We all have so much to be thankful for as we look back at another year's past. I am thankful for being given the opportunity to teach and coach at what I consider the best place on earth.

I hope you are all having as much fun coaching basketball as I am having this season. For me, just having the chance to call the shots has been exhilarating enough. After an early stint as a head coach 7 years ago, and then assisting in various capacities at various levels for the past 7 years -- to be finally back at the helm this time around feels so much better. I often look back at that first stint and obviously I was too young and inexperienced, but I really needed to get my butt kicked (for lack of a better expression), then go and observe some other coaches (some better than others) do their thing, before knowing how to and how not to do things.

Do I still have doubts about the decisions that I make as a head coach now? Absolutely, but I make the decisions having experienced so much more this time around. As for how our team is doing so far this season? We're still inconsistent, but we've certainly had our moments. Such as the game-tying-send-it-to-OT then win it in OT win on the road, against Steve Nash's old high school coach to boot. And then there was the 30 point come from behind almost win (lost by 2 points with the ref calling an illegal screen on our game-tying possession) last week. It hasn't all been sunshine and roses though, for example I've also had to deal with multiple discipline issues with players on the team, academic and social. But overall, it's been a fantastic ride, and I'm not only looking forward to how we finish in March, when it counts -- but most importantly how these boys develop into the fine upstanding men that I know they can be.

I want to wish all the readers a very happy holidays. And for you coaches out there, be sure to thank your family members for putting up with our random mood swings, grumpy misdemeanor after losing, and for just being there when we need you. May all of your coaching dreams come true in 2012.

P.S. A big shout out to my current mentor, head varsity coach and athletic director, Rich Goulet who notched his 1000th career win last week.

I was watching the Lakers vs Bulls last night and one of the key plays at the end of the game came on an offensive rebound by Luol Deng who got an and1 play to bring the Bulls to within 1 with less than a minute to go in the game.

It was a weird bounce as Deng shot a 3ptr and the ball came right back at him.

I went back and looked at the highlights and replay of the play and I could see why the Lakers couldn't come up with the ball.

Kobe is trying to leak out for the run out off of the defensive rebound. Problem is, Deng is the one that comes up with the ball and then the Bulls are essentially playing 5 on 4 with Kobe way out of position.

As a run and gun team, you have to weight the pros and cons of leaking out vs rebounding down. I got the idea mostly from  Billy Donovan's DVD on Transition Offense and decided that for our team, leaking out on a long wing or top shot was worth it as our halfcourt offense isn't very good and we needed something to get easy baskets. The idea is that the majority (80%) of rebounds go to the weak side, so we will leak out against the shooter and the rebounder will look for the easy lob off the run out. It's been tremendous for us and it has caused offenses to adjust as they need to send less players to the offensive glass and send someone back to cover the deep pass.

However, be aware, this is a gamble. Because if the offense comes up with the rebound, you are playing with 4 defenders against their 5. For us, it's usually a gamble we're willing to live with. But, on at least one occasion this season so far, we have adjusted to have our guards rebound down instead of leaking out. It's an adjustment we will make game to game depending on whether we need more rebounding help.

Winning the Mental Match

I know this is a blog that is supposed to talk about the X's and O's, but I don't think as a coach you can ever dismiss the fact that games are won and lost mentally just as much as they are physically.

The team that I coach is 3-1 so far and this past weekend we went up against the #3 ranked team. We were inconsistent most of the first half but managed to even up the score at halftime. We came out flat to start the 3rd and couldn't execute down the stretch when it mattered the most. In other words, our team choked and couldn't close out the game.

I recently read a terrific book the other day that talks about sports psychology from the perspective of performance anxiety. I usually don't read these kinds of books, because I find them mostly to be pretentious and written by people who call themselves doctors but have no real world experience working with athletes. This book is different. It is called "Tennis: Winning the Mental Match" and it is written by Dr. Allen Fox. Although it is written specifically with Tennis in mind, many of it's tenets and arguments can be directly applied to just about any sport where high competition is involved.

There are 14 chapters, but the 3 main points of emphasis that I took away from it are:

1. Sport matches are inherently emotional affairs. And how you manage your emotions will largely determine your success in the game.
2. You must accept the fact that there are things that are out of your control. Stress comes largely from the attempt to control the uncontrollable.
3. Never do anything that doesn't help you win. Eliminate all the unnecessary elements of your game which cloud your objective and maintain an efficiency of purpose.

I'd say right now that our team is having the hardest time with the first point. We are an emotional group, and we wear our emotions on our sleeves. It's good to be emotionally involved, because it means that our players really care about the team, about what we are doing, and about where we want to go. But we are susceptible to wild swings in our play as a result. We are too high with the highs, and too low with the lows. We have to get to a place where we can just "play ball".

"Control is an illusion you infantile egomaniac" as so famously quoted from the movie Days of Thunder. As players, and as coaches, it's sometimes hard to accept that there are things that you can't control. That even if you played a perfect game, you may still lose. You can't control the refs, you can't control the slippery floors, and you can't control the heckler in row 2 who keeps taunting you. As mentioned, you just have to "play ball".

Finally, there is something to be said for being able to concentrate on the task at hand. Teams that are easily distracted by a bad call, or something said by an opponent will have a have a hard time when "the game is on the line" because they are no longer focused on the goal -- to win the game. Everything is a distraction unless it has a hand in the singular goal of winning the game.

With most of you still early in your seasons, it is a good time to sit back and think about the mental state of your players, and of yourself. Do they have all of their emotions in check? How have your players reacted in certain situations so far this season? Are they stressed before/during big games? What distractions can you eliminate from their game to help them have better clarity?

Getting more into basketball mode as our first official game of the year is coming up on Monday Nov 28. Here is a great coaching tip on the fast break. In a 2-on-1 situation, the player with the ball should dribble with the ball with the inside hand (right if on the left side, left if on the right side). The reasoning being that it is easier to push bounce pass if the defender comes at you without changing hands, and if the defender keeps going back, you can swipe to the outside and go by the defender easier as well. Here is video explaining it some more (fast forward to 3:20).

This tip comes via The Tribe, which is the blog setup by Rick Torbett and the ones behind the Read and React system.

Happy Thanksgiving to All

I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all the American readers and contributors out there. It's easy to think about all the "things" that you don't have, the "things" that you want, and the "things" that you wish you had. Like all of people out there, I also fret a lot about "things", but all I know is that when I get out there in practice on the football field, or the basketball court, with our team, I'm at a place where I never want to leave. For me as a coach, its easy, I love doing what I do and as I long as I am able to keep doing it, I'll be happy.

Remember to cherish what you have, and to be thankful that we as coaches have the opportunity to coach the sport that we love, and to have a positive impact in the lives of others.

I leave you with a short video montage from CBS Sports and all the college football coaches giving thanks...

