If there was ever a case of why defense matters, especially in the last 2 minutes of a game, yesterday's game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns was a textbook case in point. Sometimes, we often think about and incorrectly emphasize how this offensive play or player was key, or "clutch", etc... But practically speaking, it's usually a bad defensive sequence or lapse which allows the offense to take advantage.

The situation going into the final 2 minutes of the game was this: The game was close throughout, the Spurs got some separation late in the 4th quarter. Then the Phoenix Suns made some great defensive plays, capitalized on offense, and cut the lead to just 3 points. The Spurs come down the floor, the play looked innocent and undeveloped, a Pick and Pop handoff from Parker, to Duncan, handoff to Ginobili, then the defensive breakdown. Take a look,


There was nothing fancy. There was a simple miscommunication between Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Richardson. Hill was defending Parker, Richardson on Ginobili and O'Neal on Duncan. On the pass to Duncan and Parker screen away for Ginobili, Hill and Richardson get caught chasing the ball, which leaves Parker wide open on the pop out,

If the Suns had not gotten crossed up on defense, then the Spurs probably would've gone to an ISO 1v1 and taken their chances that way. Maybe the would've scored too, maybe not. But Parker's shot was an easy one, a wide open 18 footer, can't get any easier than that.


At end of games, it's defense and rebounding which count the most. Your players and their abilities will determine the teams success offensively in the "clutch," but tactically, defense and emphasis on rebounding is what a coach can effectively control and manage. If you play great defense and rebound, and the offense just makes an unbelievable shot, then there's nothing you can do but hold your head up and say that there wasn't anything else to do. But when you have a defensive lapse, that's why you have to go back to the drawing board, make sure players know what their assignments are, what the gameplan defensively is, and correct the mistakes going forward.

For some defensive info from one of the greatest basketball minds there is, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on his Defensive Playbook for success. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

From the weekend, Phil Jackson being interviewed by Magic Johnson about a bunch of different topics. The first thing they talked about was going for 10 Championships. I just like what Coach Jackson said about coming in 2nd. It really is the worst feeling in the world. Most people think that when you come in 2nd, you should be proud to have reached the finals. And to some extent yes, as a coach, as a player, as a competitor, its a good feeling that you reached the end where everyone else was watching and you were still playing. But, you never quite get it out of your mind. Why you lost, what would you do different. It sticks with you, the regret, the sense of failure. Its not like when you come in 3rd or 7th or 10th, there is a sense that, well we tried the best and that's all one can hope for. When you come in 2nd there is a profound sense that you lost because you did something wrong.

Second thing they talked about which I thought was interesting was about agency (3:00 in the video). For example, one could say why does Kobe take 30 shots a game?? Well, on the one hand you can look at it like Kobe is selfish and there isn't anything his teammates can do about it. Or, maybe its because his teammates allow Kobe to shoot 30 shots a game, through their non-action, forcing Kobe to put the offense all on him. Sometimes the reward for doing a great job, is more work. Which really isn't fair at all. Players need to understand that they are responsible for both their actions, and lack of action. Everything you do or don't do affects the behaviors and actions of others.

For more info on the Lakers' famed triangle offense take a look at Tex Winter's DVD on the Encyclopedia of the Triangle Offense. Coach Winters is of course the longtime assistant to Phil Jackson. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

By far the best basketball game I've seen all season (Nov-present) was last night between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Wisconsin Badgers. Two great teams, conference matchup, ESPN national TV coverage, as good as it will get until Feb 11 when Duke and UNC go at it. Both teams were kickin' up somethin' fierce on defense, and yet both teams still executed and made plays offensively. It was a playoff atmosphere with both teams showing a lot of emotion, and it was a fantastic finish to boot with Purdue winning by one.

All game long, Purdue's ball-hawking defense was intense. What I loved was the way they fronted the post. It was like watching a clinic on switching from 3-quarter front to help and back to a full front. Here a few sequences from the first half along with an Inside the Play segment with ESPN's Steve Lavin,

Fronting Over the Top or Full Front:

The general rule is, that if the ball is at the top of the key, above the free-throw line extended, the best fronting position is to come over the top,

When the ball is in the low-wing or corner position, below the free-throw line extended, then the idea is to to full front the post. The weak side help comes from the baseline who is in ball-you-man position taking away both the lob over the top and to closeout on a skip,

Coaching Tip, Windshield Wiper:

I've never heard of this before but Steve Lavin referred to it in the segment. The "window wiper" is a great way to think of the post denial on the 3-quarter front. Hand outstretched, palms out, moving up and down. Like a windshield wiper,


As you know, I love watching great defense and this was the mecca of defense between Bo Ryan and Matt Painter. Purdue's defense was just flying all over the place, especially against Wisconsin's Swing Offense. At the other end, Wisconsin was pursuing the Boilermakers all over the court as they executed their 4-out motion offense. You probably would've expected a score in the 50s or even 40s, but both teams still executed, still scored. It really was a great game, a great Purdue win on the road.

As for Wisconsin, I know it's been tough with the 5+ losses in a row, but you have to take solace in the fact that they've been competitive in every game. It's a cliche, but it means that they just aren't closing games, they're a little tight and they're not confident in themselves yet in taking those games.

If you enjoy watching Purdue and want to know more about their system, take a look at Matt Painter's DVD on their 4-out Motion Offense. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Watching some NBA games yesterday, caught part of the second half between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks. We know the Hawks are doing decent following their playoffs from last year. But the Miami Heat have really improved as well, most of it being due to Dwyane Wade being healthy.

I highlighted this specific play not necessarily because it's any better of a play than any other offensive play, but I just thought it showed that if players execute the fundamentals correctly, like setting up your cuts, setting good screens, and using them, any play can work well.

