Hope y'all are enjoying the playoffs as much as I am. Here is a great interview from NBA TV with Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown. It's a short clip, but if you read between the lines, what he's saying is pretty profound. Once a coach, always a coach...

Some quotes from the clip:

(On differences in the players 20 years ago and now). Players don't play 4 years in college anymore, and when they come into this league and they don't play on a good team, they play right away, and they don't have a lot of good role models (ie. its easy for them to fall of the rails).

I coach execution, I don't coach effort (ie. that's your responsibility).

(Talking about David Robinson asking Coach Brown to introduce him at the Hall of Fame) When you're a coach, and you are around greatness, and somebody recognizes that you are a part of that, that's special.

Anyways, 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. Coach Brown is the only coach to ever win both a NCAA Championship and an NBA Championship.

A feel good segment from ESPN on Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl who is undergoing radiation treatment for his throat cancer which has therefore kept him away from his job and the playoffs. It's interesting to watch Coach Karl talk about how hard it is to not be with the team, I think as coaches we all can relate to that feeling when we are away and someone else is coaching your team, its gut wrenching.

I was helping out a friend's teenage son the other day with his shooting form. Right away I could tell what one of the major problems was, incorrect use of the guide hand. One of the common bad habits that form early on is the habit of shooting with two hands. Kids who start playing basketball early (8-10) begin shooting with 2 hands because they don't have the arm strength to shoot the relatively heavy ball with one hand, so they use two. The problem is that they get used to it, and once they get older, even though they've stopped officially using 2 hands, the guide hand tends to still get in the way of the proper shooting motion. It's a hard habit to shake, but absolutely necessary in my opinion to become a consistent shooter.

I've used the one hand behind the back before but I've found it awkward because nobody plays with one hand behind their back, in other words its not a realistic way to help someone change their habits, they're likely to give up on it very quickly. I went home and looked through my notes and more notes and found these great tips instead from the Basketball BC website. They really helped me so I hope y'all enjoy them...

One of the most common flaws in shooting is the incorrect use of the non-shooting hand, also called the guide hand. The guide hand should only be used to help the player lift the ball up to the release point – it should not be used to help propel the ball to the basket.

Many players use their guide hand, particularly their thumb, to help shoot the ball because it adds more power to the shot; i.e. two hands are stronger than one. However, the more the guide hand is used to shoot the ball, the more likely force will be applied to the ball that is off the shot line. Keeping the shot on-line is simply broken down into two parts: 1) ensure the ball leaves the index and middle fingers of the shooting hand last, and 2) ensure the index and middle fingers point at the basket. If these two things are done the ball will always be on line. If the guide hand is used to push the ball to the basket it becomes more difficult to accomplish these two tasks.

How can you tell if the guide hand is used to by the shooter? Often the rotation of the ball may not be the true backspin associated with the great shot. However a more conclusive method, to see if the guide hand is used, is quite simple – look at the guide hand at the conclusion of the shot, and if the palm of the guide hand is facing the basket then the thumb of the guide hand has been used to generate power.

The more important question is, how can you help a player who uses their guide hand? What techniques can you use to eliminate the use of the guide hand on the shot? Here are several suggestions:

1. Flat Guide Hand - have the player pull the fingers of their guide hand back so the finger tips are off the ball. Now only the palm of the guide hand, as well of the shooting hand, is used to help lift the ball. This technique will help the player to recognize the shot will executed by the shooting hand, and that the guide is not necessary to help get the ball to the basket.

2. O-K Shooting – this technique reduces the effect of the guide hand’s thumb on the shot. The player will make the O-K symbol with the guide hand and shoot the ball. It will be difficult for the thumb to have any impact on the shot when the ball is held this way.

3. Thumb and Index Finger Pinch – have the player move the thumb of the guide hand directly beside the index finger. The movement will make it more difficult for the player to bring their thumb through on the shot. To keep the thumb and index together a coin could be lodged between the two. With the coin in this position it will make it unlikely for the two to separate.

