Video of ESPN talking to Coach John Wooden after being named the greatest coach of all sports of all time. The part I liked best was in the beginning when he talked about diversity,

Going over some more notes the other day and came across some breaking down Jim Larranaga's full court press defenses which he calls the full court scramble. I watched some old footage of George Mason from when they made their final four run and part of what made their pressure defenses -- full and half court -- so effective was the surprise element. Depending on time/score/situation, they would vary the defense and it was the in-game adjustments more than anything they did specifically which caught a lot of teams off guard. From the notes:

Jim Larranaga uses 5 full court defenses labeled as:

- fullcourt man
- quick trap
- slow trap
- twist
- 55 (1-2-1-1 matchup)

Fullcourt Man

The fullcourt man defense is the base defense and the other 4 are adjustments made depending on the offense. The fullcourt man has no traps but the primary purpose is to put extreme pressure all over the floor. X4 is on the inbounder, hands up, can jump, but does not overplay O4 to the middle (his run would be longer). Defenders deny the inbounds pass but try not to get beat with a long pass. Like-size defenders switch on screens. Turn the ballhandler 3 times in the backcourt, nose on the ball. Other defenders are up the line between the ball and their man, faking at the dribbler to make him think a trap may be coming and slow him down,

Quick Trap

The short corner is the trapping area. It's one trap then back if the press is broken, make a quick conversion, it's not so important who you have, but you will be guarding someone, and there will be pressure on the ball.

On the inbounds pass, X4 quickly traps the ball. Everyone moves in the direction of the ball ("three to the ball"). X1 splits the space between O2 and O4 looking for an errant pass off a reversal, X3 splits O2 and O3 looking to pick off the sideline pass. In this way, you can designate X2 and X3 as the interceptors, X5 is back with O5 and is the goaltender,

On a pass out of the trap back to inbounder O4, X2 takes the ball. X4, who left his man to trap, rotates to where the help came from, in this case O2. Now we are in our basic fullcourt man. X1 applies nose-on-the-ball pressure, X2 denies O1, and the other defenders are up the line, faking at the dribbler,

A common adjustment teams will make is to have the inbounder O4 cut up the middle to break the press and create numbers the other way. X2 should be trained to anticipate and pick off the pass. If O4 manages to get a pass up the middle, it's one trap and back.

X4 is the official trapper looking to trap a dribbler before midcourt, especially secondary ballhandlers.

If O1 passes to O2, there is still time for a second trap, by X1 and X4,

Slow Trap

Slow trap is especially good if the inbounder is a non-ballhandler (e.g., 4 or 5). So the idea is to try to deny the inbounds. But if the ball is inbounded to a good ballhandler, slow trap him to force the ball back to the safety who most likely is the inbounder.

X1 forces O1 to the middle. Once O1 dribbles, X1 and X4 herd him until a trap is formed. X2 comes across, X3 moves in the direction of the ball. X5 is the goalie.

Once the pass is made back to inbounder O4, X2 would take the ball and X4 take O2, and we are now at our basic fullcourt man defence (X1 denies O1),

In this way, X2 should be able to put enough 1v1 pressure on O4 to force a turnover or get a steal.


Twist is a great option after a time-out, and a terrific way to get a 5-second violation.

As the ball is taken out by O4, X4 twists and double teams by face guarding O1 (or the most likely receiver). Other defenders must not allow a long inbounds pass,

If the other team uses a 4-across pressure set, don't front them (except by X4), don't allow any long passes.

55 (1-2-1-1 match-up zone)

This is your standars 1-2-1-1 matchup zone. Look to deny the first pass then trap it if made. X4 is always on the ball, X2 on the right, X3 on the left, X1 in the middle, and X5 is back. X2 and X3 switch any screen and attempt to deny the inbounds pass. X4 immediately quick traps on the pass,

For a closer look at the scramble full court, check out Jim Larranaga's Full Court Scramble DVD or the Scramble in the half court which George Mason used to get to the final four a few years ago.

I was forwarded this website by a coaching friend one day, and since then it's been one of my favorite websites I visit. It is called DreAllDay, and it is run by a fellow named Dre Baldwin. One of the best parts of his website are his videos that he's uploaded to youtube, showing some individual development drills. One of my favorites are his ball-handling drills, like this one:

For more professional tips, take a look at Ganon Baker's DVD on 42 Advanced Ball-Handling Drills.

From Yahoo!Sports, earlier in the week at an AAU tournament in Memphis, it was reported that Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings had a verbal confrontation with an AAU tournament official, then left altogether. The dispute? The AAU tournament official insisted that Stallings pay the $295 for the "information packet" which contains recruit contact information. As reported in the New York Times, Stalling had this to say:

"I’m not protesting or insisting that my moral compass is better than anyone else. But mine won’t allow me to do something like that that is that blatantly wrong."
The New York Times also reported that Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo refused to pay the $100 "admission fee" at the Summer Jam in Milwaukee last month insisting that an assistant had already paid them $250. Yale head coach James Jones claims to have paid $350 one time at an AAU tournament just to watch 1 player, his only alternative was to pay for a $600 annual scouting service subscription.

Most of you have probably read the article in the Charlotte Observer a couple of months ago which scrutinized the connections between shoe companies, middlemen, and these so-called "scouting services" -- all of which have made certain individuals extremely wealthy over the past few decades (I won't name names, but you can read about them in the article).

And while Tom Izzo, Kevin Stallings, and James Jones may have shown enough guts to stand up for a principle not only by refusing to pay but by speaking publicly about it, the majority of college coaches are silent. The silence probably speaks more volumes than the voices of discontent. The silence proves that the majority of college coaches have become so dependent on these middlemen and tournament directors that they no longer have the agency to speak out against what they know is one huge scam.

The more you dig deeper, the more it looks like the whole system of AAU club basketball in the U.S. is like the unregulated brokerage houses of Wall Street -- a house of cards that is just waiting to come crashing down. And like Wall Street, those responsible for this mess will find a way to escape unfettered, millions and millions of dollars richer.