Box Stagger for Corner 3-pointer:

Very basic set play for the corner-wing 3-pointer. Ball at the top of the key, O5 sets a fake screen for O2 to make it look like O2 will pop out to the same side wing. O2 v-cuts and goes baseline instead. O4 and O3 set stagger area screens,

X2 gets stuck out of position from the initial v-cut and fake screen and so O2 has plenty of space to get to the corner-wing spot. O1 dribble relocates to make the shorter pass. The corner-wing positioning is important because if O2 comes all the way up to the wing, X3 probably can switch and cover in time,

Setup your Cuts:

The most important part that makes this play work is the way Daequan Cook sets up his cut. You have to sell the cut with misdirection and change of speed, to fake one way and go the other way. All the great players know how to use these details to gain their advantage,


It's why fundamentals are so much more important than what offensive sets you run. If your players don't understand the basics of basketball, the vernacular, why things work and others don't, your offense will never be any good. You can fake it with good athleticism or skill, but eventually that will catch up to you against good teams.

As for the Heat, I think they could be the Hawks of last year. They could sneak up on one of those big 3 in the East and make a run of it. They have the talent, just need the consistency. My gut feel though is that they're still 1 or 2 years away from being a contender though.

If you're looking for more on getting open and becoming a better scorer, take a look at the Five-star Basketball DVD on getting open and attacking. Coach Bergeron goes through all the basics of cutting as well as flashing to the post and dribble penetration. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.

Some great games yesterday and today in NCAA action. I caught the Big Ten matchup between Indiana and Minnesota. Indiana has lost a bunch of games in a row, and they sit at the bottom of the standings but I don't think the numbers tell the whole story. If you watch the Hoosiers play, you see a team that is playing above their potential. We all know that Tom Crean inherited some significant challenges when he came into the job there, but with the way his team competes, especially on the defensive end, you couldn't tell that they are on an 8-game losing streak with only 5 wins all season. They maybe last in the conference, but they don't play like it.

I can always tell when a team is well-coached, well-prepared, and motivated just by watching the way they play defense. Offense is mostly about skill and talent, but your teams defense is a reflection of the character of the team. Are they hard-working? Do they work together as a team? Is each player accountable? That's why I think despite their record, the Hoosiers are playing solid basketball. Here are a few sequences from the second half,

In my opinion, when you have a team that is challenged talent-wise, as the Hoosiers are when more than half the team left after last year, you must play hard defense. Your defense has to lead to your offense. Especially good M2M team defense, it has to be practiced, it's not developed naturally.

Just wanted to highlight a couple of pictures. This first one is just great 1v1 man defense by the Hoosiers. When players know that good individual defense is rewarded with playing time, that reinforces the good habits,

We all teach it, but how many teams do you actually see use it? When the offensive player picks up his dribble, the ball is "dead." That is the most opportune time to crowd the player chest-to-chest and everyone else is in deny. This is not a natural motion, it must be practiced, drilled, and ingrained. All 5 players have to work together,


You look at all the losses by Indiana. Lose by 3 to Minnesota, 6 to Michigan. A few blowouts over 80, but for the most part, the Hoosiers have been competitive. Here are some "numbers" for all the stats people to consider:

• Indiana has outrebounded its first five Big Ten opponents (except Minn 30-29)

• IU ranks dead last in three-point shooting percentage, making just 29.3 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc. Through to Jan. 17, Indiana had made just 20 three-pointers in five outings.

Tom Crean has the Hoosiers playing hard. Will they finish last in the conference? Probably, but as time goes on, they can only get better. And it all starts with their defense.

If you're looking for to boost the competitiveness of your team in practices, take a look at Tom Crean's DVD on Competitive Practice Drills. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Steve Lavin of ESPN breaking down Georgetown's princeton offense. He lists the following 5 offensive keys:

1. High and wide spacing
2. Precise passing
3. High velocity cutting
4. Reading the defense
5. Executing counters

It's a great offense for sure. A lot of people associate the Princeton offense for teams with less talent, but as Georgetown shows, you can incorporate it for any group of players. There's only one imperative in making it successful... Your players must pass the ball and work as a team. The Princeton is not a good ISO offense.

There are plenty of videos teaching various Princeton concepts like the backdoor cut, etc.. But surprisingly there aren't that many specific videos on implementing the Princeton system. If you are looking for one however, you should check out Joe Scott's DVD building the Princeton Offense. Coach Scott is the current head coach at Denver and used to be the head coach at Air Force and Princeton, both 5-out teams. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss your favorite coaching topics.

I spoke to a coaching friend the other day who was having some personnel issues. You know, it's that time of year, you're frustrated why your players aren't "listening" to you. Practices are like pulling teeth and in games it seems sometimes your players have no idea what they're supposed to be doing. It's driving you insane.

Sometimes we focus so much on problems and not on solutions. Why is it exactly that its not working out? Is it always structural? More important than tactics, a fundamental part of coaching is building and fostering a relationship of trust with your players so that they [the players] have the "courage to fail" in front of you, secure in the knowledge that by the end of practice and games, their weaknesses will have been laid bare solely for the purpose of reprogramming them into strengths for future encounters. Such a level of trust is like a house of cards. It takes a long time to build and it is extremely fragile. Its integrity is absolutely dependent on the professionalism and dedication of the training staff.

There's a great scene in the movie Days of Thunder. Tom Cruise plays the part of "Cole Trickle," a talented, but new to the NASCAR circuit driver. He has been burning up his tires and blowing engines on race cars designed and built by "Harry Hogge," played by Robert Duval. in the wake of constant tension and bickering between the two, Randy Quaid, who plays "Tim" the race team owner, brings Harry and Cole together for a "Come to Jesus" meeting during which the two berate each other for their respective "failings." After Cole stomps out of the meeting in anger, Tim and Harry have the following discussion:

Tim: Do you think he can drive?

