressure is your friend, the player voice is more powerful than yours -- "higher order of teaching". Have individual, small, and big group expectations.

How do you evaluate your players?

Everything you do in practice should be competitive, time/score, reward/punishment. Have a briefing before practices and a debrief after practices. KWL, what they know, what they want to know, what they learned.

How do you know your players are improving?

Skill will most likely not improve significantly over the course of the season, but you can measure their effort. Know the physical capabilities of your players (heart rates, recovery rates). The toughness test, contact drills to build up physical and mental toughness.

For more great practice insights, check out Geno Auriemma's new All Access Practice DVD. Coach Auriemma is of course the longtime head coach of the UConn women's team.

I watched Kobe do his thing the other night, hitting another game winner and today I came across this great quote from the Xavier Newsletter which I am happy to report is back in circulation with coach Chris Mack at the helm:

What makes one guy a champion and the other one not?

"It's drive. It's the will. There are certain people that have a tremendous hunger. There are certain people that have a will, determination and hunger that you need to be the best in the world. Those people -- and those people alone -- become champions."
This was Kobe Bryant's response, very similar what other champion's have said when posed the same question (See Arnold Schwarzenegger's response).

I like this quote because it's so true. Often times I watch players from different teams play and from around Grade 9 and on, and I have a pretty good idea which players will be special by the time they get to Varsity and beyond. Too often we focus just on talent. Alot of players have talent, but what truly separates the great ones from the good ones is the will to win. It's not something you can teach either, some players just have it. They practice harder, they player hard, they want it more.

Most of y'all probably saw the highlights last month when Milwaukee Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings dropped 55 points against the Golden State Warriors. I found this neat behind the scenes clip by NBA TV which talks a little about BJ's unique journey (through Europe bypassing college) and some coaches comments. I know that there's been a lot of debate about whether HS players should be going overseas to play (like Jeremy Tyler), but with BJ's success, I definitely think more HS players will be thinking about it. Enjoy...

I was able to catch this great game last night between Virginia Tech and Penn State. The game came down to the final few possessions with missed free throws playing a big factor in the eventual VT win. But what I wanted to look at was the importance of transition defense, and in particular the importance of having a safety and that safety being in position as the ball transitions from offense to defense. Take a look at Penn State's first transition defensive sequence and contrast it with the second one,

In the first sequence, a couple of shots are taken after offensive rebounds, but what's key is that you can see that the safety breaks into a back pedal and is in perfect position to defend either wing,

Because the safety is in position, splitting the 2 wings, it allows for the second transition defender to sprint back and get into position. Also, the ball-handler has to pull up a little bit as he attempts to get the safety transition defender to commit to either the ball or the opposite wing,

As you can see from the video, the result of the play is that the ball-handler forces up a contested layup 2-on-2, and the safety is the one that ends up with the ball. Penn State goes back the other way and scores to go ahead by 1 in the game.

Contrast the previous sequence with this one here. The safety gets caught biting on the offensive rebound and takes 2 steps forward. Virginia Tech secures the rebound and you can see them already in transition into offense. All it took was 2 steps the wrong way for the whole play to go awry,

The safety makes another mistake by attempting to intercept the pass to the outlet instead of sprinting back. The far side defender attempts to sprint back to contest the ball-handler who is ahead of him,

The defender attempts a hard foul to prevent the easy layup but ends up with the intentional foul. Virginia Tech gets both free-throws and scores on the ensuing possession, which essentially seals the win for VT.

With more and more teams adopting run and gun, UNC style fast break, Phoenix Suns SSOL offense, transition defense has never been more important than ever in my opinion. For me, transition defense starts with your offense. Everything you do on offense should take into account the need to have the safety, and every player on the floor must know their responsibility as the safety at all times.

For more video info on transition defense, take a look at Kelvin Sampson's DVD on defensive transition drills. Coach Sampson is an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Going through some taped stuff from over the weekend. I've been trying to catch as many Gonzaga games as possible this year because a couple of Vancouver, BC boys are playing with the Zags and getting actual playing time which is rare indeed for Canadians in NCAA play. Although the Zags lost the game to Wake Forest at the end by missing free-throws, I thought this play they ran at the end of the game was a great example of the offense reacting to the defense, and taking advantage of mismatches and good offensive spacing, check it out:

It's an extremely simple play here, but the execution is key. The situation is that the Zags are down by 3, less than 2 minutes in the game. Out of a 3-out 2-in initial set, they decide to run a high screen-roll for their PG with the Center.

