Sunday, October 30, 2011

Using Cornell Notes at Clinics

This weekend was spent at the Minnesota Basketball Coach's Association Clinic. It was a very good clinic with a lot of great speakers such as Don Meyer, Alan Stein,Vance Walberg, Ken Novak (Hopkins HS, MN), Carl Pierson (Politics of Coaching Author), Dave Cresap (Perham HS, MN), and Lynn Frederick (Brookings HS, SD). Actually got to spend two hours with Coach Walberg after the clinic at the social, got a lots of ideas. Great stuff from all of these speakers and I really enjoyed my time. It's always nice to see the coaches from across the state that I've gotten to know over the years, we really have a solid group of high school coaches in Minnesota at all levels.

When listening to Coach Meyer, something he talked about was using Cornell Notes at clinics. Cornell Notes are a style of note taking where you have 2/3 of the page devoted to notes, 1/3 of the page devoted to your thoughts/ideas and the bottom of the page is devoted to your summary of the notes that you got. To the right is a simple example of Cornell notes.

Of course I started to use the technique after he mentioned it. I found it to be very helpful - especially after the clinic was over. It allows me to jot down thoughts that I might forget later. For example, if I find an idea I like I will note that in the column. I will also jot things I don't agree with as well as where/how I will incorporate that into our program. It made the clinic much better because I was engaged in the process. I was constantly thinking of how/when/where I was going to use the information and if it lined up with my philosophy or not. If I had or hadn't done this in the past and if I should be doing it. Below is an example of one page of notes that I took from Coach Meyer. As you can see I now have more of my thoughts and feelings on the page than I would have just taking the notes. Likely, I would have had the thoughts but would have quickly forgotten them.

I would highly encourage you to use Cornell Notes at your next clinic - I guarantee you that you'll get more out of it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Classic Example of Real Life Moneyball

After writing the last post I started to think about some real life examples where production was overlooked and players were undervalued - real life Moneyball Players. The prime example of this is a player named Bryce Tesdahl who plays for Bemidji State University - he's one of the ultimate examples of a "Moneyball Player".

Bryce is from Crosby-Ironton High School and now plays at Bemidji State University. Coming out of high school these were some of his accomplishments:
  • Four year starter
  • Almost 2000 points for his career 
  • 17 ppg as a senior 
  • Almost double digit rebounds per game as a senior
  • 32-1 team record and a second place finish at the MN State Tournament
  • Set the Minnesota single season record for assists in a season as a senior
  • Set the Minnesota State Tournament record for assists as a senior
  • All-State Second Team 
  • MN State Tournament All Tournament team 
  • Area Player of the Year
Even with all of the above honors/accomplishments during his high school career (and being a high character player), he was not heavily recruited by a single NCAA Division II school. Bemidji State (Bemidji, MN) did give a chance to come and play after watching his team in the playoffs as a senior. The knock was that he was too slow and was not a good enough shooter to compete at the Division II level. His shot looked a little funny, but it did go in. Below is what Bryce has done in his three years at Bemidji State:
  • Three year starter
  • Three year leader in assists for BSU
  • Is already BSU's all-time leader in assists after his junior year
  • 9th nationally in assists as a junior. 
  • 28th nationally in free throw percentage with 86% (103/119)
  • Named Academic All-NSIC Team member and to the NABC Honors Court as a junior.
  • Junior Stats
    • 9.5ppg, 6.0apg, 3.8rpg, 41% three point percentage, 75% free throw percentage
    • 1.75 assist to turnover ratio
  • Sophomore Stats
    • 10.3ppg, 5apg, 5rpg, 86% free throw percentage, 37% three point percentage
  • Freshmen Stats
    • 6.8ppg, 3.7apg, 3.7rpg, 31% three point percentage, 74% free throw percentage
At this point, most NSIC teams that didn't recruit Bryce would love to have him on the roster.  Unfortunately Bemidji State got him and got a steal! They were the ones that overlooked the eye test and looked at the production they could get out of him - and it paid off!

Are there any Moneyball Players in your program??

Moneyball for Basketball?

My wife and I went to the movies on Thursday night and saw Moneyball. It's a really good baseball movie, but of course it also got me thinking about basketball. The movie highlights the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A's in the early part of the decade. Oakland had been getting pilfered of all it's good players by the "big boys" from New York and Boston so it decided to use a different strategy to build a team. Instead of looking at the "players" they put on the field they looked at the "numbers" that the players brought. They used sabermetrics, a mathematical formula that rates players purely on production, not on the "eye test". They signed and played players that traditionally may not have played because they couldn't play their "normal" position or their mechanics were funny. It also then takes into account how many of these statistics (hits, runs, on base %) you will need to win X number of games. It then uses a formula to calculate, based on the production you have, about how may games you can win.  This formula comes from the writings of baseball stat man Bill James. James bucked the old system of scouting (using the eye test) and favored just looking at the cold, hard data. In the movie his system allowed the A's to target several baseball players that were severely underpaid/undervalued, but had high production.

So what does ANY of this have to do with basketball? Well, I am very intrigued by the concept of just putting production on the floor - even if it isn't pretty or doesn't fit the classic position it is playing.

After I made that statement, all of you out there likely rolled your eyes and said some form of "tell me something I don't know!" But how many times have you seen the following scenarios play out:

  • A team plays their 6-6 post because he's the tallest player, but they have a 5-10 kid on the bench who would actually get more rebounds and be more physical on defense? We play the big kid because he could produce more, not because he actually does. 

  • How many times have you heard a coach say a kid can't shoot because his shot is ugly even though he can make a high percentage of his 3s? We judge the player by the eye test, not by his production. 

  • How many coaches have played their most athletic kid even when he doesn't produce? We play him because of what he could do.  

  •  How many teams play one of their best players even when he's having a terrible night and tanking the team? We play him because he should  be doing better but isn't.

I can readily admit to being guilty of all of the above! As I've gotten more experience I've become better at playing production, but still get caught in these traps. I think we all do from time to time. Our thinking always says "that player should give us _______".  Instead we need to be thinking in terms of "that player actually gives us ______".

Now, I will say that there are a lot of coaches that do it right - play their most productive players - but I also think that sometimes we love to play players based on potential. I know that I do. For instance, and I've done this, a player has a really nice looking jump shot so I encourage him to keep shooting in a game because I feel that he's going to catch fire. In my experience this usually doesn't happen, if he was a shooter they'd be going in. Someday he'll probably develop into a great shooter, but not now. In this situation we need to play him based on his production - which is not as a three point shooter.