Harry: Oh, he can drive... he can drive beyond the limits of the tires, the engine, the car, anything else... if the son-of-a-bitch would listen to me, we'd hardly ever lose a damn race.

Tim: Harry, I know, you're great, you know you're great... but if the guy in the car doesn't trust you, we're never gonna win a damn race.

After this meeting, Harry wanders off to find Cole in a bar, and sits down to talk with him. He suggest that they "need to talk." The discussion continues:

Cole: All right, Harry... talk.

Harry: No, on the radio, during a race. You wanna run right on the ragged edge all the damn time, you've gotta tell us what's going on with the car.

Cole: Well, you just wanna change the way I drive it.

Harry: Maybe.

Cole: Well maybe you could just set up the car so I don't have to change.

Harry: I'd be happy to. You just tell me how.

Cole: Well what do you want to know?

Harry: Well, hell, Cole, you're the driver... if you think it's running loose or tight, we'll give it a turn here, take some wedge out there... we'll win some races. That's all there is to it.

Cole: I can't do that.

Harry: Well why the hell not?

Cole: Because I don't know what the hell you're talking about.

Harry: How do you mean that?

Cole pauses, takes a couple of breaths, looks around nervously, gets closer to Harry, and says:

Cole: Because I don't know much about cars, okay.

Harry: Hey, Cole, that doesn't make a damn bit of difference for any driver I ever met.

Cole: No... I mean I really don't know... I don't know what you just said about turn here and wedge there... I don't know, I don't know.

Harry: How can that be?

Cole: What's the difference? They just told me to get in the car and drive and I could drive. The point is, I'd like to help out, but I can't. I'm an idiot... I don't have the vocabulary.

Harry: Well...

Cole:: Well?

Harry: Then, we're just gonna have to figure one out, aren't we. Don't worry about it... all right?

This is the critical and pivotal point in the movie since from this point on, the adversarial relationship between Cole and Harry transforms into one of collaboration. Trust is established and a relationship is built. Cole begins to trust that when it comes to what the car is capable of, Harry knows best. Harry coaches Cole thorough some experiential exercises so that they both have a thorough understanding of the limitations of the car/driver combination so that they can work within those limitations at the highest level of performance. This relationship could never have been built if Harry had been unwilling to extend the olive branch to Cole in an effort to understand what the underlying problem was. Cole knew nothing about cars, but was an amazingly intuitive driver. Because of his trust issues, he was not forthcoming about his lack of knowledge about cars, yet because he was such a phenomenal driver, Harry incorrectly assumed that Cole must have the underlying knowledge in order to perform so well.

Players may be terrified by games and will often suffer from a form of performance anxiety. Although they would never say it, they often come in believing they are going to be tricked or made to look foolish and may believe that the scenario is designed as a no-win situation. Thus, they take the position of "them vs the coaching staff." They make it their goal to beat the coaching staff at its own game. Whether of not the player is justified, (and especially if they are justified due to a negative offensive or defense used by past coaches) it is going to take a lot of effort on the part of the coaching staff to overcome this problem. The place to begin is with simple, properly structured scenarios with achievable, defined goals. If the player performs in accordance with known strategies and uses techniques that are in keeping with the approved offensive gameplan, he wins. [1]

[1] Kenneth Murray, Training at the Speed of Life, Volume One: The Definitive Textbook for Military and Law Enforcement Reality Based Training, (USA: Armiger Publications), 2004.

Took in the main TNT double-header tonight. The Celtics and the Magic really went at each other, was always like a playoff game, a preview no doubt. Meanwhile the Lakers really put their foot to the throats of the Wizards. Part of it was bad defense by the Wizards, but certainly the Lakers have certainly played superbly, especially at home.

Just wanted to show some clips of the Los Angeles organized early offense. Sometimes when I watch games with friends and such and they think it's just chaos, guys flying around. But early offense and primary break offense is organized. There is a purpose to it. Take a look (apologize in advance for the intermittent audio),

Hit the Trailer:

The trailer is often the last person picked up by the defense as they transition back. Therefore, there is usually a brief time that they will be completely open. Obviously, the Lakers exploit the extended confusion by the Wizards, but as a principle, I think hitting the trailer and either driving or shooting is a good way to get an open shot early in the shot clock,

The Run Out:

Some coaches don't like to teach the run out as you get away from the box out on defensive rebounds. Personally I think its an age thing. If you're coaching anything lower than JV, stick with 5 defensive rebounders. At the higher levels, you can adjust that by adding the rule that if your check is shooting a perimeter shot and is the last man back, run at then run out,

Screen and Shuffle:

You can see that this is a designed play. Instead of the ball going to the trailer, Lamar Odom this time sets a pick for Kobe Bryant who shuffles to the top of the key to meet the pass. If open, shoot,


It's common knowledge that most teams will score 70-80% of their baskets in transition. Of the 20-30% in halfcourt, most will be on broken plays or offensive rebounds. But that doesn't mean it's just a free for all. Early offense and fast break is organized. It's not just about sprinting, but it's running with a purpose. Again, these are things that you should be practicing, so that in games they become instinctual.

For more info on practice drills for your fast break, take a look at Bruce Weber's DVD on Drills for Transition Offense. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

Back to my regular routine. I caught an ACC regular season game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida State Seminoles. It was a hard fought back and forth game that had some outstanding shooting I must say by both teams.