If you haven't heard, Coach K officially announced he is returning to lead Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London. Here is a short clip of Coach K talking to a group of Team USA hopefuls about the kind of players they had in 2008 and the characteristics the coaches are looking for this time around:

When talking about the 2008 team, the main takeaway for me was accountability and sacrifice of the individual for the team. The players had to take ownership of their own responsibilities -- they had to want to win it, the coaches are just the facilitators. Players had to check their egos at the door, and focus on the singular goal of winning the Gold medal.

I think most coaches have used some variation of the cut throat drill -- a continuous game of 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 with three or more sets of players. In most cut throat drills, when the offense scores they stay on offense, and a new defensive team rotates in.

I went through some older notes and came across these 2 drills which are basically defensive cut throat where instead of the offense staying on, the defense must gain 3 stops in a row to win. Of course you can add some kind of incentive for the team that gets 3 stops first. You can make sure players are working on their defensive assignments and responsibilities by enforcing "perfection rules":

1. Emphasis of the day
2. High hands, Jump to the ball, Block all cuts, Talking
3. Coach watches and if defense does not do the emphasis they are out.

3-on-3 Defensive Stops Cut-Throat:

1. Defense must get 3 shut-outs in a row to win
2. Coach checks
3. If defense stops they stay
4. If you score on offense you get to play defense

4 on 4 Full Court Defensive Stops Cut-Throat:

1. Play 4 on 4 cut-throat. If the defense stops the offense, they must get back. The B’s will be the new offense and bring it at them.
2. The team that was just the offense must run to the other end so that they can be ready to come in.
3. If the offense scores, they hustle back and play defense.
4. 3 stops in a row wins

If you want to see this and other great defensive drills run live, check out Bruce Weber's DVD on 20 Competitive Drills. Coach Weber is the head coach of the Illinois men's basketball team.

I've been reading, listening, and watching a lot lately about the debate between the human qualities of optimism vs pessimism, altruism vs competitiveness, idealism vs realism. Indeed, these debates have been going on since the beginning of time.

I watched the ABC Special a few weeks called "Adventures of an Incurable Optimist" hosted by Michael J. Fox who has a book by the same title (click here to see the whole 1-hr special). The show talked about why people optimism despite their circumstances and how scientifically it can be proven the positive effects of being optimistic as opposed to being pessimistic.

I read this great article in Ode Magazine talking about how recent research into behavioral economics shows that altruism and not the selfish desire for personal gain is the primary motivating factor.

In terms of coaching style, this debate is basically broken down into the two polar opposite cliches. There are those who believe in winning by any means necessary, and that nice guys finish last. And then there are those who are always referred to euphemistically as "a good coach, but a better person," -- the dreamy optimists who insist their team improved every passing day despite a winless season.

But I think what gets lost in the debate is this kind of oversimplification of human character. For example, we often ask: is it better to be competitive -- to win every drill, every game, every championship? Or is it better to be a better person -- one who is always thinking of the common good? We often think in manichean terms, polar opposites, instead of greys.

Therefore the more fundamental question we should be asking is whether the two are mutually exclusive? That is to say, can we be both competitive and altruistic at the same time? And exactly how do we develop the good qualities of optimism-pessimism, altruism-competitiveness and avoid the bad ones?

The reality is that there are degrees of optimism-pessimism, altruism-competitiveness due to a variety of genetics, social, and cultural factors. And that to be truly successful in coaching or anything in life you need to have a balance. It's important to be optimistic when you are 5-10 because you may lose your players altogether. But its equally important to be pessimistic when you are 20-0 because it keeps you sharp and aware of the situation at all times. I don't think anyone would deny that you must be competitive in order to be successful in coaching, but not so competitive that you are willing to compromise your principles or values. Conversely, you have to be altruistic in order to feel good about what you are doing, but not so altruistic that you allow other people to take advantage you.

As you can probably tell, I think about philosophy a lot and I don't purport to have all the answers but I hope that by having open dialogues on these kinds of topics we can attempt to improve every aspect of ourselves and how we coach. I would definitely like to hear what others have to say about this topic.

Like all offenses, there are many different versions and variations based on how coaches have tweaked it to fit their needs. The Maryland flex offense under Gary Williams is one such variation of the generic flex offense. I like the flex offense a lot and I've used it in a few different situations in the past. The key to the flex is teaching proper screening and movement off the ball. It may not be as dynamic as the DDM, but I think the flex is a structured offense that will get good shot opportunities. Here are some more tips from Coach Williams himself talking about the Maryland flex at a Nike coaches clinic:

- "If you can’t screen, you can’t score. Anytime you set a good screen, you are dangerous."
- "Offense must get the ball inside to shoot free throws and it tests the defense to see how tough they are."
- "You need guys that can catch and pass."
- "Must enter the pass to the post from the wing on a bounce pass."
- "We don’t down screen cause that makes the flex into a jump shooting offense."
- "The duck in move is like bowling you need to pick up a couple extra pins."
- "The 3rd cutter is usually open in the flex."

As mentioned above, the main difference between the Maryland Flex than say the Gonzaga flex or the Boston College flex is that Williams doesn't believe in down screening. I personally like the downscreen because it does usually open up a good shooting opportunity, but I can see Coach Williams point about player settling for the outside shot instead of looking inside.

Maryland Flex:

So, essentially, this is what the offense looks like. They like being in 4-out 1-in, with a dominant post player. O5 goes to set a baseline flex screen for O3 from the corner who goes low side. This allows O5 to pivot and duck-in looking for the quick hit. As Coach Williams mentions above, make sure your post is really moving bodies down low, play big. O1 passes to O2 from side-to-side to gain a better passing angle,

Now, if the defense starts cheating with X3 taking off well before the screen or another common defensive tactic against the flex is to switch all screens, then O3 fakes to use the baseline flex screen and instead comes back to the ball for a 3-pointer, or a post-entry into O5,

I didn't go ahead and diagram the continuity but you can do any number of things to get from point-to-point. You can have everyone rotate from right to left, and restart the baseline flex from the left side. As Coach Williams mentions above, the baseline cutter usually gets open on the 3rd cut, so be patient with the offense.

