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? 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Corner Action Secondary Break

Lately I have become enthralled with Coach Rick Adelman's "Corner Offense". It's a version of the Princeton offense that Adelman learned from legendary Princeton coach Coach Pete Carril when Coach Carril was his assistant in Sacremento. They ran some GREAT stuff with Williams, Webber, Divac, etc. Vlade was especially prolific during this time. After starting to look over it, I've become interested in running it as a secondary break into our motion offense. I think it's a great quick hitting look when you have a stud guard who you want to get driving the ball down hill to start.

The secondary is NOT NEARLY as complex as the corner offense itself obviously. But it merely uses one look I like out of it which is the point guard in the corner on the ball side, ball is on the wing. The wing enters the ball to the high post and screens down for the point and basketball plays ensue. Below is the basic corner offense, the first clip is the action I like. In the first clip, the Wolves actually do run it as a secondary.  The other difference is that while Coach Adelman does it with two posts, the version I would run has four perimeter players.

This secondary is a simplified version of the corner offense as a quick hitting secondary break. The idea is to screen down for the point guard into a handoff with the high post and play out of it. I have yet to explore this in much detail, and could easily add a variety of counters to this. The offense would be great if you have a stud point guard who you want to get the ball in a different way than a high pick and roll.

Basic Movement
The set up is pretty standard for a secondary break. Point comes down the floor, passes to the wing and corner cuts to the wing side. Have a slot and wing on the back side, post rim runs.

When the wing receives the ball and the point starts to cut, the post pops to the high post and catches the ball. As he catches the ball the wing goes to set a down/pin screen for the point in the corner. The point can either curl the screen or straight the screen.

The option we want the most is for the point guard to straight cut to the high post. The wing (2) should pop to the corner, but can dive if they switch the screen. The point takes the handoff from the high post and drives to the basket. As he attacks the basket the wing (3) sinks to the corner and the other guard (4) fills behind the drive.

Once teams start to cheat it, the point guard can then curl the screen to the basket for a layup. If that isn't there, the wing who screened (2) pops up to the high post, takes the handoff, and attacks the rim with the same idea. On the drive, the point fills the backside corner.

If we don’t get anything off the drive, we kick out, fill to the ball, fill the open corner (just like our offense) and we are in 4 out.

Optional Additions or Counters
Rejecting or Curling the Handoff
If the player coming up for the hand off reads the overplay and back cuts, or doesn’t get the handoff, we can do the following action. There are probably 50 more good ones, but this is what I have for now.

The corner screens, the point cuts and rejects. The wing who set the screen (2) comes up and gets the ball.  As that happens the point (1) backscreens the wing (3) and gets a screen the screener downscreen from 4. Get the ball to the point, space out, and start the offense right from there.
Flairing the Back Side
Another interesting option is to flair the backside if the top player (4) is a shooter. That action may hold the defense and force open up the lane. Also frees up the shooter.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Notes from France vs. Spain First Half

Every day I wake up I count my blessings that I have ESPN 3. Got home today after setting up my classroom for the year and watched Spain vs. France in some National Team game. Riveting stuff, plus some of the Spaniards have great beards. Below are a three gems I got out of the first half. As a four out motion coach, both could be ran as entries, or just as looks if you are a set play coach.

Spain Iso For Stud
Spain, and a lot of pick and roll teams, run this for their 4 usually, but I think it's a great look to get your stud isolated in the high post. They ran it several times and got good results.

Play starts with a ball screen. Usually the 3 is a 4, but for the sake of the look we're putting an athletic wing in this spot and your 4 would have to be a wing who could shoot it a little. Anyway, the point looks to turn the corner off the ball screen, if not there the point bounces out, throws back across to the screener (3) who goes to the elbow after setting the ball screen. Post relocates and the stud (3) goes to the basket. If the stud goes middle, post stays.
I've seen this look with quite a few NBA teams, but haven't seen many high school coaches running this look. Trust me though, it's coming.