As the game wound down, the Hurricanes managed to build a 5-10 point cushion. The Seminoles had to start pressing to force some turnovers. They used a basic M2M full court press sometimes using a double face-guard on the PG. To be sure, the Hurricanes did turn the ball over a few times, but they also scored a few times as well. In general, I though the Hurricanes did some unique things so I thought I would so them here,

Sorry for the mixup, somehow the first video didn't take, now it should be working...

Using 2 Inbounders:

I know this isn't some brand new innovation but I still think that it's something that all coaches should have in their back pocket as a wrinkle to use for your press break. It is especially great to use when the press isn't defending the inbounder, like so,

The Seminoles choose to double face-guard the PG, the primary ball-handler. O2 comes down to the endline. O3 crosses to the opposite side of the lane still behind the endline, then passes it to O2 all behind the endline. O3 pops out a few feet, and O2 returns the pass. O3 is off and running,

Pressure Release:

Against a hard M2M full court press. You want to have a pressure release. Basically 1 or 2 players that on the signal sprint down the floor. You can do a straight sprint, but sometimes that's too easy to spot and scout. Here, the Hurricanes fake the screen, and O4 is basically just streaking down the middle O3 baseball passes,

I included the one sequence when Miami called a timeout as well because I think it's important that players realize that they always have the option to call one rather than make a bad play (especially late in games). This assuming you are playing regular US basketball rules and not FIBA.


It's mid to late January so its getting down to the nitty gritty. The preparation since the off-season and those little things are what will make the difference now. I like watching and breaking down press breaks partly because some of my prior teams have had such a hard time with. But it is a vital part of the game, as witness over the weekend when Pitt had such a hard time with Louisville's press.

For more great press breakers, check out John Brady's DVD on his press break. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.

Today is such a unique and historic day that I thought I would take a break from X's and O's and do a little introspection instead and talk about inspiration, values, and approach. Most of y'all probably know that Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy retired last week after his team lost in their playoff game. I decided to pick up his book last week Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life and just finished it yesterday. It literally blew me away.


Regardless of your religious affiliation, what comes across most vividly through the book is that faith matters. Faith, not necessarily in a religious sense, but faith in the philosophical sense of knowing that you will make the right decision because of the values and traditions that you believe in. So if you do happen to be a Christian like Coach Dungy, it is his faith in God that provides him the strength to overcome any challenge, to be truly fearless in everything he does.


When I think of character, I think of that old Christian adage of The Golden Rule. "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31). And I'm not only referring to your players, but your own character. I meet a lot of coaches as we all do and we all know the ones that have good character and the ones that have bad character. As molders of young minds, we project our character onto others, and believe it or not as coaches we have an incredible influence on how these young individuals will develop character-wise. Coach Dungy is obviously a man of character. He treats others the way he hopes others will treat him and it reflects in the players on his teams.


An often neglected part of the "coaches life." Coach Dungy is leaving to spend more time with his family who needs him. Every coach sacrifices a part of himself for this vocation. But the key is balance. I do believe that success can be achieved in both family and work. Maybe it means smarter practices, better time management, or delegating to assistants more, always find time for the family. Recently a long-time high-profile high school head coach from where I live announced he is retiring after the end of this season. Sometimes you have to recognize when it is time to step away.

With the grace that is what makes Tony Dungy the most "Uncommon Man" of all, he ends with this great and often quoted passage:

And so we press on…We press on with our sense that life’s not always fair. And we press on with the knowledge – and assurance – that even though we can’t see all of God’s plan, He is there, at work and in charge, loving us… We press on into an abundant life on earth, followed by an eternity with God.
Tony Dungy's new book Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance is coming out in a few weeks and you can find more great life tips from Coach Dungy on his website.

First off, Happy Martin Luther King day. And an even better Barack Obama Inauguration day, what a great time to be alive. Since it is a holiday, I'll try to keep it short.

I went through some recorded games today and caught the Boston Celtics against the New Jersey Nets from over the weekend. Ray Allen of the Celtics put on an absolute shooting clinic in the first half. But what was more apparent me was the lack of defensive preparation and attentiveness by the Nets defending Allen.

When you play against a great pure shooter like Allen, you must be adept at the art of chasing. Go over the top on all screens, never leave a shooter to double-team or help, and the cardinal sin, never turn your back on a good shooter. Watch first,

Go Over the Top of Screens:

There are many ways of defending screens, screen and rolls, etc... In my opinion, against a good shooter like Allen, you need to go over the top. Chase the shooter, make them put it on the floor and dribble into help. When you go under, you just encourage them to take that open shot. After the handoff here, Vince Carter should've gone over the top instead of asked Devin Harris to switch from underneath,

Never Leave a Shooter to Help or Double:

Actually there's two things here to note. First, when playing straight M2M never turn your back on your check, ball-you-man at all times. In the video cuts, there is one sequence where Vince Carter turns and his back is to Allen, who cuts to the basket and scores the And1. In this sequence, Allen's defender leaves him to help on the Rondo handoff drive, turning his back on Allen, very bad idea,


The Celtics look like they're back to playing good ball. Which means primarily they are playing good defense for 4 quarters (which was lacking in their slump recently). Though the Magic are playing great, the Celtics can still hang with any of the Cavs or Magic. As for the Nets, they're slowing slipping into oblivion. I know they'd had injury problems, but they are definitely playing as good as their talent.

For more great info from a defensive wizard, take a look at an oldie but still invaluable Rick Pitino's 4-DVD Pack. Pitino goes over both offense but more importantly his aggressive M2M and Press defenses. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

From UMass to Oklahoma State, Travis Ford from UMass to Oklahoma St, how about that for a segue. Anyways, some great games yesterday. I watched most of the Big12 game between ranked Baylor and Oklahoma St, and what a game it was. The Cowboys got the early lead, Baylor stormed back, then the Cowboys, then a 12-1 run by the Bears to force OT, then the Bears finally outlasted the Cowboys.