One teaching term that I've been thinking about alot lately as it pertains to coaching is "authenticity". Specifically, I've been reflecting about the drills that I use and how effective they are at in teaching skills in game-like situations.

Take for example, transition offense. We all have our favorite drills that we use, 3-on-2 to 2-on-1, or 3-on-2 continuous, or team fast break, etc... the list goes on. I use them as well, but when I look back at those drills, I think to myself that somehow these drills lack "authenticity". I think these drills are good at teaching players how to make very specific reads in a highly controlled environment, but when was the last time you've seen in an actual game where you had a 3-on-2 situation that played out like you would see in a Blood 33 drill (for those that run DDM or R&R). That's the problem I'm having, coming up with situations "drills" where I can simulate as much as possible what happens in the game.

I was watching a Bobby Knight teaching toughness DVD recently, and Coach Knight was talking about repping transition defense (conversion he calls it) by having the team go 5v5 without the ball and then coach throws the ball to the defense (which becomes the new offense) and the new defensive players have to get back on D. Then the idea came to me that I could do the same thing except for transition offense.

When you go to your team offensive period, how many of you go 5v5 starting at halfcourt with the ball in the PG's hands, coach calls the play, the PG echos, they run it, you yell 'freeze', do some teaching, then run it again? Yes, we all do that. But how authentic is that? If the ball is inbounded at halfline after a timeout or a foul for example, but we all know that 80% of the game is played in transition. Question becomes, how do we incorporate the transition and half-court phases together so that they are game-like?

So what we do now in team offense, is we always start on defense. The first part of offense, is securing the rebound. That's where we start, on defense and I throw the ball up to rim. They secure the rebound, outlet, look to push the ball up the floor with numbers. We don't have a secondary break, so once we have the ball across half without a numbers advantage, we're into half-court offense (motion, flex, or set play). It's more game-like, and since we are a running team, I always want our players thinking to push the ball up the floor first before running any kind of set offense. We also run it out of a FT setup, and also after a made basket. So all 3 different transition situations.

So in team, we're trying to work those phases together and to help the players understand how to transition from one phase to the other more seamlessly. It's a work in progress, but players need to recognize when to push the ball in transition, and when to slow down and run the set offense. As a coach, it always seems easy, we have all the right answers, but it's a hard concept for players to get, when does the break end, and when are we into half-court offense.

Authenticity is important. One of the things I hate is repping things in practice that never happen in the game. I always look back and find a few things that we did in practice and I tell myself, "why the heck did we spend all that time practice xyz when we didn't even use it in the game, what a waste of time." I certainly would like to hear what you all think.

Most of you are probably getting ready or have already started your practices/tryouts for the upcoming season like we are here as well.

It's one of those things that no matter how well you seem to plan your practices, there are always times where practice seems to get bogged down, or the the tempo grinds to a halt. Players are doggin' it, and it just isn't moving as quickly and smoothly as it should.

I was re-watching a Don Meyer DVD yesterday on practice planning and he had 3 great ideas to help speed up practices:

1. Countdown
2. Change ends
3. Echo yells

Players respond to a clock. If you just tell them to get to the baseline, they always seem to take their sweet ass time doing it, even if you yell at them. Give them a countdown, 5-4-3-2-1. If they don't get there before 1, then they all run. Stimulus-response.

If you're doing a shooting drill and the players are just going through the motions, make them change ends and give them a countdown. By forcing players to switch and hustle to the other side of the floor, it makes them refocus their attention.

Finally, instead of you yelling at the players, have a policy of echo yells. You tell 1 player, 'free-throws'. That player yells 'free-throws', everyone yells 'free-throws', and you're off to doing free-throws.

How Bad Do You Want It?

I've been teaching a pre-season strength and conditioning class every morning at 7am. All of the basketball players freshman to seniors are in the class and I've been progressively making the workouts harder and harder each week. I use motivational quotes every day and I'm always looking for ways to push them. There are some great quotes to use from the clips below. The one I'm using on Monday:

"All men are created equal, some just work harder in the preseason." -- Emmitt Smith

If you haven't seen the original Eric Thomas, the hip hop preacher, secret to success motivational speech then take a look here,

Most recently, some people have put together a video montage of NBA players working out with Eric Thomas' words in the background,

Open Gym Ideas

I know that it has been forever since my last post. It's been crazy since I was officially hired several weeks ago. Our football season has been in full swing and so far we are undefeated, picked to finish dead last in the entire province/state and we just went toe to toe with the number 4 ranked team and we came from behind to win the game.

Our basketball teams have been running open gyms the past several weeks and the topic of open gyms came up on the X's and O's forum the other day. Like many of you, open gyms are necessary to get players into the gym playing basketball. The first hour or so is generally pretty good, but then the second hour typically goes downhill and guys are mostly goofing off taking NBA 3-pointers and trying ridiculous circus shots.

Here is a summary of some of the ideas to add some more competitiveness to your open gyms and to make them more effective and relevant:

- play doubles, double the points for offensive board putbacks to emphasize rebounding (off and def).
- add points for taking charges, minus points for turnovers, etc...
- play to 3, but must win by 2 to emphasize defensive stops
- have a round-robin tournament, or king of the hill
- "validate" wins by having the player who scored the winning shot make a FT. Made FT winning team stays, missed FT and its live to next threshold. FTs again to validate, a made FT then winning team stays, a missed FT then both teams off.

Go Mauraders Go!!!

Coaches, just a quick update for you all. I haven't had a chance to put anything together this past week as I've been gearing up for my new teaching job at the school that I am coaching at. I just got the job earlier in the week and it has been quite the whirlwind of preparing our football team for our first game, helping organize open gyms with the basketball teams, and planing and preparing for 7 classes I have never taught before.

I had no idea after I left my previous teaching job in June when or if I would find myself a teaching job aligned to a coaching position at the same school, and 3 months later I am there. Coaches, I am here to tell you that if you are patient, and that if you put your head down and just take care of the things that are in your control, good things will happen.

So, the good news is, I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world, doing exactly what I love to do. The not so good news is, I'll be working harder than I could ever imagine over the next 8 months with football, school, then basketball, school. But I wouldn't have it any other way...

School is about to begin in a few days, cherish the last few days of summer, and I'll be sure to post something basketball related as I breakaway from the madness. I've watched a ton of videos over the summer that I've backlogged and been waiting to see, and I have a ton of fresh ideas in my head I'd like to hash out. Also, I will be going to the Basketball BC Superconference, where Alan Stein, the guru of basketball S+C will be one of the keynote speakers. I will be looking forward to meeting Coach Stein in person after following his stuff online for many years now.