Moneyball is also about finding players who can be successful filling given roles, not just putting the best five on the floor (again, another "NO DUH!" statement).  Who's going to rebound for you, get the extra one or two 50/50 balls a game, who's going to be a defensive stopper, who's going to be your extra zone-busting shooter against a 2-3 zone? Finding the situations to maximize production of your players - and knowing which situations they will be productive - is the key. We all know this, but do we all do it every time? It's about looking at where you need the production and figuring out who can best fill that role on your team. Sometimes the answer is going to surprise you.

Jerry Tarkanian was a master of this during his run at UNLV. Many times his teams were made up of players who were great in one or two areas and terrible at the rest. He was able to put them in position to maximize their potential and maximize their production for the team in their given area. They spent the most time in situations where they could be great.

Phil Jackson is also great at using the most productive players. Do you think that Steve Kerr was the best athlete that Jackson could have put at the point for the Bulls? Of course not, but he was the most productive player with his ability to shoot when they doubled Jordan. He was the most productive point the Bulls could have had.

Basketball does differ from baseball in one big way - it's more of a team game than baseball is. In baseball if you hate your second basemen it doesn't affect your ability to hit and throw, but in basketball if you hate your center you might not pass him the ball. So chemistry does factor into the combinations you put on the floor.

The Moneyball theory doesn't amount to you totally shaking up your roster, 90% of the players on the floor are the ones who should be there. Unlocking the hidden or underutilized production on your roster is what the Moneyball theory about. Finding guys who can give you statistics that you need to win and playing the guys that give you the most production - not the most potential. I haven't told you anything you don't already know, but hopefully it has you re-examine your team and the production levels of your guys. It will have my looking just a little bit differently at our squad this year.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Four Most Important Words in Coaching

I was lucky enough to attend the coaching clinic in Thief River Falls (MN) that featured Kevin Eastman. As usually, he was absolutely amazing. I got over twenty pages of notes from Coach Eastman alone, but something that really stuck out with me was the following statement he made:
The four most important words in coaching are "Shit, this ain't working!".

Again, reflecting on my year in South Tama I think this phrase is one that I used quite often! It's also one that I think is important for any coach - you have to be able to admit to yourself that what you are doing isn't working. You need to be constantly analyzing what isn't working, and more importantly you have to figure out why. There are a lot of coaches who will stick with the same thing even if it's gone far south.

Now I'm not saying if your motion isn't working that you go to the flex! What I am saying is that you need to admit what you are doing isn't working and figure out how to tweak it to make it work. For example, in my year at South Tama, I tired to start teaching the motion by teaching the drive and kick aspect first. I quickly discovered that action was not what fit the players. So instead I started to teach pass and cut, backdoor, and screening actions. I didn't abandon the motion offense, but I did abandon the motion concepts I was trying to teach.

Outside the Box Ideas

It's been awhile since I posted last, just had one of those stretches. Saw a good clinic by Kevin Eastman up in Thief River Falls (MN) and been doing a lot of reading. Currently trying desperately to finish Tony Dungy's book "The Mentor Leader" which I got from Christmas last year from Coach Leisener. It's a great book, almost done, but just been slow to finish it.

I was watching some old tape of my year at South Tama County with my buddy Amis MacKenzie who's the JV coach at Little Fork High School. Reflecting back on the season (as painful as it still is), I did think about some of the outside the box ideas we used that year. They didn't result in a whole lot of wins obviously, but they were interesting none the less. Below I'll give you my two best outside the box ideas from my wild year with the STC Trojans.

Stick and Three
Got this idea from a junior college coach in Iowa. He would go man to man on the three best players on the team and leave the other two players on the blocks or high low to clog the lane.

We used this defense when we played Norwalk, who was ranked #1 in the state at the time. We ended up losing by 20+, but were down 6 in the fourth quarter if my memory serves me correctly. They had a super point guard and two big studs (6-5 kid and a 6-8 D1 kid) inside. So we denied the point all over and played man to man on the bigs fronting them wherever they went. The other two guys played in the lane and took away the drive for the point guard and the lobs to the post. Eventually we ended up taking the second person on the stick and doubling the point when he touched the ball and recovering to the lane after the pass. The other players on the team were so shocked to be open that they didn't hurt us for most of the game.

Not Jumping for the Jump Ball
We were very undersized and there were not a lot of jump balls we were going to win. So what we started doing was having our PG jump and instead of actually jumping for the ball he would try to read the tip and run out to grab it. If he didn't get it, we would trap the player who did get it. We played a defensive jump and forced them to tip it behind. Twice our point actually stole the ball and we got a layup out of the deal. Not a game changer, but something different and interesting to try and steal momentum.

Overall, I think when you are struggling you have to try some things that are a little outside the box to gain any advantage that you can. They might not always make a difference between wins and losses, but all it takes is that one close game for them to make the difference.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do You Need a Permanent Post In Your Offense?

Something caught my eye on the X's and Os of Basketball message board recently. One of the coaches posted something to the effect of all good offense must have a permanent post player. His point was that 3-out or 4-out is far superior to a 5-out because the five out lacks a post in the middle. I completely disagree with this statement. The five out allows you greater flexibility in your post game and allows your post players to be harder to guard. I will outline my argument below.

1. Five out allows you to play everyone in the post and exploit match ups.
With the five out, any player with a good match up in the post can cut to the basket and post up on the block to take advantage. Your point guard might have a small defender on him and in a 3 out it's hard to be able to duck him in and look to hit him on the post up. In a five out however it's a simple part of the offense: pass-basket cut- post up. You can also use it to attack a star perimeter player who really doesn't want to play defense that hard. It's easy if he stays on the perimeter, he can sag off a little and has help, but if he's being aggressively posted up it takes him out of his comfort zone. It also has the potential to cause him to foul. This type of spacing allows any player on the floor to be a post threat at any time.  

2. Five out allows you to be flexible with how your post player gets touches, it's easy to guard someone standing in the lane.
In the 3 and 4 out your post is basically block to block or block, to high post, to block. This is fine but it becomes pretty easy to guard a player that is inside, especially with the help defenders added in a 3 out. It's harder for a defender to defend the post when the post is curl cutting off a screen, screening and then diving to the rim, backscreening and shaping to the high post, passing and cutting, backdoor cutting, etc. Guarding all those actions becomes a much more difficult task that guarding a player standing on the block.
Something we did at St. Croix Prep was have our "post" players hold for a pass or two if they were being fronted on the initial cut. It gave us high low and seal looks you would get in a four out.

3. Having permanent post players (especially 3-out) clogs up the lane for cutters and drivers.
I am just not sure how your perimeter players are expected to score inside in a 3 out. Watch teams that play a 3 out or a high low motion. The guards cut behind the posts so the post and their defenders block the pass to the cutter. When they screen it's a straight cut and the screener flairs out. What you end up with is passing the ball back and fourth around the perimeter and not really looking to attack. It's much better with the four out, but that post is still there - although it opens the floor for drive and dump, it still makes it harder to pass and cut cleanly.