Now what's key here is that both the PG and the Center read the defense to see how they're going to defend the PNR. If they appear to hedge or trap, maybe the Zags run a fake PNR and just basket cut. If they go trail but go underneath, maybe the Zags shoot the 3-pointer. Here, the Demon Decons decide to straight switch. Both offensive players read it, the PG uses the screen and dribbles to the open wing bringing his switched defender with him,

So, now you have a situation with little on big (PG with a center defender) and big on little (Center with a PG defender). For better spacing, the weak-side forward vacates the low block and comes up top,

The Zags now have 2 options. Post entry with their center against a smaller defender. Or 1v1 with the PG against a big slow defender. The smaller defender fronts the center. The big slow defender decides to crowd the PG. The easy play is for the PG to make 1 crossover move and drive down the middle,

A seemingly simple play, but a lot going on. These subtle nuances are the kind of thing that your players need to go over and over in practice, breaking it down in 2-on-2 and working your way up to 5-on-5. That's why I like breaking down practices into 2-on-2 because it allows you to teach simple offensive reads.

As for Gonzaga, I'm a huge fan mainly because of the aforementioned BC players, Rob Sacre, Bol Kong, and Kelly Olynyk. I've watched all 3 of them from when they were juniors in high school, and seeing them on ESPN with those big college crowds is unreal. If you like Gonzaga and some these matchup concepts discussed, then check out Mark Few's Set Plays DVD where he outlines principles of maximizing matchup scenarios.

I haven't had the opportunity to watch as many college basketball games as I've wanted to this year because of teaching, coaching, etc.. but I did catch the second half of this great matchup between Wisconsin and Duke earlier. I knew the game would be close, because of the patient ball-control swing offense Wisconsin uses. I caught these 2 great defensive sequences late in the game which show the importance of 1v1 defense, and specifically the importance of footwork. The Badgers got 2 huge stops late to seal the upset win, take a look:

In this first sequence, the Wisconsin player (in white) uses his feet and body to force the ball handler to turn back towards the middle. The defender uses great lateral quickness to again beat his check to the spot, hands straight up in the air, and the offense takes a contested shot,

In this second sequence, just a magnificent display of defensive slide technique and 1v1 defense, as good as I've ever seen,

The best part of both sequences is the fact that they happened at the end of the game when you normally expect guys to be breathing hard, hands on their knees, etc... But as all of us coaches know, this is exact moment (end of games) when we need our players to be player their best defense.

I think sometimes there is a tendency to over-emphasize help defense. I think help defense is important, crucial even, but more fundamental is the need for each of your players to be accountable individually on defense. To be extremely serious in being good 1v1 defenders, and to dedicate the necessary time and to take pride in not letting your teammates down when it counts the most.

For more info on creating great M2M defenders, take a look at Bobby Knight's 2-pack DVD on the Complete Guide to M2M Defense. The legendary Coach Knight is currently an analyst for ESPN Sports.

Going through some more notes this weekend and specifically I was looking for information on dribble penetration in a 4-out 1-in. From the dribble drive offense, you setup with the 1-in post always on the weak side. But I don't think it's always realistic to expect that in a game situation that will always happen. From these fantastic set of notes compiled by Zak Boisvert, here are some general penetration rules you can use for any 4-out 1-in motion offense, this is taken specifically from Rick Majerus and his 4-out 1-in motion.

Baseline drive on an empty post:
Nearside high elbow (O4) cuts behind for crackback (should be man to a man and a half behind ball). Farside high elbow (O2) drifts to vision (“It’s not a spot. It’s a “can the driver see me with his eyes?”). O1 sprints to corner for drift. O5 diagonals up to the front of the rim right by the front of the rim and should look to attack, but can settle for soft jumper (no bounce passes made to this big - everything going to O5 in this situation should be a chest pass — conversely a bounce pass on the baseline drift pass O3 to O1 because it’s extremely tough for v-back man defensively to get his hand down when covering sideline).

If such a baseline drive were to happen while a stagger was being set, the first screener (O2) would head to drift spot on first sign of penetration. The second screener (O4) who had taken a step towards stagger circles for crackback. O1 would “drift to vision.”

Middle drive on an occupied post:
(Perimeters should never be afraid to drive an occupied post. It’s their job to get out of the way). O5 would move foot closest to driver (right foot in diagram) and turn his body momentarily to head to baseline. O5 would turn to open and
call O1’s name (must make a verbal call).

