I don't normally do this but since it is the slow days of summer and because I just thought it was a great topic that isn't discussed much I thought I would share some of the discussions on the X's and O's Basketball forum about ideas for running your own coaches clinic. I've never really thought about it myself since I've always only been a participant but definitely some things to keep in mind in the event you should ever think of hosting one:

1. What is an appropriate amount or the best way to compensate the coaches who present?

A thought is to give them X% of whatever money you make on the gate. That way the more people they draw, the more they get. That way, maybe, they will feel like they are getting a fair shake. This would also keep costs down for you and the people attending the clinic.

2. For a 1-2 day clinic, what is an appropriate amount to charge to attend? Granted I know it depends on how is presenting but I would like to keep the cost of admission as cheap as I can.

A good idea would be $10-$15 per hour at the clinic possibly. Also, what does your local Coaches Association charge? What do other clinics in your state and area charge? That is the other way I would look at it. Also, think about what you are giving away at the clinic. The more stuff you give away, the more you can charge.

3. Is there a typical time of year that is the best to have a clinic?

The "typical" type is spring and fall, but that is when everyone has their clinics.

4. What is the best way to have / assign coaches to talk about various topics? Is it best to just let them choose what they want to talk about?

Whatever they want to talk about, let them talk because they are going to be more excited about it and talk on it more confidently. If they are unsure, have them talk about what YOU think they excel at in their program - and if YOU are unsure have them do something on practice drills or general coaching advice.

5. How long should each session be?

I would say an hour and a half TOPS, and only if it is an in depth topic. The shorter and to the point the better. Most sessions are best left between 45-60 minutes.

More great tips:

-You don't have to have high profile D1 college coaches to have a great clinic. Many times the local high school guys are just as good if not better than many of the D1 guys. They can relate to what other high school coaches are going through and sometimes the college guys teach their system which they can recruit players to fit. Also, local colleges would probably LOVE to come in and get their message in front of local high school coaches, makes recruiting easier and is a great plug for their program. The college coach doesn't always have to be the head man either.

-Have several speakers. My favorite clinics are the ones where you see several different guys and get several different viewpoints on things.

-Think about having a clinic geared to a specific aspect of coaching. For you, this will go either very well or very bad. The good being coaches will love to come in and hear a bunch of different ideas from different people on the same topic. The bad being that some coaches may not care about the overall topic. so if you do it pick wisely. Something like "practice planning and drills" would probably be better than "Motion Offense" because everyone practices but not everyone is a motion fan.

-If you do a clinic with multiple aspects of coaching (which most do) have one segment for that new, cute, "buzzword" offense or defense. For instance, when Syracuse won the NCAA Title, you would have someone come in and talk about the 2-3 zone that Syracuse used to win it all. Or when Memphis was in the Final Four have a coach come in and talk dribble drive motion. If a coach won your state title with some offense or defense people talked about have him in to talk about it. There are many coaches that put in the new fad offense or defense every year, so make sure you have this aspect to rope them in. But also don't get completely fady so you turn off other coaches.

-Give stuff away. Everyone likes to get free stuff!! Try to work a deal with some companies to donate stuff so you can have a drawing for things like books, DVDs, etc. Also, have a complementary paper and pen for everyone. Not expensive but a nice touch.

-Are you going to feed the people? Many times there is a lunch break where everyone eats lunch and comes back. Nice way to break it up, relieve the bleacher butt, etc. Sometimes Coach Ninham had us eat on our own, other times he had Subway cater it. Something to think about.

-Try to have a coaches social. I have found, as many of you have too, that you learn more talking with coaches at a social than you did at the clinic. The lips get looser and the secrets flow here sometimes. You can have "adult beverages" as some do, or not the choice is yours. I would say try to set something up where all the coaches (even the speakers) can gather and chat.

The majority of this post comes from Coach John Carrier, a Varsity Head Coach in Iowa. In you like what you read, go ahead and check out more on his blog.

I've probably utilized all the basic zone defense formations in all the years that I've coached, but the one that I haven't used was the Point Zone. I've seen it run a couple of times and always wanted to learn more about it. Of course, one of the other reasons is because Dean Smith is known to have used it at North Carolina back in the day.

From what I've gathered, the point zone is similar to the amoeba zone defense. It's designed to put pressure on the ball while protecting the basket area. It's similar to a matchup zone in that the players and coverage shifts depending on where the ball is, this creates a lot of confusion for the offense and opposing coaches because they often are unsure whether to run their man offense or zone offense against it.

Basics of the Point Zone:

The basic idea of the point zone is to pair up defenders in a T formation. The top and bottom defenders form a pair (the buddy system), and the wings form a pair. When X1 is on the ball, X4 is at the goal, X2 and X3 are the wings in help position,

When the ball goes to the wing, above the free-throw line extended, either through a dribble-replace or a pass, the T shifts such that X2 is now on the ball, X3 is at the goal, X4 and X1 are the wings in help position,

If the ball goes to the corner, the T shifts once again such that X4 is now on the ball. But because the corner is treated slightly differently (explained in more depth below), X2 is the wing covering the wing, X3 is the buddy to X2 covering the goal, and X1 is the bottom of the T but is now splitting the weak side anticipating the skip pass. X3 and X2 are lower because as you see, X5 is on the strong-side low block,

The position of X5 in this defense is governed by the principle of "defender between the ball and the basket at all times." So, wherever the ball goes, X5 shadows the ball keeping the body in line between the ball and basket. When the offense has their foward/center, X5 should front when the ball is below the free-throw line,

If you are familiar with other zone defenses, this won't be difficult to adapt to. Shell drills should be done with the 4 defenders in the T formation to get the hang of how the players shift.

Defending the Corner and Ball Reversal:

Like the amoeba defense, the most vulnerable spot in the point zone is in the corner, especially when the ball is reversed from corner to corner. According to the orthodox, X4 must sprint from corner to corner to cover. You can easily wear out the defense in 2 or 3 possessions simply by continuous ball reversal such that X4 might simply give up running,

An adjustment you can make against teams that do this is to trap the corner. Either with X2 from the wing or X5 from the bottom, along with X4. Trap the corner, force a few turnovers, and the offense will most likely back down from the corners,


In thinking about the different zone defenses you can use to switch up tempo, momentum, etc, I think the point zone is great to have since you can also put a lot of ball pressure, something not all zones do. It should do well against dribble-penetration leaving only skip passes and long 3-pointers as possible zone busters. You can easily adapt the point zone to a box and 1 or a triangle and 2 if you want as well.

