Thursday, April 24, 2014

The 2-2-1 Set to Kill the 1-3-1 Zone

During my time in Iowa we ran some 1-3-1 zone looking to give us an edge. We played a team that ran the set look below and it killed our zone. I want to say it was Pella Christian, but not entirely sure. Also not sure that it was out of this exact set but is the basic action they torched us on with some possible counters that I added.

Basic Alignment and Action
The offense starts in a 2-2-1 set, which is a very different look. It works because you have two guys up top and are not kind of forcing the middle guy (X5) to cover two high post guys.

The guard makes the guard to guard pass and cuts to the middle of the lane. If the cutter starts to get in the way of the further action it can become a straight cut to the backside corner. As the other guard (2) catches the ball he immediately throws it into the opposite high post.

As the backside high post (4) catches the ball, the 5 steps across the lane and seals the bottom player. The point sprints to the corner opposite his pass. The 4  immediately takes the ball to the rim. and can either kick it out to the corner, take it himself, or dump off to the 5.

 Opposite High Post Denial Counters
      One of the first things they will try to do is take away that pass by bringing the backside wing over.

If that happens, the counter is for the backside high post (4) to turn and pin screen the backside wing player. The point (1) flairs away and the guard with the ball (2) can either skip it or attack the zone and skip it to 1. As that's happening, 5 steps across and seals the low guy.

So you end up with the point on the wing, hopefully alone with the option to shoot, drive, or dump into the 5.

If they try and drop their top guy to cover the backside, the counter is for the guard with the ball (2) to attack on the catch, which should force the top man (X4) to come out and guard him instead.

 If they try to deny the entry with the middle man (X5) and cover the other high post with the wing (X2) then 2 can dribble at the wing on the catch, forcing the defender to come out and opening up the ball side high post. On the catch 3 can drive it and dump off to 5 or take it himself.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Being a Star in Your Role - As a Coach

Over the last few days I have been exchanging e-mails with an older coach who is frustrated that he's probably not going to get a head coaching job again and is "stuck" being an assistant or JV high school coach. He's understandably disappointed and upset, but is having a hard time letting it go. It reminded me of how important it is to be a "star in your role", especially for COACHES! Sometimes I get frustrated with not having a chance to be a head coach, and this is a great reminder to focus on the task at hand. My job at Tartan is to be the BEST sophomore coach, scout, and statistician that a high school has ever had - nothing more, nothing less. Being a star in your role is a term that Coach Klingsporn used, and I loved. Coach Klingsporn used it when talking to players about embracing their role - don't just do your role, star in it!

As coaches we expect athletes to star in the role they are assigned but many coaches have a hard time being a star in theirs. Coaches want more say as assistants, want a higher job, etc. It's human nature! It's OK to WANT more than you currently have, but it's not ok to not be great where you currently are. I've heard a few coaches criticize their head coaches and I just shake my head.

Kevin Eastman (pictured above and to the right) is Doc Rivers right hand man both during Coach Rivers' successful run with the Celtics and now with the Clippers. Coach Eastman is likely the most famous assistant in the NBA with a ton of great materials. One of the best things I've heard Eastman say on assistants is in the following story. Eastman tells a story about a friend coming to watch him at Celtics' practice. After practice the coach says to Eastman "Why didn't you tell Doc Rivers more? You know what you are doing and could have talked so much more". Eastman's response, "That's not my f****** job". Eastman gets it. His job is to make Doc Rivers look good. I might not be the best role, and he may want to be a head coach, but you can't tell. Kevin Eastman is a star in his role, and a darn good one at that! He's a great example for all assistants and lower level coaches everywhere.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Visualization might sound like some type of new-age junk, but I'm really convinced that it works.
When I was a varsity coach in South Tama, we always played better. We did it a lot at Como Park with the JV as well and I felt that we played well doing it. Visualization is kind of like driving however, you can't just get behind the wheel and go. There are some things you need to know for visualization to work. Below are some thoughts and ideas that will help you teach your players to visualize effectively.

1. Have them visualize process, not results.
   -Some coaches have players visualize winning a game, but why?
    What good does it do to visualize something they can't directly
   -You should have them visualize themselves DOING things
     to help them win the game, making shots, making good
     passes, etc.

2. Have them visualize good starts to the game.
   -Players have a lot of anxiety at the start of a game. As
    coaches you can use visualization to relieve some of
    that anxiety.
   -Have them visualize being calm on the tip, the tip
    happening and several good trips up and down.
   -Have them include simple things like making clean
    catches, making a shot, defense, etc.