Watched a few more videos the last day or so with coaches Bob Knight, Bo Ryan, and Sherri Coale. One of the things they said was the most important thing they look for in a scouting report was to identify the player on the opposing team that was the worst percentage outside shooter. That is the player that they want to cheat on for help defense.

Seems pretty obvious, but it's a crucial point. You don't want to spend a whole game trying to figure out which players are the ones that can hurt you from beyond the arc. Not to mention the fact that in High School, most teams will have 2, maybe 3, really good shooters. Find the worst shooter out of the starting lineup, and you will know where your help defense should be coming from.

It's the calm before the storm, football training camp begins on Monday for us, and my girlfriend is going away to Europe for 2 weeks. So I decided with my last day of nothing really to do, I went downtown and caught some live 3-on-3 action at the annual NBA Jam Session 3-on-3 tourney. It is a cross country tournament held every year for players of all ages and skill. I was watching this one team in particular and there was a post player who being guarded by a guy with long arms. Every time he tried to call for the ball inside, it was getting poked away or even stolen. He looked pretty frustrated both with himself and with his teammates whom he thought were late in seeing him open.

Being the coach that I am, when he subbed out, I decided to approach him and I asked him if I could give him a quick coaching point. He said sure why not. I told him one of the reasons why he was having problems with Mr. long arms defender was that his teammates were either bouncing passing the ball towards him where it was getting poked away, or they were passing it to his body where his hands were.

I advised him instead to use an arm bar with his inside arm, and extend his outside arm out in an L with fingers pointed towards the sky (also known as a Pro Stance). In other words, give your teammates an outside hand as a target. They will most likely throw it a little outside, so you'll have to hop to receive the pass with the outside hand, chin it, then get into your on-ball post moves. He said alright, he would try it when he got back on the flor.

In the next series he subbed in, he tried it against Mr. long arms. He caught the ball successfully with the outside arm, chinned it, reverse pivoted, swept the ball low, blew by Mr. long arms underneath and finished with a reverse layup on the other side of the hoop, away from Mr. long arms attempted block. Needless to say, that just about made my day.

It's a great tip not just for post players though. It's also something you can use for perimeter players. As they come off a downscreen, exploding up past the 3-point line, make sure they are calling for the ball with their outside hand. Cutting towards the basket, the opposite is true, they need to call for the ball with their inside hand.

I got this tip from watching Mark Few's Flex for Success DVD. In it, he keeps telling his guards to call for the ball with the outside hand coming off the downscreen. Off the flex screen, he keeps telling his guards to call for the ball with the inside hand cutting to the basket. Seems so simple a concept, but players don't know these things instinctively, it has to be taught, and reinforced. Anyways, the season is approaching fast, the question you have to ask yourself coaches is, what are you doing this offseason to best prepare yourself for the upcoming season?

I think every coach has had the situation happen before where we use a lot of coachspeak and the players look at you with that puzzled look. And then you use a different word and then it instantly clicks.

For years, in teaching M2M defense, I've always used the term "hedge and recover". To me, it seems natural, I've been around coaching long enough and I always thought it was a universal term. But I can remember the many times that I've tried to teach it to players and some of them got it, but from others I would get the puzzled look. They problem is that they really don't understand what that means, what does it really mean to "hedge"??

Old School Coach K

I was watching an old school Mike Krzyzewski DVD on M2M defense (I converted it from VHS and isn't available anymore, but this Coach K DVD on Defense is basically an updated one) and in it he talks all the time about the "fake trap". After hearing that, I instantly thought to myself, that is what I need to use to better communicate it to my players. I'm watching the players move, and Coach K is there saying "fake trap" and they're really getting into it. The motion is exactly like going to set a trap, but backing out -- a fake trap.

There's all kinds of coaching jargon that gets in the way of getting your message across to players. Although we take for granted, the many terms we use, we have to assume the players don't know what the heck we're talking about the majority of the time, and we also have to assume that not all terminology is the same from team to team, school to school -- ie. there is no universal terminology. I'd be interested to hear if you all have others out there that might help all of us out.

After this past season where we started 2 point guards, the more I think about it, it is something that I would definitely go to again given the personnel. The game of basketball has evolved to more of a dribble drive attack and having 2 point guards allows you to take advantage of the extra speed off the dribble. There are also several added benefits:

- never get pressed. Teams didn't even try to press us this past year with our team speed
- early offense initiated quickly. We didn't have to get the ball into our primary PGs hands to start our break. It was just outlet and go.
- shared PG duties. Our 2 guards could share the primary responsibility of bringing the ball up the floor against heavy ball pressure, making it easier for both in the long run.
- our best FT shooters were also our PGs, so we were more efficient from the line as well.

When one of our point guards got injured late in the season, we suffered our first loss of the year against our crosstown arch-rivals (whom we had beaten twice previously). I was (still am) convinced that the main reason why we lost was that we didn't have our 2 point guards on the floor at the same time. With our 2 point guard lineup back intact a few weeks later, we were able to beat the same team in the championship final.

I've seen most recently the Denver Nuggets using Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton on the floor at the same time. You sacrifice size on the boards, and maybe a little scoring, but what you gain in the efficiency of possessions and ball movement is worth it in my opinion. I think it is especially effective under FIBA rules where you basically have 15-20 secs each possession after you factor in bringing the ball across half-court. Let me know what you all think.

Number One Mistake Coaches Make...

I often talk to coaches and they say that they plan on installing a new offense or defense in the fall. They say they want to go to a dribble-drive motion, or a Princeton offense, or they want to use a new zone offense they picked up from watching another team run it last season. Fast-forward to the end of the season, and when I ask coaches how the new system worked, I get a lot of responses that the system never worked the way it was supposed to, players were either too robotic, moving from place to place without really reading the defense, or players just ignored the play and freelanced.

I would say that the number 1 problem I've seen from coaches trying to install an offense or a defense is that they don't teach it in a progression. They start on air 5v0, then after a few reps they go 5v5. The players run the system but they don't really know what they're doing because they haven't spent the time on the intricacies. They have the big picture idea of how it is supposed to work, how it is supposed to look like, but they don't know why they are doing it. Coaches are on the sideline yelling and screaming at players to pass when they shot the ball, or shoot the ball when they were supposed to pass.

Sometimes, as coaches, we forget that at the end of the day, it's the players that have to play. As a coach, you can draw up any offensive play to beat a given defense, and vice versa, but that's all clinic talk, that only exists on the chalkboard. What really counts is whether or not your players can execute it. The best system in the world isn't going to do a darn thing if you can't teach it to your players. To me, that is really the essence of coaching, being able to communicate and teach it to the players.

So how do you teach in a progression? You want to start with a foundation and build on prior knowledge, you want to teach it step by step. Always start in a 1v1, then "progress" to 2v2, then 3v3, then 4v4, before going to 5v5. You don't go to 3v3 until the players have mastered 2v2. Basically, if you can't break your system down from 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, then you don't understand the system enough to be teaching it in the first place.

