Just Say No to PE Cuts

I don't mean to get all political on y'all, but I thought some of y'all would find this interesting -- an ESPN Outside the Lines feature on how Phys. Ed in schools is getting "left behind" (in reference to No Child Left Behind). Since I'm in education and hoping to get a job in the field soon, I feel passionate about this issue, to me its just pure ignorance to not see the correlation between less PE and higher childhood obesity. When I grew up, we had mandatory PE until Grade 12. We had PE every day. Nowadays, I've heard of schools that don't even have mandatory PE at all.

I understand that school budgets are shrinking, running heavy deficits, etc... but I think PE is just too important to be left out, this is something that will have drastic consequences for all of us as a society. I agree that the academic core subjects are vital, but how can teaching kids how to lead active healthy lifestyles not be considered a core subject?? That just blows my mind. Hopefully the bill to amend No Child Left Behind with PE standards will get passed. Write your mayor, governor, senator, or congressman, lets get this done right or suffer the consequences...

In last night's Game 6 elimination win by the Lakers over the Nuggets, the key stretches were late in the first half when they made that run to close the half, and early in the 3rd quarter with the fine play of Pau Gasol in the post. I've watched several games so far throughout these playoffs where Gasol played very well, and it shouldn't be surprising because the triangle offense after all is predicated on good post play.

In contrast to a power center like Dwight Howard or Shaq, Gasol is the kind of post player that beats you will exceptional footwork and fundamentals, much like a Tim Duncan. When he's got his back against the defender in the post, he reads the contact and then makes his move depending on where the contact is from. Take a look at a few plays from the 3rd quarter,

With Pau Gasol, it's a matter of simple mechanics. He receives the ball in the post, and plants his feet shoulder width apart. He leans back as he feels the weight of the defender deciding where the contact is and how he will attack. As he gathers himself, he takes 1 or 2 dribbles knocking the defender back a step or 2. As he gathers himself, he bumps off the defender, pivots and rolls baseline with a drop step and goes up for a hook shot or off the glass,


At the end of the clip you heard Mike Breen talk about what Gasol said post-game after the Game 5 that the Lakers needed to get the ball into the post more often. I don't think that was a slight against the Lakers. After all, the triangle offense is designed to be initiated with a post-entry pass to the low post, and depending on how the defense is playing, there is a 3-man game on the strong-side and 2-man on the weak side. So, really Gasol was just saying the Lakers needed to go back to the triangle offense.

Overall, in the past 2 games, I thought the Lakers have really shown why they were the favorites again from the Western Conference. They have the talent, and now the defense to take it all the way. The Lakers will once again be the favorite in the Finals against either the Cavs or the Magic, and once again it will be whether the Lakers can execute that will determine whether or not they are champions or runner-up this time around.

If you're looking for more post development stuff, check out Mike Krzyzewski's DVD on Post-play Development. Coach K is the longtime head coach of Duke and Team USA at the Olympics this past summer. 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.

Following Eric Musselman on Twitter, I came across this SI.com article on taking charges aptly titled Flopping 101. And of course this has been a popular topic all season in the NBA going back with Shaq and Stan Van Gundy, and now Van Gundy and Ben Wallace. As coaches, it is a common phrase heard on the bench but also in practices, "c'mon take the charge!" Or is it a flop?? Here are the 5 main points from the SI article:

1. Floppers cannot be stopped.
2. Big men shouldn't flop.
3. Europeans are superior floppers.
4. Flopping doesn't have to hurt.
5. Flopping is an art form.

Of the above, I agree with 2, 4, and 5.

Big Men shouldn't take charges (flop). Because there is a greater risk of injury for big men, 200+ pounds going hard to the floor. Small players are more agile and more likely to get into a good position to square up, take the contact in the chest, and fall down with less of a chance of injury as compared to a lumbering big man. Still, the risk of injury does remain.

Taking charges doesn't have to hurt and it is a practiced skill. If practiced properly, a player should be able to absorb the contact in the chest, and fall down gracefully on the backside.

A lot of times I hear this familiar question -- should you teach players how to take a charge? As an overall defensive philosophy, I myself am somewhat ambivalent on teaching players how to take charges. On the one hand, if you consider the end result of a taken charge: personal foul and team foul charged to the opponent, and change of possession. Very few plays in basketball can compare to that outcome that fall under the defenses' control. On the other hand, getting the charge call from the referees is highly contextual. Late in games, referees will more often than not opt for the no-call or even with a blocking foul -- this despite instances when the charge appears obvious. Depending on the level of play, there are more charging calls the higher up you play. So at the youth level, I rarely see a taken charge called, whereas in Varsity, College, and finally professional, you see it called more often.

Huge game for the Cavs against the Magic tonight. In watching the first four games of this series, I can't help but note the remarkably similar half-court offenses, remarkably similar half-court defenses, between the 2 teams with the difference being that the Magic are hitting more 3-pointers. And despite the apparent equality, the Magic are up 3-1 (and possibly a sweep if not for a last second heroic shot by Lebron).

I took these clips from the second half of Game 4. Both teams employ basically the same half-court offense. The Magic are spread 4-out 1-in, ball goes into Howard, Cavs collapse, ball goes back out for a 3-pointer and they hit. The Cavs spread out sometimes 5-out, Lebron posts up high-post, he drives, Magic collapse, ball goes back out for a 3-pointer and they miss. Take a look,

Here are the Magic in the 4-out set, with Howard, Cavs collapsing,

Note how the Cavs are similarly setup with the difference being Lebron starting at the high-post, driving, Magic collapsing, and the ball goes back out,


I mentioned earlier how both teams basically allowing the other teams star player to do what they do -- with the series coming down to which teams supporting cast will make more shots. Now that the Cavs are against the wall, question is will they adjust their offense and/or defense? Or will keep the same hoping that their supporting cast players out shoot the Magic supporting cast? Should be a good one, enjoy it...