Baseline drive on an occupied post:
O5 makes space by again lifting the foot the perimeter is driving at (left in diagram) and runs to the midpost area, curling to face O2. O5 should again make a verbal call and if O2 does throw this pass it should be a hook pass. On O5’s catch: shot (if he can shoot it) or a dribble handoff/pass to the nearest perimeter followed by an elbow angle ball screen (run a flare on opposite side—who’s going to help?)

For the complete explanation of this motion offense, take a look at Rick Majerus' 3-set DVD on the Encyclopedia of Motion Offense. Coach Majerus is currently the head coach of St. Louis.

From over the weekend this is a defensive sequence late in the game between Florida State and Clemson. I see a lot of teams trying to front the post defensively when they play against an opponent who has a formidable post player. Most teams execute the fronting part well, but what's usually missing, and the most important part in my opinion, is to support the front on the backside against the lob pass. FSU does this extremely well by bringing the help side wing down to pinch the forward:

Schematically, its really very simple. FSU is in a full front and the guard up top thinks that it should be an easy lob to O5. O5 even gives X5 a little shove and then goes up to get the ball. However, X3 times the pass and drops down from the help side and X2 rotates to split O3 and O2,

After the pinch, O5 attempts to put the ball on the ground and go up with a power move but the ball is stripped from him. FSU takes the ball the other way and is able to score on the break.

Very simple to scheme out, but definitely something that requires reps from your players. They need to instinctively know to drop down from the help side. You could run a modified shell drill to practice it for sure.

For more ideas on defense and drills to use in practice, take a look at Steve Alford's DVD on Defensive Drill Progressions. Coach Alford is the head coach of University of New Mexico.

I'm a big motion offense coach myself so anytime I see teams execute motion offense well, it puts a big smile on my face. The Michigan Wolverines under John Beilein have become a big motion team. Coach Beilein has brought his open-post motion over from West Virginia, and after a couple of years of finding the right the players, the Wolverines look like they're back to contend for final fours again.

In this play in OT against Creighton, the Wolverines execute the backdoor lob to perfection. Setup is high-post open motion. 4 players on the perimeter, forward at the high post. The forward pops outs to receive a pass for what would normally be a ball reversal to the side of the floor. This is the most crucial part for any motion offense. Players must setup their cuts. If the forward simply cuts backdoor here, it won't work because the defender starts in position to guard against it. The forward must really plant his top foot and use his hands to indicate he is ready to receive the pass up top,

The defender bites and overplays the ball reversal pass. This is where eye contact and communication between ball-handler and player are crucial. Both players realize the overplay right away, the forward plants hard of the top foot and uses his lateral quickness to go backdoor,

The ball-handler sees it and looks to lob the ball to the forward guiding him to the rim,

What seems like a simple play, actually takes many many reps and whole-part-whole progressions to teach. It's important to remember that motion offense takes time and you must be patient to teach it. You can't expect to put it in late November and expect your players to win the season opening tournament. It literally takes hundreds of reps in multiple situations before players get used to how and when to do what, and to get used to their teammates. But once they get it, motion offense is the most beautiful thing to watch, it's basketball offense at its purest.

Coach Beilein doesn't have any DVDs produced but if you're a fan of motion offense like me, then check out Bobby Knight's new DVD on motion offense. The DVD includes 2 hours worth of motion wisdom from the legendary college coach.

From Greg Brown's blog, head coach of University of Central Florida's women's team, some great stuff on Pat Riley's philosophy. I've always been a big fan of Riley's Lakers teams and especially his Knicks teams in the 90s. I definitely agree with the mental toughness being more important than physical toughness. Players who have the right mental head space are the ones that will get you through the big moments.

1. Bump and run on defense. Make that your go to part of the game.
2. Two most important things: REBOUNDING & DEFENSE
3. Defense: Be the most physical in the league. The idea of the game is to take the opponent out physically and mentally.
4. Spend your time getting into your players head individually. There is only so much you can do coaching a team.
5. Make certain that your players understand that if you’re going to be a team it has to be a team defense, team offense, never I always WE.
6. It’s what you get from the games you lose that is extremely important. Did we learn from losing? This is an important part of any team.
7. We want to, as much as possible, try to make our players understand who has strength in what areas. Talk about that a lot, spend time, do the things you need to do to try to make people understand that.
8. In dealing with administration, management, etc., understand that they are extremely interested in only themselves.
9. To have a great basketball team you have to have more mental preparation than physical preparation. Once you’re mentally tough, you can become tough physically. Once you’re tough mentally you can overcome being tired, you can overcome fatigue.
10. Always practice as hard as you can. Go for it even the day of a game.
11. Make certain that your team is mentally prepared. Don’t show them a ton of film. Mentally prepare them with your voice and mouth. Get them tuned into what you want.
12. Game day preparations. Real hard workout the day of the game, go after it that night.