For more info on the point zone, the definitive guide is Dean Smith's Point Zone DVD from the legendary UNC head coach himself, but Paul Hewitt's DVD on his 3-2 Point Zone is worth look at as well.

Via a recent edition of the weekly Xavier newsletter (which hopefully will continue under new head coach Chris Mack), the following is from Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown on their defensive rotations on ballscreens and traps:

Question to Coach Brown: What do you mean by saying 'I use the same rotations?'

Answer: Don’t rotate Big to Big. The positions 1-5 of the defensive players involved are irrelevant. We form 2 interceptors and a goal tender through the rotation. An example of a full rotation because of a ballscreen is shown. The teaching of this is consistent and the same from day one. Because of this, the players are interchangeable and accountable. The nearest defender rotates when a trap happens. When 'downing' a ballscreen, the nearest defender would rotate to the screener after the screen is set. Our defense treats all rotations the same. The closest man rotates.

The offense has a ballscreen scenario taking place. The defense is "downing" it. 2 dribbles away from the ballscreen because of X2's positioning.

X2 and X4 corner and contain 2. 2 passes to the ballscreener, 4. On the pass out to 4, X3 is the closest defender. He begins his rotation.

As 4 catches the pass, X3 closes out to 4, X1 rotates to 3, and X4 rotates out to the weakside. X5 stays at home in the post when possible.

Thinking philosophically about defense, I'm not sure if equal rotations regardless of position is always the best way. If you have a team of similarly skilled/talented players, this probably will work. But if you have a traditional team of tall slower forwards with smaller quicker guards, the mismatches could cause major problems. I'm not sure I agree with the accountability argument either. When you have same rotations, its easier for players to cop out of a rotation by claiming confusion. If you have set rotations (big on big), its easier to make players accountable, ie. you are a big, you must rotate to the other big.Either way, it's good to flush these things out on paper and experiment on what may or may not work before implementing in practice.

If you are a Bobcats fan or Coach Brown fan, take a look at Larry Brown's DVD on Secondary Break and Pick and Roll Offense. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Via the great blog Smart Football, a great Q&A with Florida head coach Urban Meyer on sharing coaching information. Here are some excerpts:

HARRY: You hear a lot in the offseason about coaches going to visit different schools and exchanging ideas with other coaches for the sake of the program and professional development. How's that work here?

MEYER: "That's a big part of what we do. For example, our strength coach and my administrative assistant, every year -- and they have no choice -- have to get on a plane and go visit the best places in America and find out if we're doing the right stuff. I've always encouraged our trainers, our academic people. It's the ones who sit around and do nothing. At some point, [everybody's] going to catch you. No, that is a must. You are graded on your professional development. That's part of your evaluation. And we don't want to be frivolous. We run a certain style, so we don't want to waste time. Go see your buddy? We don't want to do that. There has to be a reason. [The concept] is kind of amazing. I tell people, I'm sure Pepsi doesn't visit Coca-Cola and figure out how to make pop"

HARRY: Where do you draw the line?

MEYER: "It's hard. We've drawn it more. It got out of control a little bit. You have so much work to do. All of a sudden, people are walking in saying, 'Hey coach, you got three hours?' No. You just don't have time. So the last few years we've kind of made it off limits. We do allow some in. If Jon Gruden calls? Absolutely. Bill Belichick comes down every year. We're certainly not going to say no to them. So we handpick who we allow to come in."

HARRY: A guy like Gruden, you never know. He could be standing across from you on a sideline one day.

MEYER: "True. But you have to get something. This is a two-way street. For Jon Gruden to come in and just take? We're not going to do that. We're not into supplying information. We're into exchanging information. A guy like Bill Belichick? I get 10 times more than what he gets from us. Same for Jon Gruden. . . . I could go on and on and on. [California's] Jeff Tedford. He's one of my great friends. We always do it. Rich Rodriguez? We used to do it all the time [when he was at West Virginia], but now he's at Michigan and a competitor in recruiting so we don't anymore. [Rutgers'] Greg Schiano. I could go on and on. Mike Leach at Texas Tech. We often have conversation. [Utah's] Kyle Willingham and I talk twice a week."

HARRY: Give me an example of something Bill Belichick could share with you.

MEYER: "Where do I start? I am amazed at the how he handles elite athletes. You never hear about issues with off-the-field stuff. I am amazed to the point that I got on a plane and I went up and watched over three days and saw how he handled these, um, some of these elite guys. For some reason, the Patriots do this, but you hear about the Cowboys and these other teams just falling apart because of chemistry issues. And then there's Bill Belichick. Our whole program is based on what we learned from him; the core of the team has to be strong."
In my opinion, there is a lot more sharing between football coaches than basketball coaches. I started this blog and the forum because I felt that there were too few places on the Internet to share coaching information for free. Just do a search on google, you'll find dozens of people sharing/trading football notes/video. The same search for basketball will point you to very few resources for basketball info, and a bunch that are for pay.

When I first started out coaching in basketball, it literally took years to learn even just the basics. Even when working as an assistant, many head coaches would not share all their "stuff" for fear of losing their advantage. When I started coaching football, I knew almost nothing save for the few things I remembered from my playing days. Thanks to both the online community and other coaches I've worked with, I learned more in 3 years coaching football than I did in 10 years coaching basketball. The point is, share as much as you can, its for the benefit for everyone.

Via LSU Women's head coach, Bob Starkey's blog, Northern State University men’s basketball coach Don Meyer will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at ESPN's annual ESPY awards presentation on July 15 in Los Angeles, airing nationally on ESPN on July 19.

Back last fall, Coach Meyer lost part of his leg after surviving a near-fatal car accident only to learn he had cancer. He successfully battled both his injuries and the cancer and returned to the sidelines later in the season. This past January, Coach Meyer set a national record for career coaching wins in NCAA men’s basketball passing Bobby Knight.