4. L Shooting - have the player focus on keeping their off-hand and off-arm in the shape of an "L" – upper arm parallel to the floor. This will help teach players to move their guide hand off the ball earlier in the shot and minimize an adverse effect on the ball's rotation.

I had a real hard time to find some recent pictures which illustrate clearly the correct use of the guide hand, but here a couple I found (notice how both have the palm parallel to the shooting line):

For more great info on shooting technique, take a look at Ed Palubinskas's DVD on Becoming a Great Shooter. Coach Palubinskas has worked with professionals in both the NBA and WNBA.

From last weekend, ESPN aired a 2 hour documentary titled, "The Association L.A. Lakers" from NBA Entertainment which chronicles the entire regular season of the L.A. Lakers including unprecedented locker room and off court access, narrated by Andy Garcia. Of course for me, the best parts were the short snippets talking to Phil Jackson. Here is the trailer from NBA TV:

If you missed it this when it first aired last weekend, thanks to the Internet, someone has uploaded it here (around 200MB).

My favorite Phil Jackson quotes are:

Phil on player leadership - Leaders have to be assertive, I think Kobe has come to realize that.

Phil on teamwork - Sometimes I criticize myself about not exploring the modern game, kicking the ball and shooting 3s. But the principle of this game is teamwork, it always has been, it always will be.

Recently, I've become fascinated with trying to find out how other countries around the world develop their players. I've always been fascinated with the former Yugoslavia. Up until say 1993, the best players in the world outside of the U.S. came from the former Yugoslavia. I read a great article the other day which talks about the "Yugoslavia School of Basketball". Here are some great quotes from the article:

The Yugoslav national basketball team never played 'run and gun' basketball and rarely played a full court press (both dominant in the U.S.A), but did effectively play various types of zone defense that require a lot of teamwork and intelligence. At a basketball coaches’ seminar held in Italy in the early 1980s, a Spanish coach, wondering why Yugoslav players dominated European basketball and were highly competitive on a global scale, concluding that 'what matters most is that they are Yugoslavs!'

The Yugoslavs, knowing that they lacked the athleticism of their counterparts, had to rely on good shooting, sharp passing, and creativity instead. The author also points out the 3 pillars of the "Yugoslavia School of Basketball":

1. The national team. This included men, women, and junior (boys and girls) select teams.

2. Second, a strong national federal league was established. In the words of the professional player Dino Radja (Boston Celtics, 1995–1997), the Yugoslav federal basketball league used to be far stronger, more competitive, and balanced than any other European national or international league. The quality of the domestic competition was maintained thanks to the Basketball Federation’s provision that players could not work for foreign employers until they were 27 years of age.

3. Third, organized, systematic scouting, and early development for teenage players. As the result of this type of development, the national team would bring together entire generations of friends from all over the country, who would frequently begin to play together for the national team as 16-year-olds. They remained together throughout their careers, thus preserving the esprit de corps of their teenage days.

I think there are too many special interests in the U.S. system of development to adapt to the "Yugoslavian School of Basketball", and given the dominance of the U.S. in basketball, I'm not sure change is needed. But for Canada, I think it is definitely something worth exploring. The author of the article also talks about the "cult of the national team".

The author also talks about the Yugoslavian philosophy on shooting and practices:
Come off the bench shooting cold. Start practice with a shooting drill. No shooting in the middle of practice. End practice with pressure shooting must make certain amount of shots in a certain amount of time. Do not leave until the goal is reached.

No soft shooting drills.

Two styles a) form b) pressure (especially when mentally and physically fatigued)
50 baskets in 2 minutes – 2 point shots then 3 point shots

Experiment with team – how shots or time to make 10, three pt shots

For more offensive skill development info, check out Kevin Sutton's DVD on 2 Ball Development Drills. Coach Sutton is a NIKE Skill Academy Instructor and head coach of Montverde Academy.