For more spread offense info out of a 4-out 1-in set, take a look at Jamie Dixon's Spread 4-out 1-in Offense. Coach Dixon is the head coach of University of Pittsburgh, currently ranked third overall in the nation. 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.

Interesting article from Rivals.com about Kentucky's new head coach John Calipari and his coaching style and style of his staff (timing appears coincidental with the allegations surrounding Memphis and Derrick Rose). The article contradicts itself somewhat -- assistant coach John Robic is apparently the only one responsible for all opponent scouting, yet somehow each coach will "have his fingerprints over every facet of the program from scouting to academics and beyond." But irregardless, in reading the article it had me thinking about assistant coaches and what their role should be on the team.

Do you have your assistants take notes or track stats throughout games? Do you divide up the players and assign specific assistants to do individual skill work? Do you have assistants break down film and cut up highlights for you? Do you work with your assistant coaches with the understanding that they will be head coaches someday? How do you evaluate your assistants performance?

Coach Cal appears to be a delegator who encourages independent thoughts. I'm not sure if that approach works in every single situation, especially if you have assistants who are a little wet behind the ears. But for a high-level college program, it probably does.

If you're looking for a comprehensive video on the dribble drive motion offense, check out Fran Fraschilla's DVD set on the Encyclopedia of the Dribble-Drive Motion Offense. The set includes 3 DVD's where Coach Fraschilla breaks down 3 different kinds of the dribble drive based on the different formations, 4-out, 3-out, and vs zone. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

Thoughts About Kobe Doin' Work

Just watched the Spike Lee documentary Kobe Doin' Work yesterday. A lot of people have been trashing it from what I've read but I enjoyed watching most of it. I think some valid criticism is the choice of games, instead of a playoff game, they went with a regular season game. It didn't have the drama of an NFL Films documentary but I thought it really did get into the mind of Kobe during a game. Here are some random thoughts:

Kobe the Thinker:
The one take away that is obvious is that Kobe meant it when he said, "these young guys are playing checkers. I'm out there playing chess." Kobe is such a cerebral player, he's game planning everything in his head. I think that can be both a blessing or a curse depending on the player. Some guys, you don't want them to be thinking too much, they can think themselves out of just playing basketball. Obviously Kobe is that kind of special player that is probably more knowledgeable then most coaches. Kobe is like an extension of Phil Jackson on the basketball court.

Video at Halftime:
One thing that impressed me was the behind the scenes in the locker room during the halftime. They watch film of the first half and discuss what adjustments they need to make in the second, that's impressive, but it is the NBA after all, what else would you expect.

Discussions with the Refs:
There was also some good bits where Kobe was discussing certain calls with the referees. You see it in the game all the time, so it was good to hear what they actually say. The refs are just regular guys like you and me and there is actually a lot of discussion between the players and the refs, coaches and the refs.

Triangle Offense:
In the second half, Kobe goes through some detail of their triangle offense. I agree with Kobe who says that their Triangle Offense is some mystical formula. It's really just a continuity offense (formation as Kobe calls it) with a series of options. There isn't any set plays Phil Jackson calls, just sequences.

The innovator of the triangle offense, a version of the triple-post continuity is Tex Winter. For more on the triangle, you should look at Tex Winter's DVD on the Encyclopedia of the Triangle Offense. If you've missed seeing Coach Winter on the Lakers sideline recently it is because he is recovering a stroke he suffered a couple of months ago. Hopefully he has a quick recovery. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

Notwithstanding another costly inbounds turnover late in the game, I thought the Nuggets played well in Game 3. The big difference was the emergence of Chris "the birdman" Andersen off the bench. Jeff Van Gundy did a good analysis of how the Nuggets were sending cutters to beat the Lakers' overload (or matchup) defense. Take a look (audio is a little wonky in the beginning),

The Lakers are essentially using the same overload (or matchup) defense they've used all season and specifically against the Nuggets in last year's playoffs. They bring one of the defenders, usually a 4 or 5 (Gasol or Bynum) to the ball-side to take away Melo driving to the basket. This leaves the 4 or 5 on the Nuggets essentially unguarded. Since that player (K-Mart or Andersen) isn't usually a good shooter, the best thing to do is have them do a simple basket cut,

If this looks similar to what you would do against a typical 2-3 zone, you would be correct. Send a cutter to the middle of the floor, the soft spot in the zone. Where the cutter can either finish if left unguarded or pass off to the short corner if the middle or side defenders come up to defend.


The Nuggets really did this well in Game 3. Question for the Lakers is whether to keep overloading and try their best to zone up against the Andersen's and K-Mart's. Or go back to 1v1 coverage, but risk Melo going off for 40 points. I think the cost-benefit is still in favor of the overload, so the Lakers will continue to run it, but they'll try to clean up their weakside coverage to limit points from cutters, forcing them to pass back out.

For more zone offense info, take a look at Bob Huggins's DVD on his Dive/Fill Zone Offense. Coach Huggins is the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Via Eric Musselman's Twitter site, I came across this great article talking about what make's a good coach. Of course, this is all subjective and dependent on many different factors and opinions of how to judge success.

I like the following quote though:

Coaches are an extension of the classroom — to a degree an extension of a kid's family, someone who a student-athlete can rely on, believe in and TRUST.
Like it or not, coaches hold a tremendous amount of influence on the people they coach, regardless of the level of competition. How you coach, what you say, and how you act as a coach all inevitably make their way into the player's minds, consciously and subconsciously. There are players that I've coached many a year ago who I bump into on occasion, and when they recite word for word some of my "coaching idioms", it brings a smile to my face every time.