Everyone inside of coaching knows Coach Meyer, yet most sports fans couldn't tell you what sport he coaches. I'm still not sure how coach Meyer's story was not THE sports story of the year last year, but its good to see him get some national recognition. Here is the E:60 segment about Coach Meyer that ran a few months ago, worth it for sure if you haven't watched it,

I noticed that I haven't posted many drill info so I thought I would do that today. Here are some great defensive drills for practicing help defense concepts that I drew up out of a 2009 Nike Coaches Clinic set of notes. They are based out of a clinic performed by Mike Rice of Robert Morris University.

George Karl Drill:
Drill starts with a coach at the top of the key and an offensive player on the wing and one in the corner with a defensive player covering each. Drill begins with the coach penetrating to the middle of the defense where x1 is forced to step in to help. The drill focuses on x2 as he is forced to help up the line on the pass to 1 and scramble back to his man as x1 sprints to recover. Emphasize helping up the line. X2 sagging back into the lane flat with x2 is NOT help defense.

Help the Helper Drill:
"I HATE working on getting beat, but you got to do it." Run this drill with several variations/formations. All drill variations begin with a coach acting as the defender being beaten (use blocker pads to bump penetrating guard to help build toughness). The post defender is forced to step over to provide help and the other guard must drop to discourage the offensive guard from making the dump-down pass to post (emphasize for the guard to have his hand across post’s chest). If the ball is kicked back out, the guard must closeout. Make it competitive by keeping score. 3 variations below.

Final variation is with 4 on offense, 3 on defense. Must take away the baseline drive first, then the post dump-off, then the weakside corner 3-pointer, if the pass goes back up top, then weakside guard has to closeout. We practice taking away the weakside corner 3-pointer because the offense will usually put their best 3-pointer there.

Probably in real life, you will have X2 stay on O2 and X3 drop down to cover O5 instead, but the drill above is better at practicing rotations and recovering.

For a brand new video, check out Kevin Boyle's DVD on Building a Man Defense. Coach Boyle is head coach of St. Patrick's High Shool in New Jersey and a part of the NIKE Grassroots Basketball Program.

Watched a really good video the other day with Kansas head coach Bill Self in a coaches clinic talking about his alternative to motion offense. At Kansas, they call it 'Fist', but it's really just a ball-screening continuity offense. Some really interesting thoughts before he got into the X's and O's. He used to be a motion coach earlier in his career but as many of you motion coaches can relate to, it always ended up that your worst player had the ball with the open shot. Motion worked well when it was Danny Manning shooting the ball, or Simeon Rice in the post who didn't need to dribble it for a post move. The Hi-Low offense was good, but he found that it was too much spot to spot.

So in thinking of a new offense, Self kept asking himself "what do you run behind what you run?" In other words, when it's the end of the game, what do you run? Mostly either a 1-4 flat or a high ball-screen. 1-4 flat is good for end of games/quarters, but not suitable all game, mainly due to transition issues. The ball is the hardest thing to defend, so why not design an offense solely around ball-screens. For the last 2 seasons, Kansas has been running Fist and several options out of it. I had to watch the video over a few times to sketch it all out, especially to make a continuity out of it, but I did get it down mostly. The offense is predicated on some basic rules:

1. Guards should fill any one of 6 spots on the floor, corners, wings, and wing-tops.
2. Anytime a forward catches the ball, and passes it back out to a guard, he chases the ball into a ball screen.
3. On any ball screen, the guard should try to drive to the rim (baseline or middle).
4. On any baseline drive off a ball screen, the forward pops out for pick and pop.
5. On any middle drive off a ball screen, the foward rolls off and sets a downscreen for the strong side corner then slips to the basket.
6. On any middle drive off a ball screen, the weakside forward should duck in once the ball crosses the lane.
7. On all ball reversal, weakside forward should duck-in attempting to seal his defender, for an easy drop step dunk move.

Sounds a little complicated, but I'll try to break it down with some diagrams. The first one is just the initial setup. Guards should attempt to fill one of six spots on the floor. It's usually a 3-out 2-in with 2 guards and 1 forward on the strong side, 1 forward and 1 guard on the weak side. The initial goal is to get the ball into the post,

If the post cannot make a move, kick the ball back out to start the action. Rule #2, anytime a post kicks the ball out, chase the ball into a ball screen,

The core of the offense is based on the ball screen. O5 sets a flat screen, O3 can choose either way, baseline or middle (Rule #3). If the guard comes off the ball screen naked (turning the corner unguarded), then it forces X4 to either help to stop penetration or free lane to the basket. O4 should look for a lob pass for the dunk. O5 pops out after setting the screen (Rule #4),

If O3 drives but can't score, and O4 is no longer open, reverse the ball to the weak side through O5 who has just popped out. O5 chases the ball into a ball screen (Rule #2), and on every ball reversal we're looking for the duck in by O4 (Rule #7). The duck in is key because on the ball-reversal, the post defender should be in help position, therefore on the reversal, the forward should be able to seal the defender with their butt such that they can get a drop step dunk,

Once the ball reaches the weak side, O5 is setting the ball screen again. In the diagram below, the screen is kind of a side-screen, but it should be flat. The guard should try to get to the rim, baseline or middle (Rule #3). If the guard goes baseline, then play like Diagram 3 above. If the guard goes middle, then O5 should roll to a downscreen then slip to the basket (Rule #5). O2 now has 4 options, O5 rolling to the basket, O4 on the duck in after O2 crosses the lane (Rule #6), or reverse it back out to O3,

O3 should immediately look for O4 on the duck in again, since X4 should be caught in help position after the ball reversal, O2 cuts to the opposite corner,

If X4 is unable to make a post move, the ball is kicked out again, and the offense repeats. I diagrammed the below just to show that the ball can be kicked out to any guard position, and it's the same, X4 chases the ball into a ball screen (Rule #2) and they repeat,

There are some more detailed notes on this offense in case you are interested in them. You can download them here.

It sounds pretty complicated, but if you follow through the sequences a few times, you'll see that it is pretty straightforward. I think this is the kind of offense that will work for JV and up. It's probably a little too complicated for youth. There are a lot of options you can run out of this, including 1-4 flat options, UCLA cut, etc... It's really flexible.

There isn't a dedicated video to just the offense, at least not just yet. But if you like Coach Self and the way Kansas plays, then take a look at Bill Self's DVD on Better Practices.