France Drive and Flair
In this set, 3 is Nicolas Batum to give you some context. Not sure if this was a designed set, although I think it was. Would be a very effective motion action or entry, great late clock play as well. The point (1) does a dribble hand off with the wing (3) who tries to turn the corner. As that is going on the backside wing (4) sets a flair for the backside guard (2) so that when 3 comes off the dribble hand off the 2 is setting up to shoot. Skip the ball over and get a shot.
France Post Step Out
France had their post step out, wing enter, wing cut and get it back. The difference is that it wasn't on the block. The post came out to about 10 feet to receive the ball and then hit the cutter for a layup.

Again, nothing out of this world, but how many motion coaches, or any coaches, teach this action? Not one I've seen a whole lot of - see it on the block, but not with the post stepping 10 feet out.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pressure (and Panic) is Mental!

Two seasons ago, when I was the JV coach at St. Paul Como Park, I was reading through "Stuff Good Players Should Know" by Dick Devenzio. This was a few days before we were going to play St. Paul Johnson, whose bread and butter is pressure defense. In the book there was a line about how pressure is all in your head. And it really is true. It was a point of emphasis for the practices leading up to our game with Johnson and I think it's a big reason why we went from losing by 50 the first time to getting within 5 and losing by only 15. Losing by 15 still stinks, but a 35 point improvement says something. We handled their pressure much better, played with some poise, and didn't turn it over as much. When you don't turn it over, you don't give up easy point. Pretty simple, right!?

One of the best examples of pressure defense, and the kinds of turnovers it causes, are highlighted in this clip of VCU's pressure. This would be a great video to break down the VCU attack, but right now I want you to watch the video and focus on how the ball gets turned over.

What did you notice from the clip? Hopefully that most of the turnovers were "panic turnovers" where players simply made quick and bad decisions. They forced plays to happen and saw things that were not there because they panicked. How many turnovers were just great defensive plays? Not many. I'm not saying presses are bad, in fact I love them, but we as coaches need a better understanding of why the ball gets turned over.

Everything above is very much "No Duh" type stuff. But how are you as a coach training your players to handle this? Are you being pragmatic in your teaching of how to deal with pressure? Every team in America has a team or two on their schedule that wins by inflicting this type of mental warfare on their opponent. Many times it's this type of team that you'll need to defeat to win a conference title or a birth in the state tournament. So what are you doing about it?! Below are some things that I have found helpful in the past when having to play against teams that really pressured.

  • Make practice tougher and more physical than games.
    • In practice many times we don't call fouls unless it could cause injury. We encourage our players to play aggressively and physically. We create that culture of pressure so that it becomes the norm. Players just start to get used to playing in a crazy, high pressure environment so that when game time comes, any pressure and physicality becomes pedestrian. 
  • Play against 6,7, or even 8 defenders.
    • You'll never be able to simulate the pressure of a great pressing team unless you are already a great pressing team. Because a good pressing team makes it feel like there are extra players on the floor, we practice our offense against extra players. I've heard coaches say they don't like it because it doesn't help players look for the open guy on a double. I disagree totally. I think it forces the passer to be more careful and find a guy that really is open, it also puts a responsibility on all the other players to make sure they are actively working to get open instead of standing and watching. 
  • Play against older players.  
    • When you can't simulate the size, speed, aggressiveness, and quickness of your opponent with your players, farm the job out. Find some alumni or college guys to come in and help your team practice. That way they will get used to the game being a little bit faster.Even just purely athletic older guys who are not "great" players will do the job.
  • Be OK with a 5 or 10 second call. 
    • One of the best things you can convince a player is that a 5 second call is better than trying to force a pass. You force a pass and turn it over, the defense likely has a layup at the end. You give up a 5 second call because no one was open, we go down and play 5 on 5, much better odds than 1 on 0 or 2 on 1. This is a hard one to convince players, but once you do you will see them relax and stop worrying about the five second call as much. 
  • Emphasize the importance of ball security in every drill. 
    • No matter what the drill is, you need to always emphasize limiting your turnovers, limiting your panic, and protecting the basketball. Your players pick up on what you put a premium on and I think being strong with the ball is one of the most important. As Coach Meyer always says "It's not what you teach, it's what you emphasize".
Being that I am a big believer in TEACHING players to be great with the ball, I have a sickening amount drills that players can work on handling pressure here are three of the better ones. 
  • 3 on 3 No Dribble
    • This may be the BEST overall drill for teaching players how to pass, how to cut, how to get open, when to back cut, etc. Make sure you encourage the defense to all out pressure the offense because they can't dribble. Deny every pass. Players have to score without using the dribble, there are two exceptions however. The first is if they catch it on a cut TOWARD the basket they can dribble to finish the play. They can also dribble if they catch the ball on a post up. 
  • 2 on 2 10 Pass Drill
    • Pretty simple concept. Offense can't dribble and they have to make ten passes in a row, there are no shots. If they complete ten in a row the defense has 10 pushups, if they turn it over they have 10 pushups. If they get good increase it to 15, then 20. They can move around and use the entire half court, or if you need space you go multiple groups and give them 1/2 of the half court. I usually do this one right before 3 on 3 no dribble as it's a good lead in. Really teaches players how to cut and get open.You can also run it where they have to hold the ball for so many seconds, start with 30, work up to 45. 
  • 4 on 4 Trap Passing
    • Players spread out in a diamond shape. each player can move around in his area, but can't leave an area of about 8 feet. One player is designated a "trapper" and they have to follow and trap the ball. Offense has to hold the ball for 10 straight passes or 30 seconds without a turnover in order to win. 