I always love watching these soundbites from behind the bench of games. I wish all college and high school coaches were mic'd up like this. This clip was from the playoff game yesterday between the Celtics and the Heat, Coach Doc Rivers and Coach Erik Spoelstra:

I caught most of the end of season press conference by an embattled Jay Triano, head coach of the Toronto Raptors the other day. My big takeaway was the idea of creating a culture of accountability. Some quotes from the press conference:

"Do I have to demand more discipline from these guys who maybe aren't going to be professionals and act in a professional manner every single game? Absolutely. I have to make adjustments. Just like players have to get better in the off-season, I have to make adjustments as well."

Often times, you hear the phrase, "coach is too soft on them, he's not tough enough". In my opinion, it's not about being "tough" on your players, it's about making them accountable. Players have to know what is expected them, what is acceptable and what is not. You don't have to be "tough" on them to make your players accountable.

What kind of culture are you striving to create? What are your non-negotiables?

I always like to watch the benches when I watch games, I can always tell the culture of the team by watching the bench, and how players behave when on the bench. When I look at the Raptors bench this season, I didn't always see a team that was business-like and focused on the same goal.

Along this theme of accountability, I was observing a Spring Football practice the other day and there were several questions that I left thinking about afterwards:

What is your policy on dealing with lates to practices?

Do you allow players to come in late? How do you think this is perceived by other players on the team? Why are players are allowed to waltz into practice late and start participating in drills?

How do you deal with the alpha-dogs on your team?

Are you consistent in your treatment of players? How is this perceived by the other players? Why are certain players allowed to take plays off and not others? When and how do you choose to deal with motivation issues with your star players?

I was going through some newer notes today and went through some notes from a coaches clinic with Mario De Sisti. It broke down some of the youth programs from different countries around the world. The idea of standardizing how fundamentals are taught I think is important when trying to develop consistency from place to place.

Specifically, this one below from France was quite intriguing to me. I like the idea of focusing only on offense for the first while. The skills involved with shooting, dribbling, and passing require much more time to develop. Defense comes much more naturally and isn't so much a skill but rather attitude and communication.

I also like the idea of introducing transition basketball only after players have a certain mastery of the fundamentals (maybe Gr 7 or higher). Too many times at the lower levels, its the taller athletic kids that go coast to coast over and over who score. Force the kids to play within the 3-point line, then gradually add transition offense afterwards.

Anyways, here is the extract for you to read yourselves:

France – sport school system (CPEQ)

Analyze the fundamentals. You must be “fussy” about corrections. If you do not correct at the student level you will have problems at the cadet etc.

Mini level should be fun. Do teach spacing.
30 minutes – fundamental
Shooting games
Dribble games
Passing games

Mentality – don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Players need to learn to receive the ball inside and outside. Play guards inside posts play outside.

Defensive pick up points
Student – 1st year - inside the 3 point line, 2nd year – ½ court
Cadet – 1st year – ¾ court, 2nd year – full court

Also the intensity changes as you move through the different categories.

Student – 100% offense – do not teach defense – learned through the offensive skills
Cadet – offense / defense no transition
Junior – offense / defense / transition

First three to four months – only offensive skills with GUIDED defense
Second three to four months – 70% defense / 30% offense
Last 2 months – transition / offense / defense

Conditioning is done through the drills

This allows the players to keep concentration on the skills being learned. If you jump around players are not aware of the concepts being learned. Players cannot remember form one day to the next.

NBA Tribute to Coach Don Nelson

Catching up on news from last week, this is a nice video tribute of Coach Don Nelson who recently became the NBA's winningest coach with 1,333 wins surpassing Lenny Wilkins. Coach Nelson is the only coach of the top 5 winningest coaches that has never reached an NBA final. I think his greatest moment was when the 8th seeded Warriors beat the 1st seeded Mavs in 2007. Anyways, enjoy...

For those of you who happen to teach physics, this is a neat little video you could use in the classroom especially if you have some basketball players in your class. The analysis was produced by Sports Science and aired on ESPN showing the last shot attempt by Gordon Hayward of Butler which almost won them the national title game over Duke this past Monday.

