I'm a big motion offense coach myself so anytime I see teams execute motion offense well, it puts a big smile on my face. The Michigan Wolverines under John Beilein have become a big motion team. Coach Beilein has brought his open-post motion over from West Virginia, and after a couple of years of finding the right the players, the Wolverines look like they're back to contend for final fours again.

In this play in OT against Creighton, the Wolverines execute the backdoor lob to perfection. Setup is high-post open motion. 4 players on the perimeter, forward at the high post. The forward pops outs to receive a pass for what would normally be a ball reversal to the side of the floor. This is the most crucial part for any motion offense. Players must setup their cuts. If the forward simply cuts backdoor here, it won't work because the defender starts in position to guard against it. The forward must really plant his top foot and use his hands to indicate he is ready to receive the pass up top,

The defender bites and overplays the ball reversal pass. This is where eye contact and communication between ball-handler and player are crucial. Both players realize the overplay right away, the forward plants hard of the top foot and uses his lateral quickness to go backdoor,

The ball-handler sees it and looks to lob the ball to the forward guiding him to the rim,

What seems like a simple play, actually takes many many reps and whole-part-whole progressions to teach. It's important to remember that motion offense takes time and you must be patient to teach it. You can't expect to put it in late November and expect your players to win the season opening tournament. It literally takes hundreds of reps in multiple situations before players get used to how and when to do what, and to get used to their teammates. But once they get it, motion offense is the most beautiful thing to watch, it's basketball offense at its purest.

Coach Beilein doesn't have any DVDs produced but if you're a fan of motion offense like me, then check out Bobby Knight's new DVD on motion offense. The DVD includes 2 hours worth of motion wisdom from the legendary college coach.

From Greg Brown's blog, head coach of University of Central Florida's women's team, some great stuff on Pat Riley's philosophy. I've always been a big fan of Riley's Lakers teams and especially his Knicks teams in the 90s. I definitely agree with the mental toughness being more important than physical toughness. Players who have the right mental head space are the ones that will get you through the big moments.

1. Bump and run on defense. Make that your go to part of the game.
2. Two most important things: REBOUNDING & DEFENSE
3. Defense: Be the most physical in the league. The idea of the game is to take the opponent out physically and mentally.
4. Spend your time getting into your players head individually. There is only so much you can do coaching a team.
5. Make certain that your players understand that if you’re going to be a team it has to be a team defense, team offense, never I always WE.
6. It’s what you get from the games you lose that is extremely important. Did we learn from losing? This is an important part of any team.
7. We want to, as much as possible, try to make our players understand who has strength in what areas. Talk about that a lot, spend time, do the things you need to do to try to make people understand that.
8. In dealing with administration, management, etc., understand that they are extremely interested in only themselves.
9. To have a great basketball team you have to have more mental preparation than physical preparation. Once you’re mentally tough, you can become tough physically. Once you’re tough mentally you can overcome being tired, you can overcome fatigue.
10. Always practice as hard as you can. Go for it even the day of a game.
11. Make certain that your team is mentally prepared. Don’t show them a ton of film. Mentally prepare them with your voice and mouth. Get them tuned into what you want.
12. Game day preparations. Real hard workout the day of the game, go after it that night.

Magic and Larry reminiscing about old times. I've just finished teaching a unit about people coming together to make great things happen in social studies. To me, nothing exemplifies that more than Magic and Larry. Bitter rivals, fierce competitors, and friends forever...

My favorite part of the clip, when Magic talked about the Newsweek cover during the 1992 Dream Team. Magic said, if Larry isn't on the cover, I'm not doin' it. That's what it's all about.