What I wanted to show was Oklahoma State's defense. Specifically, how they shrink the court and play very physical. It's the kind of defense we all would like our teams to play I would think. Here are a few sequences from the first half,

Shrink the Court:

You hear coaches say it all the time, "shrink the court." But what does that really mean? Well, it means what it says. As a defense, you want to shrink the available court where the offense can use. How do you do that? Well, there are a number of ways, obviously a trap can do it, or you could overload. The traditional way through a M2M defense is to force the defense to the baseline to help. The Cowboys do a great job of doing this,

Now, this raises the contentious debate of whether you should force middle or baseline. My opinion, forcing baseline limits the offenses options. But forcing middle can be effective as well depending on whether you have the personnel. The fundamental principle though still holds, I like defenses that dictate the offense, rather than passive defenses that react to the offenses first move. Be the aggressor.

Taking Charges:

The Cowboys as shown do a great job taking charges. This is another contentious issue as some coaches believe taking charges can be a game-changer, others feel it is over-rated given the inconsistency in reffing. My personal opinion, just teach good defensive stance and positioning, both on-ball and help side. Obviously, players need to know the basic fundamentals of taking the charge (contact, then fall on your butt). But I don't think you necessarily need to emphasize taking the charge. Emphasize stance and positioning and the rest will take care of itself (refs, fouls, etc..).


This game was really interesting from a coaching perspective in that both had very different defensive philosophies but offensively both were very similar. Travis Ford of UMass brought the hard M2M defense, a lot of hard hedging and half-court traps, more fouls. Baylor on the other hand was much more of a zone defense, some M2M but very pack like, less fouls. Offensively, both are very explosive, like to run. Baylor is a very talented team offensively, probably one of the best I've seen so far this season.

For a truly unique video on forcing baseline, check out Seth Greenberg's new DVD on the Defensive Stance. Greenberg does not believe in 'step and slide' and prefers short quick choppy steps resulting in the offense going through you, interesting stuff. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Found this video that was made late last year around Oct 2008 when the college season was still starting about UMass' new Dribble Drive Motion offense under new head coach Derek Kellogg and his new assistant Vance Walberg. It's got about 3 minutes and includes video of UMass running their blood drills on air using a lot of dribble handoffs and lob passes.

UMass men's basketball

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

Catching up from earlier in the week, Wednesday night to be exact. NCAA conference play between Florida and Auburn. Florida led most of the way but it was a scrappy defensive affair. The Tigers running a really tough M2M defense while the Gators zoned up most of the game. Though it appeared sloppy at times offensively, I thought the Gators did well to stay ahead most of the game in the hostile crowd on the road. If there's one thing in college basketball you'll notice, the home team always has a huge advantage.

In a low scoring defensive minded game like this, it seems a little odd to be talking about offense. But I think it is in these games were your half-court offense, and/or individual offensive fundamentals become so important. We all know that most points in a game are scored through transition, but in defensive battles, your half-court offense needs to be good enough.

Watching Florida under Billy Donovan the years they won the 2 Championships were mostly spread PNR teams. They still do run the spread PNR, but they run some other continuity sets as well. I took these from the second half, of Florida's UCLA to baseline flex offense,

First some diagrams, then some more commentary afterwards

UCLA to Baseline Flex:

Very basic set, but a lot of good shot opportunities out of it. They don't have a predetermined initial setup, but roughly 4-out 1-in or 3-2 high. O3 comes out to receive the pass at the top from O1. O5 goes to set a UCLA screen for O1 who does a basket cut. O5 pops out to the top of the key. Also note, that O1 can fake the UCLA cut, and v-cut back to the 3-point line for an open 3-pointer. For many HS teams, you'd probably get 1 or 2 cheap baskets off this initial action.

Next, O1 goes to set a baseline flex screen for O4. O4 sets up the cut high, then goes low along the baseline flashing to the middle. O3 goes to O5 whose first look is to O4 in the middle.

O3 drops down to the midpost. O1 relocates to the wing. If O4 doesn't get the ball, he sets a baseline screen for O2. O3 helps to make a double baseline screen. O2 comes all the way across the baseline. O5 passes to O1 who looks for O2 on the curl off the 2nd screen for a mid-range.

Not shown in the video, but for most of you continuity coaches, you can easily reset by having O4 relocate to the opposite wing and O2 at the ballside corner-wing. Then repeat as below,


Now, I picked two of the sequences specifically because Florida didn't score the first shot. They got the rebound and then scored. Your continuity offense is only as good as the players abilities. There was another play where Dan Werner received the ball off the baseline screen and missed the open layup. That is why you never short-change fundamentals work in practices. Remember, your players are the ones that score, not your plays or schemes.

If you're looking for more info on skill development and specifically shooting, take a look at Billy Donovan's brand new DVD on Shooting Drills. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

I watch most of the game last night between the Phoenix Suns and the Atlanta Hawks and I was both impressed and disappointed by the Suns. On the one hand, I thought they did some great things on defense and offense, especially in the first half against the upstart Hawks. But then in the second and fourth quarters, they lost their focus and let the Hawks back in the game.

To focus on the positives, I thought the Suns are really becoming a great defensive team. For one thing, they're no longer running the 2-3 zone they used to run last year a lot (at least I haven't seen it this year in the few games I've watched). They're fundamentally a M2M team but what they do is have Shaq do most of the help defense down low. In a way, you could say he's zoned up. This allows the defender 1 pass away to stay on his check, and when the offense reverses the ball, they rotate. Take a look,

Cutters through the lane:

With Shaq basically permanently in the lane. He can help on cutters through the lane. what this does is basically disuade the pass from going to the cutter. There isn't much point to pass it to the cutter, now that Shaq is there.