 Just like monsters under the bed at night, the scary things on the court are completely in the heads of the players. Again, if you can convince your team that pressure is all mental, you've taken a big step.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Assistant Coaches: Find Your Niche

I've been an assistant coaches a lot of places for a lot of great coaches. Eight places, in eight years, for eight different coaches, to be exact. Never been fired or disliked my boss, just moved for a variety of reasons. One thing I've learned is that anytime you land in a new place it's all about finding your niche as an assistant. Every staff has different needs - how can you help fill them? For example, my first job at LaCrosse Central they needed someone to scout so I went and scouted over 40 games. As an assistant last year our coach loved what I did on offense so I was in charge of running our half court motion. This year I'm under a coach who would like to do more with video and stats so that's likely the niche I will fill.

That doesn't mean that the niche was the ONLY thing I did for our program. I still always do all the summer work, youth work, scouting, game day stuff, etc that goes with being an assistant. But every stop I've been on I've found one area that the head coach needed help on, and then proceeded to focus on that area.

Also, just because you are not on the varsity staff doesn't mean you shouldn't find a niche. I'm not on the varsity staff this year at Tartan, but I know I'm going to be doing film and statistic work for them along with coaching the sophomore team.

In closing, as an assistant it is your job to be as valuable of a commodity as you can be. That's why finding the niche is so important. It benefits the program and benefits you. Many times the niche isn't something you initially specialized in and may have to learn more about it. On the flip side something you think that you are "good at" may have to take a back seat because it's not needed. You might be a prolific man to man coach, but if that's already your head coach's bread and butter that's probably not your niche area. Also, you might have a great press, but coach under a guy who's a half court coach, so again that's not going to be your niche. It's all about finding out what role(s) you can do the most good for the program in and then being the best at that role you can be.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why the Death of Pick Up Basketball is Hurting Our Game

Was talking with Coach Larry McKenzie (@coachmckenzie)  about pick up basketball, or the lack there of, the other night after our Round Table. He made a comment than when he drives around his neighborhood and sees young players actually playing pick up basketball he stops and takes a picture because it's so rare. For me, this represents a glaring problem with our basketball culture. Pick up has gone the way of the dinosaurs and passenger pigeons. Some would poo poo this and say that pick up is a waste of time. Before you do, let me run down the some of the main bullet points on the list of current complaints about our game: players don't play hard, players don't know how to play, players don't understand what wins, players are selfish and complain, and players lack leadership. Pick up basketball solves a lot of these issues, I'll explain below.