Trying to catch as many games as possible these days. From a couple of nights ago, the Villanova Wildcats won a thriller over the always tough George Mason Patriots. The game went down to the wire, with Nova hitting some clutch 3-pointers. A coach emailed me the other day asking for a quick hitter for a 3-pointer and I responded with a dribble drive to the weakside corner 3-pointer. I love that play because the weakside corner 3-pointer is probably the most difficult to guard in basketball. Take a look at how Nova executed it out of their 4-out 1-in offense:

Weakside Corner 3-pointer:

Here's the thing. How many teams prepare defensively on how they will take away the weakside corner 3-pointer?? Most teams focus on ball pressure, stopping penetration, and closing out. With proper spacing on offense, it is impossible for the defense to do all those 3 things. That's what the weakside corner does, it stretches out the defense and makes it really hard for a sound defense to cover all the bases.

The play is quite simple, the Wildcats are in their 4-out 1-in motion offense. After a few handoff exchanges, the forward comes up from the block to the top of the key to set a screen for one of the guards on the opposite side. The guard with the ball here decides not to use the screen and drives the wing towards the hoop,

O1 is able to blow by his defender, and X5. X3 is too worried about O3 to help. That leaves X2 to drop down from the weakside. Well, its a decision really, to help or not to help. As coaches, we always teach to stop the ball first so help is always the first option. O2, shuffles down to the weakside corner and O1 finds him for the open 3-pointer,

I think this play would work even if you didn't have a break your ankles point guard. Because with O5 setting the screen, O1 really should be able to penetrate the lane. Now if the defense decides to hedge hard, then you can run screen-roll and have O2 still shuffle to the corner as X2 will probably still drop down to cover the rolling forward.

Now, the only other assumption here is that you have good shooters. But if you're designing a play for the 3-pointer, you better be sure you have a player that is a knockdown shooter.

For more quick hitters out of 4-out 1-in motion, check out Jay Wright's DVD on 15 Great 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense Plays. Jay Wright is in his 8th season as head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.

I think my brain is on the verge of short-circuiting after a weekend of football watching, basketball practice, college basketball watching, and preparing lessons for next week. I haven't gone through recorded stuff on the DVR, but I did get a chance to browse through some notes earlier today. I found some really great tips from Ralph Willard, former head coach of Holy Cross. I've talked about having an identity before, your team can't be everything at the same time, it needs to have a particular focus. For Coach Willard, he calls his team focus, the "Circle of Opportunity."

If we do execute these 8 things, we will 95% of our games and have a chance to win the other 5%:

1. Deflections: our goal is 40 a game. 40+ deflections a game = .900 winning percentage.
2. Blockouts: we go back through tape and chart everyone on this.
3. Shot Contest: Every shot the opponent takes need to be contested on the ballside of their shot. If it is a righty shooting, we are flying directly at his right shoulder with 2 hands up as you can. There is a 4-5% difference between contesting on the player’s shooting side to his non-shooting side.
4. Offensive Rebounding: If you have an opportunity to go to the glass, you better get there. From the corner, Willard teaches his players to go baseline-out (meaning a player runs along the baseline to underneath the rim before jumping back into play). After the shooter shoots the defender runs along the baseline before jumping in front of the basket to get a hand on the missed shot. Teaches bigs to do the same.
5. Charges: Chart the number of times your guys step up to take a charge when they have an opportunity. This is a sign of sacrifice—giving yourself up for the team.
6. Bull Pursuit: Loose balls are OURS. All great rebounders/ rebounding teams do 2 things: They get great position and they pursue the ball. Use the stat “Out of Area Rebounds” and really emphasize it to your team.
7. Confidence & Emotion: Players must be confident going into every game that they can win.
8. Transition Defense: Take away easy baskets.

There’s nothing in this circle of 8 that we can’t do. We’re not asking you to do anything which you’re not capable of doing. It comes down to execution and effort.
Being the underdog most of the time at Holy Cross, it is not surprising that Willard would adopt a philosophy based on half-court defense, centered around hustle and physicality. If you want to learn more, check out Ralph Willard's DVD on Man Defense to equalize talent. Coach Willard is currently an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville.