4. It allows you to train your players to be complete players.
I am a huge fan of the European approach to skill development. Bigs should be able to dribble, pass, and shoot and guards should know their away around the block. Everyone should do everything. It allows you to be more flexible in your attack and really key in on mismatches. Even Michael Jordan, a great perimeter player, had a post up game when he needed it. How deadly was Charles Barkley? Put your power forward on him Barkley is taking him to the rack and shooting threes over him. Put your guard on him and he’s taking him inside and posting him up. Same with Bird, Magic, etc.  Playing a five out allows you to develop players in this fashion.

5. It allows you to play your more skilled and effective players, not put a player on the floor to fill a position.
How many times have you seen a team that plays a less skilled/talented player at the 5 because he's bigger while at the same time there may be a shorter player on the bench who plays the "4"? This player may be more effective in the game (even rebounding and defense) but they don't start him because he's not a "five". Why not play the more effective player? The five out allows you to put your best talent on the floor.
Also, I've seen teams with skilled bigs who can pass and shoot that get stuck on the block because they are tall. Once saw a kid on the block who was 6-6 but could shoot well from the perimeter - why not put him out there, draw the defense, and open up your game?!

6. It allows an undersized post player to compete and thrive.
If I had a legitimate, dominant post player who was 6-9+ I would be  playing a 4 out. But most of us are not blessed with these players on a regular basis – if ever. Our players are undersized post players. When I was in Iowa my tallest starter was 6-2 and was our best overall player - could pass, shoot, dribble. If I ran a 3 our 4 out he would be in the post - but why?! As good as he was I doubt he would consistently win many battles against the 6-5 to 6-8 post players we faced on a nightly basis. In the five out he could cut in and post from time to time but also had the luxury of taking the bigger, slower player he was facing off the bounce or shooting when they played off of him.
Gives offensive players a better chance at an offensive rebound as well because they have more space to evade the block out. It’s harder to block out a perimeter player than a player on the block.
Your undersized post player has a better chance of getting the ball by cutting PAST a bigger defender to the basket than he does standing and battling it out on the block. Cutting also allows him to get the position he wants.

7. It stretches your help.
Like it or not, no matter how much we drill, most high school players are mediocre help defenders at best. Playing a five out, players naturally hug their man a little bit tighter. For instance, the ball is on the right wing. The player guarding the left corner man will be on the block, not mid lane like good help. If that player was on the block, there is a better chance they'd be comfortable enough to play mid-lane they feel more comfortable selling out with their man closer to them. The stretched help defender allows your cutters to cut in front of the help when they cut to the rim - not into it or behind the help. It also makes the defense one step slower helping on the drive.

8. It makes an opponent's defender play out of position.
In high school basketball, many 5s are that traditional football player, usually a lineman - big, bulky, slow. The type of player who is used to throwing his weight around under the rim. Why not bring him outside? Make him defend cutters, defend the drive, defend screens, and have to actually find a guy, sprint at him, and box him out? It's harder to rebound when guarding a perimeter player - especially when you have to sprint from the help position. Making that big play on the perimeter takes him out of his element and makes him do things he is not comfortable with - and frankly may not be able to do.

In closing, I'm not saying that the 4 our 3 out is a bad thing - although I've become much less of a fan of three out over the years for spacing reasons. What I merely saying is that you don't need to have a post in the traditional sense of the word to be successful. In fact

Friday, August 12, 2011

Just finished up reading "The Jordan Rules" by Sam Smith. Yea, yea, I know, I'm about two decades behind on this one! It's a well written book about the Chicago Bulls first title run with Michael and the Jordaires, as the rest of the team is called. Not only is it a good read from a basketball fan's standpoint, it also provided some good coaching insight. I've thrown some of the highlights in below.
What I found so interesting was how dysfunctional the team actually was for almost the entire year. Jordan didn't trust his teammates, they didn't trust him. No one was holding the others accountable. All the players were worried about themselves. They exhibited every single dysfunction in "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team"!! Everyone hated their playing time. Everyone hated their contracts. Everyone hated Jackson. Everyone hated the management for their contracts and the management's relentless pursuit of Toni Kukoc who they had already anointed the next star. They fought and cursed each other out on a regular basis. The locker room was full of gossip and behind the back complaints. It was complete madness most of the season.

Considering the dysfunction, you would think they would have had a season similar to my Timberwolves last year, but they somehow managed to win a NBA Championship. What happened? Well several things happened. First, they had the talent. They were winning games because they had the best player of all time, they also had Pippen who is one of the best of all time, they had guys like Grand and Cartwright to do the dirty work, and they had some guys like Paxson who could shoot from the outside and stretch the defense. They also had some stretches where they were fortunate to play injury plagued teams. So while they were wrought with dysfunction the cream still rose to the top against a lot of the bad teams during the regular season. But it all seemed to change in the playoffs.

They started to come together at the right time, for several reasons. First and foremost, what really stuck out to me was Coach Jackson began to mandate that Jordan start buying into the team concept. He was public with it, at times subtle and at times really up front. He started calling Jordan out for his play. What this did was gave the other players on the team a feeling of respect for Jackson. It also made them feel that they were part of a team not supporting actors in "The Jordan Show". I really think that once Jackson called out Jordan it forced Michael to buy into what was going on - and respect Jackson for it. Jordan, like every superstar, wants the discipline and wants to be coached I believe. They all need to be held accountable. Many coaches, including Phil Jackson himself in the beginning, (and including myself when I was a rookie at South Tama) are sometimes scared to hold that star accountable. We don't want them to quit or mutiny because we are afraid we will loose credibility and loose the team. The truth is, if a star is out of control, the star knows it, the other players know it, and everyone really wants the situation to be fixed by the coach. If this doesn't happen players start to really get frustrated.

Also, it was crazy to see how much Jordan matured himself during the season - he started to become a winner almost overnight. He started to figure out what it took to be a champion and ran with it. He started to trust his teammate he started to find his open teammates, frankly he started to trust his teammates more. At the beginning, Jordan wouldn't pass to ANYONE almost anytime, and especially not in the crunch. By the end of the book he's hitting Paxson for three after three against the Lakers. The development of Jordan in this book really impressed me.

I think this would be a great book to pass along to your "star" that really doesn't get the team concept. I think it would open his eyes to the issues his behavior is causing and what he could become if he buys in and figures it out. I know from now on I'm going to have a couple of extra copies on hand. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teaching Players How to Dive on the Floor

All of us as coaches become quite frustrated when players refuse to dive on the floor for a lose ball because we all know how much those 50/50 balls matter in a close game. It also infuriates us because it shows that we are soft and that's something we just can't tolerate. Having a team that gets on the floor and plays physical gives you a distinct advantage. I coached a freshmen team in Bagley (MN) that started the year 0-12 and we wouldn't get on the floor for a ball, ever. But as time went we started  really getting on the floor hard and we finished the year 6-2. Was it all because of the loose balls, of course not! Some things started to come together. But I believe on of the things that came together was our "screw you" mentality. We were going to be the aggressors and we were going to out-physical you every chance we got.
With that said, I think sometimes players don't go to the floor because they don't know how to do it or it's not a habit for them. Sometimes I also think players are scared of getting hurt and need assistance overcoming that fear. Below are some ideas on how to build the habits and also the way that I teach going for a lose ball in order to hopefully prevent injury.