Players don't play hard....
When you play pick up basketball, you win you stay, if you lose you have to get off. This creates a culture of competitiveness. Also, you are not playing against a bunch of guys from a different city or state, your are playing for bragging rights in your neighborhood which, let me tell you, is worth more than any National Title. Players develop a culture of playing hard because their reputation is on the line, sounds weird, but think back and you'll realize it's true.

Players don't know how to play...
Of course they don't! They play in a structured environment all spring, summer, fall, and winter. When do they have time to experiment? They don't because they play high school ball where winning is important to an adult, transition straight to AAU where winning is important to an adult. Because winning is paramount to adults we structure it to win, so players don't experiment with different things. I grew up in a small town and we learned how to move after we got our butts kicked by the older guy who moved the ball, cut to the basket, etc. We learned first hand from more experienced players and actually there was a really special learning structure in place, the older guys took the younger guys under their wing.

Players don't understand what wins....
Similar to the top, they are always told what wins. You can tell someone what wins and that's great, but when the players are making the decisions and then examining if that helped them win or not, there is a higher level of learning that occurs. You also start to learn what traits to look for in other players when picking teams.

Players are selfish and complain....
Of course they do because they've got adults there to make sure it's "fair" on every foul, etc. Playing pick up takes the complaining right out because frankly no ones going to give a rip if you complain about foul calls. If you are a complainer you'll just get laughed at and left off the team for the next game. You'll learn quickly that no one wants to play with a primadonna. Pick up also accelerates the learning curve on selfish play. I remember playing with some selfish guys in our pick up games, we would just ice them out and not pass them the ball. When they complained we'd have a discussion, which leads me to my next point...

Players lack leadership...
Of course they do! They are now playing entirely supervised by adults. Where is the leadership development in that!? They don't have to pick teams, they don't have to call fouls, they don't have to call each other and get people together for a game, they don't have to call each other out on poor behavior (interpersonal and conflict resolution skills). They don't have to correct, teach, and coach their teammates. These are leadership skills that players a generation or two ago got.  Organizational skills and leadership skills are lost when kids don't have to do any leading in organized basketball because an adult does it all for them. The adult sets it up, coordinates it, coaches it, refs it, drives them there, picks the team, drives them home, etc. There is no reason or room to develop leadership skills.

The bottom line is that when PLAYERS are the driving force behind the sport, it's more pure, more fun for them, and much better experience. I believe many players lose their love for the game when the environment becomes too structured. No one starts playing to make the NBA or college, they play because they love the sport first. We end up killing the pure joy of the game by making everything so structured and not allowing time for pick up basketball. And I'm not saying that structure is all bad, but Brian McCormick (@brianmccormick) has said for years on his blog ( that there is too much structure in American basketball he he's right. We need time set aside for guys to just play, unsupervised. Now the question is what do we do about it?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Great Euro Sets Breakdown from Euroleague Final

I am a big fan of the YouTube Channel "BBALL Break Down". They are doing something right over there with a variety of great topics. Below is a video breakdown that they did of a bunch of the sets and looks from the Euro League finals. Great stuff!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Playing Without Thinking

Thanks to Coach Paul Richardson (@p_t_richardson) for putting me onto this one.

Great article and video on Grantland about Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech Football. The gist of the article is that Coach Kingsbury wants his guys to start playing so fast that they stop thinking. Reading the story it sounds a lot like how I would like to coach. Have guys getting lots of quick reps, teaching in bullet points not paragraphs, and having guys learning how to just play instinctive basketball. It's something I thought I did well two years ago at St. Paul Como Park and something I am going to concentrate on this year while coaching our sophomores at Tartan.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Notes from the 2013 19U Bronze Medal Game

Today I was watching the Bronze Medal game of this years 2013 FIBA World Championships between Australia and Lithuania. I've gotten through the first quarter and hope to finish before ESPN 3 (the reason I have Comcast) takes it down! Might be pushing it though. Anyway, lots of good Xs and Os pieces from the game that I am going to share below. I'll indicate the team and try to give a little bit of an explanation of the play or action.

Lithuania Inbounds Play vs 2-3 Zone
I am assuming that the Lithuanian team ran something out of this look several times. But this one really was quite slick.