One of the teams that is just a joy for me to watch are the Pitt Panthers, coached by Jamie Dixon. Like UCLA (no coincidence that Coach Dixon was a former assistant under UCLA head coach Ben Howland), the Panthers play a tough physical M2M half-court defense.

In this clip between Pitt and Eastern Kentucky, I like how Pitt was keeping it physical, especially on defense. You can say there are a couple of fouls here, but if the refs are allowing contact, it behooves you to use that to your advantage. Definitely bump cutters, don't let them get an open cut to the basket:

In this first screenshot, the forward is making a basket cut after a pass and cut away. The weakside defender slides down and sets his feet, the offensive forward runs into him, and thus his momentum is disrupted,

In this second screenshot, the guard passes into the post with the intention of getting a handoff with the post screening right after. However, the wing defender bumps the wing trying to cut to receive the handoff, resulting in a botched handoff and the turnover,

You have to see how the game is being reffed. I've been in some games where refs called all the tic-tac stuff, and others when it would be 3-2 in team fouls after a half. If the refs are holding their whistles, definitely use that to your advantage. But keeping in mind that your players need to know the line between an obvious foul and just hard physical contact.

If you're thinking of upping the intensity of your practices, then take a look at, Jamie Dixon's DVD on Drills for Competitive Practices.

College basketball madness has begun today with ESPN's 24 hour marathon of college hoops. Part of their great coverage is all of their great all-access features. I watched a bunch of them today and yesterday and I'm embedding the one from Coach Bill Self of Kansas here. The following quote by Coach Self stuck out for me,

The only things you should be judged by as a coach are:
- how hard you get your players to play
- how unselfish your players want to play

Enjoy these other great all-access clips:

Roy Williams of UNC
Jay Wright of Villanova
Tom Izzo of Michigan State
West Pointers: Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Parcells

If you've read this blog for the past year or so, you've probably figured out that I'm a huge Bill Self fan. If you like Coach Self and the way Kansas plays, then check out Bill Self's DVD on Breaking Presses. It is one of the best videos out there on the topic of press break.

The start of college basketball is upon us and it was great to take in a bunch of games. On friday night, I was able to watch a bunch of games and I took in the Baylor game against Norfolk State. It wasn't a particularly great game but I did catch this inbounds play that Baylor ran against the 2-3 zone.

I've been seeing this a lot recently, teams using a 2-3 zone on the inbounds. Generally, it does a good job in the paint as you don't have to worry about switching or how to deal with screens. But every zone has its drawbacks, and here, you see Baylor run a nice give and go play to the most dangerous player on the inbounds, the inbounder, for a nice 3-pointer:

In this screenshot, you can see Norfolk State in that zone. The forward who receives the pass and hands back to the inbounder is basically screening the low defender in the 2-3 zone. The high defender on the 2-3 is in no man's land, and basically watches the 3-pointer go in, because in the 2-3, the high defender is taught not to go below the free-throw line extended,

Here is the breakdown of the inbounds play again. Really, they just get the ball into the forward in the middle,

O1, the inbounder bolts for the corner, O4 hands back the ball and screens the low defender on the 2-3, and its an open 3-pointer,

For more simple ways against zone defenses, take a look at Jerry Petitgoue's new DVD on Attacking Zone Defenses. I like Petitgoue's approach because he doesn't complicate the problem, he simplifies things and makes it easy to understand what he's trying to accomplish.

Watching the first half of the UNC game tonight because you figured it would get away from NC Central and indeed the score is 72-30 right now with 8:00 left in the second half.

I just like this sequence from UNC because I think that if you play a half-court M2M pressure, much like the way Duke plays their M2M, the assumption is that you will give up backdoor layups. Yes, the chances are higher, but that doesn't mean you can't teach and drill your players to counter those tendencies. With good footwork and active hands, a good defender can still put a ton of pressure on the wing pass AND still recover against the backdoor as shown in the following video clip:

In the picture, you can clearly see that Justin Watts has both hands in the air, not on his hips. With great lateral foot movement, he's able to adjust to the backdoor cut.