Building the Habits
Building proper habits for loose balls essentially boils down to doing two things - emphasizing it and rewarding it.
Emphasizing It:
1. Have it subconsciously be a part of every drill in practice.
     You don't need to do 10 loose ball drills a week for this to kick in, in my opinion. Loose ball drills are only something you run to start the year, or as a fun change up mid to late season. Their only real purpose is to get players over their fear of going for the ball. After that anytime there is a loose ball in a drill, in ANY drill for that matter, players need to dive on it. Even if a player fumbles the ball while passing it around in shell drill players need to sprint over and dive on it. This creates
2. Chart It In Games
     Kevin Eastman of the Boston Celtics (who you need to follow if you already don't), has a saying that goes something like: if you want to make things important to your players you need to chart it and stat it. He's exactly right. If you want players to dive on the floor for loose balls you need to keep it as a stat from your games. I think it would be relevant to keep attempts instead of balls gotten (you can keep both however), only because you want to highlight the effort that each player is putting in to get loose balls. It's also a stat that your least talented player can have a chance to excel at.

Along these lines, a great video for toughness is Tim Miles DVD "Creating a Culture of Toughness" and look into his GATA (Get After Their Ass) scoring system. It's a great way to integrate toughness into your program. It's a DVD that I watch every year before the season starts just to pick up a new thing or two and also re-affirm some old ideas.

Rewarding It:
     Rewarding it goes hand in hand with emphasizing it. You can chart it, stat it, and have it in practice all you want, but the thing that will get you farther with players is to positively acknowledge it when it takes place.
     In many of the practices I have been to, coaches find a way to give players positive feedback when the dive on the floor. It can be as simple as telling them good job, having everyone clap for them, etc. Another thing I have seen at practices for loose balls (and charges) that I really like is when it takes place the entire team sprints over, cheering, and pulls their teammate up. I don't know that there is a better reward.
     To emphasize it in a game you can simply have it as a category on your stat board and talk about it with your team. For example, "We only got 3 dives last game and we lost by 2, imagine if we would have gotten 2 more 50/50 balls that might have been the difference in the game" or "Jimmy, you did a great job last game getting on the floor 5 times, that's the kind of effort we need from you". If you want to go deeper with that you can give locker stickers for dives, among other stats. Either way, just doing some small thing to acknowledge the dive goes a long way.

Teaching the Form
     When teaching the form there are a few key points I like to make.
          1.The first is to dive at the earliest possible spot you can get the ball. No sense in waiting until the last moment - after someone else has started their dive.
          2. Leading with your shoulder is another important point. All players want to lead with their head, but I teach them to go shoulder first to prevent injury.
          3. Slide on your side is another key phrase I use. Have the players slide on their hip, it helps to turn the body and lead with the shoulder. I don't want guys landing on the palms of their hands either - sure way to break a hand or wrist. Side should hit first, then shoulder while the arms reach out.

All in all I think loose balls are an easy thing to have players do - once they become habit. We can stand and yell and stomp our feet on the sidelines over yet another missed opportunity - but what we really need to be doing is asking ourselves have we taught and emphasized the loose balls enough to be able to be angry at our players for it?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Using Progression within Your Drills

Progressions within drills are something I have been toying with for a few years but really started exploring this summer. Although the Czar may not agree with me, it's something I have become a fan of lately and will continue using.

When I talk about progression within drills I am talking about a build up of sorts. Start with one skill and just and and build on that skill. For a great progression you need to start with one breakdown drill and build to live play. Each drill should emphasize the concepts from the one before as well as the live play after that.

One of my favorite times to use progressions is when teaching on ball defense using the series below. It's definatley not the only time, you can do this when teaching anything from an offensive move (crossover vs. cone, crossover vs. dummy defender, crossover vs. live defender) to team defense (shell, shell with cuts, shell with cuts and drive, shell into live).

1. Mass Stance (2-3 Min)
-Typical defensive stance drill. Players in lines, facing the coach at half court. Coach calls "stance!" players slap the floor, yell defense and get into a stance. After 2-3x of that (checking the stance) the coach has them chop feet and slide in a direction.
-Emphasize the proper stance

2. Partner Close Out (3 min)
-Groups of two with one ball. Player 1 passes to player 2 and closes out into a good defensive stance. Player 2 rips and pivots while the defender mirrors the ball. The defender (1) uses the verbal ball. Defender slides back and offense (2) passes to defense (1) and becomes defense.
-Emphasize the proper stance, proper closeout (sprint, drop, chop, high hands), and verbals (BALL)

3. Partner Close Out Cut Off (3-4 Min)
-Same groups, same situation as above. This time the offense catches and rips twice. The offense takes 2 dribbles, the defender now bounces back and cuts off the dribble. Use the verbal BALL on the closeout and DEAD on the pick up.
-Emphasize the proper stance, proper closeout, bounce and cut, and verbals (ball and dead).

4A. Iowa 1 on 1 (5-6 Min)
-Group of 2-4 at a basket with one ball. One defender starts under the basket with the ball, one offense starts at the free throw line. The rest of the players are in a line above the top of the key. The defender tosses the ball to the offenses, closes out, and they play 1 on 1. The offense has 3 dribbles max and cannot go outside the lane lines. If the offense scores they go to defense. If the defense gets a stop they stay. Players get 1 point for every stop - losers have pushups. The defender now must work on closing out, being in a stance, bouncing and cutting, and verbals now in a live one on one situation.
-Emphasize proper stance, proper closeout, bounce and cut, and verbals.

4B. 2 on 2 1 Side Drive (6-8 Min)
-Groups of 2, one defense one offense. Offense starts at the wings and has to catch the ball from the wing outside the three on the pass. Defense starts at the rim but is matched with an offensive player. Coach (or player that is out) throws the ball to one of the offensive players, that defender closes out and they play with the other defender as help. The offense tries to score, if the drive is shut down they pass to their partner on the opposite wing. Other defender closes out and plays 1 on 1 on that side with help. Switch every time,keep track of spots for points. Losers have pushups. Just like Iowa we are in a live situation using our skills.
-Emphasize proper stance, proper closeout, bounce and cut, and verbals

5. 3 on 3 Drive (5-8 Min)
-Players play 3 on 3, the offense has to drive and the defense works on closing out, being in a stance, bouncing and cutting, etc.
-Emphasize proper stance, proper closeout, bounce and cut, and verbals

6. 5 on 5 On Ball (6-10 Min)
-Play 5 on 5, the ONLY thing you watch as a coach, and emphasize, is the on ball defense - are they closing out, being in a stance, talking, etc.