Teaching in a progression also helps you organize your practices better as well. It forces you to break your system into chunks which fit nicely into your practice blocks, such that you are maximizing the amount of reps the players get and minimizing the amount of standing around.

Another benefit of teaching in a progression is that when you want to make adjustments, or when you are having problems with your system mid-season, you can easily go back to 2v2 or 3v3 and find out where the breakdown is.

Finally, when you teach in a progression, you come up with your own drills on how best to teach your system. The best drill is the one that puts your players in the most game-like situation within your given system.

When you go in the lion's den, you don't tippy toe in — you carry a spear, you go in screaming like a banshee, you kick whatever doors in, and say, 'Where's the SOB?' -- Brian Billick, former Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens

I was reading something the other day from Brian Billick (who is now a FOX Sports football analyst) and I came across the quote above. I remember when he said it, it was 2000, the year the Ravens won the Superbowl. They had just beaten the heavily favored Tennessee Titans in Tennessee in the playoffs and a reporter asked him in the press conference why Billick was so confident they would beat the favored Titans. That's when he replied with the now famous quote: "When you go in the lion's den..."

It's still smack dab in the middle of the summer but I'm already jacked up about the upcoming seasons for both football and basketball. The school I am at has a storied basketball tradition and our Varsity team is touted as a pre-season championship contender. By contrast, the Varsity football team (relatively new, in year five) graduated most of the talent and is predicted to finish dead last in our division, the prep beat writer wrote in his preseason predictions that we would be lucky to survive the season. What's interesting is people think that it must be weird to have the two opposing set of expectations. I tell them the expectation for both is the same, to get into the playoffs and win a championship.

As coaches, there's always talk about what makes a championship team, or how to turn around a struggling program. By moving around and being a part of both rebuilding programs, and championship teams, I've seen what has worked, what hasn't, and I've had many chances to reflect on these ideas. There is one commonality regardless of the situation you find yourself in. As a coach, you must never compromise your expectations; you have to set high standards and commit yourself fully to achieving them. Coaches lead, and players get their confidence from us as coaches, and they lose it just as easily from us as coaches as well. If you're going to stand in front of all of your players before a game, before a season and say "lets just try to survive out there", or "I think we have an OK shot at winning," what kind of message do you think you are sending your players. You've already thrown up the white flag before the fight.

As a teacher, I've had the similar opportunity to teach in both public and private schools. Last year, I taught at a prep school which boasted a 100% university admission rate, and was ranked as one of the top high schools in the country. People always think that prep school kids are smarter, or more studious than public school kids, that it's a matter of money and genetics. That's a load of BS. There is one singular difference between private and public, successful and unsuccessful -- level of expectations. Prep school kids (and their parents) expect their kids to go to college and get good jobs. The kids at public schools who have similar expectations do just as well. The kids (and their parents) who have low expectations achieve what they aim for, mediocrity or lower.

Back to coaching to close. Some of you are probably reading this and are skeptical. You say, "yah, but Coach, we're just not a good team this year". The question I ask you is this: Did your preparation change as a coach when you were a "good" team? Do you take your foot off the pedal because the team you have this year isn't a "championship contender"? Winning is hard, winning championships is even harder -- a lot of things have to fall into place and a lot of things are out of your control. I get that, we all do. But you are in control of how you plan and prepare for your season, and each game. A coach is a leader, and part of being a leader is to set the expectation. As your seasons approach, I ask you to assess and evaluate your expectations of your own teams? What kind of signals are you giving to your players? Coaches, I'm asking you to stop tippy-toeing and kick that freakin' door in.

Going through some more videos the other day and really enjoyed UNC women's head coach Sylvia Hatchell's Quick Break DVD. It's not a great DVD if you're new to coaching and looking for the encyclopedia on offense. But for more experienced coaches, she's got some great tidbits in it.

One of the best parts is where she explains her 2-rule motion offense. Very simple to use, and suitable for any level of play. Much easier in my opinion than a traditional flex, or swing, or open-post motion. But sophisticated enough to run all the way up to the college level.

The 2 rules to the offense are:

1. Guard to Guard pass - Downscreen

2. Guard to Wing pass - Cut and fill

The post player just follows the ball to the side where the ball is.

That's it. Simple. The crux of the offense lies in the reading of the downscreen. There are 4 things you can do off of the downscreen - pop, curl, backcut, flare.

This is the part where you really need to drill your players, on how to read the defender off the downscreen. If the defender cuts underneath, then you pop out. You can then drive into the middle or shoot the mid-range, or shoot the 3-pointer. If the defender chases, then curl to the basket. If the defender jumps over the top to deny the pop, then backcut. If the defender cuts underneath and gets in a position to stop penetration, the screener rescreens for the flare cut.

It's also a great offense to use up some clock, you get good movement and there are other options you get use such as the post coming up to ball screen, it's an easy offense to fast break into. Really easy to teach, and something you can even add if you already do something like dribble-drive and you want something where players off the ball are moving more. I haven't seen the Kevin Boyle's Motion Offense DVD but I've heard that the rules are very similar.

Hope you all are having a great summer, it's hard to believe that there's only a few weeks left, the basketball season will be sneaking up on us pretty soon, enjoy the summer while you can.

I saw some club teams play a game the other day and one of the big things that I'm seeing lately is really bad one-on-one defense. Now, I know that in these summer games, not a lot of players and teams play much defense anyways, but that's besides the point, I'm seeing the same phenomenon in high school games too.

I think one of the major problems is that when we teach players that we want to force the ball baseline or middle (depends on your personal defensive philosophy), players translate that by opening up their body either to the baseline or to the middle of the floor, and then their check just blows by them. It's easy when we coach to then blame the help defender getting late. That's baloney, the ball is your man, square up and make the ball go lateral.

I got the phrase from Bobby Knight's Man-to-Man Defense DVD, Coach Knight talks constantly about never opening up your gate. The picture above is from Kemba Walker's game winner in UConn's win over Villanova from last season. The defender opens up and Kemba just attacks his technique and gets right into the lane for the game winning floater.

It's not about the help, obviously we want the ball to go to help, but we want the dribbler going east-west to help, not north/south. Once you open up your gate, you're inviting the offensive player to get to the hoop, irregardless if you're forcing baseline or middle to help.

An excellent read from GQ Magazine about a 22-year old who posed as a 16-year old in Odessa Texas, playing for the football-famous Permian Panthers before he got busted and the whole thing blew up in his face.

The story has a little of everything in it, I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being made into a movie.

Going through the 2011 Nike Coach of the Year clinic manual and I want to quote coach Houston Nutt, head football coach for Ole Miss,

Players are looking for the following characteristics in a coach:
- They are looking for somebody they can trust.
- They are looking for somebody the can depend on.
- They want to have someone predictable and consistent.
- They also want to have someone committed to them.
- They don't really care how much football you know until they know how much you care.