Also notice that he doesn't attempt to turn and face the ball, instead he just focuses on getting back on his man with his arms up and hands in the passing lane, and getting the steal. I see a lot of young players in that situation pivot towards the ball, back facing their check, then try to make the play when their check is already at the rim.

And the Tar Heels finish it in typical fashion, on the fast break.

For more info on the Carolina M2M defensive system, check out Roy Williams' DVD on The Carolina Defensive Numbering System & Drills. With so many new faces, its hard to imagine the Tar Heels repeating as champions, but if Coach Roy Williams is able to groom the younguns he has on this team, they could do some real damage in 1 or 2 years.

One of the reasons why I don't like playing a straight zone as a base and especially at the end of games is because it allows the offense to dictate the numbers advantage. In the stunning upset earlier in the week when Division II Le Moyne stunned Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, Le Moyne was able to get off a 3-pointer with time left on the clock to over-take the Orange.

Check out the video first from the ESPN highlight:

If you look closely, you'll see exactly what happened. Le Moyne had 4 players above the free-throw line extended. Syracuse is in their 2-3 extended zone, but the 3 low defenders are below the free-throw line extended,

So, essentially, Le Moyne was playing 4-on-2 above the free-throw line extended. Le Moyne's best shooter, O2, Chris Johnson who had already nailed 5 x 3-pointers, shuffled to the open spot on the arc and launched the game winning shot,

Now, I think it's easy to say, play zone regular, and switch to M2M at the end of close games. But the problem with that philosophy is, players who get used to played straight zone, have trouble re-adjusting to playing M2M. That is the reason why I personally, prefer to use a M2M defense as your base. In those crucial situations when you really need everyone matched up, you can be sure your players will be in the right spots. If the other team hits a 3-pointer with a defender right in their face, then so be it. But at least you can be sure that your players defended the play as best they could.

For more buzzer beating strategies, take a look at Homer Drew's DVD on Late Game Situations. Coach Drew is the head coach of the Valparaiso University.

Going through more notes today and this one caught my eye. From a coaches notebook of University of Florida assistant Larry Shyatt, defensively, the Gators track hustle stats for players during practice. Obviously, as a high school coach, you won't have the number of assistant coaches to do this, but you can definitely adapt it to your situation.

I think this is a great idea to do for 2 reasons. Firstly, I like the idea of rewarding hard work in practice. Sometimes as coaches, we fall in love with the talent, and we don't recognize nor reward effort nearly as much as we should. Also, one of the hardest things to do is to get players motivated for practice. Too many players come in to practice to loaf, because they're only motivated by games. So anything to get players really going hard in practices in my opinion is definitely worth looking into.

Coaches Focus at Practice:
Affected shots/passes – Assistant 1
Blockouts – Assistant 2
Going to the glass – Assistant 3
Hustle Stats – Assistant 4

Keeping Stats: (Compilation Daily)
Unaffected shots/passes – Assistant 5
No blockout – Assistant 6
Not going to off. glass – Assistant 7
Hustle Stats/other negative (not ready, etc.) – Assistant 8
Assists/Turnovers, no floor balance – Assistant 9

• Any unaffected shot/pass, no blockout attempt, no attempt to go to the
offensive glass or no floor balance, results in a minus.
• Any hustle play: deflection, loose ball, forced turnover, steal, offensive rebound,
charge taken, charge attempted, blocked shot, or 1st to the floor results in a plus.
• Coaches Wildcard: Player can receive a plus or a minus at the coaches’
discretion (ex: negative – poor closeout, dive by, poor communication; ex:
positive – great step-up, great communication).