Started with a stack on the ball side just above the block, shooter on the opposite block, point guard at the free throw line. Because the 2-3 zone played outside the stack, the bottom of the stack pinned the middle of the zone. The second player in the stack slipped to the basket for a layup (which he missed).

Lithuania Transition Quick Attack
The Lithuanian team ran this in transition and it worked well catching the Australians off guard.

The set was almost a 2-3 high look. Point (1) brought the ball up the floor,  threw it to the wing (3), immediately came back, got the hand off, and went straight to the basket for an uncontested layup.

Lithuanian Motion Action or Motion Entry
The Lithuanians ran this a time or two and I think it would be a great entry into or action for the motion offense.

Started in an odd looking 5 out set. The point (1) passed to the post (5) at the top and then cut to the corner on the side he passed to. The wing on that side (2) set a down screen for the point who came up and took the dribble hand off from 5 and turned the corner.

Australia A Frame Flex Set and Counter
Australia has a kid by the name of Dante Exum who's their best player and has a good chance to turn into one hell of a ball player some day. They ran a lot of their stuff for him and he was the point guard in most of these sets.

The set starts in an A Frame look. A post (4) pops out and gets the ball. The point (1) runs off a back screen by the other post (5) to the back side block. The point (1) then sets a back screen for the corner player (3).

They run a counter, and in this counter, the point (1) comes off the back screen by the post (5) as in the first one. The post (5) then down screens the point who comes back up gets a pass and the passer follows into a pick and pop situation.

 In this set, they are trying to get the ball to their stud (1) on a hand off.

The set starts in a different 4 out look with 3 on the left side. The ball is thrown guard to guard. The corner comes off a flex cut across the lane and to the other side wing. The ball is swung from 2 to 4. When 4 catches the ball the guard who passed it (2) basket cuts. The post (5) pops to fill the empty guard spot and gets the ball. The point (1) goes to the backside corner.

When the post (5) catches the ball he dribbles at the opposite wing (3). The player on the wing opposite the dribble direction (4) fills behind. The guard who cut (2) fills the corner then the backside wing. The wing being dribbled at (3) back door cuts and fills the backside corner.

As the wing (3) is back cutting the point (1) comes up, takes the dribble hand off, and attacks the basket. The post (5) rolls and the point has 3 guys spotted up on the opposite side.

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Motion Offense Video

After over a month away from writing, I want to get back into it this late summer and fall. Life got busy and I really didn't have all that much to say.

With that said, I spent a few days last week putting together a video on my baby, the 4 out 1 in motion offense. I think the video is pretty good, with the exception of a few mix ups. But hey, for my first time it wasn't bad at all. I'll be putting together some other basketball related videos in the next few weeks and hope to post them on here. So enjoy and let me know if you have any questions!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Makings of a Successful Season

This season I was lucky enough to be able to coach a 7th grade AAU team for the Minnesota Heat with the Hoops Czar himself. Willie Vang's Heat organization couldn't be run any better and Coaching with the Czar is a trip. It was an outstanding experience to say the least. We were blessed with a GREAT group of players and parents. These players showed up every day, worked hard, and were a joy to coach! They listened to what they were told and attempted to apply it. Equally as impressive was the support of the parents, not a single issue all year. Bottom line, this was a "Dream Team" for me to coach. There is not a coach in America who had it easier than I did this year!

When it came to winning, we were alright. We ended up being just below .500 for the season. The players enjoyed themselves as did the coaches. How did we have such a positive season without winning a ton of games? Quite honestly, the majority of the reason was we were blessed with a perfect storm of players and families that bought into our mission and are just all around outstanding people. I do think that our goals, mission, and approach had something to do with it as well. Below are some things that we did this year that I believe allowed us to have a wildly successful season even though our record was average.

1. Our emphasis was on development, improvement, and playing hard. 
    From day 1 we told our guys that our only job was to get better and the wins would
    come. I think that this approach is helpful because players can focus on the process
    instead of the result. I it also allowed us to praise effort, attitude, and improvement over
    wins and losses. Once you start to emphasize wins and not the system, you are going
    to lose guys if the wins don't come.