If you really want to learn all the nuances of the Maryland flex, then you really need to take a look at Gary Williams DVD on the Flex Offense. Coach Williams is the long-time head coach of the Terrapins.

If tradition means anything in sports, in basketball, then the comparison between Billy Gillispie and John Calipari so far has been a study in contrasts. I've been following Coach Calipari on Twitter the past couple of months and he is so immersed in everything UK that you can hardly believe that he's only been there for 4 short months. Here are some example twitter updates just from today:

UKCoachCalipari: With 450,000 followers, I am so humbled by the breadth and depth of Wildcat Nation.
about 3 hours ago from TweetDeck

UKCoachCalipari: Got up real early (time change) 2 run on the Strip, which was still cool. Met Perry Stevenson's HS coach's wife. KENTUCKY fans r everywhere!
about 5 hours ago from TweetDeck

Granted, we've yet to see Calipari in games and press conferences when his team inevitably loses games, but they certainly can't go any lower than Gillispie's odd encounters with reporters on national TV. And so far, Calipari has been the anti-thesis of Gillispie's un-Kentucky-like introverted personality, one which led to a very public disagreement with athletic direction Mitch Barnhart about the UK head coaches role as the "good-will ambassador," instead insisting that all that he needed to do was to work hard at recruiting and coaching.

My own opinion is that tradition does matter, especially in a basketball crazed town like Lexington. I lived near Bloomington, Indiana for a year and its the same at IU. Coach Tom Crean gets it. Tradition matters, it matters to what kind of leader you will be. When I think of Coach Calipari so far as head coach at UK, I think of this great quote from former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler on leadership and history:

WHEN YOU ARE THE LEADER, YOU ARE THE ORGANIZATION. You are the company, the school, the team. You are it. Now if you want to act like some kind of jerk where guys who worked for the program and led the program and sacrificed for the program are not welcome to come back—well, you're not going to have much of a program. And you certainly won't have a family. But if you respect your history, you'll get a lot more in return.
Ultimately though, in the competitive environment that is Kentucky basketball, coaching success will be determined more by wins and losses than public appearances and twitter followers. Still, there is something to be said about respecting history, and understanding the power of culture. Something that Coach Calipari obviously gets in the way his predecessor never really did.

I think a lot of you coaches out there run some kind of rebounding drill where the coach tosses it up and you let 2 or 3 players go at it. I was thinking lately of how to combine a bunch of things together into one single drill to achieve the following:

1. Competitiveness.
2. Minimize standing around.
3. Work on multiple skills at the same time.

I'm stealing the name of this drill, the N.B.A. drill (No Babies Allowed), from a similar drill I got from a set of Kansas Jayhawks coaches notebook (not sure how old though) but tweaked it to accomplish the above 3 objectives. I'm sure this drill will really get the ire of your players, good to use if they're slacking.

N.B.A. Drill:

Objective: Emphasize toughness, rebounding, finishing at the rim, and conditioning

Setup: Coach at the free-throw line with ball, 3 players below mid-lane facing the coach.

Time Limit: Until someone scores, or 4 tries.

Description: Coach shoots to miss to make a rebound. All 3 players turn around and compete to gain possession of the ball. The ball must not touch the floor. The player who gains possession attempts to shoot the ball without dribbling. If the ball is scored, replace the other 2 players with 2 new players. If the ball is missed, all 3 players should once again secure the rebound and repeat until someone scores. If nobody scores after 4 tries, replace all 3 players.

Addition: To add the conditioning, have all the other players on the team run laps around the gym in a line. As players get replaced in the drill, take new players from the front of the line, replaced players go to the back of the line. Have another coach with a ball around midcourt fire chest passes to players running laps, to keep them sharp, and fire chest passes back. If the player drops the pass, or his own chest pass hits the ground before reaching the coach, that player goes to the back of the line.

If you have 1 or 2 players that have an unfair height advantage, you can have them start above the free-throw line in the rebounding portion.

You may not always agree with some of the things he says or does, but no doubt Bob Knight knows how to coach. If you want more practice drills on toughness, take a look at Bob Knight's new DVD on Practice Planning and Mental Toughness. Coach Knight currently serves as a guest analyst for ESPN college basketball.

In case you missed it yesterday, the broadcast of ESPYs was highlighted by Don Meyer's acceptance speech for the Jimmy V Award (speech starts around 4:00). My favorite quotes:

Don't whine. Don't complain. Don't make excuses.

Don Meyer's F words: Faith. Family. Friends

I posted on Roy Williams' secondary break they run at UNC a couple of years ago but I wanted to revisit it with some slight variations that they ran this past year but also with some newer notes from a Nike coaches clinic. First some tidbits on the Roy Williams philosophy on transition offense:

Roy Williams Philosophy

Idea is to play 94 feet of offense. Why? Unlike the perception that running teams play without discipline, you as the coach has control if you practice the right way every day. Transition offense is a great recruiting tool obviously, its easy to sell players on it. Finally, a quick scoring offense prevents teams from pressing you full court.

Teaching Points

- Always outlet ballside because its faster.
- Players should catch the ball on the run and run their lanes as wide as possible.
- Reverse the ball, get it going side-to-side as much as possible.
- Bigs should run rim to rim with the trailing big looking to hit the other big on the run or on early post-up.
- If there are 2 or less defenders, try to score in 2 or less passes. Run the secondary break if more than 2 defenders.

Secondary Break Rules

- Minimum of 3 passes unless you have an open layup
- Move from side to side
- Shoulder to hip coming of all screens
- Get the ball into the post

Secondary Break For Hansbrough and 3-pointers:

This past season, the Tar Heels did one of 2 things. They got the ball into Tyler Hansbrough early; and they hit a ton of early 3-pointers. They accomplished this mostly through their secondary break and early offense.