Magic and Larry reminiscing about old times. I've just finished teaching a unit about people coming together to make great things happen in social studies. To me, nothing exemplifies that more than Magic and Larry. Bitter rivals, fierce competitors, and friends forever...

My favorite part of the clip, when Magic talked about the Newsweek cover during the 1992 Dream Team. Magic said, if Larry isn't on the cover, I'm not doin' it. That's what it's all about.

Trying to catch as many games as possible these days. From a couple of nights ago, the Villanova Wildcats won a thriller over the always tough George Mason Patriots. The game went down to the wire, with Nova hitting some clutch 3-pointers. A coach emailed me the other day asking for a quick hitter for a 3-pointer and I responded with a dribble drive to the weakside corner 3-pointer. I love that play because the weakside corner 3-pointer is probably the most difficult to guard in basketball. Take a look at how Nova executed it out of their 4-out 1-in offense:

Weakside Corner 3-pointer:

Here's the thing. How many teams prepare defensively on how they will take away the weakside corner 3-pointer?? Most teams focus on ball pressure, stopping penetration, and closing out. With proper spacing on offense, it is impossible for the defense to do all those 3 things. That's what the weakside corner does, it stretches out the defense and makes it really hard for a sound defense to cover all the bases.

The play is quite simple, the Wildcats are in their 4-out 1-in motion offense. After a few handoff exchanges, the forward comes up from the block to the top of the key to set a screen for one of the guards on the opposite side. The guard with the ball here decides not to use the screen and drives the wing towards the hoop,

O1 is able to blow by his defender, and X5. X3 is too worried about O3 to help. That leaves X2 to drop down from the weakside. Well, its a decision really, to help or not to help. As coaches, we always teach to stop the ball first so help is always the first option. O2, shuffles down to the weakside corner and O1 finds him for the open 3-pointer,

I think this play would work even if you didn't have a break your ankles point guard. Because with O5 setting the screen, O1 really should be able to penetrate the lane. Now if the defense decides to hedge hard, then you can run screen-roll and have O2 still shuffle to the corner as X2 will probably still drop down to cover the rolling forward.

Now, the only other assumption here is that you have good shooters. But if you're designing a play for the 3-pointer, you better be sure you have a player that is a knockdown shooter.

For more quick hitters out of 4-out 1-in motion, check out Jay Wright's DVD on 15 Great 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense Plays. Jay Wright is in his 8th season as head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.

I think my brain is on the verge of short-circuiting after a weekend of football watching, basketball practice, college basketball watching, and preparing lessons for next week. I haven't gone through recorded stuff on the DVR, but I did get a chance to browse through some notes earlier today. I found some really great tips from Ralph Willard, former head coach of Holy Cross. I've talked about having an identity before, your team can't be everything at the same time, it needs to have a particular focus. For Coach Willard, he calls his team focus, the "Circle of Opportunity."

If we do execute these 8 things, we will 95% of our games and have a chance to win the other 5%:

1. Deflections: our goal is 40 a game. 40+ deflections a game = .900 winning percentage.
2. Blockouts: we go back through tape and chart everyone on this.
3. Shot Contest: Every shot the opponent takes need to be contested on the ballside of their shot. If it is a righty shooting, we are flying directly at his right shoulder with 2 hands up as you can. There is a 4-5% difference between contesting on the player’s shooting side to his non-shooting side.
4. Offensive Rebounding: If you have an opportunity to go to the glass, you better get there. From the corner, Willard teaches his players to go baseline-out (meaning a player runs along the baseline to underneath the rim before jumping back into play). After the shooter shoots the defender runs along the baseline before jumping in front of the basket to get a hand on the missed shot. Teaches bigs to do the same.
5. Charges: Chart the number of times your guys step up to take a charge when they have an opportunity. This is a sign of sacrifice—giving yourself up for the team.
6. Bull Pursuit: Loose balls are OURS. All great rebounders/ rebounding teams do 2 things: They get great position and they pursue the ball. Use the stat “Out of Area Rebounds” and really emphasize it to your team.
7. Confidence & Emotion: Players must be confident going into every game that they can win.
8. Transition Defense: Take away easy baskets.