The rest of the defense shifts slightly to cover the gaps. In the clip you can actually see Steve Nash directing the defense as to where to go to cover the gaps,

Defending the PNR:

The biggest knock on the Suns during the playoffs last year was their inability to defend the PNR of the Spurs. Specifically, it was the liability of Shaq on defending the PNR. The problem in that series is that they were bringing Shaq up top to switch or hedge on the ball-screen, then recover on the roll. As we all know, Shaq isn't quite so nimble on his feet anymore (you could say he never was).

What the Suns do now, is basically Shaq doesn't leave the lane. The PNR is run, Shaq stays in the lane. The primary ball defender is taught to slip over top of the screen so as to prevent the ball-screen 3-pointer, and encourage the drive to the basket. In doing so, Shaq is basically sitting there waiting for the drive to come right at him, where the chances of scoring are all of a sudden lower. The added benefit is that in a spread offense, as you can see below, X3 doesn't have to help, stays on his man the whole time,

Well, nothing is perfect, neither is this tactic. What the Suns give up is the mid-range. If O1 comes off the ball-screen, he can stop on a dime and shoot the wide open pull-up 15 foot jumper. Also, a quicker clever guard like a Chris Paul can and will get fouls called on Shaq trying to block the drive.


Even with the pitfalls stated above, I still think that what the Suns doing is a good strategy. Going back to Miami's Championship run a while back, Shaq basically did the same thing. Offensively, the Suns are much improved with Jason Richardson, and in this game Shaq had a huge game. Combine the two, then I think the Suns should be considered a legitimate top 5 team.

As for the Hawks, they're a young team with a lot of athleticism and they've improved a lot since last year. They don't turn the ball over quite as much as you would think for an inexperienced team. They're the "ya never know" team. They might just beat a Boston, Cleveland, or Orlando in the playoffs.

Some great new videos just got released the other day. If you're looking for more defense info, then check out Sean Miller's new DVD on Dominating Man-to-Man Defense. Coach Miller is the head coach of Xavier who creates a fantastic newsletter, you can sign up for it here. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

By popular request, this is Coach Bobby Knight breaking down Duke's Spread Offense. Coach Knight is all about spacing, his motion offense that he's taught for years is also all about spacing. It's probably one of the harder things to teach, because players tend to cluster around the ball. That's why I think the 5-out offense is the best offense to teach at the lower levels, it helps players develop that sense of spacing which they will bring up with them when they get up to the higher levels.

As an aside, I love how Coach only refers to numbers, no names. There is an old school coach that I know that does the same thing. It's not a sign of disrespect (obviously Coach knows #12 is Kyle Singler), it's just a coaching method to instill the values of team, no one player is above the team, you win as a team, lose as a team.

What a great game last night between Louisville and Notre Dame. When you have the athletes on defense, you can really create chaos and prevent opposing teams from running their offensive sets. That's what the Cardinals did last night, they forced just enough turnovers to make it the difference in the game. The Irish were able to get good shots when they were patient and not rushed by Louisville's pressure, but they wore down in the OT period.

In between game action, ESPN's Jay Bilas did a great segment breaking down Luke Harangody's unorthodox shot, aptly named "the flipper shot." It's kind of like Tyler Hansbrough's shot in that it is really shot from head level except the release is much quicker. Take a look,

Quick Release:

As with most unorthodox moves, there are some good points and bad points. The good of course is the quick release. From catch to release, the flipper is so fast that it almost always catches the defense looking instead of acting. This can be advantageous for smaller players that need to shoot over taller players. In this clip, after Harangody puts his defender to the ground, the help defense doesn't even have to time to react and the ball is already almost out of his hands,

Lack of Follow-Through:

Now the bad. The primary reason why I don't like the flipper shot and why I wouldn't teach it is that there is a lack of follow-through with the wrist and fingers. There is a reason why we teach the follow through, with the index finger as the last finger to roll off the ball. Without a good follow-through, the result is either a lack of rotation or incorrect rotation (side, or top spin),


To be honest, I wouldn't teach the flipper shot to anyone but I also recognize there are many ways to accomplish the same thing. Obviously Harangody has practiced it a lot, so much so that he's perfected it. It's like Jim Furyk in golf. Probably the most unorthodox swing you'll ever see in professional golf, but he's gotten it to work for him. Still, just because it was good enough for him to win the US Open, doesn't mean you would start out teaching it to a kid just starting to learn to play golf.

For y'all Notre Dame and Coach Mike Brey fans, check out Mike Brey's DVD on his Full Court Motion Offense. It's a blend of early offense and half-court motion all in one system. Discuss your favorite offenses at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

If you like Bobby Knight (I know, some of you do, some of you don't), then you'll be happy to know that he will be appearing on CBS in March doing 1-hour specials breaking down the teams during March Madness, along with Billy Packer.

In the meantime, he did a short breakdown segment on ESPN of why he thinks Blake Griffin of Oklahoma is the best sophomore in college ball right now. I like the Sooners a lot this year, I really like Head Coach Jeff Capel's style. Anyways, back to Bobby Knight,

I liked the part about how Knight described the pump fake as his favorite move. If you read this blog, you know that I'm a big fan of the pump fake as well. I really like 1v1 moves that are talent equalizers. Moves like the pump fake, jab step, crab dribble, much more useful for the average player than fancy moves like a spin move, or a no look pass. Also, liked the part about how Knight talks about making the right decision offensively.