Something I think is important is to share with your players the importance of the build up - something I didn't do a great job on this spring. Explain how one drill translates to the next and so on is important. Make sure you go over the emphasis, use the same terms, etc. This is a great way to get things to translate to the game. It's not just a drill followed by another, seemingly unrelated (in a teenager's mind) drill. It's a series where you are working on them in differing situations - really making their brain work and turn the skills into habits.

Have been reading a lot of Brian McCormick lately and he does a great job of talking about this kind of thing as well - teaching players how to play and developing habits with small sided games. One of things I like from him, and is applicable here, is the idea of play more and drill less. Do the breakdown drills quick, then have them play and watch what is happening. Which skill in this are they not getting? Is it a matter of form or practice (forming the habit)? If it's practice play if it's form do a breakdown drill again. After they play, run a quick breakdown drill based on the skill they are missing and have them play again. Kind of goes with what I did in Iowa with the 1 or 2 minute games. Play a few quick games, drill what we lacked, and come back to it.

Book Recommendation: The Politics of Coaching by Carl Pierson

One of the girls basketball coaches at St. Croix Prep recommended this book to me. It arrived in the mail on Friday and it was finished this morning. It is a book I would call a must have for coaches - especially young coaches such as myself. The book covers many of the political challenges we as coaches face - even some of the touchy ones most people don't want to talk about - and we don't even want to think about. Some of the material is controversial, but it does get you thinking about the content and what you would do in a given situation.
It's written by Carl Pierson who was, until this year, a very successful girls coach at Champlin Park High School (MN) and Red Wing (MN) among other places. Pierson uses many real life situations he was in, how he dealt with them (good or bad), and what, if anything, he would have done differently. He also pulls in real life situations from his many coaching friends. The real world scenarios really help to make the book readable; it makes it come to life. He's got a very political mind and he talks about his thought process in different situations. The book covers everything from how to get a job (the campaign) to public relations moves, to dealing with program cancer, and so on.

I am not what you would call political. So this book was a great resource to get me thinking that way. I really feel it would have helped during my one year stint in Iowa, but better late than never. I have included the website below, and just to clarify I do not get anything for putting this up - just trying to pass the word along.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Reggie Miller Was So Hard to Guard

I was watching random highlight videos tonight and happened to come upon this clip of Kobe Bryant answering the question of who he found the hardest to guard. His answer was former Pacer great Reggie Miller.

This was surprising on one hand and completely understandable on the other. You may have guessed that Kobe would have given a cliche answer like Jordan, Wade, etc. But I think his answer is very perceptive and spot on. Why? Because Reggie was a scorer who didn't need the ball in his hand to score. Many greats like Jordan have the ball in their hands when they do their scoring. In this situation you have help from your teammates and you only have to worry about your man. With Reggie you had to worry about the ball AND Reggie, you also didn't have help as he had that lightning fast release. As the clip below shows, Reggie was a master of moving without the ball. He was always in motion and he knew how to slow down, read his defender, and make the right cut off of any screen.

One of my favorite drills is the "Reggie Miller Drill", it's based on his skills of staying in motion and using the screens properly. For the drill, you need a passer (1), a shooter (2), and a rebounder (3). You also need chairs/cones out on the floor to represent screeners and use two balls - you can tailor the screens to fit your offense if you choose. The shooter runs around for 90 seconds making different cuts off the different screens at different angles. The point of the drill is to see how many shots you can make in 90 seconds. Rebounder passes to the passer who hits the shooter for the shot. Pretty simple drill but it gets fun when they start to compete. It also trains them to just keep moving and keep coming off of screens - just like Reggie Miller used to. Make sure the players catch low, play low to high, get their feet set and square.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Always Bring the Energy and the Passion

Watching one of Jerry Petitgoue's videos - what I am always impressed with when watching Coach Petitgoue is the energy and passion that he still has after over 30 years of coaching. It's that passion and energy that makes him great - it's contagious. It's also a great reminder to young coaches like myself that no matter how experienced you are, there is no substitute for passion!

Offensive Rebounding

I was reading the X's & O's of Basketball message board (great message board) and someone was asking the question about offensive rebounding options. There were some good answers and it got me thinking. Coaches have tons of ideas for offense, defense, transition, etc, but we don't do a lot with offensive rebounding - it's pretty vanilla. We either throw a lot of guys (3-5) at the glass like Tom Izzo does or we go Dick Bennett style and everyone starts to run back when it LOOKS like we are going to shoot to protect the rim. Below are two different ideas that might work for you along with sending alot or sending a few.

1. Crash guards only (or short players)
-So many times the guards are the first ones back - but why? Think about it critically, who would you rather have guarding the basket on the fast break - your short guard or your taller "post"? Also, perimeter players are not as used to having to aggressively box out like posts are. Lastly - boxing out a perimeter player is harder than a post player, there is usually more space between the defender and the offensive player unless you are on the shooter. Players defending in the post are usually standing right next to your offensive player. It also gives you a better track on longer rebounds.
-So when the shot goes up, your posts turn and run down the floor while your guards crash. As a five out motion coach I don't really have guards and posts, but I have bigger guys and smaller guys - so I would send my smaller players. How many you send depends on your philosophy.

2. Crash the backside only
-There are two reasons for this tactic. First, the missed shot usually goes to the backside. Second, the rebounders are not paying as close attention to their defender because they are looking at the ball as it is shot - it's a human reaction. Along with that, they have to cover much more ground for a good block out and it's really hard to hit a moving target (offensive rebounder).
-So your rule would be that any player on the backside crashes the boards, the players on the ball side get back in transition.
-When a shot is taken from straight on, it's your call on that.

Also, how do you know how many guys to send? Do you send a lot or do you send few? The answer to this boils down to two factors, and it's not what your favorite college coach does, it has to do with your personality and your team.

For your personality it comes down to who you are: are you a gambler or a play it safe kind of coach? Your rebounding strategy needs to fit your overall philosophy.
-If you like to gamble, pressure, run up and down than you need to send a lot of guys to the glass. You are going to give up a few (which with your personality you can live with) and you will also get quite a few. Coach Arseneault of Grinnell crashes everyone and his goal is to get 33-40% of offensive rebounds. Because he is a gambling personality he's more than willing to give up a few extra layups to get those rebounds.
-If you are a play it safe kind of coach, rely mostly on your half court defense, don't pressure, press, trap, or gamble very often you are a send few, if any to the glass. You may want to get those offensive rebounds, but as the game goes on and you give up a few transition baskets you will get on your guys and then they will stop going to the glass hard so they can get back. With that said, don't set your guys up for failure, have them get back so you can keep your sanity! Dick Bennett is classic for sending everyone back because the last thing he ever wanted to do was give up a layup - that was his philosophy.