They start the offense in the most vanilla of ways. Ty Lawson dribbles up one side of the floor. The ball is reversed to the opposite site and Hansbrough who attempts to seal his defender to shoot his little turn and shoot 2-footer off the glass,

If they are unable to get the ball into Hansbrough because of a fronting defense or so, O4 comes to set a ball screen for O3 on the wing (O4 usually isn't so high after the ball reversal). O2 sets a cross screen for O5 who goes under the screen while O3 comes off the ball screen shoulder to hip. If O3 can shoot the 3-pointer, he does so. Otherwise, O3 should drive into the middle of the floor, Hansbrough should be right underneath the basket if X5 goes to help on penetration. O1 has shuffled to a spot on the top of the key, this is also where a lot of 3-pointers happen as the defense collapses on the penetration,

Finally, if O3 is unable to do any of the above, they go with a screen the screener action with O4 setting a down screen for O2 coming up to the wing. O3 can hit O2 for the 3-pointer (usually Ellington). O3 cuts opposite wing-corner. If all else fails, O3 passes back to O1 and then UNC runs their true motion offense,

The UNC secondary break is exceptionally simple, yet when executed properly, it is very hard to stop as we've seen the past several years with UNC. Getting the ball into the post early on, and shooting well from the perimeter are obviously crucial. If you want to learn more, check out the Secrets of the UNC Secondary Break DVD or any of the DVDs from Coach Roy Williams.

Over the past several days, Coach Bob Starkey has posted a series of posts (Why Motion 1, Why Motion 2, Why Motion 3) outlining why he runs a true motion offense for his Lady Tigers @ LSU. I'm a big fan of motion myself, and so most of his arguments ring true for me, I especially like the 4-out 1-in motion offenses from Jay Wright to Rick Majerus. In his series of posts, Coach Starkey stated he would list some disadvantages of running true motion. Since Coach Starkey hasn't gotten around to it, I thought I would preempt him and list my devil's advocate arguments as to why you should not run true motion:

Why is it that the worst player always ends up with the ball?

Motion works better when you can throw the ball to a Kobe or Lebron to shoot it, or a Howard in the paint who can turn and shoot without dribbling. What happens if you use true motion and you don't have a Kobe, Lebron, or Howard to throw it to? The ball usually ends up in your worst players hands. If you watch teams that use true motion, you'll notice that the players who can't shoot or can't make a move in the post -- the guys that can't make a basketball play on their own -- are usually the ones that are open and get the ball passed to them.

If each player on the team is not equal in ability and talent. Then why teach an equal opportunity offense when you know that the majority of your shots should be coming from your 3 best players? In other words, why is Kobe setting a screen for Jordan Farmar? Some motion offenses like the blocker-mover rank players according to ability, and assign corresponding roles. But orthodox true motion treats all five players the same, hence the stated 'unpredictability' advantage.

Why is it that players are always bumping into each other?

Motion offenses require from players a certain minimum level of "Basketball IQ." If you coach at Varsity and don't have the luxury of recruiting, you can't be sure that all 12 of your players will have the required Basketball IQ to run true motion. In true motion, 1 player has the ball, and the 4 off-ball players are supposed to move (hence the term motion) according to the motion rules. If 1 of those players isn't doing what they're supposed to be doing, because they forgot the rules, or because they're still thinking in their head what their "motion responsibility" is, you get a situation where players get mixed up and end up bumping into one another.

Again, if every player learns differently and at varying paces, why teach an offense that assumes that they have the same capacity to learn? Try teaching true motion to a kid who plays football the rest of the year and is used to having all of his movements scripted. Then put him on offense running true motion with a player like Kobe. We tried one year, and in end we had to abandon our 4-out 1-in motion offense anytime the football player was on the floor because it was too frustrating for the other players.


Like I stated above, I'm a motion coach myself, but I do believe that motion offense, especially true motion, is only suitable in certain situations and isn't universally applicable. There are variations, like patterned motion which are a combo of continuity and true motion which may also work. But the main point here, is that there are always many ways to do things, and what works for someone else may not work for you. There are no silver bullet solutions.

I'm sure this story got more publicity down in Tennessee and maybe across the U.S. but I didn't hear about it until a friend forwarded me the link. Just a great positive story about using basketball to empower young people and to help rebuild a nation. It all started last year when University Tennessee doctoral candidate Sarah Hillyer went to Iraq as part of the Sport 4 Peace initiative to put on a basketball clinic for Iraqi girls. Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols got involved sending basketballs and the 2 groups had video exchanges:

It's incredibly inspiring to see these courageous young women stand up for themselves despite all the obstacles they have had to face in their lives. What struck me the most was when the girl talked about how they just want peace and a regular life, she said: "is that too much to ask for??" That hit me hard because I think that living here in North America, we sometimes (OK all the time) take for granted our freedom and civil liberties, we just assume that peace and stability are a given and that our government will always function normally.

For this year, they expanded the relationship and a group of Iraqi girls flew to the U.S. to spend a week at Pat Summitt's basketball camp this past June. I can't embed the video, but you can see it here.

Irregardless of whether or not recent research shows that free throw percentages have not increased over time, I still think that dedicating a certain amount of practice time to free-throw shooting is important. In so much as it has a negligible affect on your team's free-throw percentage, free-throws are more about establishing a routine such that players can rely on that routine despite the incredible pressure and anxiety they may experience at the end of the game with the game hanging in the balance.

Here are some general tips from some notes I have from Mike Dunlap:

1. Legs - you shoot with your legs (ie. every shot finished with player on tip toes).
2. Follow Through - elbow points to rim and hold gooseneck for count of at least 2 everytime.
3. Eyes - on target at all times

1. Breathing - teach your players that breathing is an important vehicle in relaxation
2. Visualization - the player should see himself making the shot before he steps to the line.

- get a system that you can incoporate into your daily practice.
- practice time allotment to freethrows must remain consistent.
- make a big deal out of freethrows

1. 5 point game
a) 5 points for a swish (no rim)
b) 4 points when the ball hits any part of the rim
c) 3 points when the ball hits both sides of the rim
d) 2 points when the ball hits rim three times, rattles, etc..
e) 1 point when the ball rolls around the rim or hits backboard
f) 0 points for a miss

2. The lap game
a) Divide your team into 2, 3, 4, etc.. groups
b) Each player gets one shot
c) If the first player makes his shot and the second player misses, then the player who misses must spring a lap
d) If the first 2 players make their shots but the third misses then he runs 2 laps... and so forth
* A good game because pressure steadily increases on the players as shots are made.