There’s nothing in this circle of 8 that we can’t do. We’re not asking you to do anything which you’re not capable of doing. It comes down to execution and effort.
Being the underdog most of the time at Holy Cross, it is not surprising that Willard would adopt a philosophy based on half-court defense, centered around hustle and physicality. If you want to learn more, check out Ralph Willard's DVD on Man Defense to equalize talent. Coach Willard is currently an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville.

One of the teams that is just a joy for me to watch are the Pitt Panthers, coached by Jamie Dixon. Like UCLA (no coincidence that Coach Dixon was a former assistant under UCLA head coach Ben Howland), the Panthers play a tough physical M2M half-court defense.

In this clip between Pitt and Eastern Kentucky, I like how Pitt was keeping it physical, especially on defense. You can say there are a couple of fouls here, but if the refs are allowing contact, it behooves you to use that to your advantage. Definitely bump cutters, don't let them get an open cut to the basket:

In this first screenshot, the forward is making a basket cut after a pass and cut away. The weakside defender slides down and sets his feet, the offensive forward runs into him, and thus his momentum is disrupted,

In this second screenshot, the guard passes into the post with the intention of getting a handoff with the post screening right after. However, the wing defender bumps the wing trying to cut to receive the handoff, resulting in a botched handoff and the turnover,

You have to see how the game is being reffed. I've been in some games where refs called all the tic-tac stuff, and others when it would be 3-2 in team fouls after a half. If the refs are holding their whistles, definitely use that to your advantage. But keeping in mind that your players need to know the line between an obvious foul and just hard physical contact.

If you're thinking of upping the intensity of your practices, then take a look at, Jamie Dixon's DVD on Drills for Competitive Practices.

College basketball madness has begun today with ESPN's 24 hour marathon of college hoops. Part of their great coverage is all of their great all-access features. I watched a bunch of them today and yesterday and I'm embedding the one from Coach Bill Self of Kansas here. The following quote by Coach Self stuck out for me,

The only things you should be judged by as a coach are:
- how hard you get your players to play
- how unselfish your players want to play

Enjoy these other great all-access clips:

Roy Williams of UNC
Jay Wright of Villanova
Tom Izzo of Michigan State
West Pointers: Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Parcells

If you've read this blog for the past year or so, you've probably figured out that I'm a huge Bill Self fan. If you like Coach Self and the way Kansas plays, then check out Bill Self's DVD on Breaking Presses. It is one of the best videos out there on the topic of press break.

The start of college basketball is upon us and it was great to take in a bunch of games. On friday night, I was able to watch a bunch of games and I took in the Baylor game against Norfolk State. It wasn't a particularly great game but I did catch this inbounds play that Baylor ran against the 2-3 zone.

I've been seeing this a lot recently, teams using a 2-3 zone on the inbounds. Generally, it does a good job in the paint as you don't have to worry about switching or how to deal with screens. But every zone has its drawbacks, and here, you see Baylor run a nice give and go play to the most dangerous player on the inbounds, the inbounder, for a nice 3-pointer:

In this screenshot, you can see Norfolk State in that zone. The forward who receives the pass and hands back to the inbounder is basically screening the low defender in the 2-3 zone. The high defender on the 2-3 is in no man's land, and basically watches the 3-pointer go in, because in the 2-3, the high defender is taught not to go below the free-throw line extended,

Here is the breakdown of the inbounds play again. Really, they just get the ball into the forward in the middle,

O1, the inbounder bolts for the corner, O4 hands back the ball and screens the low defender on the 2-3, and its an open 3-pointer,

For more simple ways against zone defenses, take a look at Jerry Petitgoue's new DVD on Attacking Zone Defenses. I like Petitgoue's approach because he doesn't complicate the problem, he simplifies things and makes it easy to understand what he's trying to accomplish.

Watching the first half of the UNC game tonight because you figured it would get away from NC Central and indeed the score is 72-30 right now with 8:00 left in the second half.

I just like this sequence from UNC because I think that if you play a half-court M2M pressure, much like the way Duke plays their M2M, the assumption is that you will give up backdoor layups. Yes, the chances are higher, but that doesn't mean you can't teach and drill your players to counter those tendencies. With good footwork and active hands, a good defender can still put a ton of pressure on the wing pass AND still recover against the backdoor as shown in the following video clip:

In the picture, you can clearly see that Justin Watts has both hands in the air, not on his hips. With great lateral foot movement, he's able to adjust to the backdoor cut.

Also notice that he doesn't attempt to turn and face the ball, instead he just focuses on getting back on his man with his arms up and hands in the passing lane, and getting the steal. I see a lot of young players in that situation pivot towards the ball, back facing their check, then try to make the play when their check is already at the rim.

