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.