In an otherwise uninteresting upcoming NBA draft, the biggest story in my opinion will be whether or not the Knicks (who draft eighth overall) pull out all the strings to get Ricky Rubio who appears to be the perfect fit to quarterback D'Antoni's 7-seconds-or-less offense. The Knicks aside, Rubio is perhaps the most intriguing pick in this year's draft because of his upside but he's also the riskiest pick because of his youth and the financial cost it will take to get him.

It hasn't exactly been a secret that the Knicks covet the 6-foot-4 phenom out of Spain. Most "experts" describe Rubio as a slightly more athletic version of Steve Nash who possesses incredible playmaking abilities and unlike Nash is a stingy on-ball defender. But his buyout package will be hefty (could be up to $6 million), he's still learning to speak English, and at the tender age of 19 he will be tasked with leading a group of players that are both a generation older and a continent removed from him.

In some ways, this draft is the biggest decision the Knicks will make in the D'Antoni era so far. If Rubio falls through, they will probably go to their backup option in UCLA's Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings, or Stephen Curry. All three are solid picks and Curry is most likely a future all-star, but none fit the bill as good as Rubio, none have his upside in D'Antoni's system. If the Knicks don't end up with Rubio, both the Knicks and Rubio could regret it for years to come.

Happy Father's Day with NBA Fathers

Since it is Father's Day, I want to wish all the fathers a very happy father's day. I've done some lecturing about good parenting and especially the value of what good fatherhood brings, so I'll spare you some more and instead share this feature interview with Coach George Karl and his son Coby Karl. The lesson of the day is, no matter how bad or difficult the relationship was in the past, it's never too late to start over as life is too precious and too short to waste,

If the youtube video is not working or buffering, try it here.

Passing on some defensive drill information from notes at an coaching clinic in Las Vegas a couple of years ago with Bobby Knight. I like the idea of putting the defense at a disadvantage in drills, forces players to work together as a team:

Team Defense Drills
a. Always set a restriction (e.g.: 15 sec. shot clock)
b. Always try to put the defense at a disadvantage

1. 5 vs. 4 full court to 4 vs. 5 back
2. 4 vs. 4 with 1 extra man in each corner (“6 vs. 4”)
• 4 vs. 4 shell where corner guys can attack, defense must communicate and rotate

3. “5 vs. 5 change”
• Coach dictates when to “change.” On signal, player drops the ball and moves to defense
• Players may not guard the man guarding them

4. 4 vs. 4 with Post (“5 vs. 4”)
• 4 vs. 4 shell where Post man is pressure release
• Post has freedom to do what he wants. He can screen or look to score
• Defense must communicate and rotate to stop the post

If you're looking for more ideas for team defense and rebounding drills, you can never go wrong with Tom Izzo's DVD on Rebounding and Man Defense. Coach Izzo is the long-time head coach of Michigan State.

I received these set of notes the other day and since you don't see too much of the 1-1-3 zone I thought I would give it some pub. A couple of years ago we played against a team that used the 1-1-3 against us and since we didn't prepare for it initially, and we weren't a good overall shooting team from the outside, we struggled against it.

The 1-1-3 is a good zone to use against a team that doesn't shoot well from the outside and you want to take away drives to the middle from a penetrating point guard. In my opinion, it works better than a 2-3 zone because it takes away the gap at the point. It forces the ball to a perceived weakness at the wing and corner posts, and discourages drives to the middle and takes away the point.

Setup and Initial Pass:
There are 2 different coverage areas in this defensive system.
1. The guards, X1 and X2, cover everything above the free throw line.
2. The post players, X3, X4, and X5 cover everything below the free throw line and are interchangeable positions.

1. X1 picks up the ball initially, trying to influence the pass to the left side of the floor.
2. X4 or X3 take any pass that is free throw line extended or below. On the closeout, X4 tries to force the next pass to the corner and discouraging a ball reversal by staying on the high hip of the ball.
3. X2 slides to ball side high post.
4. X5 slides to ball side low block and full fronts any low post.
5. X3 slides to replace X5.

Wing and Corner Coverage:
From the first diagrams below, you can see that if the offense is quick and the ball is entered into the wing or corner, they will have an open shot or step up into an open mid-range. Superficially, this looks like a weak spot in the defense, and it is. But remember, the whole point of this defense is that prior scouting has shown the offensive team to be poor outside shooters, in combination with indecisive or weak perimeter wing/corner players. Emphasis is to rotate down to the block to prevent post-entry or drive,

Pass to Corner
1. X5 takes any pass to the corner using a good closeout.
2. The wing defender, X4, sprints back to the block to replace X5 trying to deflect any low post entry passes.

Corner to Wing Pass
1. X2 takes any corner to wing pass, while X1 moves to the ball side elbow.
2. Post players rotate back into position.

Against Dribble Drive:
Teams will inevitably try to dribble drive, especially if their point guard is the best player. The idea is to always have coverage up top (unlike the 2-3 zone) and everyone shades with the ball if dribbled either direction.

Wing to Point Pass
1. When the pass goes from the wing to the point, the guards work in a tandem. High post guards takes the point. The wing defender guard slides to high post.

Dribble Entry
1. On the dribble entry, the point defender stays with the ball.
2. Everyone else slides in the direction of the ball.

Against Skip Passes:
Because the wings and corners are most vulnerable, teams will try to run skips or pin and skips to disorient the defense. This is where most of your drills will work on, getting to those closeouts.

Corner to Wing Skip Pass
1. If a skip pass is made from the corner to the opposite wing, use the closest defender rule. In this case, X1 closes down on the ball.
2. Everyone else slides towards the ball.

Wing to Corner Skip Pass
1. The post player closest to the corner takes the skip pass.
2. Everyone else slides towards the ball into their perspective positions.

For more breakdown drills you can download the full 5-page notes here.

Final points of emphasis:
1. Apply tremendous ball pressure at all times.
2. Sprint to coverage areas with strong closeouts and hands held high.
3. Push the ball to the sideline alleys and corners.
4. The closest player to the ball takes the ball handler.
5. There always must be a player in the low post and high post.
6. All five players are required to rebound.
7. Once the ball is forced to the sideline, stay on the player’s “high hip” in order to keep the offensive players from reversing positions and dribbling to the other side of the court.
8. The defender stays on the ball until called off by a teammate.
9. All players must communicate verbally for this defense to work.