If you're thinking of running Bobby Knight's motion offense, then take a look at Dan Dakich's DVD on 5-man Motion Offense. Dakich played and spent several years under Bobby Knight in his many years at Indiana University. Talk early offense at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

I went through some recorded stuff and came across the Rockets and the Thunder from a few nights ago. I read the article by Adrian Woj the other day about the Rockets and their seemingly incapability to stay completely healthy enough to make a Championship run. It would be nice to see them get through, I think they have the right combination of offense and defense, but they do somehow need to stay healthy enough to see it through.

Well, the Thunder aren't exactly the best team in the NBA (6-32 record) but I thought that on this night anyways, the Rockets did a good job of switching up their defense on the Thunder's best player Kevin Durant. When you have to go up against a prolific scorer, in my opinion it's a good tactic to constantly give that person different defensive looks. In this case, they will double Durant, but they switch the timing, so sometimes on the catch, sometimes on the bounce, sometimes not until the lane. Take a look,

When to Double:

I don't think that there is any hard and fast rule. It's highly contextual. In general, I would say that on the wing, you would double on the dribble whereas in the post, you would double on the catch. The Rockets do both, early on in the second half, they double on the catch,

But later in game during the crucial last 2 minutes, the Rockets decide to double Durant on the dribble. Also, you'll notice in the last 2 video sequences, it was a different person who doubled, Scola then Yao. This first time it was Scola,


In my opinion, it is on the defensive end where coaches must think more tactically. We would all love to have the 5 best M2M defenders in our respective leagues on our team, but of course that isn't reality. The reality is, the other team always has a way to exploit your defensive weakness and therefore it is up to you as a coach to figure out what it is and how to adjust. Before and after games, I am always thinking about who should guard (or guarded) whom, should we double, should we front, should we zone, etc...

As for the Rockets, I think that they are good right now, but not great. If they can get back to playing the kind of defense they played last year when Yao went down, they could be a top 4 team. I think they obviously have potential, especially with Artest now with the team, but they're not there yet.

For more great info on defensive techniques, take a look at Jay Wright's DVD on Defensive Drills and Techniques. Coach Wright talks about stance and strategies to contain quick ball handlers. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

With College football done and NFL playoffs winding up, that means it's all basketball all the time. Caught the CBS game this morning between Kansas and Michigan St. It wasn't much of a game as MSU stormed out of the gate and ran away with it early on. But CBS did one of their short 'wired' segments with MSU head coach Tom Izzo and I thought it was great. It's too bad, they don't have a channel where they just show the head coach mic'd up talking all the way through. Anyways, I don't know how Coach Izzo has any voice left after 2.5 hours, take a listen,

Best part? "Way to shrink the court, baby! Timeout! Timeout! Timeout!" But in all seriousness, I like that Coach Izzo is a player's coach. Obviously, I don't have a personal relationship so I don't really know if he is a player's coach. But from everything that I've read and heard, he's a guy that really cares about each and everyone one of his players. I think this picture says it all, Coach Izzo with sophomore guard Durrell Summers,

If you are a big Michigan State or Coach Izzo fan, then you'll enjoy Tom Izzo's DVD on the 1-3-1 Zone Offense. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

As posted on Storming The Floor, I re-broke down Bo Ryan's Swing Offense that he runs at Wisconsin. I coaching friend of mine has run the traditional swing offense for many years and swears by it. Personally, I think the offense is not as generic as as a 5-out that it can be used by any team, but I think with the right combination of talent, it could be a really effective motion offense. If you want a question answered, go ahead and email Storming The Floor, stormingthefloor@gmail.com, and I'll try my best to represent.

Just wanted to share with y'all something I picked up on while listening to Jim Rome on the radio earlier in the week. Jim was talking to Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant and the topic came up about Jim bumping into Kobe near a restaurant in LA late one Saturday night a couple of summers ago. Jim asked him to sit with him for a drink on him, but Kobe told Jim that he had to go to his gym and workout. 9pm, Saturday night, in the offseason, Kobe said: "I don't feel right if I miss a day's workout, that's just me. I feel like I cheated myself if a day goes by and I don't workout." Remember the 10,000 hour rule...

In between stoppages of the BCS Championship game tonight, I took in a little action between the Spurs and the Clippers. The game was close for the first half, but then the Spurs just turned things up in the third quarter and the fourth was mostly garbage time. One thing is certain when you watch a Spurs game, it's almost always good basketball because the Spurs make good decisions. Offense is all about decision-making, much more than other sports like football where most players have 1 specialized task and that's it. In basketball, each player is like a running back or a quarterback in football where in those positions each player is constantly having to read where the defense is coming from, where the holes are opening up, when to cut back, when to throw, when to duck and run, when to check down, etc...

The Spurs run probably the most generic offensive sets in the NBA, Spread, PNR, post-iso. What makes them so prolific is that the Spurs have high IQ players. Players who know what the right play is. The right play is highly contextual, sometimes it's a Duncan pass out of a double-team to Bonner, or a Tony Parker drive on a ball-screen switch, or a Parker pass out of help defense to a Bonner sliding to the corner. (I apologize in advance for the audio).

Just a few pictures to illustrate the point again. Most of this stuff is obvious. But it's not good enough if it is obvious to you and me, what matters is that it is obvious to your players.

Duncan sees the double and knows the smart play is pass to Bonner,

After Parker burns the Clips by exploiting the switch on a couple of ball screens, the Clips decide to sag on penetration. Parker reads the defensive adjustment and makes the right decision by hitting Bonner on the pick and pop,

When you get to the level of the NBA, where everyone is talented, everyone is capable of making spectacular athletic plays. The cerebral becomes the intangible.