Key terms:

- launch angle
- velocity
- x-axis

Can you tell that I'm in lesson planning mode... Anyways, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

You hear often times that your are what you emphasize. I think intuitively when we teach good defense to close out hard with high hands to challenge the shot and not foul. When in the lane, we definitely want to go chest-to-chest. I came across these set of notes the other day from Dick Bennett which talks about "Walling Up On Defense". Basically what we already teach our players, but framed in a way in which you can emphasize with your players easily during practices and games, here ya go:

Of all the techniques we teach on defense, "Walling Up" is probably the single best thing we do as a program. It is drilled every day in some shape form or fashion, it is emphasized in every live ball situation, and it's something you hear at least one player or coach from the bench yell when the situation arises in a game.

We believe by Walling Up we save outselves 3 to 5% points of defense and 3 to 5 fouls per games on our players. That keeps our posts out of foul trouble, it helps our rebounding, it keeps our opponents off the free throw line (where we can't defend), and provides a mind set that builds the rest of our defense. Walling Up most often occurs in the paint (lane) when an opponent is trying to score. Statistically speaking even the very best players in the game don't make a very high percentage of contested shots. We Wall Up in the post to force players to score over the top of us rather than around us (You put both hands straight up in the air when you wall up and put your body on the offensive player. You don't even have to jump.) We Wall Up on the perimeter to take away vision of a shot or pass you do not put your body on them in this situation.)

The basic technique is to keep your boyd "straight up" without bringing your hands/arms down. In practice we force players to over exaggerate our angles knowing that in a game situation it's a natural tendency to reach a little.

*Teaching Point: The hardest thing to teach is to keep your feet moving and lower body moving to take up opponents space before they have terminated their dribble of pivot.

*The Best Way to teach this technique: Give the ball to an offensive player with his back to the basket on the block on the right side of the rim. Tell the offensive player to take one dribble to the middle of the floor and turn around and shoot a jump shot over the Walled Up Defender. The defender will need to body up to the offensive player and keep both hands up high.

*This technique will win five games a season for you. DS (I don't have any research on this, but I do believe it.) Plus it is fun to teach and emphasize!

Here are a few pictures of NBA players I found that help to illustrate this basic defensive concept around the basket,

Here is a picture of walling up a player a little further away from the basket to prevent an easy pass,

For more info on M2M defensive concepts and guidelines for running the packline defense, check out Dick Bennett's DVD on pressure defense. Coach Bennett is retired formerly of the head coach of Wisconsin and Washington State.

Like most of you, I'm getting really excited about the games tomorrow at the Final Four begins in Indianapolis. From the PBS talk show Charlie Rose yesterday, here is a great 1/2 hour interview with Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Unfortunately, I can't embed the clip, you can view the entire clip online on the Charlie Rose website. They talked about a number of different topics and I've added some of the best quotes below:

On Adapting to Your Players Year to Year:
We had to change, half-court defenders, rebounders. Less drive and kick, pressure full court defense.

You have to decide what team you are. Are you a drama, a comedy... then combine that with the basics of being good defensively.

On Trust:
When asked why he is so successful? There is instant trust.

I'm not more melo, I listen better. I let people talk more than when I was younger. I trust my people more.

Shoot your bullets, don't leave anything on the court. I tell players to trust their instincts.

Don't over talk your players so that their cup overfills. Allow your players to fill it up on their own.

It's not about what you know, it's about what the players know and can do. If you fill your players with too much info, they're thinking more about what to remember then reacting.

On Player Roles:
The rebounder is as important as the shooter. The rebounders have to believe that they are playing as an important role as the one taking the shot.

Well, hope y'all enjoy the games as I will. Anyways, if you are a big Duke fan like me check out Mike Krzyzewski's new All Access Duke Basketball Practice 4-pack DVD which includes 438 minutes of practice and Q&A with Coach K.