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.