I hear all the time from coaches that kids are too lazy these days - "... they don't wanna work... they're too busy chasing girls/boys... they lack discipline... they can't make a commitment... they don't know how to communicate anymore... they're too self-interested..." But what about we as coaches? Have coaches changed over time?

To be honest, I don't think kids or coaches have changed much at all over the times. The thing is, players will always find a way to let you down. They will be late, they will skip practice to be with their boyfriend/girlfriend, they will decide to take plays off, they will sometimes have an attitude. However, as a coach, you will always have to be perfect. You can't be late. You can't decide not to show up. You can't promise new practice jerseys, and then not come through. You can't have morning practices some weeks and night practices other weeks. You can't make a practice calendar, then change the dates at the last minute. It just has to happen once, just once, and you've lost all credibility and respect from your players. Players may not remember all the good things that we as coaches do for them, but they sure as heck remember everything you didn't do. It is our responsibility, as coaches, to practice what we preach and to teach players how to do it the right way all the time.

If you think about it, what players want from their coaches is rather simple really, they want you to be there for them. But it's easy to say, hard to do because it requires discipline. We ask it of our players, we sure as heck better live it as coaches? For example, take our summer lifting workouts, we go Tue/Wed/Thu from 1pm-2pm. It is voluntary as per the rules for all schools, but I'm there every session. We don't get that many basketball or football players out because of summer vacations, etc.. but there are several core players that are always there. They know that the date never changes, the time never changes, and it never gets canceled for the weather or for any other reason. Is it hard for me to be there each day? Yes and no. It is only 3 days of the week for 1 hour. But I'm on my summer holidays from teaching, and there are some days that I wished I could change it to 4-5pm so I can get in a round of golf, or 10-11am so I can meet a friend for lunch, or just to cancel it on a sunny day because I'd rather hang out at the beach. But I go each day because I believe it's important to our team that our players are working to get better, and because I've made a commitment to being there for them.

I know that there are extenuating circumstances, health issues, personal problems, work schedules, but understand that being a coach carries a big responsibility. A lot of people go into coaching and don't really understand or are ready for that kind of commitment. Coaching is sometimes as easy as just being there for your players, which can also be the hardest thing.

A lot of you probably have this press breaker in your arsenal against aggressive full court matchup or man presses, but if not, something interesting to consider. I was re-watching Billy Donovan's DVD on his Full Court Matchup Press the other day and one of the press breakers he talked about that gave them the most problems was the 1-4 across set. The wing players can really cause a problem because of the threat of the over the top pass,

What happens is if the defender, X5 or X3 in this case, is playing in a press coverage either inside or outside, they are highly susceptible to a quick v-cut and then a streak downfield for an over the top touchdown style football pass. You don't even need to v-cut, once the inbounder slaps the ball you basically break and you'll be wide open. If the inbounds is after a made basket, the inbounder can run the baseline and get an angle on either wing. If for some reason you can't make that football pass (bad timing, slow fowards, etc..), then O2 can cross screen for O1 and you can get into your regular press break.

Obviously after you burn the man-to-man press or matchup press a couple of times over the top, the defense will adjust by having the wings play over the top. They will still press the 2 inside players because the over the top throw is harder with the basket obstructing a high pass. But now you have a relatively open pass to the wing player, and your PG can use that to out-leverage the defender and streak as soon as the inbounds pass is made for the open pass,

So essentially, just by alignment, you have forced the defense out of a full press situation. If they decide to continue to pressure, they have to give each of your players a cushion. And by releasing all of your players down the court in a full sprint once the pass is made, you have effectively nullified their pressure. Sure, the X1 defender can still get up on your O1, they can try to trap with one of the other players, but you've allowed yourself the ability to get the ball in without pressure,

The last couple of days I've been busy putting together a defensive manual for our football team in preparation for the upcoming season and one of the big areas I was researching was the idea of pattern reading. You see, in football most teams that use a zone defense have gone away from straight spot dropping and match receiver routes instead. So, they align in a set zone, say a Cover 2, but then they read the receivers and their movements are dependent on what the receivers do. Now, it sounds like it would impossible to come up with a set of rules to match what the receivers do, but the thing is that receiver movements are highly predictable, because most passing routes are patterned and packaged together into concepts. Therefore, instead of just dropping into your "zone" area and covering grass, defensive backs are instead given a set of rules for a given receiver may do, and the defender reacts to that movement within their "zone" area. Turns out, in basketball, we can apply similar concepts.

In doing my research I came across a chapter in the book by Don Casey called "Own the Zone". It's a pretty good book going through the history of zone defenses in basketball. In the chapter on matchup zones, it talks about legendary high school Indiana coach Bill Green and how he came up with his true matchup zone. He and an assistant were watching a Purdue/Notre Dame football game and thought about creating a zone defense for basketball based on similar rules based on simple offensive player movements.

I had forgotten alot of what I've written in the past couple of years, so I went back through my blog and realized I actually wrote a pretty detailed article on the Bill Green 1-3-1 matchup zone (although I didn't credit it to Bill Green at the time) and it got my brain into overdrive again thinking about the different possibilities of matchup zones.

The original Bill Green matchup zone is based on the principle of dividing the court in 2 halves using the hoopline. The defenders are then assigned:
- a #1 defender on the point,
- a #2 defender takes the first offensive player on the left,
- a #3 defender takes the first offensive player on the right,
- a #4 defender takes the second offensive player on the left or right (the rover)
- a #5 defender takes anyone in the paint or right man high or low

What I did not cover in my original post was the basic matching principle that Bill Green uses, which is based on what the offensive player can do. For you football coaches out there, this will sound very familiar to robber coverage or 2-read. Basically, an offensive player with the ball can only do 1 of 3 things:

1. Shoot. Get a hand up.
2. Dribble drive. Slide and sag.
3. Pass.

An offensive player without the ball can only do 1 of 3 things:

1. Move and replace teammate.
2. Pick.
3. Flash to the basket.

Those are the only 6 things a player can do with or without the ball. On the first 2 with the ball, the defender reactions are universal, they are exactly same for any defense man or zone. On any pass and pick in any matchup zone, you will switch automatically every single time. So really, the rules for defender matchup movements are restricted to 2 movements, replace a teammate, and flash to the basket. All the players have to remember are their original rules. Any movement to replace a teammate is an automatic switch. Any flash to the basket is covered by the same defender. The most complicated movement is any flash or movement through the lane. In this case, the defender passes off their man to the #4 rover and they switch checks. Here are the base formations against offenses that will attempt to align against the matchup zone:

Having this base knowledge, defending flashes to the basket are stated as I wrote in the original article.