3. Use visualization with skill development.
    -Great for skill development is to show them a skill
     have them practice it, then have them visualize how
     they should be doing it, then have them practice
     it again.
    -Visualizing things when they are laying in bed
      at night or sitting on the couch is great too!

4. Have them visualize a situation they struggle with
    and have them visualize it happening right.

5. When they screw up, have them visualize the situation
    where they make the correct decision.
    -If it's in practice, then have them repeat the situation.

Here is a great video from Josh Medcalf on visualization that has a lot of the same points as above.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rule of Ten

I was lucky enough to sit down today and talk hoops with coach John Hedstrom. It was a great conversation and I learned a lot. I reached out to Coach Hedstrom because I was interested in how he runs dribble drive motion. I got some great dribble drive stuff, but also got a lot of great coaching nuggets in general. The most important thing I may have gotten was his "Rule of 10", I rule which I will be using this year.

Coach Hedstrom's Rule of 10 is simple yet powerful. He expects every player in practice to say ten positive things to a teammate during practice. Imagine that, you have 12 players on a team. Each one says ten positive things, that's 120 positive comments during the course of a practice. What do you think THAT would do for team morale? I don't think it could hurt.

This is something I am excited to try this year and I believe it will have positive results.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What I Learned from Coach Errickson

Well, it's been WAY to long since my last post. But that's what happens during the season. Just not enough time in the day to teach, coach, update this etc. But plan on more updates coming now that the high school season has ended and am not doing AAU this year! I'm going to miss coaching AAU because I had a blast last year, but I am also glad that I have some down time to focus on LEARNING the game better. I just want to improve every year.

This year I was lucky enough to be the sophomore coach at Tartan High School under Coach Mark Klingsporn who's a coaching legend here. I learned a ton of stuff from him this year, and those nuggets will be coming in blogs down the road. For my return to the blog, however, I wanted to write some thoughts about what I learned from my assistant coach Art Errickson this season. The fact that Coach Errickson even came to be my assistant is crazy. The guy was a head varsity coach last year and also coached at the college level. He has a high level of knowledge and was way over qualified to help me. We didn't always agree on everything, but having him around definitely made me a much better coach. Below are some important things I learned from him:

1. Shot Selection is Key
    -Everyone says this, but Coach Errickson charted it and constantly preached it
     in games and practice.
    -He charted it in games and used it at half time to reinforce our offensive goals.
    -Reinforced it in practice by making shot selection a rule in our SSGs.
    -Helped us do a great job of getting all our shots either in the paint or kick out threes.
     By the end of the year it was ridiculous.

2. Stats are Powerful Motivators
    -Coach Errickson was good enough to take stats on the bench and use those stats to
     educate our players.
    -Monitored shot selection and used statistics to really help sell our players on the
     "Three or Key" mentality. We had a very good 3pt/FG ratio because of his
     constant use of stats to teach our players. Without the stats our players wouldn't
     have been nearly as good in their shot selection.

3. If you think you are playing enough games in practice, you are wrong.
   -I've always been a fan of small sided games in practice, but Coach Errickson helped
    me take that to the next level.
   -Greatly improved on defense and offense because of the way we used SSGs.
   -Showed me even MORE ways to modify and change SSGs.
   -Also put me onto a "ball clock" that limited how long players could hold
    the ball in practice.

4. I need to run more sets.
    -I don't run enough sets. Luckily coach Errickson showed me some good
     stuff, unfortunately I didn't run it enough.

5. It's vital to check your emotions at times as a coach.
    -I'm an emotional coach and it was great to have a guy with a Sports Psyc Masters
     to remind me to keep my head.

I could go on with several more things, but these are five of the biggest things that I got out of my experience with coach Errickson. I was blessed to have him and couldn't have been luckier!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Best of MBCA Clinic - Part 1

After a month of, trying to get back at it. Had this post in the hopper since the 2nd of Nov. when we had the clinic.

The previous two days for me have been spent at the Minnesota Coaches Association Clinic in Minneapolis. It was a great event, as usual, and I picked up a lot of great information. The speakers where Fred Hoiberg (ISU), Chad Walthall (MN State Moorhead), Steve Bergman (Iowa City West HS), Steve Collins (Madison Memorial HS, WI), Dave Thorson (DeLaSalle High School, MN), and Mike Dunlap (Former Bobcats, St. John's, Metro State), and Richard Pitino (U of M). So overall it was a great clinic lineup. I was very pleased with the number of high school coaches in attendance because I feel that while watching the big boys (college and NBA) is fun, and there are some great things, many things they talk about are not applicable to you in your situation as a high school coach. For example, Coach Pitino talked about pressing and how he recruits a certain kid. Sorry, at the high school level I can't recruit that certain kid - I get what I get! At these clinics it's about getting all the good ideas and using the ones that fit your system anyway, but I would much rather hear from high school guys who are in the same boat I am. With that said, below is the first installment of great things I picked up from the clinic. 