2. We used a mentor-leader style of coaching that empowered our players. 
    I used to be a yeller and a screamer. I've thrown trash cans, broke clip boards,
    and yelled in player's faces. But as I've grown I've realized that players are not out
    here trying to screw up. (Thanks Coach Novak) So instead of yelling and screaming
    when players made mistakes, we TAUGHT and RETAUGHT. That doesn't mean there
   were not consequences (pushups in practice, etc), but we tried hard to empower our
   players instead of belittle them. We wanted them to have a positive experience and
   were very meticulous about that.

3. We emphasized character over wins. 
   Until you are teaching players how to be good young men and women you really are
   not coaching. We tried this year to introduce some character pieces and help them
   develop as people. I think this is a key to getting buy in from all parties - show it's
   about more than wins and about more than satisfying your ego as a coach.

4. We played with a team first mentality.
   We push players to share the ball, take open shots, etc. I think when you cater to
   a star it puts stress on the rest of the team.

I think if you can do these four things every year you will have positive results. If you go out and try hard to give every player a positive experience, good things will come. It's easy to say that it's 7th grade AAU and that's easier than high school. I agree with that, to a point. You can still go out of your way to be positive with your players, teach character, acknowledge growth and acknowledge the contributions of every player. Lastly, I would again like to publicly thank the players I had the opportunity to work with, as well as their parents. They are great people who gave me the most fun season of basketball I have ever had!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Trusting the Process (And the System)

I believe the game should be played and taught in a certain way. That way is similar to many and different from many, but it's the way I believe things should be done. I think it's important that no matter what you believe, you have to trust the process and trust your system. That was one of the cardinal mistakes that I made as the varsity coach at South Tama, I didn't trust the process or the system. It was my first head coaching job, I was nervous, and wanted to win. So I tried a number of different things that didn't fit my process in order to try be successful. Of course they didn't work and I wish I would have trusted the process and the system. We would have been far more successful if I had.

What got me thinking about trusting the process was the 7th grade AAU team I coach. We went 2-2 this weekend beating the same team twice and losing to two other solid teams. We are not quite there yet, but we have flashes of brilliance. When we met as a team after those two losses I wasn't second guessing myself or the system that we run. I was able to smile at them and just tell them to trust the process and that we would get better. More importantly it wasn't just lip service. I believe that we will get better as the year goes on. After eight years I have become comfortable with the way we do things and I am able to fully trust the process! I am not sure if there is a more liberating feeling in coaching.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Great Tip for Teaching a Skill: The Right, Wrong, Right Method

Just like salmon return to the same river year after year to spawn I keep returning to Daniel Coyle's "The Little Book of Talent" for great stuff on teaching. If you have not bought this book yet, you are really missing out. There are tons of tips like the one below.

This weekend, one of the things I stumbled onto was the right-wrong-right teaching method. He calls it something else, but I like this name better. Anyway, the premise of the method is for a player to do a skill the correct way once, the wrong way a second time, and the right way again the third time. Then you move on. It's simple and quick, yet hammers the point home in the athlete's brain. It demonstrates right vs wrong. It puts a spotlight on the correct way to do the skill and how it should look/feel.

For example, we will use the method this week with closeouts. Our number one issue with closeouts is that players do not put their hands up enough to contest shots. So when we start on closeouts, I'm going to have them do it correctly with hands up, then do it without hands, and then do it with hands again. That way it will help lock into their brain the proper way to do a closeout.

Again, if you haven't gotten his book you need to. Also visit his blog ( which is always updated with great tips.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tips for Effective Correction

Correcting a player is an important job for a coach - it's what we do! We are constantly correcting players on skills, strategy, and execution. When great coaches correct, it's an art form. There is a method to properly correcting players. When you correct players in the proper way they both listen and understand. Below are some important points to creating the art of correction. I have gotten these from a variety of places, but they are all good.

    - This is the biggest thing that great teachers of
       the game do. They approach a mistake as
      a positive opportunity for growth. Be as positive as you can when you are
      correcting a player.