The weakness of the 1-3-1 matchup, is obviously the corners. Teams can overload to one side of the floor and now the defense has to break its rules to cover the 4 players on one side.

In order to combat this problem, the #5 switches to take the corner man and #3 (or #2 if overload is on the left) takes the offensive player in the paint.

If you are having a problem with the overload with a player in the corner, Bill Green has a 1-1-3 matchup which is stronger towards the baseline. Instead of using the hoopline as the divider, now there are 2 above the FT line and 3 below. If one of the 3 low players goes above the FT line, the #4 rover carries him above the divider.

I think the problem that most people who play a zone defense is that they just play the spots, they don't even attempt to matchup players. It's the same analogy as football defense, you can't just cover grass, you gotta cover receivers. Same in basketball, you gotta cover players.

For a good video that has a similarly type matchup zone system, check out Flip Saunders' DVD on the 1-2-2 Matchup Zone. Coach Saunders is currently the head coach with the Washington Wizards.

It's definitely the dog days of summer, and I'm trying to get in some reading and came across this great article about Coach Bobby Greco Jr. pursuing his dream to coach football. It's hard enough to coach with all of my faculties in working order, I can't even imagine how to do it from a wheelchair. But that is exactly what Coach Greco does everyday, as an assistant with St. John Fisher College.

Anyways, I was at a Kevin Eastman clinic over the weekend. It was a great clinic, a wonderful opportunity to talk X's and O's and I'm just putting together some notes and stuff from the clinic and to decide what I will post on next. It was a defensive clinic so most probably it will be related to defense. In the meantime, if you have some ideas, feel free to shoot me a message.

Going through clinic notes and instructional video and one big coaching area for 1-on-1 defense is closing out properly. It is something that needs to be coached because players develop all kinds of bad habits naturally which become impossible to correct as they get older.

(MJ vs a young Iverson)

There are of course a bunch of points you can make about the closeout and I've compiled my key points here based on a Lawrence Frank video, but I believe that the more you overload a player, the more they have to think, the less time they have to react and make proper decisions. I like to keep my coaching points to 3-4 so that they actually stick, so here are my 3:

1. Sprint past the lane, then break down. This is a hard one to coach because for each player it will be different. Someone who has great foot quickness can probably break down a couple of feet before the defender, while a bigger player may need 6 feet. I don't think you'll ever be wrong if you sprint to clear the paint area then break down on the ball.

2. Catch the first move, contain the second. The defender must react to the first move of the offensive player. It is a fact of life that at some point during the game as a defender, you will arrive late on a closeout (either you are slow, or the offensive player is quicker). But you must attempt to make a play on the offensive player's first move, which will put you slightly out of position for a fake, in which case you must then work to contain the second move. For example, the offensive player brings the ball up to shoot, you must get your hands up to challenge the shot as nobody else can help on the open shot but you. If it is a shot fake, and the player puts the ball down to penetrate, you will temporarily be compromised defensively, which means you must work to lose some ground to gain back leverage on the penetration, often this also requires help defense from your teammates. Communication is key as always for all team defense.

3. Hands always level with the ball. If the player moves the ball to the shot plateau, you must get your hands up to challenge the shot. You must make the offensive player throw high lob passes to give your teammates a chance at the deflection or at least to recover.

A couple of bad habits I always see:

1. Jumping to block a shot. Players see this on TV all the time and so they want to imitate their favorite players. If you are a big leak out in transition team, maybe this works for you. But another big reason why I don't like it is that players will also jump to block corner 3-pointers, and you get no leak out from those. Now, you've just lost a rebounder and a player on the fast break too. I don't like telling players to "stay down" either, instead I think you just teach them proper close out fundamentals and it should take care of itself.

2. Banana closeout. Players who don't go in a straight line but instead take an arc path to the closeout. Allows the offensive player to simply attack the open side and the defender is never in position to defend. Players must closeout in a straight line to their defender.

Lastly, as I mentioned before, communication is key. Sometimes you'll see 2 players closing out hard on the ball. It will happen in the chaos of ball rotation, players will get crossed up. But the key is that your defenders are in constant communication so that 1 can call the other off and they can recover in time.

For some more great 1-on-1 defensive wisdom, check out Steve Alford's All Access 4-DVD Set. Coach Alford is the head coach at the University of New Mexico. If you have watched any of Alford's stuff, you'll know that he's very passionate about teaching proper 1-on-1 defensive play. Anyways, hope all of your coaches are enjoying their time off, but keep your eyes on the prize.

I went back through all of the posts that I've made so far to this blog (950 if you can believe it) and I didn't find one that talked about stance, specifically defensive stance. Hard to believe I've missed talking about something so fundamental.

Anyways, I was watching our Varsity coach the other day working with some young Gr 8's soon to be playing on the freshmen C team next year (we don't have middle schools in our district so Gr 8 is their first year of high school) and he was making the comment about how the biggest problem kids have when they get to high school is losing what he calls the "elementary stance" and learning the proper athletic stance required to get into proper triple threat and to play proper defense. It's notably characterized by the lack of a butt extension and an arched back.

By contrast, you can see what the athletic stance differs. The butt is extended and the back is straight. You hear some coaches say "bend your knees", but clearly that isn't the problem at all. In the elementary stance, the knees are bent, but the problem is that the back is not straight and it looks like the person has no butt. Get the butt down first, and the knees will take care of themselves.

I've never thought about it much myself, but in watching these Gr 8's, most of them still have it, the dreaded elementary stance. We got to talking afterward and he was telling me that the kids that can figure out the stance as early as possible are the ones that end up doing well in all the sports throughout their high school career, and the ones that are stuck with their "elementary stance" all the way through high school are usually the ones that end up giving up sports or can never breakthrough and become really good.

I don't know if Elementary school PE teachers are teaching these kids the wrong stance, or maybe it's just a natural progression a kid needs to make, but it certainly seems to me that we need to get to these kids earlier. It's amazing to think that something so small as changing a stance can have a major impact in basically all things athletic. I've never really thought about it that much because the athletic stance has always been natural to me, sink your hips and get in your chair, as they say.

So, when you're out there with your freshman, first thing to do is check their stances. If they've still got the elementary stance going on, that's the first thing that's gotta go before you go onto any of the other stuff. For more great 1-on-1 defensive fundamentals, check out D'Em Up fundamentals with Darrick Rizzo. Keep working fellow coaches, remember the summer is the opportunity season.

I promise, this will be my last post on shooting for a while. It's the end of the school year and I was sitting in the gym and watching a coaching friend running practices with his club team getting ready to go down to Seattle next week for a summer tournament. He was doing some shooting drills and he came upon a player that was struggling with her shot. He looked at her hand position and the first thing he said was, "keep that thumb pointed sideways".