3. The basket game
Each player must make a freethrow at each basket in the gym consecutively or he must start over (ie. you can name any number you want).
* Breaks the routine of the shooter and forces the players to adjust.

If you like Mike Dunlap, then take a look at a DVD he co-created with Pete Newell on Big Man Skill Development. Coach Dunlap was formerly head coach at Metro State and is now an assistant with the University of Oregon.

First off, I do want to congratulate Coach Jamie Dixon and Team USA on their gold medal finish at the FIBA U19 World Championships this past weekend in New Zealand. I also have to mention Canada's very respectable 7th place finish as well.

I often hear the argument, if there's something wrong with amateur basketball in the US, then why do they keep winning world championships. If Jay Bilas is right, and America needs more teaching and less coaching, then what about guys like OJ Mayo, Kevin Durant, or Jrue Holiday, they certainly appear to have all the fundamental skills down. If the European model of basketball development is so good, then why can't Ricky Rubio shoot??

Well, I think the problem of lack of fundamentals, made worse by summer AAU basketball, is not a problem at the elite level. What I mean is that at the highest levels of amateur basketball (world championships), the best athletes in the US are playing basketball. This latest win by Team USA, won with a roster of players that were second or third choices, only serves to underscore that point. USA will always be on top because all their best athletes play basketball or football, unlike the rest of the world which is soccer crazy, or in Canada where we are hockey crazy.

Therefore, the argument for the decline in skills matters more at the college and high school level than at the elite levels. Amateur basketball in the US parallels the high degree of economic inequality. There is basically no parity, there are a few really good players, and a bunch of bad players. There is a dwindling middle-class -- in other words the average player, the Joe Schmoe who is a starter on his high school team, or for a mid-major D1 is getting worse.

Well, you might be asking yourself, why exactly does it matter whether Joe can shoot a proper jumper? What difference does it make so long as we have the Stephen Currys, or Derrick Roses to carry the load? Well, the big loser in all of this is ultimately anyone who enjoys watching college or prep basketball. As coaches and fans, we have a certain expectation of what "good basketball" is. I'm pretty sure nobody's idea of good basketball entails the "star" player with the ball and 4 guys standing around, 1-on-5, or the "star" player cherry-picking fast-breaks for dunks, all of which happens all too often these days. That's not good basketball, that's not good for anyone.

If coaching is educating, then we as coaches have let our players down if they don't learn the basic "background knowledge" of how to play the game, the so-called "Basketball 101" fundamentals. Because if we don't teach them the fundamentals, then how can we expect them to execute more complicated tasks like making a option read off a PNR play depending on how the defense is playing? Or, how can we expect players to run true motion, if they don't know how to execute a proper screen?

I realize that coaches, college and high school alike, have little incentive to change. After all, it's always the job of the coach before them to teach them all those fundamentals isn't it? Wouldn't we all rather work on breaking our next opponent's 1-3-1 zone press then our shooting form? Of course. But all of that is short term thinking. In the long term, it is always the teams that have a system of developing players either in-house or from their feeders that will ultimately be more successful in the long run. Yes, it requires a lot more patience, yes, it requires a lot more work, but it is in everyone's best interest long term.

To V-Cut or Not to V-Cut??

A very interesting discussion thread on the X's and O's thread about whether or not you should teach the v-cut or not. A good description of the v-cut can be found on Hoop Thoughts, a blog run by LSU Women's coach Bob Starkey, which I've partially reproduced below:

Once we get into the scrimmage area with our offense, there will be nothing that we do as far as movement that will not begin with a V-Cut. It is our base cut for all that we do in terms of setting up our cuts and screens. The ability to incorporate the v-cut into our offense again lends support to being hard to guard. It is a maneuver that keeps the defense from easily anticipating our final cutting direction – especially since it is the positioning of the defender that tells us which way to start our v-cut. For instance, if the defender is below the cutter as shown in Diagram #1, the offensive player will start the v-cut by also going low. We want to start all of our cuts with a two-step set-up. The two-step set-up should be a slower movement as opposed to a full sprint. In fact, our terminology for the movement of the two-step set-up is referred to as “walking your defender down.” The offensive player, after taking two steps towards the baseline, will then plant the outside foot and accelerate into the cut. The final part of the cut should be a sprint towards the basketball to shorten the pass. The obvious reason for the change of speed is it is still yet another area in which we keep the defender off balance and stay hard to guard.

Arguments Against the V-cut:

Having explained the v-cut above, the issue that comes up most often with the v-cut is that it can lead to turnovers, especially if the passer and cutter are not in sync. The other issue of course is if the defense is playing a very aggressively on the line, the wing player ends up "foot fighting" -- trying to get over the top of the defender's top foot.

Now, in some offensive systems, the v-cut does not figure prominently. For example, in the read and react, if the defense is overplaying on the 3-point line, the read is always backdoor no matter what.

Alternatives to the V-cut:

There are a couple of alternatives to the straight v-cut. Some teach a L-cut or a triangle cut,

Others teach an arm-bar, seal, pin and pop. The picture I found below is just a post-up, but its basically the same principle, pin the defender, then you can pop out for the pass,

Should You Still Teach the V-Cut:

Before answering the question, I think it's important to understand what all these cuts accomplish. The v-cut is good for establishing movement without the basketball. If you run true motion, then there is no way around the v-cut, as Coach Starkey points up above, the v-cut is the basis of all their movement. In a Read and React or DDM, the v-cut is almost irrelevant.

However, having said that, as a fundamental skill, I think the v-cut still needs to be taught. It's all part of that intangible we call Basketball IQ. Because as a coach of JV and under, you don't know what your players will run in as they move up to Varsity or college. You don't want your players to get into a situation where their future head coach in Varsity or college says: "What's wrong with you Johnny, why can't you v-cut properly, we run it every time in motion!!" and Johnny says: "Coach, what's a v-cut??"

If you're looking for more info on getting open then take a look at the Five-star Basketball DVD on getting open and attacking. Coach Bergeron goes through all the basics of cutting.