2. Be Honest
   - This is the most important part with great teachers. Be honest in your assessment
      and the rest will fall into place.

3. Stick to the Facts
   - The correction is not a judgement of the person, but just a fact. Try to stay away from
      good and bad, and stick to phrases such as "try this".

4. Make it a Suggestion, Not a Demand
   - People in general respond better to suggestions than demands. Use phrases such
     as "I think that" or "my suggestion here would be". You will get better results.

5. Teach in Bullets, Not Paragraphs
    - Keep the correction short and sweet. Give the important information quickly,
      then get out and let them correct it!

6. Tell Them Something They Did Well
    - Make sure to mentions something they are doing well in the situation.
      For example, if they are traveling on a catch and  attack, but  they are
      doing a good job of pushing the ball, compliment  the push out but
      then tell them how not to travel.

7. Correct and Walk Away
   - After you make a correction, walk way and let the player digest it.
     That doesn't mean don't come  back and check, but give them a
     minute to process.

8. Praise The Correction
   - When the correct it and do it right, make sure to catch them and
     praise them.

9. It's Ok to Struggle
   - If they are struggling slow it down and teach.
   - Find a different way to explain the process.

Well there you have it, there are some different things that will help you to be a better correction artist!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

State Tournament Tidbits: Day 1 and 2

Logo Courtesy of
Spent the last two days at the Minnesota High School State Tournament. This is the 19th straight year my dad and I have attended. It's always fun to watch the best of the best compete on the biggest stage! There are also lots of great coaching points to be had! At this time of the year, coaches pull out all the stops in order to get the win. Also, with teams come from different areas of the state that may use different tactics than are the norm in our area.  Below are some of the best things that I have pulled out from the last two days.

Brainerd's BLOB Series
I got to see 28-1 Brainerd for the first time at the tournament. I will admit I was really skeptical that their record was over-inflated because they didn't play any teams from the metro. They were, however, the real deal! They ran some GREAT 5 out motion offense and this slick inbounds series.

The set starts in a 4 across. The ballside block (5) popps up to the elbow and receives the ball. The ballside corner (1) cuts to the ball and the inbounder fills the corner.

The BLOB has two options. In first one, the corner player (1) takes the handoff and drives to the rim. The other post (5) can lift to the elbow or cut to the backside block on the drive.
The other option is that they fake the handoff. The elbow player (4) can turn and go attack. As the handoff is faked, the backside block player (5) sets a flex screen for the wing in the opposite corner(3) who comes off of it to the basket.

Quentin Hooker's Footwork
Quentin Hooker is a Mr. Basketball Finalist who will be taking a full ride to the University of North Dakota next year. He is fun to watch and very fundamentally skilled. Something I noticed about him was that every time he changed direction he would quickly chop his feet while making the read. This was especially evident when he was coming off the pick and roll. It's something I want to look into more and figure out why he does it and how to teach it.

Perham Motion Entry
Let me preface this by saying that I hate the dribble handoff. With that said, I like that Perham did with this and think that it makes a great entry into the four or five out motion.

It's a five out motion with the guy you want to post up at the wing. The entry starts with the guard to wing pass and the guard cuts through. As the guard cuts through, the wing with the ball (5) starts to dribble at the corner.

As the wing (5) dribbles at the corner (2), the corner makes a read. If the corner's (2) defender is sagging off, he comes up and takes the dribble handoff. The player making the handoff (5) butt screens and then rolls to the block and they look to go inside. If it's four out, we can space and leave the guy there, if it's five out we can just play.

If the defender denies the handoff or pass, the corner (2) backcuts for a layup.

Lakeville North Late Game Situational Defense
Lakeville North was playing Park Center in the first round on Wednesday. The game was tied with 6 seconds left in regulation. Park Center called a time-out in order to set up a last second play. Their star is Quentin Hooker, who was mentioned above. Everyone in the gym knew that Quentin was going to take the last shot. And to everyone's surprise Lakeville North came out in a Box and 1 on Hooker. It totally threw Park Center off and ended up forcing Park Center into a poor shot. They still won in overtime, but the Box and 1 out of the timeout was definitely a surprise because North had not played it all game.