1. Important Statistics that Win
Those of you know know me, know I love statistics (which is funny for how bad I am at math). But a few different coaches brought up some good statistical points over the weekend. 
      -Coach Walthall talked about the 4 things that impact point differential, which is similar
        to Dean Oliver's
        "Four Factors". 
                        1. True FG%
                        2.  FT Attempts (not always makes)
                        3. Total Rebound %
                        4. Turnovers

     -Have to get 3 of 4 in order to assure victory.

2. Math Behind Why You Should Run the Fast Break
Steve Collins, head coach at Madison Memorial HS (WI) talked about some statistics associated with good transition teams and why teams need to run. These statistics come from what he's calculated with his teams and they make sense. Scoring in the break is likely more efficient.
     *Points Per Possession
          -Transition Offense: 1.05 ppg.
          -Half Court Offense: .83 ppg
     *Turn Over %
          -Transition: 14.2% of possessions end in turnovers.
          -Half Court Offense: 17.2% of possessions end in turnovers.
     *Field Goal %
          -Transition: 57.7%
          -Half Court Offense: 44.5%

3. Style of Play
Almost every presenter at the clinic said something about establishing your style of play and having that style of play show up in how you think about practice.

4. Steve Bergman Dominator Game
Iowa City West head coach Steve Bergman gave a great talk. One thing he does in practice is play a dominator game. His JV and varsity practice together with about 18 guys total. He runs a game where the top ten play against the bottom 8. At first it sounds unfair, but the expectation is that the top ten must DOMINATE the game. He sets goals when they are on defense such as not giving up X number of open shots (not even makes), etc. On offense they must score in X amount of time, get X amount of good shots in 10 possessions.

The reason I love this game is that is solves an age old problem. You want your first string to play together, but at the same time if you play regular they win and don't have to play very hard. This makes them play extremely hard and be almost perfect.

5. Coach Thorson's Presentation
Did a great job explaining why his program at DeLaSalle is great. I'll just post his PowerPoint. Great stuff!

6. Mike Dunlap Cutthroat
Coach Dunlap is just great at teaching basketball. He spent an entire two sessions showing how he uses cutthroat to teach basketball. It's something we've adopted this year, with other SSGs, and seen amazing results.

Basically you play 4 on 4 on 4 cutthroat and emphasize that you want. If you want your players to learn how to catch and square to triple threat, show it then play cutthroat where every time they catch the ball they must square up or it's a turnover. Same for defensive emphasis.

Also, he talked a lot about how the NBA is superior in it's ability to space the floor in transition. Hopefully it's something we can work toward.

As always in a clinic there were a lot of other great points and Xs and Os. The above, however, was most likely the most important things that I learned. Best of luck to all of the coaches as we start our seasons, going to be a fun journey!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

3 or Key Mentality

Courtesy of
You hear a lot of coaches talk about the death of the mid range game like it's a bad thing. In my opinion, good riddance!! Ok, I don't feel QUITE like that, but I do favor a "three or key" mentality when running offense. It makes for the most statistical sense to take these types of shots over the mid-range variety. I was first introduced to this concept when reading about Vance Walberg's Dribble Drive and overall philosophy. Being a basketball purist, I thumbed my nose at this at first. But after spending more time researching the ideas I am a complete convert.

The reasoning is simple and it boils down to Points Per Shot. You make shots inside the lane at approximately a 60% rate. You take .6 x 2 and you get 1.2 points per shot. You take a mid range shot and it's about 38% x 2 points or .76 points per shot. When you take a three pointer players make that about 33% of the time on average and it's 3 points for roughly 1.0 points per shot. So as you can see, the best bet is in the layups and three pointers.

What's the worst shot in the game? Well this Tweet by Coach Karius pretty much sums it up...

The pull up jumper is the shot that we DON'T want players taking. It's just not that efficient, especially at the high school level. Many coaches will point to people like LeBron James and other good NBA players who shoot pull ups. My response is twofold: First, look at the stat above for NBA players, imagine the poor shooting at the high school level. Second, if you've got LeBron on your high school team by all means let em fly! Otherwise, stop letting your players settle for mid-range pull up jumpers.

Why not adopt a three or key mentality? I really do think it helps your players to understand shot selection better. It also makes more sense statistically. What do you have to lose?