Went through some coaching videos the past couple of days and went over Dick Bennett's Packline DVD again. It is amazing how well packline teams have fared in points per game throughout the many teams who have used it, including Tony Bennett's Wazzu teams and now moving to Virginia. The defense is not without its flaws, but I've always wondered why average or below-average teams have not flocked to it, as it does appear to be a talent or athletic equalizer by forcing teams to beat you over the top or with well-executed, patient, offense. Well, I've featured a few teams that have used it in game action, but my intention here is to break it down a little based on the video and other clinic notes I've obtained over the past few years.

Transition Defense:

According to Coach Bennett, 'convert' or transition defense, is the first and most important principle of the packline defense. One of his top basketball rules for his players is, "Always take a guy out if he loafs during the game." It sounds obvious, of course, the packline won't work if the other team beats you down the floor, but still, this is something that must be emphasized ad nauseum, "be in two places at once if you want to be successful." The following points of emphasis are used in teaching transition defense:

- recognition, anticipation, reaction, communication, rotation, stance, and vision

Ball Pressure:

Most people think of the packline defense as a soft zone. But in reality, the most important principle in the halfcourt is to pressure the ball. This is accomplished when players learn to closeout properly. The following are keys to teaching closeouts packline style:

- short choppy steps
- high hands and then settle into your stance
- must not allow shots in rhythm
- level off the dribbler by getting him going east-west
- take away the north-south direct drive
- bother the shooter (hands in face, etc...)

Help Defense:

In the packline, the idea is of course to stop the ball by all means necessary. Help-side defense is therefore vital to making the packline work. According to Coach Bennett, you can never help too early, only too late. The following keys are used to teach help defense in the packline:

- all players must be able to see the ball and be in position to pressure it.
- your positioning is your help
- on the line up the line, ie. ball-you-man
- help comes from guards, not from bigs

Defending the Post:

Post defense is flexible in the packline, with the primary purpose of course to discourage all forms of post-entry (from top, lob, etc..), its all about timing according to Bennett. Generally, though, Bennett does prefer to full front the post when the ball gets lower than the free-throw line extended. The other coaching point is to not to gamble for steals but rather deflections on post-entry attempts.

On Screens:

Coach Bennett is a big believer in chasing all screens, "if you touch the guy at all times, you will not get screened." Defenders of the screener should be help position (in the direction of the cutter) but must stay attached to their defender at all times. Bennett doesn't like switching because he feels that the more you allow switching, it helps your opponents early in the season but will handicap your team late in the season. Switching only works for teams that are experienced and have roughly equally talented players.

How to lose games:

- Reaching fouls
- Lack of communication
- Hands on hips
- Over-helping from bigs
- Lack of recovery, help and stand
- Late traps
- Lack of floor burns

Drills for the Packline:

For help, nothing works better than your standard run of the mill shell drill. You can 3-on-3 or 4-on-4,

This next drill is a fit-and-freeze 3-on-3 closeout drill. The 3 defenders start clustered facing the coach with the ball on the baseline. The coach chooses who to throw the ball to. The 3 defenders must then get into defensive position, 1 closeouts on ball, the other 2 in help position. You yell freeze to see if they are in the right position,

This last one is to practice post defense. As mentioned earlier, it can be flexible, so you basically want to make sure your forwards are defending it properly depending on where the ball is positioned,

If you want to check out the video yourself, go ahead and check out the definitive guide to the packline defense in Dick Bennett's DVD on the packline defense.

Most Gonzaga fans have probably noticed that the offense that Mark Few runs has changed quite a bit over the years since he took over as head coach. Coach Few is known to be a Motion/Flex coach and has a number of DVDs where he teaches it. But with the success of the Gonzaga program, the better recruits he has attracted, Coach Few has adjusted his offense to match the talent. With the improved talent, they began running more sets and more 2-man game. I blogged over a year ago on what appeared to be a drive and kick offense. At a coaches clinic earlier this year, Coach Few outlined what they run now.

Mark Few's Ball Screen Offense:

Looking through the notes, it looks very similar to the European Ball Screen offense which many Euroleague teams have been running for years. The keys to the offense are:

1. Great Spacing
2. Utilizing the corners
3. Ball handlers must read each screen

The offense is very free flowing, in this way it is motion-like, although they do call out set plays. Essentially, the goal is to spread the floor, either 4-out, 5-out, or in a 1-4 high set.

These 2 sequences below outline the goal of the offense. O5 starts first by sprinting into the ball screen. Coach Few emphasizes the 'sprint' because that catches the defense off guard, either X5 will be too slow or overanticipate. Another coaching point is that strong side wing must always fill. This accomplishes 2 things, it forces the defense to make a decision, does X3 go to help on the O5 dive, or stay with O3. Also, by filling up top, you keep your safety in case the ball is turned over. Finally, the weakside players must not stand around. Once O1 clears the screen, O4 is diving to once again for X4 to make a decision. O2 fills up top,

Very similar situation here, on the 2-man PNR game. O5 sprints into the butt screen. If X5 is playing soft and O2 comes off naked, dunk or layup. If X5 shows hard, then O5 pops to the corner for the jumper, at worst over top of a shorter X2. O3 and O4 interchange/fill with O3 as an option for O2 coming off the ball-screen, forcing X3 to make a decision again,

These 2 diagrams are another common scenario. O4 goes to set the X-screen for O5 who steps out and sprints into a butt screen for O2. O1 passes to O2 and fills the strong-side corner.

Once O2 comes off the screen, O5 dives. O4 comes up top. This forces X4 to make a decision, stay and help on O5 or stick to O4.

In all of these scenarios, the key is being able to maximize matchups by having versatile players who can finish at the basket and also shoot the ball. If you look at Gonzaga's roster the past few years, they've had bigs like Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye who could step out and hit that 3-pointer, a matchup nightmare of opposing defenses. That is where this offense is incredibly effective, it forces the defense to decide between protecting the basket or protecting the perimeter, often times teams cannot do both unless they have superior athletes.

