The Super Bowl is coming up this coming Sunday and one of the coaches roaming the sidelines will be Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. I've long looked up to Belichick and have done a lot of research as to what makes him so good at what he does. And one of the aspects of coaching he is most known for is situational practices. The idea that clutch situations are won and lost by those who are the most prepared. Confidence is gained by those who eliminate the unknown. Do your players know what to do in every critical situation that presents itself?

Like many of you out there, playoff basketball looms on the horizon, and we are always looking for that extra competitive edge. One of those in my opinion is to come up with and have players go through critical situations in practice. When I draw out my practice plan, I come up with a scenario: say starting unit vs 2nd unit, starters down by 4, 1 minute left, both teams in bonus. Most of the time, the players screw it up, and then you have to back it up and scheme it out for them, for example, down 4, we don't need to take a quick 3 pointer, lets work for an easier 2 pointer because it is a 2 possession game anyways.

I try to come up with scenarios to practice. Here are some I've used and plan to use this season:

- Up 3, 30 secs, other team has the ball at their own baseline.
- 5 secs on shot clock, 20 secs left on the game clock, down by 1, other team has the ball on your baseline.
- Down 10, 4 minutes to go, after 2 minutes, tell them starting point guard has fouled out.
- Up 5, 1 minute to go, every offensive rebound given up is an automatic score.
- Up 3, 3 secs to go, shooting 1 FT.
- Down 1, 5 secs to go, other team just scored.

"You just never know what set of plays [will determine the winner] this week and what situations are going to be the key situations in this game or any other game in the future. You just try to cover all your bases on that stuff and react to [situations] as they come along." -- Bill Belichick.

For some more situational ideas, check out Coach Morgan Wooten's DVD on Coaching to Win in Special Situations. Coach Wooten is the winningest high school coach in the history of basketball.

One of the things I haven't talked that much about overall on this blog has been how to prepare and plan practices. As an assistant the past 6 years or so, I haven't had to really think too much about it, as the head coach was the one responsible for putting it all together, I just did whatever the head coach wanted me to do.

Probably the most important part of being a head coach is how you put your practices together. For me, I find that it is important that practices start out with something where the players really need to focus and concentrate, to set the right tone for the rest of the practice. Because, I seen it where if you start off practice on the wrong track, it's extremely hard to get the players back on track.

I've used a bunch of different drills. I like doing 2 ball dribbling or tennis ball drills, as it forces players to really concentrate on the task (or they lose their ball). I also like doing team passing as again, it forces players to concentrate hard on the task, or they mess it up for everyone else. I've used this 4 corners passing drill from Bobby Knight before as well:

The real key to running any of these drills is coaching the details. If a player makes a mistake, stop and correct it right away. Now, you can argue that these drills aren't very game relevant, Hubie Brown's philosophy is that you never do anything in practice that you won't use in a game. I agree to some extent, but mental concentration is a skill that is highly relevant, and cannot always be practiced in a "game-like" scenario. I explain to players that what I'm looking for in them right now is whether they can maintain focus and discipline to do it right, because in the game the players have to maintain the same focus and discipline to help and recover on defense, or to break the other team's press.

Anyways, hopefully that gives you all some ideas on starting out your practices the right way. The season is just about halfway done. We've been adding a couple of wrinkles here and there, but basically from here on out, it's all about execution and attention to the details.