For your team it comes down to what you have: are you big and athletic or not?
-Many times if you are not fast and big your best option is to get back right away. When Princeton Upset UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament Coach Carril knew his team was not nearly athletic enough to keep up with UCLA's running game. His strategy in that game was to send NO ONE to the glass. As soon as the shot went up everyone sprinted back, got into the lane and took away the break. If your team is in a similar situation I don't think it's a bad idea.
-On the other hand, if you are big and/or athletic you might want to crash a lot of guys to the glass. You are going to end up getting points because you are quicker/bigger and also you will have the athleticism to get back and cover yourself on defense.
-The bottom line is you need to weigh how many points you can get on offensive rebounds vs. how many points you will give up against their transition game. Even if you can get 1 more basket it might end up being worth it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Late in the Game - Pass to the Unexpected (Yet Capable)

I am in the middle of watching Hubie Brown's Secrets of Winning Basketball Volume 1 and in it he was talking about the Lakers beating the Spurs with .4 seconds left on Derrick Fisher's shot, see the video below.

What jumped out to me in this was the thought that instead of trying to force feed the ball to your stud, sometimes it's better to run a play for your good shooting role player to get the last shot. Every coach, and more importantly every player, on the other team is going to do what they can in a last second situation to guard your stud(s). If you run a play for your stud, they are going to be looking for that type of play and will likely be ready with plenty of help. If on the other hand you use your stud as a decoy and run some misdirection with him, you can get a good shooting role player open for a better shot.

Many teams through the years have used this strategy at the highest levels. Guys like Robert Horry, Derrick Fisher, Toni Kukoc, and Steve Kerr have made a living out of hitting big shots at the end of a game and it's worked well for their teams to go to them.

Along the same lines, there are times in late game situations that your stud has to know when to give the ball up to your role player. A great example of this is in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA finals when Jordan gave it up to Kerr as Stockton, who was guarding Kerr, doubled Jordan. In the video below, there is even mention of Jordan remembering a previous situation where Stockton left Kerr and stole the ball on the double team. Now your players might not have a memory like Michael, but your best player should understand that if the ball is in his hands he may have to give it up for the good of the team.

Now, I am in no way saying you shouldn't look to go to your stud at the end, I mean why wouldn't you want your best player taking the last shot? How many shots have guys like Jordan, Paul Pierce, and Kobe made over the years? Countless ones. Also, as a high school coach, you may not have the luxury of having a good shooting role player - your stud may be your only shooter/scorer. In that case you feed him the ball and roll with it. All I am merely saying that it might not be a bad idea to go away from the obvious in the end of a tight game once in a while.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Brewers GM Doug Melvin on Building a Program

Was listening to the Colin Cowheard show today and heard the Milwaukee Brewers Doug Melvin speak on what he did to help turn around the Texas Rangers and Brewers - you can hear the interview on Cowheard's site. Cowheard asked Melvin what was his secret to turning around a franchise. Melvin's answer was great and can/should be applied to any coach taking over a program.

Melvin's Key Points:
1. Change the Culture
-He talked about how it's important to get the right people in place and change the culture. You have to make people believe that our organization can win.

2. Gain Trust
-You have to get the players, the management, the fans to trust what you are doing. This can take time, and you have to be respected, not liked, when doing this.

3. Have Patience
-This is a huge one, it's simple but hard to do. It's hard to sit there when things are not going right and keep the ship moving in your direction even when others around you think the course is wrong.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"And That Was the Difference"

This was the comment made by an ESPN announcer during the NBA finals when Dirk made the game winning basket. To me that was a silly idea - I mean really?! Only that shot made the difference? Not the all the other shots, not the turnovers, not the offensive rebounds, not the good screens, not sharing the ball, etc? Only the last shot mattered, right?

What does this have to do with coaching?

Well, this is an idea that is engrained in the brains of our players. How many players are crushed when they miss the last shot? What about when the opposing team hits the last shot on them? Almost all of them, right? But are they as crushed when they turn the ball over in the first half or give up an offensive rebound the second posession of the second half? It's a small thing but what we have to teach our players is that wins and losses don't ever come down to the last seconds - it's really about all the seconds before - it's about every posession. Once a team gets that, they really become great. Below is a link to a poem I use to illustrate this point with my players. I would encourage you to give it to all of yours.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Two Great Pieces of Advice on Goals

I have been talking to a few high school coaches lately - the coaches in Minnesota are amazing in their willingness to share. Below are two great ideas on goal setting that I got. The first comes from Mark Gerber of Eastview High School and the other comes from Mark Klingsporn of Tartan High School. Both are very successful high school coaches.

What is a Goal?
When visiting with Coach Gerber, one of the amazing things he hit on was what is a goal and what is a reward? Is winning a conference title a goal? What about going to the State Tournament? According to Coach Gerber those are not goals, they are rewards. Goals are what you can control to get your rewards. Goals are things such as outrebounding your opponent. It is something you can control that affects the reward (winning). That is a great change in thinking about your goals, it goes alot with Don Meyer's idea of NBA (next best action) and controlling what you can control.

Making Players Give Up Their Individual Goals
In visiting with Coach Klingsporn he had a great exercise he does with his players to explain how unrealistic the individual goals can be for a team. He has his players write down how many points per game they think they should average. He then adds them up and shows them how many points per game our team would have to average to achieve those goals.
I did this exercise with my 8th grade AAU group and figured out we would have to average about 130 points per game for everyone to have the average they want. It was a great jumping off point for a discussion on how the team goals are what are important and the individual goals just get in the way.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Systems vs. Sets for Player Development

I am coaching an 8th grade group this year in AAU and loving it. They are a good group of guys who work hard and are talented enough to play at the next level if they choose to. One thing we are struggling with right now is running a "system" offense. We run a modified read and react/motion offense that stresses pass and cut and back cut against pressure with the rules "fill to the ball on the perimeter" and "fill the open corner when inside the three". We also emphasize driving the ball and relocating after the drive. If our guys progress we will add pass and screen away, dribble over Euro screens, etc. But right now are guys are struggling to get the basic concept.
Our guys are having an issue right now with moving and reacting to what is going on. They are used to continuity and set play offenses that stress go from A to B to C and back to A or reset. It's a totally different idea than a motion/concept based offense. They have to use different parts of their brain to react to what is going on and be able to read the defense.
Using this type of offense in youth basketball is a MUST to me. Players need to learn how to play the game make plays on their own. They need to learn how to read situations in a system and learn how to handle them. When they get to the varsity and college level they are going to have to run a concept based offense or they will run a set play/continuity offense that they must make a play after the offense breaks down. If we don't foster those skills at an early age, when are they going to learn them? Playing a concept/motion based offense also comes with another skill: learning how to score/create in the flow of the offense. This is a critical skill for every player and something they need to learn.
I've seen progress in our group already, and I expect to see more as we go. It's fun to watch them improve and grow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why You Always Guard the Inbounder

Here is another thought on late game execution. This video has been circling the
internet for sometime now. It's a great example of why you either need to face
guard the inbounder or back completely off so that the ball can't be thrown off
the defender's back. As you can see in the clip. the other defender is standing
in front of the inbounder with her back to the ball. If she would have turned
around, College of Idaho likely would have won.