High school coaches have responsibilities that go beyond the typical classroom -- helping to shape and mold young bodies and young minds through the formative years of their development. That is an incredible responsibility if you think about it.

Success therefore, has to go beyond the wins and losses. For me, questions I ask myself after every season are: What 5 things did my players learn about this season, both tangible and intangible? Are my players better prepared to make the next step as both basketball players and contributing citizens in our civil society? What are the values that I hope to impart and are my players a reflection of those values? If the answers are negative or unknown, then my job has to be viewed as partially failed.

The NBA is where amazing happens, certainly that applied to Lebron James's amazing last second shot to win the game last night. For the Magic, it's just more proof that basketball can be a cruel game sometimes. In case you missed it, here it is,

I watched the post-game news conference and Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said right away that he made a mistake and it cost them the game. Here is some of the transcript of what he said:

I’d like to have that last one back from a coaching standpoint. I should have defended it differently. It’s crushing enough to lose as a coach, but when you feel like you’re the guy who could’ve made the difference, it hurts a lot more.
The Cavs were definitely looking for the lob as the initial play, but you can see in the clip, Hedo Turkoglu impedes Lebron going to the basket, and Lebron pops out to the top of the key instead.

Van Gundy talked about that if he could do it again he would've defended it differently. Hindsight is 20/20, but if it were me and I had a mulligan (since we're living in the hypothetical in blogger land), the single thing I would have done would to have Rashard Lewis or even Dwight Howard aggressively defending the inbound. As you can see in this screenshot, Lewis is basically in no-man's-land -- not really defending the inbounds and not really defending another player.

As in the Denver-LA series, when Odom aggressively defended Carter, forcing Carter to lob it in the air. If Lewis had been on the shorter Williams, it would've forced Williams to lob it in the air, where Hedo would have had enough time to get to Lebron in time to either intercept the pass or at the very least get in his face to make the shot much harder.

The other option, would be to have Lewis completely off the ball and face-guarding Lebron. Hedo would take away the lob. But I don't like leaving the inbounder unguarded because it makes it easier to thread a pass.


As I mentioned, basketball is a cruel game. Had the Magic held on to go up 2-0, heading back to Orlando, this series could've been almost a done deal. Now, the Cavs have the momentum with just that 1 shot, and the Magic are now back on their heels.

For more info on building winning programs, Morgan Wooten's 20/20 Hindsight DVD is a look back at some coaching tips from Coach Wooten's legendary career as one of the most successful high school basketball coaches ever at DeMatha Catholic. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss all of your hoops.

I've watched a lot of games and teams over the years and attitude, specifically having the right attitude, counts for a lot. When I watch two really good teams go up against each other, I watch to see if the a great offensive player checks the other team's defensive player. On the one hand, I get the argument that you don't want your best offensive player being tired out on defense. But from a psychological standpoint I think it says a lot about a player's attitude, character, and leadership when they show the initiative to defend the other team's best player, irregardless of their own position on your team.

So, from watching the last couple of games in the Western Conference Finals, whether or not Carmelo Anthony "shut down" Kobe Bryant is not the exactly the point. The point is that Melo has shown that he wants to be accountable for his team. He's not going to take a cope out, and have someone else defend Kobe, then later on point fingers. He's pointing at himself, he's going out on a limb and saying "this is my team, I'll guard Kobe, all the faults I take on myself." That's what leaders do, it's leaving yourself out there to be vulnerable. Here is Melo talking about it postgame,

As for the matchup itself, I think that Carmelo is doing the best he can obviously to defend Kobe and so far he's been average. Melo is obviously bigger and stronger so he can use his size in the post against Kobe. However, Kobe has much greater foot speed and take him off the dribble, and with his quick draw Kobe can shoot over Melo pretty much anytime he wants. The Nuggets don't really have a singular lock-down defender like a Ron Artest or a Bruce Bowen so Melo is about as good as any single defender the Nuggets have. Again, the point is not so much how good Melo defended Kobe, but that he's step up to lead his team, to put himself out there -- a major sign of his maturity.

To kick up the defensive intensity in your practices, take a look at Bob Huggins' DVD on Intense Practice Drills. Coach Huggins is the head coach at West Virginia and was a former head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats. 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.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In watching the Eastern Conference Finals matchup yesterday between the Cavs and the Magic, I thought the Cavs began the game by playing great defense -- there was a sequence at the end of the first quarter where the Cavs defensive stops led to some great fast breaks. But then they slacked off and allowed the Magic to get back into the game. Once it got close, I thought that both teams got into a tit-for-tat contest trying to one-up each other shot for shot instead of playing defense. In the end, the Magic made more open shots than the Cavs. The disappointing part for the Cavs was that their talent and specifically shot-making was supposed to have been much improved this season, but instead they were the missing link for a Cavs win. The amazing part for the Cavs was that despite their poor shooting (other than Lebron), the Cavs still lost by only 1 point. Here is the post-game press conference with Cavs head coach Mike Brown,


I don't expect too many adjustments by either team -- it appears that both teams are content strategically to leave the other team's superstar (Lebron and Howard) on 1v1 coverage. Which means this series will either be decided by the team that can best close-out and contest shooters, and/or the team that can shoot the best percentage outside of their superstars. The Magic's supporting cast of Turkoglu and Lewis stepped up, will Williams, West, and Ilgauskas follow-up? We shall see...

Most of y'all are probably thinking about offseason workouts, one video to check out is Kevin Sutton's DVD on 2 Ball Basketball Workouts. In my opinion, one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve overall ball-handling is to incorporate 2 balls into every drill you do. Coach Sutton is a NIKE Skill Academy instructor. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.