For more detailed info on the 1-1-3 zone defense, take a look at Bob Huggin's DVD on Pressure 1-1-3 Defense. Coach Huggins is the head coach at West Virginia University.

Came across this interesting research study in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine looking into discrepancies between starters and non-starters in the WNBA. What they found was that 2-point field goals, free-throws, and assists were the the three most powerful variables discriminating between starters and nonstarters. In comparing to men's basketball, the researchers point to the athletic and skill differences between men and women which seeks to highlight the importance of shooting and passing ability in women's basketball.

I think the shooting percentage is an obvious statistic, if you improve in all of your other areas (passing, forcing turnovers, etc..), your shooting percentage should rise. But the assists statistic is interesting. In the NBA, certainly top assist teams like the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers prove the value of assists -- the setup pass that leads to the made shot. But you look at the bottom half of the league and you will see such top teams like the Orlando Magic (second to last from the Grizzlies), the New Orleans Hornets, and even the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trailblazers are in the bottom half.

I think it highlights some of the important differences between the women's and men's game. In the women's game, because athleticism is less of a factor, and skill is more of a factor, the setup to a good shot is as important as the shot itself. As such, according to the statistical analysis, good offensive schemes are vital in the women's game which means coaching tactics have a much higher value as well. The implications are far reaching. So for example, given equal athleticism between two women's teams, the team playing a motion offense will probably have the edge over a team that uses ISO plays. Zone defenses are more effective in the women's game which thus makes zone offense all the more important.

With the NBA and college seasons done and a break in my studies, I'm starting to go through all the notes I've collected over the past year. I went through one today I thought was worth talking about, Ganon Baker calls it "the 5 angles of the ball screen" (side, middle, flat, horns, baseline step-up):

1. Side – This is the most popular in college, Europe, NBA and WNBA.
Make sure the screen is not too close to the sideline. Your looks are the
screener to roll/pop, the guard for a jumper or floater, the weak side duckin,
or weak shooter. Defensively, the side PNR is the best to trap on because you can use the sideline as another trapper,

2. Middle – This is most popular with high school because of the spacing of
the court and allows the dribbler to go straight at the rim. Screener’s feet are pointed at either side line.

3. Flat – Same set as a high/middle ball screen but the screener’s feet are
facing half court. The screener can pop either way. The Florida spread PNR offense is predicated on the flat screen,

4. Horns – The flat and horns set you see a lot in the pros like in the WNBA and NBA, the 1-2-2 set in particular. A lot of teams will go high-low off this set as well.

5. Baseline step-up – You are seeing this more and more on all levels. Make
sure the screener stays away from the sideline. This is a great screen to use against teams that like to help a lot, you can suck in the defense this way then dump off or kick out, or go to the opposite corner for a 3-pointer,

For more perimeter player development info, take a look at Ganon Baker on Drills for Developing the Wing Player.

A great 1-on-1 interview with Stanford women's head coach Tara VanDerveer on the subject of coaching. She talked about a number of things including the dedication and passion it requires, what to look for in a coach, and coaches around the PAC-10. This passage though I found most interesting:

You now have several former players coaching on the collegiate level including the two currently with Stanford, and some former assistants have moved on to become head coaches. How do you feel about your growing “coaching tree?” What do assistants need to learn or change to step up to a head-coaching job?

It’s like being on a tandem bicycle on the back where you’re just pedaling to going to the front where you have to pedal and steer. It’s really different. That sixteen inches, or whatever, from one seat to the other (on the bench) is really, really different. Being decisive, being able to make decisions, is key. You make the final decision on who you are recruiting, what your schedule is, whether you press, whether you don’t, who you put in the games. I’m really proud of the number of women that I’ve worked with either as players or assistant coaches that have gone on to become coaches in women’s basketball and that they do such great jobs.
I like VanDerveer's analogy of the tandem bicycle. It implies a shared learning experience, hand-holding you could say. In my opinion, the head coach / assistant coach relationship is one of the most important relationships in coaching. I think some people undervalue the experience of being an assistant coach because of the perceived and real differences between being a head coach and an assistant coach, the "sixteen inches" VanDerveer refers to. It's easy to see the role of an assistant as a temporary placeholder, an inevitable stepping stone to a head coaching position. And thus, they don't take the opportunity to learn the critical lessons of what worked and what didn't.

I think that as an assistant coach aspiring to be a head coach, one should always be thinking critically about game-time decisions, practice organization, player motivation. Conversely, as a head coach mentoring assistants, I think it helps tremendously to involve assistants in all decision-making, talk things out, to go through hypotheticals, game them out so to say. I also think that every program should have a mechanism for two-way evaluations, head coach to assistant, and assistant to head coach.

For more offensive drill pointers, take a look at Coach VanDerveer's DVD on 25 Offensive Drills for Success.

In watching the NBA Finals and seeing Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant embrace as Jackson won his 10th NBA Championship, it got me thinking on approaches to players as coaches. The two schools of thought are: treat everyone the same; each individual is different so you must treat everyone differently. In fact, you scan through the literature, you'll find coaches are divided on this with some saying 'the same' and others saying 'different'.

For example, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich is known to be one who treats everyone the same, no special treatment, you yell at one player, you have to yell at them all. You have to treat everyone the same so you avoid splitting up the locker room, the so-called favorites factor.

But on the other hand, in his book "How to Be Like Coach Wooden: Life Lessons from Basketball's Greatest Leader" legendary UCLA Head Coach John Wooden says one of the biggest lessons he learned was that you can't treat everyone the same because the relationship between coach and player A is different than between coach and player B. They respond differently.

In my opinion, paradoxically, I think they're both right. In the delicate balancing act that is coaching, you have to treat everyone differently because of individual differences, but the key is to APPEAR that you are treating everyone the same. Sounds like a trick doesn't it? Like some kind of mind manipulation. In a way it is, perception is reality. The reality is, it is impossible to treat everyone the same because everyone has a different personality, develops differently, different cultural background, etc... But in your players eyes, you must appear to be treating everyone the same otherwise they will accuse you of favoritism. Others say, you treat everyone different, so long as you are fair. You can also look at it that way, but remember that not everyone's conception of 'fairness' is the same, what I think is fair may not be what you think is fair.