Harvard vs. Princeton

Loved the ESPN Sports Center quote on the Harvard vs. Princeton game:

One will move onto the NCAA Tournament, they will all move onto great

It's a great quote to remind your players who are going off to play college basketball. Truthfully, for most of them, it shouldn't be about the basketball program, instead it should be about the business, education, chemistry program. That's why I give a big hats of to Jonah Travis from DLS high school in Minnesota. Jonah will be going to Harvard over other schools that he could have attended. For him it was a decision based on academics. Hopefully more players make that decision down the road.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick Back Cuts Out of the 1-4 High

I love the 1-4 type set because it compliments what I like to do with five out motion and read and react type offenses. One of the great things about the 1-4 high is the backcutting opportunities that it presents for you. Here are some of the quick hitting back cut options out of the 1-4 high.
High Post Entry I
This is a pretty standard part of the 1-4 tool box. On the pass to the high post the wing back cuts hard to the rim for a layup.
High Post Entry II
This is a different take on the high post entry. Here the ball is passed and the point basket and corner cuts. The wing takes 2-3 steps down like he's making a back cut.

The post dribbles at the wing and instead of backcutting the wing comes back up and comes off of the post (5) for the dribble handoff. He takes the handoff and dribbles at the opposite high post. The high post steps high and then back cuts for a layup. The dribbler looks for the layup pass and then looks to turn the corner.
Wing Pick and Roll
On the wing pass, the point cuts to the basket and the corner. The ballside high post comes over and ball screens, the dribbler comes off the screen and the opposite high post pops hard and then back cuts to the rim.
The Point Screen and Roll
Playing on the same idea of back cutting with the backside high post here. The point comes off the screen by the high post. He then doubles back and comes back toward the opposite high post who pops and then dives for a lay up.
Dribble Over Back Cut
This is a classic in the 1-4 high tool kit. Point guard dribbles at the wing and the wing runs a back cut.

Having Something Ready for the End

Watch this great play by Waverly-Shell Rock to beat Norwalk in the Iowa high school playoffs. Thought it was a very gutsy call by Waverly- Shell Rock. The thing I wanted to comment on was what Norwalk did after the play. Let me preface this by saying that the Norwalk coach is as good as they come. I got to see it first hand last year as his team pounded mine twice! I was pulling for Norwalk in this, but it wasn't meant to be.
The oop was completed with about 2 seconds left and Norwalk called timeout. But after the basket, I think Norwalk would have been better off having a play ready to go and just throwing the ball deep and going with it. Many times in a situation like this, the team that makes the clutch basket at the end gets preoccupied with the celebration and ends up having a mental lapse. Having a play ready to go allows the team to just get the ball and go with the opponent still focused on the last play. When you call timeout it allows the opponents to calm down, refocus, and become ready for the last defensive stand. To their credit, the Waverly-Shell Rock players look like they got right into their defense from the video, but I would suspect they were less ready than when they came out of their time out. So I think it's important to drill the end of game situations and have something in place to go to right away.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Leaders Making Mistakes

Good quote tonight from Buckeye Football Coach Jim Tressel when he said "The most pathetic thing is a leader looking for sympathy". Considering what he is going through right now, this is a great quote. As leaders, we are responsible for our actions and the last thing we need is sympathy. It's important as leaders that we accept the consequences for our actions and deal with it.

The End of a Game: Sometimes It Comes Down to Players Making Plays

I was watching the Sun Belt Conference final between UA-Little Rock and North Texas this evening. North Texas had a late two-point lead until UALR's Soloman Bozeman took a pull-up 3 with about 1.5 seconds left to win the game.
This is a great example of a player just making a play. Is the coach a savant for just letting his guy go? Of course not. But he did trust him to make a play and the player delivered. This is probably the biggest game of the year for UALR, a chance at the big dance, and it all came down to a player making a play. It didn't come down to some fancy coaching move or a great set play.
We spend a lot of time analyzing end-game strategy. Having the right set for the right situation. But sometimes I think it's more simple than that, sometimes it's just about getting your best player the ball and trusting him to make a play for your team.

Raptor Set - Great Late Game Play

I saw the Raptors use this set to hit a game winning or game tying shot twice this year. you would think the NBA guys would have scouted this one. Its a great set to get a three out of a sideline out of bounds situation

Part 1
In this play, the 3 takes the ball out of bounds. The 2 (your shooter) starts at the free throw line, a little bit more toward the opposite sideline. The 4 starts on the lane line extended on the three point line. The 5 and 1 are stacked off the lane between the block and third hash. The 5 is on top. On the slap, the stacked players (1,5) come off the double. The big (5) comes of the staggered double first and curls to the basket. He then posts up. The point (1) curls around the double to the low wing area.
Part 2
As 1 and 5 curl around the player on the top of the staggered double (4) sets a down screen for the shooter on the bottom of the staggered double (2). The shooter (2) comes off the down screen and catches the ball for a three pointer.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is There Time to Do It All??

I was reading the first issue of "Winning Hoops" tonight that was published in 1986. There was an article from some coach who had just finished his first year at UConn as the head women's coach.

His article was about "The Problems of Being a New Head Coach". One of the points he made in the article was that "time is a new coach's greatest enemy". There is never enough time in a day to do it all, especially when you are trying to do it all at once. His advice was to plan your day and then give your staff/assistants more responsibility to get things done. That way they will better understand how you want things done and what kind of person you are; this will help establish better program consistency. He also mentioned it will help them feel like they have more ownership over the program - I know I have appreciated the responsibilty my head coach gives me this year. It's nothing earth shattering, but at the same time it's something we as coaches need to be able to do. Just make sure that you inspect the finished product to make sure it is done your way - again reinforcing the consistency within the program.
I know it is hard to not want to do it all yourself, it's human nature, but by giving up some of the jobs you gain a lot for yourself and the program.