After the practice, I asked my coaching friend about this idea of extending the thumb. His logic was that the thumb of the shooting hand needed to be extended further out so that the ball would sit more naturally on the fingertips instead of in the palm.

This got me thinking when I got home. The past couple of weeks, I was helping running a shooter's clinic/camp for the team I will coach with next year, and the coach there said the number one tip for better shooting was to not hyper-extend the thumb. The logic was that if you extend your thumb out, it can drastically affect the way the ball leaves your hand which consequently can lead to a side rotation of the ball. So, I set out to see what I could find online regarding this idea of the thumb position of the shooting hand.

And like my real life experience, 2 veteran coaches both of whom I have great respect for, with completely contrary philosophies on something so fundamental, turns out to be the same when I did my search. I found this article on Basketball BC, a recent one, that talks about extending the thumb, they talk about extending the thumb out far enough so that you can insert a finger in the hole that forms between the thumb and index finger and the ball.

After a little more research, I found this article on BasketballShootingSecret.com which taught exactly the opposite. The separation between the thumb and index finger must not be greater than the separation between the index and middle fingers,

My own personal opinion?? I lean towards not hyper-extending the thumb. My reasoning is a little complex and convoluted but try to follow me. For me it has a lot to do with how I teach throwing a football. When I teach a QB how to throw a tight spiral, I teach the opposite, I teach the throwing hand with a hyper-extended thumb. The reason why I teach that for throwing the football is, by hyper-extending the thumb, when you release the ball, the thumb will naturally close down to your palm and the index finger will pronate downward which gives the football its natural spiral.

So if you translate that spiral motion to a basketball, with the thumb closed down into the palm, and the finger pronated downward, the rotation of the ball will be a sideways spin (think of a football spiral) as opposed to an end over end backwards rotation that we desire in a basketball shot.

I am sure there are plenty of players using both methods, the old adage holds, there are many ways to skin a cat, and indeed there are many ways to shoot a basketball. That is why I love the game, so many nuances, so many different ways that a skill can be taught, and still arrive at the same end goal. I would love to hear thoughts from other coaches out there and what they teach and the justifications of why they teach it that way.

Anyways, have a great long weekend (Canada Day here in Canada, 4th of July for all the Americans out there).

We here it all the time, coaches that will say "that shot is out of your range, shoot within your range." The problem is, most players haven't the slightest clue what their shooting range is. They think that just because their shots can hit the rim, then that is their range.

Most people agree on the following basic statistical thresholds for shooting:

- 50% on 2-pt FG's made is good, anything under 44% is below average
- 33% on 3-pt FG's made is good
- 70% on FT's made is good, anything under 60% is below average

At the shooter's camp I was at this past weekend, we did a drill which helps players determine what their shooting range is. The use of a pilon or cone is optional, but helps to mark where the range is.

Players should start from the baseline block. They take 10 shots total. If they make a basket, they move the pilon back approxiamately 1 step and shoot again. If they miss a basket, they move the pilon forward. You cannot go anymore forward than the block. After 10 shots, leave the pilon there and repeat with the next 4 spots going around the basket to the other baseline block.

Since a player's shooting range will vary as they practice their shot and get better, player's should continually evaluate their range. The purpose for finding out their shooting range is so that in games they know where they can accurately shoot the ball. There is no point to shoot the ball if you are in a spot outside of your range.

For you coaches out there looking for more practice ideas, check out All-Access DeMatha Practice DVDs with head coach Mike Jones and S+C guru Alan Stein.

I think we would all agree that players need both a stride step (also known as a 1-2 step) and a jump stop (also known as a hop step) to get into your shot depending on the situation. For example, for any catch and shoot, you want to use a jump stop. Coming off a ball-screen, you want to dribble off the hip of the defender and step into your shot using a stride step.

But what I'd like to know is what do you all teach to the first time basketball player? What do you want players to use as their default way of getting into their shot, a stride step or a jump stop?

Personally, I've always used a jump stop as my default method of getting into the shot. I've always been a fast dribbler so I've found that getting into a jump stop helps me keep my balance and set my feet before shooting. But I can see how a stride step would be faster than a jump stop, allowing the shooter the get the ball off quicker before the defender can get up and strip the ball or challenge the shot.

Got All My Stuff Back Online

Well, I kept putting it off and putting it off, but with so much going on with teaching and coaching, I really didn't have time until this past weekend to get all my stuff back online. I took at a few different options, but ended up going with Google Docs because it was the easiest and most flexible.

In the end, all my stuff that was on this website ended up being just about 1GB worth, just under Google's space limit for the free version. I have about another 600MB of new stuff that I've downloaded in the past year or 2 but I just haven't processed them all yet. I will upload them later. All the files are arranged in the following links:

Google Docs: All My Basketball Files

Direct Link: FIBA Assist articles

Mediafire: Xavier Newsletters (2005-2010)

The downloads page has also been updated with the same info as above.

Please take some time to talk hoops and contribute to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum. It's been in existence now for almost 5 years and there are some great coaches talking hoops there. A lot of regular contributors who upload notes and files on a regular basis.

Finally, if you are looking for Alan Stein stuff, go ahead and visit his website and email him. Coach Stein is always willing to help out a fellow coach, just ask him.

I will be posting some stuff in the next few days and on the weekend after I work the shooter's clinic. In the meantime, enjoy the notes, and hopefully the sunshine wherever you are...

I know it's been forever since I last posted but the summer break is finally coming and I've finally had more time to reflect professionally on this past season, but also look ahead at what's to come, and I'm absolutely ecstatic to say the least.

I will be helping a Varsity head coach (a legend around these parts) with a shooter's clinic this weekend and next weekend. Shooting is such an important skill at each position that I think it's a great idea to grab all of your players (and players from your area) and spend 2 days just working on technique, which is what we will be doing.

We got talking as we started planning for the weekend and naturally the topic drifted to the NBA finals and the shot form of Dirk Nowitzki,

We talked about some of the good things he does on his shot like his starting position and shooting hand follow-through, and some of his not so good things like his tendency to shoot off one foot and finish off-balance and the finish of his guide-hand.

Obviously, the mechanics are important, getting the ball in the shot pocket, flicking the wrist, ten toes pointed to the basket, proper knee bend, etc... all that good stuff that you and I all teach. It doesn't matter how good your mechanics are, what matters most is what happens to the ball after it leaves your hands. And those 2 fundamentals are:

1. The ball must have the proper arc
2. The ball must have the proper rotation

The reason why the ball must have proper arc is simply a matter of physics. Balls that are shot with a flat trajectory have less surface area with which to get into the rim, and when flat balls do hit the rim they tend to bounce straight off the front, or off the back, as opposed to hitting the rim and falling into the basket.