In order to be a good coach, you must understand psychology, it's almost like needing an out of body experience. You have to observe others observing you. In that way, you see how players will react given a specific situation, and in knowing that it will help you understand how to motivate them best.

I talked to a friend the other day whose kid is starting to play basketball and the first thing he asked me was, how do I get my kid to jump higher? In my opinion, there are a lot of kids out there that get suckered into thinking that improving their vertical will solve all of their problems, it will make them into the next Lebron James. I know this first-hand because when I was growing up, the only thing I wanted to do was to be able to jump like Michael Jordan. When I watched Spud Webb win the dunk contest, my imagination went wild thinking that any 5-foot person could dunk like Spud. For a time growing up, I spent more time trying to improve my vertical than I did actually playing basketball. I think I might have gained an extra 6-inches on my vertical, I still couldn't dunk, and I didn't improve the other aspects of my game. The most important thing to remember is that there is a lot more to basketball than being able to dunk, that jumping ability is largely dependent on physical makeup, that some people are just born with the ability to jump high.

That is not to say that vertical leap is unimportant. Like any skill on the basketball court, it helps to be well-rounded, jumping ability being just one of the skills that a player should hope to improve on. Once a player or kid has their expectations set right, then they can go ahead and improve their vertical leap, to achieve their maximum potential.

There are a lot of programs, manuals, infomercials that tout amazing results for their system. Most of them are hype. Jumping ability is like any other physical attribute, there are certain muscles that your body uses to jump. Therefore, improving your vertical requires the same improvement as anything else, improving your flexibility, strength, and quickness. In other words, no special gimmick, video, or program is necessary. Most plyometric and ballistic training drills can be simplified down to: squats with weights. That's all it is, mostly stuff you can incorporate in your regular weight training regimen.

So, don't buy into the hype. Improving your vertical should be just a part of your offseason skill development. Don't get caught up with being able to dunk, and just focus on improving your all-round game.

Looking Forward to Game 5

I hope y'all are enjoying this NBA Finals as much as I am. As amazing as it would be to see the Magic come back from 3-1 to win the series, I can't help but feel the great anticipation of Kobe Bryant winning the championship, his first without Shaq, cementing his legacy as perhaps the greatest player of all time. Here is the NBA TV All-Access from Game 4 to help you get into the mood,

If you've been reading this blog, then you'll know that I'm a proponent of M2M defense as your base with selective zone defenses as in-game adjustments or change-ups. I came across this interesting article by John Giannini who is the head coach at La Salle University, providing what appears to be more empirical evidence that M2M is a better base defensive system than zone.

The most common defense is the man-to-man. There has actually been studies done that look at something called the DER -- the defensive efficiency rating. A defensive efficiency rating is 'the number of point scored divided by the number of possessions'. A very good defensive efficiency rating would be 0.75 or lower -- that would be outstanding. People have actually charted multiple games and looked at which defenses have the best defensive efficiency rating and man-to-man usually comes out the highest.
I've never actually charted DER myself, but I think what's interesting about this stat as opposed to field-goal percentage defense or ppga is that it takes a relative measurement based on possessions as opposed to an absolute one. Unfortunately, the article doesn't state where the sources came from, nor does it state the statistical results, but it is still interesting if in fact it proves to be correct -- that the DER stats show that man defense is better than zone as a base.

For more great defensive drills information regardless of whether you are a M2M or zone base, check out Bruce Weber's DVD on 20 Competitive Defensive Drills. Coach Weber is the head coach of the University of Illinois.

Where's the Defense, Jameer?

The talk of the past couple of days continues to be the coaching judgment and decisions of Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. Should he have fouled with 11 seconds to go and up by 3 points? Should he have substituted Rafer Alston who had an outstanding first half for Jameer Nelson who appeared to struggle at times in the fourth quarter?

My own personal philosophy is that you always foul when ahead by 3 points with less than 10 seconds. 11 seconds is kind of a stretch, but I probably would've fouled anyways. Would it have made the difference in the game? I think it could've gone either way, but the Magic were shooting their free-throws so poorly that I think at the end of the day, the Lakers probably still would have won.

Regardless of whether SVG had planned on fouling though, Jeff Van Gundy was absolutely right on the ABC broadcast, there is no excuse for Jameer Nelson giving Derek Fisher so much room to shoot the 3-pointer. As you can see, Fisher is already in his shooting pocket, and Nelson is at least 2 arms lengths away with his hands below the waist,

Would Alston made a difference? Perhaps. But again, it is unfathomable that you would give someone that much room to take the game-tying shot. Still, the bulk of the credit goes to Fisher, who struggled for most of the playoffs, but has lived up to his reputation for hitting big shots when it counts the most. He gave a great post-game interview where he talked about trust -- the trust he has earned between Phil Jackson and himself.

With Game 4 of the NBA finals set to start in about 2 hours I found this interesting article on CBS Sports via Coach Musselman's Twitter. Lakers Assistant Brian Shaw talking about the offensive progressions they go through and where Kobe fits into that equation. I'll try to contextualize this in the triangle offense but first here is Shaw's analysis:

We tell our guys to start the offense away from him. Use this side of the court, see your options over here; if nothing's there, reverse it to him and now the shot clock's down and let him do his thing. But when he's out there on the floor and he's doing his little signals asking for the ball, there's kind of a pecking order that happens out there on the court. They don't want to piss him off, and they want to please the coaching staff as well. But he's the closest one to them on the floor. So a lot of times they'll force the ball into him with three people around him instead of making the right play.
In the triangle, the ball is supposed to be entered into the strong-side post either through a direct pass from the point or from the wing. The point then shuffles to the corner forming the famed triangle. From there, the point, wing, and post read the defense, the point can cut baseline with the wing shuffling down, or the point and wing can screen and replace, etc... If nobody is open, the post himself can back down and make a move if it is advantageous to do so. The 2 players on the weak-side, usually play a 2-man game (screen and replace, cut and fill, etc...) The post can also elect to pass to this weak side. This is where Kobe comes in according to Shaw, on the weak side.

Now, in comparing Kobe and Michael Jordan in the triangle offense. It's been a long time since I've watched a lot of MJ film, but as I recall MJ was mostly playing strong side, and they had Steve Kerr or Scottie Pippen play on the weak side.