Basketball can be a cruel game sometimes. You can play a good game for 47 minutes and the one play, at the end of the game, can be the one that costs you the win. In Game 1 last night between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers, that play happened to the Nuggets last night with a bad turnover on an inbounds.

The situation: 30 seconds left in the game, Lakers up by 2, Nuggets one timeout left. The Lakers use the long armed Lamar Odom to defend the inbounds, the Nuggets use guard Anthony Carter to inbound the ball. Chauncey Billups is the intended receiver, but Carter has to lob it over Odom and Trevor Ariza steps into the lane and intercepts the pass, take a look how it went down,

There were a number of key problems with why the play ended up the way it did. I wouldn't say that there was one single factor, but they combined to create the situation,

- George Karl decided to have a shorter Carter inbound the ball, instead of a taller forward.
- The inbounds play design did not take into account the need for a safety outlet with a better passing angle along the sideline.
- The Nuggets had a timeout to use, and didn't use it.

Right after they gave it away, Kobe scored a couple of FTs, the Nuggets ran another inbounds play, this time to Chauncey Billups in the corner who hit a big 3-pointer. Now, they did need a 3-pointer in the original inbounds, but they had a forward inbound the ball this time and the passing angle to the corner along the sideline is much better because Odom cannot cross the plane and therefore the pass is unobstructed,

Unrelated to this play, but I also like how the Lakers fouled the Nuggets in the last 5 seconds, to prevent them from shooting a game-tying 3-pointer. Jeff Van Gundy of ESPN was saying how Phil Jackson doesn't like to foul when up by 3, but changed his philosophy this time. It's about playing the percentages, go with the play that gives you the best chance to win.


The Nuggets played as good a game as they could have on the road and still came away with the loss. On the plus side, they've proven to be tough enough to win on the road, and with a little better execution, they can beat the Lakers in Los Angeles. As for the Lakers, they didn't play their best, but Kobe was there when the team needed him, making all the clutch free-throws at the end of the game.

For more info on inbounds situations, then check out Bob McKillop's DVD on Winning BLOB and SLOB situations. Coach McKillop is the longtime head coach of Davidson College and known to be a master of inbounds situations. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

In anticipation for tomorrow's Game 1 of the Western Conference of the NBA Playoffs between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers, I thought I would talk a little more about Denver's defensive improvements year on year. I've talked about this topi in previous posts, but it's good to hear more back stories of exactly how the Denver Nuggets metamorphism from all fast break all the time to a methodical defensive-minded team actually came about. The Denver Post has the details of how that transformation took place.

Without all the information, most presumed that the changes took place after Chauncey Billups arrived. But George Karl is clear that the shift from an offensive to a defensive mindset took place much earlier:

We’ll start last spring, after the Nuggets were swept out of the playoffs by the L.A. Lakers. Assistant coach Tim Grgurich, Karl’s longtime right hand man, wanted the coach to wipe his hands of emphasizing offensive basketball. Grgurich wanted to turn back the clock to the defense-first system that was a success when the two were winning games by the boatload in Seattle.

“We can’t do this anymore,” Grgurich said to Karl. “We can’t coach like this anymore. It just doesn’t work.”

Karl paused.

“He was saying it for himself, but he was also saying it for me,” Karl recalled. “And I just looked at him and said ‘Grg, you know something, you’re right.’”

Still, for me, the most remarkable part of the change in philosophy was not that it was done in one season, after all we see year over year turnarounds all the time at all levels -- but the amazing thing is that it happened under the same coach -- it happened despite the Nuggets winning 50 games last season. Why are coaches so reluctant to change systems? In my opinion, it's mostly the same reason why people resist change in general, these logical explanations include:

- Ego. Coaches are human, it is human nature to be selfish and stubborn in believing their way is the best way, the only way.
- Fear. Coaches are afraid of failure. Change is the partial realization in the failure of the past and the need for a new direction.
- Perception. Coaches are afraid that they will be perceived as panicking.

Change takes courage. Win-lose-or-draw, I can respect a coach who is willing to take a leap of faith. To have an open mind, and to see the game from a different light -- to acknowledge that what worked yesterday may not work today, or tomorrow -- to admit that change is needed.

If you're looking to make the transition from offense to a more defensive team, take a look at Tom Izzo's DVD on Rebounding and Man Defense. Coach Izzo is the long-time head coach of Michigan State who made it to the championship game at this past year's NCAA Final Four. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

On ESPN the other day, Outside the Lines did a feature report on the growing debate between High School and AAU. With both sides weighing in on the heated discussion. Take a look and read my comments below,

In the past decade, the landscape of amateur basketball in the US has been almost completely transformed with the proliferation of AAU traveling basketball, sneaker companies, and Internet ranking sites like Scout.com and Rivals.com (disclosure, I used to write for Rivals). The way I see it now, there are 2 tiers of basketball now, AAU then High School. AAU traveling basketball has surpassed high school basketball in importance for 2 reasons: the level of competition is higher due to the all-star nature of the teams with no location restrictions, and college coaches have no choice but to rely on the big AAU tournaments and the Internet ranking sites to evaluate players due to the NCAA evaluation period restrictions.

As an aspiring high school head coach, I would have to say that I am naturally more inclined to take the high school side of the debate and my preference would be to eliminate AAU basketball altogether. But I understand why AAU basketball is more popular, and more important especially for the players who have college/NBA talent -- because it gives them more exposure and college coaches rely on AAU more now. While I also understand the reality that AAU basketball won't be going away anytime soon, I do think that in the short-term, there needs to be at least some level of oversight which none exists currently. The current self-regulating model is clearly not working, because it's simply too easy to go "outside the lines." For example, there should be universal guidelines around how a team can be formed (ie. guidelines for who can be the coach, corporate sponsorship, etc..), and only eligible teams should be able to enter the big tournaments. The Internet ranking sites should have the same contact restrictions as college coaches do.