By the way, the coach's name was Geneo something-or-other. I wonder what happened to that guy anyway?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

“Good artists borrow. Great artists steal”

This is a quote from Picasso, but it could have just as easily come from Coach Smith, Coach Calipari, Coach Knight, Coach K, or Coach Hurley when talking about coaching. I think it's important for coaches to remember that you should never be too proud ot ask for help, or just plain steal what someone else is doing if you like it and it fits your style. I guess it's just a reminder to never stop learning and never stop stealing!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Playing Zone in Middle School is Wrong

Been to a lot of 8th grade games recently in my quest for an AAU team (a quest that has been less than successful thus far). I am astonished by the number of 8th grade teams that play a lot of zone. So in light of that I will lay out why playing zone in middle school is just not right. I am not an anti-zone guy, as a matter of fact the 1-3-1 was my base with our varsity last year. I am just against playing zone at young ages. My case is as follows.

1. Playing zone doesn't develop on ball defensive skills.
There is a certain skill to playing a guy one on one in man to man. Of course you still have the help, but it's your job to stay in front of them. When I watch 8th grade teams play zone, and it's a lot of sagging off, not pressuring, and just kind of watching when the guy drives by.

2. Playing zones doesn't allow the offense to work on driving the ball.
The drive has become a bigger and bigger part of our game, and players need to be able to work on it in a game setting. Against zone however, they spend a lot of time standing, passing hte ball around the perimeter, and then driving into 2-3 guys. Instead of teaching how to stop the drive, coaches at the youth level simply switch to a zone.

3. Playing zone forces a lot of players to jack up three pointers.
I have watched a lot of teams shooting three pointers

4. Zone doesn't teach good help defense and movement.
Help defense is great in the zone, because they are just standing there. They just kind of saunter form place to place. They don't have to defend a cut then jump to the ball to help on the drive. They just kind of let the cutter go through and then wait for the drive still in help. It's not an active defense usually and that gives kids the idea that defense is not an active task.

5. Most high school teams play man.
I can think of 1-2 high school teams in the metro area that play mostly zone. So most of the teams play man the majority of the time. I can see playing zone in middle school if they are only going to play that in high school, but it's not the case usually. So why play a defense at the middle school level they won't be playing when they get older? Again, it goes back to development vs. winning, what do you want?

You can say that any defense taught poorly is a bad defense, and I agree. I just think that zone defense lends it self better to engraining those bad habits in a player. And I know some of my arguments revolve around offense of the opponent, but let's be honest, like Stan Van Gundy said, are you more concered about winning an 8th grade league or developing players? At the middle school level, I feel that all of the emphasis has to be put on player development over winning. As you get older the ratio shifts, but I can say that with this 8th grade team I am taking I would rather lose a bunch of games and have the guys be successful as seniors in high school than win a bunch and watch them ride the pine. But that's just one man's opinion!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Beating the Sag with the Skip

Lately we've had a lot of teams sagging on us in the read and react taking away the basket cuts, back cuts, and drives. Forcing us to be a jump shooting team, which isn't a great option for most teams.

So how do you combat this? You can't drive, can't post, can't cut, and can't get inside.

The answer is easy, skip the ball. Skipping the ball makes the defense have to close out long distances since they are overplaying the help. These closeouts allow our players to make a move and attack with the bounce, and the help won't be in position yet, hopefully, having to come from the other side of the floor. It's why Coach Walberg's DDM was originally called AASAA - Attack, Attack, SKIP, Attack, Attack. Coach Walberg know that in DDM teams would overplay him with help and that's why the skip is vital.

Once you start skipping the ball, the defense starts to sneak out and try to defend the skip. This starts to eliminate the help as players cheat to be in better position to defend the skip. This then opens up the middle for driving and cutting. The other nice thing about the skip is it's always open because the defender is in extreme help in the lane. It's about taking what the defense gives you and exploiting it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

When to Slip a Ball Screen

At practice the other day, Coach Liesener came up with a great rule for players setting the ball screen. Our new rule for ball screening is as follows: As you sprint over to set the screen, you need to slip the screen to the rim if you can't see your defender. If you can't see your defender it means he is behind you and you can cut in front to the basket. Pretty simple rule that is very effective. It also really kills teams that get out to hedge early because you are always slipping screens and beating them for layups. It forces them to hedge later or softer to protect against the slip. This allows your guard coming off the pick and roll to have a better driving angle at the rim.

When NOT to Get On a Player

I have the privilidge of coaching an 8th grade team with the Minnesota Magic this spring. I chose to coach at the 8th grade level because then I can really focus on player development instead of "exposure" at this level.

Because of this, I have been watching a lot of 8th grade basketball. I have seen some really good things, lots of good team work, good attitudes and sportsmanship for the most part. A little too much zone and guys coaching in tee shirts, hats, and sweatpants, but that's another post and another time.

Something I saw a few weeks ago frustrated me though, and I have been meaning to blog about it. In an 8th grade game a team was down at half to a team they should have been beating and the coach was irritated - understandable. But then he proceeds to berate a player for missing shots. There is no teaching point there like "your shot selection needs to improve" or "you need to be shooting different shots". It was just you need to make shots.

I have no problem with a coach getting on a player at all, I get on my guys as much as anyone. But it was WHY he got on his guy that left me shaking my head. In my opinion, we as coaches need to get on guys about things they can control. It wasn't like when the kid was missing on purpose, he was doing his best to knock down shots and they were not falling.

Some things that I think are important to get on players about:
1. Lack of effort - without question this is the one that always gets me.
2. Mental lapses - not doing something because they just were mentally lazy.
3. Execution of What You've Taught - If you have taught something well, then there is no excuse for them executing it. I have a problem with this one as a coach at times because I always think I have not taught it well enough.
4. Dumb Fouls - Fouls because they are not moving their feet, they are reaching, or gambling.
5. Poor Attitude - This one is a no duh. But many coaches appear to be more worried about shots going in than how guys carry themselves. This is an opportunity for coaches to teacha life lesson.
6. Poor Shot Selection - Not that the shots are not going in, but the shots they are taking. Shots that are outside their range or not in the best interest of the team.

Some things I don't think you need to get on your guys about:
1. Shooting - They know the point is to put the ball in the hole. They are not missing on purpose! Are they good shots? Are they shots you want shot? If the answer is yes then let the misses go.
2. Effort Fouls - Anytime they foul going hard (loose balls, rebounding, etc) it's ok.
3. Things You Have Not Taught Them - If you haven't taught it, or taught it well, they are not going to do it. And don't assume players know something, teach it so they know. If they are not doing it, it may be because you haven't taught it well enough or they haven't practiced it enough.

So there you go. Although I noticed it at a youth tournament I am sure it happens at the high school, college, and NBA levels as well. What do you think?? Comments?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stan Van Gundy Video on

This is a short video clip from Orlando Magic's Stan Van Gundy on youth basketball. I think it's spot on and everyone needs to see it - especially youth coaches.