Assist/Turnover Ratio:
• PG’s must be at least 2 to 1
• G’s / F’s must be better than 1 to 1
• C’s must be at least 1 to 1
• If your ratio is achieved, you receive a +2 for the day to be added to your
• If your ratio is not achieved, you receive a -2 to be added to your score.
• Players must be in the positive at the end of practice. If they are in the negative they have sprints (10’s/Suicides/etc.) to run based on whatever negative number they finish with.
• Sprints will be completed the day after practice/game.
• Every 7-10 days, we will have the “Hustle Award” winner for that week(s). The
guard & interior player with the best score will receive an “F” on their shorts.

Here is a screenshot of a sample hustle stats sheet:

For more great practice ideas, take a look at Larry Shyatt's 2-Pack DVD with 1 DVD for Defense and 1 DVD for Offense. Coach Shyatt is an assistant on Billy Donovan's coaching staff at University of Florida.

Most of y'all have probably seen this already, if not, you really must see it. It is an interview with legendary coach John Wooden talking about Victory with Honor. The idea of coach as teacher and to remember that we ultimately we teach people not basketball. Here is the youtube link below (about 10 minutes long),

Some notes from the video, if you want the coles notes version without watching the video:

Victory with Honor

- there is too much emphasis on winning today

- the coach is first and foremost a teacher

- before Coach Wooden was a coach, he taught English for many years

- the 4 laws of learning in English, are the same applied to coaching

- the teacher has to be more concerned about the entire learning process, than just in the content. Same goes for sports

- its easy to get carried away with win loss record

- Coach Wooden was more disappointed in parents who were concerned with their children getting an A or B than in whether they really learned anything

- Our society is too concerned about athlete first, and not student before athlete

- high school coaches, are really just teachers

- it made Coach Wooden a better coach, the fact that he taught English before. It helped in organization skills, and helped in dealing with athletes as individuals

- the job of the coach is therefore to analyze each individual and help them achieve their maximum potential

- each player is different, therefore they must be treated differently

- Please always ask, "what is your most successful team??" Coach Wooden's response, "I won't know in 25 years."

- most treasured medal or prize according to Coach Wooden was the academic medal, it holds the most value for individual achievement

Halloween all of a sudden becomes a big deal again once you're back in schools teaching. From late last week, I was browsing through some game footage of the Chicago Bulls home win over the San Antonio Spurs and a few things caught my eye. Primarily, I was impressed with how much more refined the Bulls seemed on offense, they ran this play below and even Flex continuity a number of times, I was pleasantly surprised. They have more purpose and with a full year under Derrick Rose's belt, he looks even more confident running the offense from the point.

From the third quarter, the Bulls ran this play 5 or 6 times and got some nice production out of it. I've clipped just the first 2 times when Tyrus Thomas was able to hit the mid-range jumper, plus the TNT replay with Doug Collins commentary on the slow motion, take a look:

1-4 Flat to Mid-Range Jumper

Really just a simple 1-4 flat with a high PNR to start. Derrick Rose, O1, starts the play up top. Joachim Noah, O5, comes to set the pick, the defense tries to hedge, but Rose still gets by both the hedge, Noah rolls after the pick,

As Rose turns the corner, Tyrus Thomas, O4, moves off the block to the weakside elbow. X4, Tim Duncan, is forced to stay in the lane for help position since Rose would otherwise have an open lane after beating all to the lane. X1 is in a trail position, Noah is rolling to the basket with X5 following,

As the lane gets clogged up, Rose kicks it out to an open Thomas for the mid-range jumper,

Now as you can hear Doug Collins say in the commentary, if X3 comes to close out early, then it's an easy pass to the corner for the 3-pointer. The Spurs did readjust later in the game, by having X1 go underneath the screen allowing him more time and room to catch Rose after the hedge, allowing Duncan to hedge a little better between help position and his check.

If you're looking for a comprehensive video on more PNR options, check out Fran Fraschilla's 2 DVD set on the Encyclopedia of the Pick and Roll Offense. The 2 DVD's show just about every scenario you could want to know about executing PNRs in the half court.