There are no easy answers right now, and I think amateur basketball is currently at a major crossroads in the US. In my opinion, the high school model and the AAU model are not compatible with one another -- at some point everyone will have to choose high school or AAU as the only way to proceed in the future, and right now it's not clear which model will win out. If the AAU model eventually wins out, than it will require significant changes.

An article from earlier in the week by bestselling author and columnist Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker magazine titled "How David Beats Goliath" has been generating a lot of buzz. In it, Gladwell tells a story of how an athletically unskilled basketball team of 12-year old girls went on to beat athletically superior and skilled teams by using a full court press.

I think most non-basketball people would read the article and gain some valuable insight about equalizing talent, how underdogs beat the favorites by thinking outside of the box. Most basketball people, especially coaches would shudder at the prospect of full-court pressing in youth basketball. In fact, I was personally revolted by the article. I like Malcolm Gladwell and I've bought several of his books, but I definitely think he should stick with topics that he understands. The most ironic part of his article is that at the end of it his David doesn't beat Goliath, but falls in defeat during one of their playoff rounds. How fitting...

There is a reason why many youth leagues put in rules against full court pressing. Gladwell scoffs at the idea of players actually learning real basketball skills like shooting, triple-threat, defensive slides, etc.. and believes instead that by teaching them only how to steal the ball on an inbounds over and over again somehow will translate into the greater lesson of a learned "work ethic" -- that his version of "work ethic" can be used to beat more talented teams. In fact, the only unfortunate lesson these young girls have learned is that they wasted a whole season without actually learning a single thing useful from playing basketball.

In all my years of playing, watching, and coaching basketball, there is only one true talent equalizer I know of and that is shooting. Some people are born naturally better than others, but the point is that shooting is something that can be trained through muscle memory. Anybody can become a great shooter through a little guidance, and hours and hours of practice. In this respect, Malcolm Gladwell got it right with his 10,000 hour rule.

My only hope is that nobody gets duped by this article -- that the hundreds of youth coaches out there think that they are doing a great thing by teaching their players a gimmick as a substitute for real coaching, sacrificing player development for a couple of cheap wins. Youth basketball IS about teaching them skills so that they will actually be able to play at a higher level.

The Lakers continued their inconsistent play last night, falling behind big, coming back to almost tie, then falling flat in the 4th quarter. One thing that stuck out in my mind in the 4th quarter was how many times the Rockets ran the same play over and over, Aaron Brooks off a Luis Scola ball screen and Brooks scoring or dishing over and over. The Lakers did not change a single thing in how they defended it, from the first time Brooks did it, all the way until the end of the game. Here are 3 sequences from the 2nd half,

Couple of things to consider:

- While Aaron Brooks is a decent shooter, he's a slasher. So why go over top of the screen every single time?
- The Lakers are vulnerable defensively against a quick penetration point guard. Neither Fischer, nor Brown, nor Farmer, are capable of staying with Brooks. Farmar is hip to hip at the top of the key but Brooks blows by him and goes right at Gasol for the hoop,

I am really surprised the Lakers didn't decide to either trap the ball-screen, go underneath all ball-screens with Brooks, or switch defenders. The Lakers had some real momentum going into the 4th quarter but their inability to stop Brooks from getting into the lane really cost them late in the game.


I believe the Lakers will win Game 7 tomorrow, mainly because they'll be playing at home. With the up and down play of the Lakers, I think the Rockets don't get enough credit for winning the games as opposed to the Lakers losing the games. In many ways, they play tougher without Yao Ming because they know they can't rely on his scoring. They know that they have to grind out every single basket on offense, and play stronger 1v1 defense.

For more on PNR and ball screen offenses, take a look at Ben Braun's DVD on Ball Screening. Ben Braun is the head coach at Rice University. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.

The NCAA has decided to form an ethics panel in order to deal with a growing and complex web of rules and legislation regarding NCAA recruiting and also in response to the recent string of high-profile infractions in the past several years. Michigan head coach John Beilein has agreed to be the chairman of the new men’s basketball ethics coalition according to reports.

I couldn't agree more with this most recent direction by the NCAA. In my opinion, I think this is the best way for the NCAA to proceed. Of course, the rules will still exist and coaches will still need to comply with them. But as I've mentioned before, I think the community of coaches is really where social pressure can help to self-regulate but more importantly educate coaches about the "spirit of the rules." It's one thing to have rules and tell coaches to follow them. Rules don't mean anything unless there is a social consequence for an infraction. I've always felt and still feel strongly that coaching is a vocation (even in Div1 where they make unimaginable amounts of money and the pros). Coaching is a profession where integrity actually means something. Where unwritten rules are often more powerful than the written ones.

Does that mean that a world exists where coaches will never step outside of the lines?? No, humans will always be flawed. But in my opinion, a "coaching ethic" can be socially constructed. We can influence behavior through proper education and indoctrination. Coaches don't start out being sleazeballs, I truly believe that the vast majority of coaches (sleazeballs included) decided to start coaching out of a selfless altruism and a devotion to people and basketball; and are eventually led astray only due to the external pressures around them. After all, there are much quicker and easier ways for self-promotion than coaching. If I wanted to be rich and famous, coaching is the last profession I would choose.

So, hurray to the NCAA for taking this necessary step in the right direction.