I think it's one of the most common issues that coaches complain about. Our offense doesn't work. What they really mean is that their players chronically make the wrong decision. They shoot when they should have passed. They passed when they should have drove. In my opinion, it's a combination of the 10,000 hour rule and basketball IQ. In other words, your players need to have the experience of playing enough games so as to learn from making decisions in real game like situations. But they also need to be a student of the game. That is to say, they also need to be educated in the tactical side of the game in order to not know the difference between good and bad decisions but why they are good or bad.

If you're a fan of the Spurs like me, you'll want to watch Gregg Popovich's DVD on his favorite plays and drills. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

I took in the ESPN game of the week, Davidson against Duke tonight. Great atmosphere at Cameron Indoor. Still on my list of things to do in my bucket list, Cameron Indoor Duke versus UNC. But as for tonight's game, Duke did a solid job doubling and crowding Stephen Curry most of the night (and Curry still ended up with 29). The Wildcats had one last gasp in the last 5 minutes to close within 10 but couldn't get any closer.

I picked this play for a couple of reasons. First off, I think any baseline inbounds that includes a screen and basket cut is great because for whatever reason, defenses usually breakdown against that action on the inbounds. But also defensively, it begs the question on the positioning of the inbounds defender. Watch Davidson's box BLOB and then read further afterwards,

Box BLOB Screen and Cut:

First the play. Your basic box set. Curry inbounds (O2), O3 cuts to the opposite corner. O4 sets a screen across the lane for O1, O5 goes up to make it a stagger screen for O1. Notice how X1 and X4 get caught trailing O1,

O4 does a simple basket cut after the screen and as mentioned, X1 and X4 get caught trailing O1. X3 has 1 foot in the lane in ball-you-man but his help is late. Notice also that should X3 closeout in time, O4 can skip it to O3 who was wide open for a jumper,

Defending BLOBS, Wearing the Crown:

I've heard of this concept before and it came up the other day when I was talking with a coaching friend about how they defend inbounds. The idea is that in defending BLOBs, the inbound defender should "wear the crown." That is to say, they should be right underneath (or very close to) the basket so as to act almost like a goaltender. This would be counter to the traditional M2M defense which is to crowd the inbounder and make it difficult for them to throw the ball in,

I'm a traditionalist, so I've never tried "wearing the crown" but I think this idea has merit. It's safer in that you prevent the uncontested layup. But at the same time, leaving the inbounder open can also leave you vulnerable for the pass back to the inbounder to the corner. Pros and cons either way.


In the video clip you can hear Mark Jackson and Mike Tirico argue whether Stephen Curry is NBA ready. Tirico mentions Curry's turnovers, but I think that some people over-estimate numbers. Remember, everything about Davidson's offense runs through Curry, so naturally he will have higher turnover numbers. I agree with Mark, Curry is ready to be a starter in the NBA as a rookie next year. He reminds me of a skinnier version of Deron Williams.

If you're a Davidson fan, then you'll want to check out Bob McKillop's new DVD on Winning Special Situations including BLOB and SLOB. Coach McKillop is the longtime head coach of Davidson College. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Upsets appear to be contagious. After a weekend of upsets, they continued again today. This time it was Arkansas beating seventh ranked Texas. It was a defensive battle most of the night but the Razorbacks got on run in the second half and stayed ahead for good. I really like what Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said after the game:

I’m not going to sit here and tell you we’re better than Texas, because I don’t know if I believe that. But we didn’t have to be tonight just to win the basketball game.

I like that kind of attitude. It's the old cliche of taking it one game at a time, one quarter at a time. It's a tired one I know, but it works.

There were two key plays at the end of the game that helped Arkansas seal the win. From a coaching perspective, they are great because it goes to show that ultimately, fundamentals do win ball games. Two great skill plays by two players, a crab dribble crossover, and a pump fake. It's easy to get caught up in the "big play" to win the game, but it's the little things, the things you work on with players during their 1-on-1 skill instruction. Take a look first,

Using The Crab Dribble:

There's been all the hoopla the past couple of days over Lebron's travel call against the wizards in the last minute of their game. Lebron says he did a crab dribble, then 2 steps, but the video shows 3 steps. Anyways, lost in all the discussion is regarding the crab dribble itself. I love the crab dribble because it's a talent equalizer. It's basically a hesitation dribble using 1 hand. You push the ball forward, then using the same hand, pull it back, then push forward again. If you want to watch someone who does the crab dribble to perfection, watch Steve Nash.

Now, Courtney Fortson the PG for Arkansas doesn't perform a crab dribble here by definition because he switches hands midway, but the concept of a hesitation is still there,

Using The Pump Fake:

You can't put a value on a good pump fake. There was a guy I knew who would practice his pump fakes in front of a mirror every day. Just to see what he looked like and to perfect the art of the fake. A good pump fake like the crab dribble is a great talent equalizer. This last play that basically seals the win for Arkansas only works because of the nice tight pump fake by Michael Washington to bait his defender to leave his feet on the closeout, and then it's straight to the rim,


Arkansas is just one of those teams that slips under the radar because they play in the SEC, but come tournament time, the SEC teams always seem to come up big. They have a young team, but Coach Pelphrey has them believing they can beat anyone. They beat Oklahoma earlier and now Texas. Watch out for the Razorbacks. As for the Longhorns, I think they'll be fine, they had a terrible shooting night and just never got on track. They definitely can be more aggressive though, they tend to settle for jumpers instead of attacking the rim.

For a brand new video from a great coach, check out Bruce Weber's DVD on Offensive Skill Set Improvement. Coach Weber is the head coach of Illinois. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.