Some of these concepts are discussed in Mark Few's Set Plays DVD where he outlines principles of maximizing matchup scenarios.

Via Yahoo! and ACC Now, Duke may play some zone defense in the upcoming season due to the lack of depth in their backcourt which will prevent them from playing their up-the-line-on-the-line pressure M2M defense exclusively, the kind of defense Coach K is known for. According to Kyle Singler:

"What we've been talking about... is we might be playing a little more zone this year than in years past. That might not be the way Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] wants to do it, but with the personnel that we have, we are a big team."
To be honest, I thought that Duke should've switched up their defense at times last season, especially in the UNC game where Ty Lawson went crazy in the second half.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I'm not big on zone defenses as a base, but I think the place for zone defenses is during in-game adjustments. As a coach who is a firm believer in M2M defense as a base, I think it would crazy to not have a few zone defenses at your disposal to use when the game situation calls for it. Would a zone defense have allowed Duke to beat UNC last year? Maybe not, but it was clear that they were never going to be beat UNC playing up-the-line-on-the-line M2M exclusively. I thought for sure that Coach K would make a change at halftime, but he never did.

I hate to be one of those guys that said I told you so, but according to Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari, even he agrees that Summer AAU ball is getting out of hand. On his Twitter account today he stated: "My time would be better spent on campus with our guys. We would save a lot of money and put recruiting back in HS coaches hands." This is the full 3 tweet transcript:

July-06-09 6:24 AM
UKCoachCalipari: Heading to Cincinnati. Time to start evaluating players. I enjoy watching ball BUT I don't believe we should recruit in the summer...

July-06-09 6:25 AM
UKCoachCalipari:...My time would be better spent on campus with our guys. We would save a lot of money and put recruiting back in HS coaches hands...

July-06-09 6:26 AM
UKCoachCalipari:...Plus I'd see my own kids all summer like a normal person. Four days at home reminds me of what I'm missing!
If you are a new reader to this blog, then you probably want to read this post, which sums up the argument between AAU and High School. If you are a regular reader, then you know where I stand on this issue...

More drill info for you all to consider, got this one from an Australian drill book. This drill is good for working on transition offense, transition defense, decision making, and conditioning.


Line the players up in five lines with the one middle and two outside lines being on offense and the other two lines on defense.

All players must sprint around the cone before picking up the ball to play.

Players try to attack the single defender looking to get an easy basket.

Points of Emphasis:

1. Run on the inside of the cone and turn to outside for good spacing between to offensive players
2. Maintain spacing and own area of the court
3. Pass the ball early
4. Point Guard must stay above dotted circle line

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

As a student training to be coming a teacher, I've been reading about theories of motivation and discipline, between positive and negative reinforcement. I'm a big believer in positive reinforcement but as coaches, we all know that certain situations call for tough measures to be taken, especially when we're talking about kids in their formative years during high school.

In my past years, I've used the conventional methods of suicides, laps, etc... But I'm always thinking and looking for newer more innovative ways to maximize practice efficiency and effectiveness. Here are some interesting ideas that I've come across over the past year or so:

1. Bill Self, head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, on using treadmills in practices, "We actually set a treadmill on the edge of the court. Whatever the emphasis is that day, if guys don't follow what they're supposed to be doing, what Andrea (Hudy, associate director of strength and conditioning) does is she jacks it up on the highest incline at a five-minute mile pace, which is really, really hard to do. We've had guys get on it that couldn't stay on it and it threw them off. Brandon (Rush) and Mario (Chalmers) one day did it for three consecutive minutes. And they were done. It was over." Former Oklahoma St. coach Sean Sutton referred to the treadmill as a coaches' "best friend".

2. This from Mark Few, head coach of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. To stress the importance of taking care of the basketball they will start scrimmaging in practice and have a ball rack on the sideline at practice with x number of balls on it. With each turnover the players commit, the ball is thrown away and they take a new one off the rack. When the rack is empty they stop scrimmaging and run for the remainder of the time.

3. One of the coaches posted the following response on the X's and O's forum: "We had players missing layups in our drills and acting like it was no big deal, which is very frustrating to the whole coaching staff. While on the road at a holiday tournament we were talking to the coaches at another school and they said they had the same problem until they brought out 'the board'. The board is a 20-24" 2x4 wrapped in a towel and sitting on the sideline at half court. You miss a layup, you get a board - you have to push the board around the perimeter of the court. We are at better than 95% makes on our layups in drills now.

So, there you go, 3 good ideas for punishment/discipline to think about using in your practices. I'm sure many of you coaches out there have your own methods and stories, please don't be shy and post away in the comments.

Continuing from the last post, here is another continuity out of the Memphis-styled (now Kentucky) dribble drive motion offense. The intention here is to get the ball to O5 at the high post to attack his defender off the dribble.

Motion Drop 5

To preface the diagrams, remember that at all times the goal of the offense is to get to the rim. Once a player gets into the 'rack zone', DDM terminology for 'in the key', the goal is to dunk it (or layup).

O2 has to begin by v-cutting and trying to get backdoor, if open O1 should hit O2 on the basket cut. After O2 clears, O1 begins the dribble drive getting to the rack zone if possible, if at the drop zone and stopped O5 should come up to the free-throw line to receive a pass from O1. O3 and O4 fill once O2 gets to the corner,

O5 should look for O1 on the basket cut, if not O1 loop cuts to the corner, and the other players O2, O3, and O4 all circle fill. O5 should be 1v1 against a M2M, and the emphasis of this offense is to take advantage of this matchup,

If O5 cannot take advantage of the dribble, pass back out to O4 at the wing and O5 relocates to the ball-side low block looking for a postup,

O4 goes with a post-entry pass and relocates to the corner, O2 and O3 circle fill,

If O5 cannot postup, the ball goes back to O3 on the wing and clears to the opposite block. We're essentially back to the original setup,

Repeat the continuity from 1-5 above.

Again, the keys here are to look for the backdoor on the first sequence, get to the rack zone from the top, then isolate O5 in the high post or low-block. All players except O5 are interchangeable and should therefore possess all the required skills to drive, shoot, and pass. The players on the perimeter should be ready at all times for a catch and shoot from O5 or any of the driving players according to regular drive and kick principles.