The reason why the ball must have proper backspin rotation is simple. A ball that has no rotation will not have a consistent arc and is susceptible to change direction mid-flight, much like a knuckle-ball which sinks hard and goes in all kinds of directions. Rotation limits the ability for wind or air resistance to affect the balls natural parabolic trajectory. Backspin is the correct kind of rotation because it creates a soft bounce. You can always tell when a shooter has good rotation because when the ball goes in without touching the rim, it makes that loud "swoosh" sound and the net almost flies back up the rim. It's almost like the basket is a vacuum and sucks the ball down it.

Everything else is just not that important in my opinion. Now, mechanics will dictate for the most part how those 2 fundamentals get accomplished, but I've seen players shoot from the side of their head (ala John Stockton), or from their chest (ala Shawn Marion), and still be very consistent and successful shooters. So long as the ball has the proper arc and rotation, nothing else really matters.

Hope you all had a great time watching the NBA playoffs, I know I did. It was great to see Dirk, J Kidd, and Coach Rick Carlisle win it because they've paid their dues. Patience and sticking with the plan certainly did pay off for Mark Cuban.

I will try to keep updating the blog throughout the summer, I will try to use a more analytical approach, discussing the craft of coaching and what people are doing these days.

For more shooting drills you can use in your practice, take a look at Steve Alford's Shooting Drills DVD. Coach Alford is the head coach at University of New Mexico.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been in charge of running an after school lifting program for football players and I've really gotten into a lot of the strength and conditioning stuff as a result. It got me thinking more about basketball and when players can do in the off-season (if you can call it that anymore) to prepare for in-season. A lot of teams that I see kind of drop off dramatically after the season ends but I think that putting yourself on a program can really help prepare you for the season, and also as a proactive measure to prevent injuries.

If you know me, I'm a big fan of Alan Stein when it comes to S+C. Here is a sample of what they've been doing for their first off-season workouts at DeMatha. I really like the balance stuff, and the heavy ball workouts, very basketball specific:

For the latest at what he's been doing with DeMatha, check out Alan Stein's new 3-DVD set which includes:

* Alan Stein's DeMatha Basketball: Warm-Up & Flexibility
* Alan Stein's DeMatha Basketball: Agility & Conditioning
* Alan Stein's DeMatha Basketball: Strength & Power

I read about DivIII La Roche College head coach Coach Scott Lang and the tragic story of his passing late last year and it nearly broke my heart to read about how he had suffered a heart attack during practice one day and passed away right there in the middle of their court. Here is an update on the story from ESPN showing how the team played out their year and ended up winning their conference title for the first time ever, and honoring their coach along the way. Heartbreaking, but touching at the same time,

Words to live and die by:

"They may be wealthy, but we are rich..."

It's that time of year when coaches get fired and hired all across the country. Today, Texas Tech decided to part ways with Pat Knight. One great quote from Knight that really stuck with me in reading about it today was this one:

"I've proven I can coach. I run a clean program, I don't cheat, my players graduate and we have discipline. So if you don't want me here there's going to be someone else that wants me."

What a great quote. In a situation where all kinds of doubts can be swirling in your head, where you second-guess yourself, your philosophy, whether you are cut out for the profession, it's good to just remind yourself that just because you got fired, doesn't mean that you have no idea what you're doing.

Things don't always work out, but as long as you have integrity and work ethic, there will always be a place for you. That there are indeed things more important than winning, like doing things the right way.

Watching some college basketball yesterday and caught the big BYU win over SDSU lead by BYU guard Jimmer Fredette. When I watched him play, the thing that struck me the most was how composed he always is, he never lets the emotion of the game get to him, he is always in control. When the ESPN analysts talked about Fredette looking for pickup games at the prison to hone his skills back in his hometown, I was intrigued. Here is the ESPN segment that goes into it,

One of the virtues that is undervalued by coaches is mental toughness. I do think it is something that can be developed like any skill. But its harder to develop because in order to be mental tough, you have to be in the position to make mistakes over and over again and then learn from them. It's a painful process, but it's the only way to become stronger.

Jerry Sloan Calls it a Career

Wow, all I can say is WOW. But anyone who has coached for any length of time knows that it's a grind. And to think that Coach Jerry Sloan did it for 1 team for 23 years as a head coach, WOW... definitely will be missed, here was his press conference,

If it weren't for 1 Michael Jordan, Sloan probably wins 2 rings in the 90s. Still unbelievable that Sloan never won the Coach of the Year award.

With so much going on with teaching and coaching at the moment, I haven't nearly had the time to watch as much college basketball as I used to. I was able to catch some games and highlights the other day and this ESPN segment with Doug Gottlieb breaking down Purdue's win over Penn State on a last second BLOB play.

Usually I don't disagree with most of what ESPN puts out there, because they usually have ex-coaches doing the breakdowns. But I think Gottlieb has it wrong here. With Penn State up by only 1-point, I'd rather have one defender down low crowning the basket, protecting the easy layup, rather than having him "up the line" as Gottlieb says to help on the switch who can then help on the shot. Even if Battle had gotten up to the FT-line where Gottlieb is pointing to below, he wouldn't have been in a position to defend the switch or challenge the shot anyways, and would've allowed the inbounder to get great position on the offensive boards,

To me, it was just a missed assignment. What the Penn State defender who got screened should have done was simply switched hard. That should have allowed the screened defender to jump out to challenge the shot or at worst, to force the player to put the ball on the ground and dribble into the help where Battle was in position to defend. Bottom line for me as a coach, if the offense elects to shoot a contested 20-footer, rather than a contested 2-footer, I'm OK with that, I'll take the numbers on that one anytime.

If you're looking for more great ideas for your SLOBs, BLOBs, jumpball stuff, check out Tom Izzo's new DVD on Dead Ball Situations. Coach Izzo is the head coach of the men's basketball team at Michigan State University.

A coaching acquaintance recently passed away and it had me thinking about the lifestyle choices we make as coaches. I don't know about you all out there, but I look around me and I see a lot of my coaching friends (men and women) becoming unhealthier every day. I'm not exactly old, but I think dying of a heart attack in your 40s or 50s is a pretty damn scary prospect, don't you?

Everyone knows that coaching is a time killer, doesn't matter what sport you're involved in. You wake up, work, go from work straight to practice and games and before you know it it's 9-10pm and the only thing open is McDs. But as coaches, we need to take a serious look in the mirror, literally. We need to spend more time thinking about the choices we make everyday. I know that healthy living isn't the easiest switch to make, but it isn't rocket science either. It basically comes down to 2 things: eat less crap, and exercise more.

Anyways, enough of the lecture, I just had to get that off my back as it has been bugging me the last few days. Oh, and the irony of it all isn't lost on me, that as coaches we are supposed to be promoting healthy living through sport.

If you want to read more about coaches and losing weight, read this from Coach B Dud's blog.