It definitely requires more research but it is interesting to see the differences between how both are used within the triangle offense. Of course, the other point worth mentioning is that the Lakers run less of the triangle (plays called from the bench) than the Bulls did who used the triangle offense almost exclusively. We certainly do see a lot more purposeful Kobe clearouts than we did MJ clearouts back in the day.

Some interesting comments from former NBA basketball player Alonzo Mourning about how Kobe Bryant has taken over as the coach of the team. Here is a snippet:

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant(notes) has developed such a floor presence that Alonzo Mourning(notes) can’t figure out what exactly it is Lakers coach Phil Jackson is doing on the bench.

"To tell you the truth, Phil doesn’t have to do anything but call time outs," said Mourning, the former NBA star who helped lead the Miami Heat to the 2006 championship and twice was the league’s defensive player of the year.

"Kobe is the facilitator. He is the one driving the mission of this particular team right now," Mourning said. "The communication level he has with his teammates out there, you can just see it."

"I think Phil is just showing up, to tell you the truth, and Kobe is doing all the work to make this team successful."
Obviously Mourning is guilty of hyperbole as Phil Jackson is doing a lot more than just calling time outs. But Mourning's point is well taken. I wrote earlier how I saw Kobe the coach out there. He's matured to see the court from a coach's perspective, and more importantly he's an excellent communicator which is by far the most crucial attribute to be successful in coaching.

I acknowledge that some coaches do it for the power, the same narcissistic selfishness that is the source of the tyranny in this world -- those coaches would feel threatened by Kobe's hegemony. However, I don't think Jackson sees it that way either, I don't think Kobe's assertiveness does anything to diminish what Jackson has accomplished should the Lakers go on to win the Championship. As I wrote, for coaches who still have that fundamental altruistic motive to mold young minds, there's nothing more satisfying to see their players mature to the point where they figure it out for themselves.

Geared up for NBA Finals Game 3

Game 3 is always the most crucial game especially when the higher seed has held home court. Will the Orlando Magic make a series of it? Or will the Lakers be on their way to the sweep? Can the Magic get an extra boost from their crowd? To help y'all get into the mood for tonight's game 3, NBA TV's behind the scenes all-access from Game 2,

The NCAA has approved three rules changes to be implemented this coming fall, they include: clarification of block-charge calls similar to the NBA by instituting a restricted area; determining who can shoot free throws after an injury; and the expanded use of video replay for flagrant fouls. The first and third changes are pretty self-evident. The second change now states that the opposing coach is the one who selects from the four players remaining on the court to shoot free-throws instead of the shooting team's coach. My understanding is that this rule has been in place in the NBA and FIBA for a couple of years now but I'm pretty sure most high schools use the old rule. I'm still a little conflicted on the rule, which way to go, so I thought I would flush it out a bit.

The rule change stems from the perception that teams can get an unfair advantage when a fouled player is injured. In a real life situation, just this past season, Missouri beat Marquette when some claimed that an injury substitution for free-throws gave Mizzou an unfair advantage late in the game. The old rule was that the shooting team's coach could select any player on the team -- including from the bench -- to shoot the free throws. Naturally, the shooting team's coach will select the player who shoots free-throws best to replace the injured player.

You can probably see where this goes. Here's a hypothetical: close game, 2 minutes left in the game, team A fouls team B's Shaq. Shaq pretends to be injured, coach subs in Steve Nash, Nash hits both free throws, Team B calls timeout, subs Shaq back in the game.

Now, the only reason why team's would "fake" the injury is because of the loophole. Other than the Mizzou/Marquette game, I can't remember that many instances that this situation came up, but obviously enough times that the NCAA felt the need to change the rule. With the opposing team's coach now selecting the free-throw shooter, will it prevent a team from "faking" it? If you had a Shaq on your team, it would still be an advantage for just about anyone else to shoot, and the other 4 players still on the floor are likely to be good free-throw shooters. What are some of the other possible alternatives:

- opposing team's coach picks anyone on the shooting team's roster including players from the bench (fairer, but could be slightly unfair for shooting team)
- shooting team's coach picks one of the four players on the court (maybe still unfair fouling team if say Steve Nash is on the floor)
- no free throws awarded, but shooting team gets to inbound the ball (unfair towards the shooting team, especially if there are only seconds left in the game)

Another measure they could take to prevent "faking" would be to say that the injured player cannot re-enter the game until at least one basketball sequence has taken place. So that, the shooting team cannot call a timeout after making the free-throws and subbing Shaq back in.

Watched Game 2 last night and I thought the Magic did a good job adjusting their defense on Kobe after Game 1. After a slow start, the Magic also started hitting some big 3-pointers, especially Rashard Lewis. That team is just too potent to go through 2 games and to shoot so poorly.

Obviously, what doomed the Magic in Game 2 were the turnovers which led to points for the Lakers the other way. The one turnover by JJ Redick late in the fourth quarter was probably the biggest one overall. Though Dwight Howard was charged with 7 turnovers overall, I think some of those were a result of poor spacing and poor post-entry passes. Here is one of those turnovers leading to a Lakers fast break:

Even worse than the turnover was the slow reaction and poor transition defense getting back by the Magic. In contrast, I thought the Lakers transitioned into defense a lot better after their turnovers, getting at least 3 defenders back and forcing the Magic to setup in halfcourt instead.

In watching the post-game news conferences, I thought Phil Jackson of the Lakers made a great point. Going to Orlando, the fast-break transition advantages will most likely go the other way, the Magic will probably get more fast-breaks.

For more on transition offense and defense concepts, take a look at this 5-Star Basketball Series DVD on Transition Basketball by Coach Manny Bloom of 5-Star.

Going through coaching notes and came across this great quote from Pittsburgh Panthers men's head coach Jamie Dixon in talking about his defensive philosophy:

"Thug ‘em, Mug ‘em Defense. Just tough, hard-nosed defense
built through practices where the same set of defensive toughness drills are executed every day from October to March. You couldn’t bring soft recruits to practice because they’d be scared."
Wow, I'd love to sit in on their practices just to see how intense they are. Although, I also wonder what motivation techniques he uses to push them that hard for the entire season...