All 8 of Coach John Calipari's DVDs are now available from Championship Productions. 2 are combo-sets (3-pack and 6-pack) and the other 6 breakdown into:

- The Definitive Dribble Drive Motion Offense
- Developing the Dribble Drive Skill Set
- Breakdown Drills for the Dribble Drive Motion
- Building a Dominant Defensive System
- Fundamentals for Becoming an All-Star
- Coaching and Inspiring Today's Athlete

It's been a while since I've revisted the dribble drive offense with any depth and since John Calipari's DVDs have finally debuted, I thought I would release the hounds with Calipari's version of Walberg's system. There a few continuity-based halfcourt sets that Calipari has added to the system while at Memphis and will likely use at Kentucky. It will take a few posts to get them all through, but this is the first one.

Motion 5

To preface the diagrams, remember that at all times the goal of the offense is to get to the rim. Once a player gets into the 'rack zone', DDM terminology for 'in the key', the goal is to dunk it (or layup).

Ordinarily, O5 is down low, but in this case O4 is down low and O5 is up top. The continuity starts with O1 trying to beat his defender off the dribble. If he cannot get past, he passes to O2 who comes straight up from the corner. O1 loop cuts to the corner after the pass,

O2 attempts to take his defender off the dribble by turning the corner with a middle drive. O5 relocates cross the lane up top. O3 steps up out of the corner to the opposite free-throw line extended. O4 relocates block to block. If O2 is unable to turn the corner, he can find O4. If O4 is not open, then the pass goes to O3,

The same action repeats except with O3 driving and O1 in the opposite corner coming up to the opposite free-throw line extended,

Now, you can run that action over and over again, just like any traditional continuity offense like a flex, etc.. But you'll probably get predictable after a while and teams will start sagging to prevent those middle drives or you'll run out of shot clock and put up a contested shot.

However, there are a lot of option plays you can run out of the continuity like a 2-man PNR. Another interesting change-up could work as follows. Instead of the wing attempting to beat the defender off the dribble. You can pass up top to O5, if the defense is keyed on the ball, O1 can basket cut looking for the give and go lob from O5. If not there, then loop cut. O4 waits for O2 to loop cut before relocating, in the confusion, O4 may also open up. O5 passes to O2 on the wing and you're back into the same setup,

Well, the moment you all have been waiting for, Coach Calipari's DVDs are ready to ship. There are a total of 8 available from Championship Productions. 2 are combo-sets (3-pack and 6-pack) and the other 6 breakdown into:

- The Definitive Dribble Drive Motion Offense
- Developing the Dribble Drive Skill Set
- Breakdown Drills for the Dribble Drive Motion
- Building a Dominant Defensive System
- Fundamentals for Becoming an All-Star
- Coaching and Inspiring Today's Athlete

Since yesterday was Canada Day, I do want to give a shout out to any and all Canadians out there, to wish you all a Happy (albeit belated) Canada Day (what can I say, I was out celebrating instead of blogging). If you're like me and root for the home team, then make sure you bookmark Allison McNeill's blog, Coach McNeill is the head coach of Team Canada for the women and having met her personally myself at a coaches clinic, I can say she is one of the smartest basketball people I know. She has some great info on her blog about the behind the scenes of being a national team head coach. Team Canada just got back from a road trip to China where they played three exhibition games in preparation for the World Qualifying Tournament in September at Brazil. Go Canada Go!!!

If you aren't a subscriber to Coach Duane Silver's newsletter, you really ought to get on it as soon as you can, he sends out free tips, drills, plays, etc.. every week. From one of his newsletters this past month, some great individual drills from I'm assuming Scott Drew of Baylor for forwards to work on during the off-season (Homework Basketball, reminds me of Pistol Pete's homework basketball). Anyways, I digress. It's not good enough for players to say they are working on their game, they need to be working with a purpose. Here you go:

Homework Basketball for Inside Players
From Baylor University Men

Ball Handling

a) one leg circles
b) two leg circles
c) one leg circles dribbles
d) two leg circle dribbles
e) figure eights
f) shuffles
g) rhythm drill
h) spider dribble

*Eight Reps of each
Free Throws (4) for each miss, dribble to half court and back (This is important)

1. Superman Drill: standing on the block facing the basket, pitch the ball over the basket and leap and catch it in the air outside the lane. Spring right back up and put back in the basket. Do this eight times.
Free Throws (4) dribble for each miss

2. Turn-a-Round Jumpers: Posting up on the block facing away from the basket, pass to your self with reverse spin, turn and shoot a turn-a-round jumper. Repeat on the left side. Shoot eight shots on each side. (no dribble, you might use a shot fake before shooting)
Free Throws (4) dribble for each miss

3. Drop Steps: Post up, pitch to yourself, drop step. Repeat on the left side. Shoot eight shots on each side
Free Throws (4) for each miss

4. Jump Hooks: Post up, pitch to yourself, jump hook repeat on the left side. shoot eight shots on each side. (you will shoot the jump hook with your left and right hands) Important!
*Free Throws (4) for each miss

5. Up and Unders: Post up, pitch to yourself, up and under. Repeat on the left side. Shoot eight shots on each side.
Free Throws (4) for each miss

6. High Post Flash: Stand on the block facing towards the free throw line, pitch the ball with reverse spin to the opposite elbow, run and catch the ball with a jump stop or a one two step and shoot. Alternate so that you shoot eight shots from each elbow.
Free Throws (4) for each miss

7. Trail Jumpers: Stand in the middle of the court eight feet behind the 3 point line, pitch the ball with reverse spin to an elbow, catch with a jump stop or one two step, and soot alternate sides until you soot eight shots on each side.
Free Throws (4) for each miss

8. Face Up Moves: Start behind the 3 point line facing the basket in triple threat position. Give a shot fake, dribble and pull-up and shoot. Shoot sixteen shots, each going a different direction
Free Throws (4) for each miss

For more skill development stuff for your bigs, check out Ganon Baker's DVD on Post Player Development.