I watched the unfortunate collapse yesterday by the Orlando Magic against the Boston Celtics. It was difficult to watch and from a coaching perspective, you feel some sympathy for what Stan Van Gundy is going through. It's always tough when a million eyes are on your every move and now that Dwight Howard has come out publicly to put the blame on Van Gundy, the whole situation has gotten really complicated, really fast. Instead of the blame game, who didn't do what, etc... I look at the bigger picture of the inherent problems in the relationship between coach and player. Clearly, there is a failure to communicate. When people talk about a coach "losing the locker room" -- that's what's happened here.

Every team goes through what the Magic are going through. Teams have blown big leads before. Coaches make mistakes. But why has it manifested itself so publicly? Howard has decided to lash out because either player and coach haven't established the kind of open relationship where they can discuss these issues face-to-face, or the relationship has been so poisoned that such a meeting can no longer take place. Irregardless, the only way player and coach can get back on the same page is if they are open and honest with one another. Is it too late for that to happen still?? Perhaps not, but clearly there is a major schism that has developed in the Magic locker room that will take much longer than 1 game or 1 series to repair.

I'm not saying that these situations are easy to deal with. In fact, it's the hardest part of coaching. There is a power dynamic in the player/coach relationship that must be acknowledged, and a social contract which must exist between player and coach. I like to say coaching is basically like teaching (which is why the best coaches are teachers). In the classroom, you deal with situations all the time. Teaching isn't simply spewing out a bunch of stuff for students to absorb. There is a psychology involved with which teachers use to motivate and tap into the cognitive processes.

All the non-basketball and officiating antics aside, I think it's safe to say that the Denver Nuggets have shown to be the most improved playoff team year over year since last year. Definitely the trade to bring Chauncey Billups went a long way in the new attitude, but just the renewed commitment to defense. The last couple of years, the Nuggets played fast, scored a lot of points, but gave up a lot more points in the process. They've completely reversed their philosophy this year, defense leading to their offense.

That's why I like this one specific sequence so much, because it really shows that new philosophy. Nene Hilario of the Nuggets is guarding Erick Dampier of the Mavs out on the perimeter, big on big. Instead of just backing off which most players/teams would do, Nene crowds him, baits him into putting the ball on the floor. Dampier takes the bait, tries to beat Nene off the dribble, and loses the ball. Billups takes the ball the other way, Antoine Wright decides to play 1 arm length away, and Billups drains the long 2,

I don't think you want to play chest to chest all the time and against everyone. For example, if it was against JJ Barea, I think you'd want to give some space because he's fast and can break you down if you're too close, same with a mobile big man like Dirk, you want to be no more than 1 arms length away. But when it's big on big on the perimeter, most of the time, I agree with crowding the ball. Make it hard to pass out of and even harder to drive,


The Nuggets are playing some of the best basketball right now. As I've mentioned before though, they have some volatile personalities on that team. Can they maintain their composure to close out this series, and endure through 2 more grueling series? That remains to be seen. They have the game to go all the way though.

As for the Mavs, it is really unfortunate about the Game 3 ending. I think all coaches have dealt with similar situations before, and the only thing one can do is to remind your players to not rely on the refs. Don't play to get the call from the ref, play as if there were no refs.

For more great defensive skill development and philosophies, check out Dean Smith's 2-Pack Defensive DVD set. Coach Smith is the legendary former head coach of UNC. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

It's why as coaches we tell players all the time, always be ready -- be ready to step up and make the play we need. It might be a defensive stop, a rebound, a pass, a screen, or even the game winning shot.

In watching the game tonight between the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics, I felt the Magic defended this last play extremely well. At the post-game news conference, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that his players carried out the last play defensively exactly how he had designed, taking the ball out of the hands of Pierce and Ray Allen(notes), and put the responsibility for his team’s failures on himself.

The primary option to take the last shot was supposed to be Ray Allen according to Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. But Hedo Turkoglu was all over him. Rashard Lewis was screened by Big Baby Glen Davis, and with the clock winding down, both Lewis and Dwight Howard jump to Paul Pierce. And then, Pierce passes the ball off to Davis who takes the game winning 21-foot jump shot to win the game.

Always be ready.

The Magic were taking away both Allen and Pierce defensively in the 4th quarter, which left Davis more or less open. In fact, Davis stepped up and scored 7 of the Celtics 16 4th quarter points.

I remember watching Glen Davis in college and his rookie year. He's a guy who has had some ups and downs but he's definitely worked on his game. In his post-game interview with David Aldridge, he talked about how he's worked on his shot all year.

Always be ready.

If you're a big Celtics fan and a coach, then you should check out Kevin Eastman's DVDs on Skill Development. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss your favorite coaching topics.

Mike Fratello sits down with Denver Nuggets Head Coach George Karl on NBA TV to talk about his evolution as a coach, and the keys to their success this season. His strategic priorities this season has been:

Defensive intensity
Commitment to defense
Not giving cheap possessions
Making the extra pass

Game 2, between the Mavs and the Nuggets starts now, enjoy....

After a poor shooting night in Game 1, you had to know that the Lakers would find their shooting rhythm back in Game 2 and they really started shooting lights out in Game 3, on the road. I thought the Rockets played excellent help defense in Game 1, but the Lakers just shot the ball poorly, chalk it up to the long layoff between the series.

Making sure your teams play help defense in a M2M setup is always welcomed. But in certain situations, I think teams need to adjust who and how they help, and in specific cases like the Lakers, rethink it altogether. The Lakers and the Cavs are probably the only 2 teams where you can't have help defense on, and instead must rely on solid 1v1 defense. Here are a few sequences late in Game 3 where the Lakers were able to get into the paint, collapsing the help defense, then finding the open shooters for the 3-pointer,

The only thing I want to point out is spacing and positioning. On the drive or post-up in the middle, the shooters must also make sure that they space the weak side and make it hard to guard. In other words, don't cluster together, shuffle cut to the open space as Vujacic and Brown do here,

With these small nuances, it makes help and recover even harder, because the defense now has to relocate the shooter who has moved, then close out.