And the Tar Heels finish it in typical fashion, on the fast break.

For more info on the Carolina M2M defensive system, check out Roy Williams' DVD on The Carolina Defensive Numbering System & Drills. With so many new faces, its hard to imagine the Tar Heels repeating as champions, but if Coach Roy Williams is able to groom the younguns he has on this team, they could do some real damage in 1 or 2 years.

One of the reasons why I don't like playing a straight zone as a base and especially at the end of games is because it allows the offense to dictate the numbers advantage. In the stunning upset earlier in the week when Division II Le Moyne stunned Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, Le Moyne was able to get off a 3-pointer with time left on the clock to over-take the Orange.

Check out the video first from the ESPN highlight:

If you look closely, you'll see exactly what happened. Le Moyne had 4 players above the free-throw line extended. Syracuse is in their 2-3 extended zone, but the 3 low defenders are below the free-throw line extended,

So, essentially, Le Moyne was playing 4-on-2 above the free-throw line extended. Le Moyne's best shooter, O2, Chris Johnson who had already nailed 5 x 3-pointers, shuffled to the open spot on the arc and launched the game winning shot,

Now, I think it's easy to say, play zone regular, and switch to M2M at the end of close games. But the problem with that philosophy is, players who get used to played straight zone, have trouble re-adjusting to playing M2M. That is the reason why I personally, prefer to use a M2M defense as your base. In those crucial situations when you really need everyone matched up, you can be sure your players will be in the right spots. If the other team hits a 3-pointer with a defender right in their face, then so be it. But at least you can be sure that your players defended the play as best they could.

For more buzzer beating strategies, take a look at Homer Drew's DVD on Late Game Situations. Coach Drew is the head coach of the Valparaiso University.

Going through more notes today and this one caught my eye. From a coaches notebook of University of Florida assistant Larry Shyatt, defensively, the Gators track hustle stats for players during practice. Obviously, as a high school coach, you won't have the number of assistant coaches to do this, but you can definitely adapt it to your situation.

I think this is a great idea to do for 2 reasons. Firstly, I like the idea of rewarding hard work in practice. Sometimes as coaches, we fall in love with the talent, and we don't recognize nor reward effort nearly as much as we should. Also, one of the hardest things to do is to get players motivated for practice. Too many players come in to practice to loaf, because they're only motivated by games. So anything to get players really going hard in practices in my opinion is definitely worth looking into.

Coaches Focus at Practice:
Affected shots/passes – Assistant 1
Blockouts – Assistant 2
Going to the glass – Assistant 3
Hustle Stats – Assistant 4

Keeping Stats: (Compilation Daily)
Unaffected shots/passes – Assistant 5
No blockout – Assistant 6
Not going to off. glass – Assistant 7
Hustle Stats/other negative (not ready, etc.) – Assistant 8
Assists/Turnovers, no floor balance – Assistant 9

• Any unaffected shot/pass, no blockout attempt, no attempt to go to the
offensive glass or no floor balance, results in a minus.
• Any hustle play: deflection, loose ball, forced turnover, steal, offensive rebound,
charge taken, charge attempted, blocked shot, or 1st to the floor results in a plus.
• Coaches Wildcard: Player can receive a plus or a minus at the coaches’
discretion (ex: negative – poor closeout, dive by, poor communication; ex:
positive – great step-up, great communication).

Assist/Turnover Ratio:
• PG’s must be at least 2 to 1
• G’s / F’s must be better than 1 to 1
• C’s must be at least 1 to 1
• If your ratio is achieved, you receive a +2 for the day to be added to your
• If your ratio is not achieved, you receive a -2 to be added to your score.
• Players must be in the positive at the end of practice. If they are in the negative they have sprints (10’s/Suicides/etc.) to run based on whatever negative number they finish with.
• Sprints will be completed the day after practice/game.
• Every 7-10 days, we will have the “Hustle Award” winner for that week(s). The
guard & interior player with the best score will receive an “F” on their shorts.

Here is a screenshot of a sample hustle stats sheet:

For more great practice ideas, take a look at Larry Shyatt's 2-Pack DVD with 1 DVD for Defense and 1 DVD for Offense. Coach Shyatt is an assistant on Billy Donovan's coaching staff at University of Florida.