Upsala Dribble Drive Motion Sets
Vern Capelle is a coach from Upsala that runs some great dribble drive, he even a dribble drive DVD out. Below are two dribble drive sets that they ran into their dribble drive motion. He used these late in the game in order to put it away. Both involved the use of dead water screens.

The first one starts with the wings in the corners, a post, the point at half court, and the other guard setting the deadwater screen at the three point line. The guard comes off of it and goes to the rack. He either takes the shot, dumps down to the post, or kicks out for a three.

Coach Capelle went to this look when the other team started to really get out and deny the passes. I thought it was great. They got a bucket off it which sealed the deal for them. In this set, he brought the wings out super high. This eliminated the help and when the guard went off the screen there was no one there to prevent the layup.

There were a bunch of other small things, but these were some that I really thought were good - and a little big different. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Late Game IQ- The Jump Ball Situation

Image courtesy of Twiiter account
I was watching the Conference USA Title Game between Memphis and Southern Miss. Pete Gillen and Dave Ryan were annoucning the game, and Coach Gillen  made a great point about understanding late game situations. Memphis had the ball, the lead, and the posession arrow. Southern Miss was pressuring Memphis all over the floor and trapping the ball. Coach Gillen mentioned that Memphis players should be sure to just take a jump ball if they got in trouble, instead of throwing a crazy pass, because they had the posession arrow. It won't be a turnover; they can just take the ball out of bounds. What a simple, yet great, thought! It's not something we've worked with our guys on but surely will now. What a great piece of basketball IQ!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Doin' the Minnehaha Shuffle!

Unfortunately our season came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday as we lost to St. Paul Johnson in the seocnd round of section play. I always hate when our season is over, but it does give me a chance to get out and see some basketball. It also gives me a chance to resume my never ending quest to learn new stuff and improve as a coach. In light of that my goal is to try and find 25 things to share on this blog between now and June, this is the first one.

Went out and watched Breck vs Minnehaha tonight. I got to see the Redhawks of Minnehaha punch their ticket to the state tournament. Minnehaha runs a lot of different stuff, but something that caught my eye was their shuffle offense. It's a simple continuity, and even though I am not a continuity coach, I love the action that it creates. It really can get you some quality paint touches.

The offense starts in a 1-3-1 set with the post player in the high post.

The point guard (1) passes to the wing away from the low post (3). The opposite wing (2) cuts off the high pust and curls to the rim. The low post player (4) sets a backscreen for the point guard (1) who cuts to the backside block.

The player who came off the back screen at the point (1) fills the backside wing. The player who set the backscreen on the point guard (4) steps out to the point, gets a pass from the wing, and reverses the ball to the player on the backside wing (1). The wing who made the first pass (3) now comes off of the shuffle cut to the block and the lost post (2) screens for the player at the point (4). You keep running it until you score.

Minnehaha had a pretty skilled inside player at the five and sometimes they would throw him the ball. This would also him to go iso from the high post and was effective. Which ever way he drove, teh post player would pop out and make room for him to go to work. I would either put your defensive stopper here and not throw him the ball, or your best 1 on 1 player here and use the offense as a decoy to get him the ball in a 1 on 1, attacking situation. Depends on how you want to play it.

As with any continuity you need some counters for when teams try and take things away. If they deny the point, you dribble up from the wing, the point back cuts to the rim and fills the wing that was emptied by the dribble over. The player on the opposite block (4) pops to receive the pass as he normally would. Pass and get it into the shuffle.

 If the wing is overplayed the point (2) can dribble at the wing. He backcuts hard to the rim. The backside wing (1) rotates up to take the point spot. The backside block (3) cuts to the wing. The backcutting player (4) can fill the backside block. As soon as the ball gets to the wing the player who fills from block to backside wing (3) comes hard off the shuffle screen.

And there you have it, simple yet effective, especially if you add in the back cut actions. I think this would be a nice continuity to complement what we try to do in our motion offense - get to the rim.