The Lakers and the Cavs are simply too good of a shooting team to play simple help and recover defense. The Rockets are really going to have to rely on terrific 1v1 defense on Kobe and Gasol, and the rest of the defenders must stay on their man. The only other thing I can see possibly working is to aggressively trap, forcing long lob passes which allow the defense to recover.

If you want more info on building up your players 1v1 defensive skill, take a look at Jay Wright's DVD on Defensive Progression Drills
. Coach Wright is the head coach at Villanova which went to the Final Four in Detroit this past spring. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

In Memorium, Chuck Daly

It is with great regret that I write that basketball coaching legend Chuck Daly has passed away. When I was growing up playing and watching basketball, Chuck Daly was one of those guys that was larger than life. I remember watching the old Pistons teams with their rough abrasive style, and I don't think in my mind I've ever stopped thinking about them. Consciously and sub-consciously, I've always modeled how I want my players to play after Chuck Daly's Bad Boy Pistons. He will be missed...

I didn't get to see much of Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic, but I watched some of it on the recorder and the Magic really did a great job spreading the floor and attack. I watched the first half of Game 2 last night and what really struck me was how easily the Celtics point guards were able to get into the lane and make plays. Rondo finished with a game-high 18 assists.

I think the Magic are really going to have to look at how they pick up defensively in transition and on the pick-and-roll coverages. I thought the Celtics point guards did a great job pushing the ball and getting into the heart of the defense on early offense, not waiting until the defense got set. Once the Magic got caught helping on penetration, it was easy drop offs for layins. Here are three sequences from the first half,

Against quick guards, I think you really have to be aggressive on the PNRs. You can't really allow the guard to turn the corner and drive into the lane. The screener rolls into the lane and its almost a 2v1 situation each time,


In my opinion, the Magic should have gone with a hard hedge or an aggressive trap on the ball-screen. Then, zone up the other 3 defenders to protect the paint with a tilt towards the Celtics best shooter. As for the Magic offensively, I thought they played OK, but probably took too many jump shots that they didn't knocked down.

For a great overall skill development video, take a look at Kevin Eastman's DVD on Skill Development for Inside and Perimeter Players. Coach Eastman is currently an assistant for the NBA Champion Boston Celtics. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

In the first round series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat, I thought the Hawks did a decent job on the Heat and Dwyane Wade, especially by making them take shots from the outside. The Heat, not a great 3-point shooting team struggled with consistency throughout the 7 games, and subsequently lost the series.

At the time, I figured the Hawks would need to make adjustments against Lebron James and the Cavs as that kind of matchup zone (or switching M2M) defense they were using would not work here. After a shaky first half by the Cavs, they pulled away in the second through a combination of Lebron drives and shots by his teammates. I took a few sequences from the first half that illustrate how the Cavs spread the floor, and Lebron finding his open teammates,

In the first sequence, it's just a straight drive and kick by Lebron to Mo Williams for the corner 3-pointer as the defense sagged in. In the second sequence, it was mostly a bad primary defensive matchup with Mike Bibby of all people guarding Lebron, gets caught watching the ball and Lebron for the alley-oop dunk.

In the third sequence, you can really see how the Hawks matchup defense left wide open shooters. The Hawks are basically positioned with 1 primary defender on Lebron. Once he receives the pass (which they make it way too easy to allow IMO), the other 3 help-side defenders sag into the lane to help on a Lebron drive,

After the sag, the Cavs run a cutter around, O2 (Szczerbiak) comes up dragging the arc. The defenders have all sagged in an attempt to contain Lebron and therefore O2 is left wide open,

The close out comes eventually but is way late, as Szczerbiak knocks down the open 3-pointer.


Against the Heat, this kind of matchup zone (or switching M2M) worked decently. The Heat did manage to shoot better in a few of the games, game 2 in particular. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Cavs are simply too good of an outside shooting team this year to be left wide open for 3-pointers. What was worse, there was a stretch in the 3rd quarter when the matchup zone failed to stop consecutive Lebron drives. So they were unable to stop Lebron, and contest shots. If I was Mike Woodson, I would probably aggressively trap all ball screens against Lebron and gamble in the passing lanes. But really, defending Lebron and the Cavs is really like picking your poison, they can beat you in so many ways.

For a new video on pick and roll defense, check out Dave Odom's DVD on Defending the Pick and Roll. Coach Odom is the former head coach at the University of Southern Carolina. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

I think that most people were surprised by the Rockets beating the Lakers last night, but I know some weren't. I was listening to Colin Cowherd the day before, and he had Jon Barry on and they were talking about how the Rockets had the defensive capacity to handle Kobe and the Lakers. Granted, Kobe wasn't 100% and the Lakers were utterly incapable of hitting some wide open 3-pointers, but still, some of the credit should deservedly go to the Rockets for their defense.

I took some clips from the 4th quarter showing how the Rockets used a combination of Shane Battier and Ron Artest in guarding Kobe last night. I felt both did as good a job as one could possibly do against Kobe (who still managed to score 30+). Here are the defensive sequences,

Move your Feet, Stay Down, Hands Up:

I've stressed this many times but I think from coach to player, it's something that isn't emphasized enough. Defense is played with the feet. Stay down, don't bite on pump fakes, and keep your hands up high chest to chest after the offense picks up the dribble. If the offense wants to jump up and try to shoot over your outstreteched arms, let them try,

Block Out, Rebound Down:

Call me old-school, but I don't really like teaching the run out. My philosophy has always been defense first, but I understand for fast-break coaches, they will teach the run out. Good offensive players often know when they've missed their shot -- great offensive players immediately go after the rebound once they know they've missed their shot. Here, Battier does a good job after contesting Kobe's shot, of blocking Kobe out, then rebounding down,


This series could go seven games, if the Rockets don't pull it out even sooner. Yao Ming made some clutch plays, even after he hurt his knee. Nobody expects the Lakers to continue to shoot 2-for-18 from 3-point land, Kobe will be fully recovered, the Rockets will need to find ways to shut Kobe down, and also close out the Lakers' shooters, that will be their biggest challenge. For the Lakers, they need to speed up the tempo, force some more turnovers so they can use their speed in transition.