Most of y'all have probably seen this already, if not, you really must see it. It is an interview with legendary coach John Wooden talking about Victory with Honor. The idea of coach as teacher and to remember that we ultimately we teach people not basketball. Here is the youtube link below (about 10 minutes long),

Some notes from the video, if you want the coles notes version without watching the video:

Victory with Honor

- there is too much emphasis on winning today

- the coach is first and foremost a teacher

- before Coach Wooden was a coach, he taught English for many years

- the 4 laws of learning in English, are the same applied to coaching

- the teacher has to be more concerned about the entire learning process, than just in the content. Same goes for sports

- its easy to get carried away with win loss record

- Coach Wooden was more disappointed in parents who were concerned with their children getting an A or B than in whether they really learned anything

- Our society is too concerned about athlete first, and not student before athlete

- high school coaches, are really just teachers

- it made Coach Wooden a better coach, the fact that he taught English before. It helped in organization skills, and helped in dealing with athletes as individuals

- the job of the coach is therefore to analyze each individual and help them achieve their maximum potential

- each player is different, therefore they must be treated differently

- Please always ask, "what is your most successful team??" Coach Wooden's response, "I won't know in 25 years."

- most treasured medal or prize according to Coach Wooden was the academic medal, it holds the most value for individual achievement

Halloween all of a sudden becomes a big deal again once you're back in schools teaching. From late last week, I was browsing through some game footage of the Chicago Bulls home win over the San Antonio Spurs and a few things caught my eye. Primarily, I was impressed with how much more refined the Bulls seemed on offense, they ran this play below and even Flex continuity a number of times, I was pleasantly surprised. They have more purpose and with a full year under Derrick Rose's belt, he looks even more confident running the offense from the point.

From the third quarter, the Bulls ran this play 5 or 6 times and got some nice production out of it. I've clipped just the first 2 times when Tyrus Thomas was able to hit the mid-range jumper, plus the TNT replay with Doug Collins commentary on the slow motion, take a look:

1-4 Flat to Mid-Range Jumper

Really just a simple 1-4 flat with a high PNR to start. Derrick Rose, O1, starts the play up top. Joachim Noah, O5, comes to set the pick, the defense tries to hedge, but Rose still gets by both the hedge, Noah rolls after the pick,

As Rose turns the corner, Tyrus Thomas, O4, moves off the block to the weakside elbow. X4, Tim Duncan, is forced to stay in the lane for help position since Rose would otherwise have an open lane after beating all to the lane. X1 is in a trail position, Noah is rolling to the basket with X5 following,

As the lane gets clogged up, Rose kicks it out to an open Thomas for the mid-range jumper,

Now as you can hear Doug Collins say in the commentary, if X3 comes to close out early, then it's an easy pass to the corner for the 3-pointer. The Spurs did readjust later in the game, by having X1 go underneath the screen allowing him more time and room to catch Rose after the hedge, allowing Duncan to hedge a little better between help position and his check.

If you're looking for a comprehensive video on more PNR options, check out Fran Fraschilla's 2 DVD set on the Encyclopedia of the Pick and Roll Offense. The 2 DVD's show just about every scenario you could want to know about executing PNRs in the half court.

Is that where you feel your team is right now?? Have you heard that term before? From ESPN yesterday, Bill Self talking to Dana Jacobson about Kansas Jayhawks basketball, he described his team as "not a a good practice team yet." I would venture that late October / early November, most coaches would characterize their teams the same way. Here is the full interview if you want to see it:

I've often read from teaching, coaching, and even parenting articles that you should always start strict at the beginning of the season, and slowly ease up later when the situation warrants it. The idea being that it is much easier to ease up later than to start easy and go hard later.

On the other hand, after being away for so long, most players by nature aren't in the right mental state at the beginning of the season and therefore maybe they need more time to get into the right state of mind. Accordingly, you would then start the season with practices slightly easier, and gradually start tightening the screws as the season really gets started.

What do y'all think about it?? Or are you the kind of coach that only has one mode: all out all the time.

Anyways, just some philosophical thoughts about starting the season to think about. For more practice tips and strategies from Coach Self, take a look at Bill Self's DVD on Better Practices. The Jayhawks will start the season as pre-season favorites to the 2009-2010 season.

First post of the NBA regular season. Caught the TNT double header last night and of course the best game by far was between the Cavs and the Celtics. It was interesting to note how awkward the Cavaliers looked both offensively and defensively now that they have Shaq. The Celtics on the other hand, looked like they're glad Kevin Garnett is back and looking to win another championship with the big 3, PGA.