I've been thinking about free-throw shooting a lot recently. How important is free-throw shooting? Is it more important to aspire to shoot a higher percentage or to get more attempts? A recent NY Times Freakonomics article which studied the NCAA and the NBA, men and women, showed that free-throw percentage had not changed in 50 years and provocatively concluded that there was no correlation between free-throw shooting percentage and winning percentage. I did some research and found this article which analyzed Duke as a team, and found that free throw shooting was the most efficient way for most teams to score.

So what does it all mean as a coach? I think it means that getting to the free-throw line is important. But there is a caveat, referees call fouls, so the number of times your team actually gets to shoot free-throws may not be entirely up to your control (that may explain why Duke has such a high FTA/FG ratio). But it also means that while we all want our players to shoot a good percentage from the line, spending an exorbitant amount of time in practice shooting free-throws may not be the best use of practice time (outside of normal shooting drills). It means that it is less important to be a "good free-throw shooting team," than it is to have the right players in situations when free-throws need to be made (ie. at the end of games to protect a lead).

Of course coaching like any profession you can get bogged down in the details, in the day-to-day, and it's easy to forget what it is that we actually do. Ultimately, coaching is teaching young people how to learn through doing. Through guidance, they do and then they learn. It is my belief that not everyone is born to be a leader, but for those who are, those who have that innate ability, they require encouragement. And like any learned skill, they need the opportunity to practice how to be a leader. Team sports (like many other extracurricular activities) is where they learn how to be a great leader.

Most of you probably know Colt McCoy, the outstanding quarterback for the Texas Longhorns, nicknamed the "The Real McCoy" for his outgoing personality and leadership. Here, Colt talks to a group of high school students about leadership,

Here, leadership of a different kind. From earlier in the year, Florida State standout Myron Rolle on the opportunity to become a Rhodes Scholar, and his teammates taking about how Myron sets the example which they all hope to aspire to as student-athletes,

As coaches, I do believe it is our job to promote and encourage those who exhibit leadership potential. It's incredible to see what young people are capable of, if only that had someone to push them into the limelight, to provide opportunities for them to develop that inner hidden talent. I truly believe that behind every great leader are one or more great teachers.

In watching the third quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals last night between the Lakers and the Magic, I kept thinking to myself, when are the Magic going to change up their defense against Kobe Bryant? From the second quarter on, the Lakers could see that the Magic were going to play Kobe 1v1 and go under on all ball screens, so Kobe just went crazy. I almost thought for sure Stan Van Gundy would make an adjustment in the third quarter, maybe doubling Kobe on the perimeter, or trapping him on ball screens, instead they kept the same defense, and the final result was predictable, a Lakers rout.

In these 2 sequences, the first one from the first half with Kobe posting up the much smaller Courtney Lee. Kobe backs him up then slithers in between help defenders to score.

In this second sequence, Kobe is left 1v1 against Michael Pietrus. Now, Pietrus did a decent job 1v1 on Kobe, but nine out of ten times, 1v1 Kobe is going to score, and he did here and got the foul,

In the following sequences, we see the Magic's defensive strategy on the pick and roll. They decide to soft switch with the screener's defender sagging and the primary defender chasing. In doing so, they hoped to take away Kobe going all the way to the rim (which they were actually decent at), and take away the 3-pointer (Kobe only shot 1 long ball and missed it). The problem with this defense is that Kobe can easily pull up for the 18 footer, draw a foul on the help defender, or drive and kick. This first one was from the first quarter, Kobe pulls up for the jumper,

In this second sequence, he does a stutter dribble, freezes Dwight Howard, and shoots a 10 footer over him,


Basketball is all about adjustments, the Magic made none defensively and allowed Kobe to burn them for 40 points. The same strategy worked against Lebron and the Cavs because the Cavs supporting staff decided not to show up. The Lakers supporting cast is much better, Gasol, Odom, Bynum, Fischer, and Walton all made shots.

I think for Game 2, you'll see Stan Van Gundy go with more traps and double-teams on Kobe. The key will be how the weak side defenders zone up and close out on the other Laker players. That is what the Nuggets couldn't do, they doubled, but they couldn't properly defend on the weak-side, allowing players like Ariza and Odom to get off good shots.

For more info on trapping defenses, take a look at Roy Williams's DVD on his Scramble Defense. Coach Williams is the head coach of the 2009 National Champion UNC Tar Heels. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

On the eve of Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic, here is a nice video montage of the best of all the all-access segments from the playoffs so far, produced by NBA TV, to help y'all get in the mood -- I know it helped me get into this series. Enjoy the game...

I think y'all know by now where I stand on the AAU vs High School debate. AAU has its merits and I have no problem with AAU coaches defending what they do, it is their right to do so. I have a bias because I plan on being a high school teacher, but I strongly believe that playing and coaching prep sports in high school is something special that can't be replicated in any traveling or club scenario.

Case in point, this past weekend here in Vancouver, they played the Province (state) High School Championships in soccer, and a local school won the Senior Girls championship. The way amateur soccer is setup here, club soccer dominates, kids play club to get recruited and get college scholarships (much like AAU basketball in the US). To understand a little as to why playing prep sports has more intrinsic value, here is a quote from one of the girls from the winning team:

"For a lot of us, it’s bigger than club soccer, because we’re all so close," said UBC-bound Rachael Sawer, who scored three times in the final. "This team is so tight. We love each other. I can’t express how amazing everybody is. To me, I’ll probably remember this more than anything in club soccer."
In explaining the difference between the two -- club and prep -- the head coach of the winning team had this to say:
"In terms of careers, club soccer is the thing," said Handsworth coach Ted Smolen. "But high school is the time they get to play for themselves and for their peers. Club soccer becomes like a job for some of them after awhile. With high school, it’s really for the love of the game. They’re playing with their friends.
The key words being 'friends' and 'love of the game'.

High school is a ritual that has such cultural significance that the memories usually last a lifetime (good ones and bad ones). And it certainly extends into prep sports, players have common experiences in the classroom -- 8:30 English with Mr. A, 11:00 PE with Mr. B, chasing girls/boys during lunch, etc... Players on club teams also develop friendships, but the point is that because in high school you struggle as group together playing prep sports has that much more significance, and in the end you make it out of high school together.