For a new video on man to man defensive principles, check out Ralph Willard's new DVD on Man Defense to Equalize Talent. Coach Willard is the current head coach of the College of the Holy Cross. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

It's why the playoffs are the playoffs and the regular season is the regular season. I only caught the first quarter of the Mavs against the Nuggets but it was evident that the Nuggets were the aggressor, taking it right at the Mavs, and reciprocating it with hard physical defense, especially on Dirk Nowitzki.

In the post-game news conference, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged as much that the Mavs needed to step up their aggressiveness, so that Dirk Nowitzki will get more than just four free-throws:

We’re going to have to raise our level of aggression if that’s what’s going to get us to the free throw line... I’ll look at that closely, and if the referees were right they were right. But he’s being played very physically, away from the floor where the rules are different than in post play. We’ll look at it and if there’s a complaint to be made we’ll talk to the league about it.
Here's the video clip of the news conference,

The Nuggets have notched a first round knockdown in Game 1. How will the Mavs respond now in Game 2? The biggest question in this series is whether Dirk will step up and play through the physicality. This is one of those career-defining moments for Dirk. Back in 2006, after the Heat took it to the Mavs in the NBA Finals, Dirk famously shrunk away. As Dwyane Wade got more aggressive, Dirk withered away. There's reason to believe that the Mavs are ready to make that leap. If this was 2006, Mark Cuban would have popped off into his usual ranting and whining about the refs, so far nothing. Carlisle had and presumably has learned from his failures with the Pistons and the Pacers.

As for the Nuggets, I was very impressed with how they played. Especially how they responded when Carmelo got into foul trouble, and how they did not rely on Billups having a huge game. This is a tough, physical team, that plays the style of basketball that can potentially go all the way. The biggest question mark for the Nuggets is team chemistry. There are a lot of personalities there. They will face adversity at some point in this playoffs, how will they respond? Will they blow up, or will they come together.

For a new video on building winning varsity programs, check out Frank Allocco's DVD on Building a Successful High School Program. Coach Allocco is the long-time head coach of California high school powerhouse De La Salle High School. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Throughout the first six games of the first round seven game series between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls, I've been surprised to see the poor defensive coverage by the Celtics on critical inbounds plays in the fourth quarter. If the game is close again -- as it should be if the first six games are any indication -- inbounds defense could once again become a major factor.

Certainly the Bulls have run good inbounds plays, but I don't think they've run anything revolutionary that would cause the Celtics to falter. It has been more a function of the Celtics poor defensive coverage that has resulted in the following lapses.

This first one is from Game 5. The infamous play where Rondo was not called for the flagrant foul for clothes-lining Miller from behind. The play begins innocently enough. It's a screen for Derrick Rose by Brad Miller. However, both Celtics defenders chase Rose leaving Miller open.

This sequence, taken from Game 6, is just a screen by Heinrich. Again, both Celtics defenders go for the screened player, leaving Heinrich all alone with an open lane to the basket (which he misses, or Rondo interferes),

Very simple plays, should be very simple defensive coverage. Have a plan (hard switch, go under, etc...), and communicate on all screens.


It's always a toss up in Game 7. The home team has the advantages, but the Bulls have won in Boston already in this series, and all the games have been close. That means, the game will likely come down to 1 or 2 possessions. The Celtics have shown defensive lapses on the inbounds coverage, will it come back to bite them once again?? Who knows, stay tuned, Game 7 goes tonight...

For some more great info on special teams and special situations, take a look at Tom Crean's DVD on Winning Late Game Strategies. Coach Crean of course is the new head coach for Indiana University. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

I've been twittering for a few months on a personal account and I find it a neat new way to communicate online. I just created one to go along with this blog so we'll see how well it goes. You can following my tweets at https://twitter.com/coachbruchu. Happy tweeting!!!

What a game, what a series. From a fan's perspective, you couldn't ask for anything more, 7 overtimes, unbelievable shots, game-changing plays. As a coach though, I think most would look at the game and series much more critically. Why did the Celtics go to Tony Allen on consecutive possessions late in the 4th quarter. Why didn't the Bulls foul Ray Allen in the 2nd overtime instead of allowing him to shoot the 3. The list goes on and on. I like what Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said after the game in the post-game news conference, "There are no positives, we lost the game,"

He's absolutely right. The Celtics had chances to win the game and really should have won the game. After gaining the lead, the Celtics played not to lose instead of to win. Most surprisingly was that for a team that prides itself on how it plays on defense -- defensively, the Celtics did a poor job all night, especially against John Salmons. In the end, it was Derrick Rose of the Bulls who came up with the biggest defensive play of the night blocking Rondo's shot.

So now there is a Game 7. And the Celtics earned the right to play it in Boston. The game will probably be another thrilling game, but in the annals of NBA Playoff history, the series will only be a short footnote if neither the Celtics or Bulls advance past the second round, which I think is highly implausible given how poorly each has played so far in the first round.

For more championship team building tips, check out Pat Summitt's Definite Dozen DVD. Coach Summitt is the longtime coaching legend of the Tennessee Lady Vols. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.