I picked this sequence from the last few minutes of the fourth quarter because to me it just crystallized the polar opposites of where both teams were coming from. The Cavs seem to be without a purpose and therefore their execution suffers. By contrast, the Celtics know exactly who they want the ball, and how they're going to score. With the score 87-83, the Cavs could have cut the lead to just 2, but instead it ends up even bigger at 6. Check the video, and commentary afterwards:

Taking Advantage of Numbers

When you have the numbers, you have to take advantage, its as simple as that. If you don't, then you really beat yourself. After the rebounding fracas, Rondo hits the ground hard and is slow to get up. Pierce collides with Williams I think. KG is caught deep in the paint. The Cavs should have been 3-on-2, Lebron with the ball,

But if you notice in the video, there is some confusion and Varajao is only jogging. He should have been filling in on the wide side of the floor as the 3rd player on the break, instead he's not in on the break at all. I'm not sure of the name, but I believe Parker of the Cavs is on the ball side with Lebron, but look at how he's only half way to the corner, making it easier for his defender to step in to help on Lebron,

As the Celtics get back on transition defense, there is a natural moment of confusion as defenders try to find their checks as you can see below. A simple ball reversal by Lebron to Z, would've created a numbers advantage on the weak side. Instead, Lebron holds onto the ball, pulls back, then shoots a semi-contested 3-pointer over Rasheed Wallace which he misses off the front rim,

PNR Against Shaq in Space

By contrast, right after, the Celtics knew exactly what they wanted to run. A high pick and roll bringing Shaq out into open space. Paul Pierce uses the screen by KG, and Shaq's footspeed is nowhere near able to stay with Pierce who drives and shoots a free-throw line jumper to extend the lead to 6,

I know it's only game 1 of the regular season, but if you're a Cleveland Cavs fan, you have to be wondering right now whether bringing Shaq in was really the right move. Shaq brings a lot of advantages especially on defense, but on offense in particular, he is more of a liability than an asset. The Suns found that one out the hard way. The Cavs have a whole season to figure out, lets just hope that it doesn't actually take all season.

For more transition offense drill ideas, check out Jim Barone's new DVD on Communication Drills for the Transition Game. Coach Barone is the head coach at the University of Rhode Island.

I was talking online with a coaching friend from Washington State the other day and we got into a debate about the pros and cons of the shot clock. My personal opinion is that shot clocks in general are a good thing because they encourage more flow in a game. But I can see my friend's point in that the use of a shot clock gives the advantage to teams that have superior athleticism, teams like his can run a delay offense to dictate tempo and offset the athletic gap with superior passing, patience, and shot selection.

I went through some more notes today and came across some notes on the offense used by the University of Tennessee Women's team, coached by Pat Summitt. I don't know if Coach Summitt has used it in the past few years, but I've seen some older footage where they did use it. It's a 5-out continuity offense which you could definitely adapt to use as a delay offense. It is slow developing and you probably would run it 3 or 4 iterations before getting a good defensive breakdown to take advantage of.


It's a basic 5-out set. Since it is a continuity, numbering is not all that important and all players are interchangeable. It really doesn't matter who is where, so long as they run the pattern correctly. The point guard, O1, dribbles into the middle of the floor at the top of the key. O2 and O5 are spread at the wings and O3 and O4 are at the corners to start. O1 passes to the right wing and cuts to the wing while O5 replaces,

O2 reverses the ball through O5 to O1 on the other wing. This is to create initial movement and to setup the cuts to follow,

Basket Cut and Downscreen

2 really basic basketball plays. First, the weakside wing, O2 here, does a straight basket cut. If open, O1 hits O2 going to the basket for a layup. If not, O2 begins to clear out to the same side. As O2 makes the basket cut, O5 begins to move towards the lane, O3 starts to move up,

O2 clears to the corner. O5 sets a basic downscreen on air, O3 sets up the cut going to the basket but then coming over top of the screen. O5 reads the play, if the defense hedges, O5 can roll to the basket for a quick hit. If the defense is underneath, pops back out. O3 comes to the top of the screen looking to receive a pass from O1. O3 can then reverse to O5 up top or down to O5 posting up or going to the hoop,

Repeat On Other Side

The action repeats on the other side. This time, O5 is the passer and O1 is the cutter,

O3 goes to set the downscreen this time for O4. Same as above, just different players and different side. If nothing is open, the action repeats back to the right side of the court,

A very simple 5-out continuity, but I think it is good because if executed properly and patiently, it can result in high quality shot opportunities. If you want to learn more about the Tennessee way, then check out Pat Summitt's DVD on Game Preparation.