Friday, June 27, 2014

Basketball Roles Over Positions

Picture courtesy of
I was having a good conversation today with another coach. We were talking about how coaches often pigeonhole players into  positions. The picture on the right shows some examples of traditional positions that coaches would have for players. Each position comes with expectations of what that position will be doing. For example a "center" or "5" will post up by the basket, play inside, and not handle the ball. On the other hand the "point guard" or 1 will be handling the ball, making a lot of decisions, etc. The problem with this is that positions don't take into account what players can do, what skills they have, and the match ups on the floor. Every player at that position is expected to be the same - and they are not. For example a center, or 5, might be a good ball handler even though they are tall. And in some games he may be guarded by a slow, plodding player and your pg guarded by a great defender. In this situation it would make sense to have your bigger player take it up. This however, usually doesn't happen and we get the tall player standing under the rim and the shortest player bringing it up.

After having that conversation reminded me of an article by Beckham: Analytics Reveal 13 New Basketball Positions. It's a great read on redefining positions in basketball. Re-reading it today got me thinking defining players based on what they can do - their roles. After a quick brain storm, I came up with a list of roles that players could have:

3 point Shooter
Inside Shooter
Post Up Player
Ball Handler
Perimeter Defender
Post Defender
Rim Protector

So what you do is pick the things the player can do and label him as such. Some examples of this would be below:

1. Player who can block/change some shots from help, can rebound, but isn't offensively skilled he would be a: Post defending, rebounding, rim protector.

2. A player is a great ballhandler, a great defender, and can get to the rim, but can't shoot it or guard in the post would be a: slasher, inside shooter, ball handler, perimeter defender. 

3. A player who is a big body, isn't a great shot blocker, rebounds, defends a post, scores well inside with post ups, and can catch and shoot a three would be: inside shooter, post up player, 3 point shooter, post defender, rebounder.

4. A once in a generation player for your school, who can do it all on offense and defense, would be labeled as a: Scorer, 3 point shooter, inside shooter, slasher, ball handler, perimeter defender, post defender, rebounder.

5.You have a smaller player who is great on the ball but doesn't do anything on offense can be described as a: perimeter defender.

So as you can see it's about labeling players by WHAT THEY CAN DO and not a position that implies things. This will help coaches with lineups, subbing, etc. You always need someone on the floor who has ball handler on their name - might not always be someone you would think of as a point guard. Obviously this thing isn't new, but I do think that if you think about it this way it will give you a clearer picture of what you have to work with

Monday, June 23, 2014

Using a Season Journal/Binder

This year I was lucky enough to be able to run our youth summer workouts. I was writing the first plan this morning in a new notebook and first started by writing out what I wanted to accomplish over the 4 weeks we are together. I narrowed down about 4 things I wanted them to learn and then wrote some more ideas about how they would learn that. I then wrote a big picture plan and then started to write out the plan for the first day. During the workouts I wrote every one's name down to help remember and also remember who was there. After we were done today I went back and wrote a paragraph or so of thoughts, feelings, and ideas that I had based on day 1. For instance I put down that having 90 minutes of stuff for 90 minutes wasn't feasible because Coach Klingsporn wanted about 10 minutes to talk before we got going so he could cover several house cleaning items.  Another thing was that I should narrow my focus to one skill and shooting - which is a good thing to remember.

Now this didn't all happen by design. I lack a good printer at home so I just wrote it down in an empty notebook and didn't tear out any pages. Doing this got me thinking, what if you were to do this for an entire season. Just keep a record of all practices, games, thoughts, feelings, and ideas during the season. I mean I type and keep all my practice plans, but don't have what we actually did, what happened during that time, the reflections, thoughts, game breakdowns, ideas, etc with them. How much more powerful would that be? This year I think I am going to try it, but instead of a notebook, I will use a three ring binder because I like to type practice plans and can just three hole punch them. We'll see how it goes next year and will definitely post an update as we go.

Also, would love to hear feedback if anyone has done this and how it went for them.

Best Xs and Os from the River Falls Tournament

Photo courtesy of wikipedia
At Tartan we always go to the UW-River Falls team camp. It's well run, the high school facilities are unbelievable, and the competition is pretty good. Both the varsity and jv groups did well and improved over the weekend. Now summer high school tournaments aren't normally somewhere that you would expect to pick up a lot of great Xs and Os. Most guys have a new team because the seniors graduated and don't have in a lot of their stuff. This weekend at River Falls was an exception to that rule however. I saw several good things that I wanted to share.

Back Screen BLOB Play
I can't even remember who ran this set, but I thought it was really slick. It's not one with multiple options that will work 2,3,4 times against an opponent. But it's a simple one that I would keep in my back pocket for a situation where you need a basket in a tight game - it's really a great last second blob if you tweaked it for a second option - maybe 2 screens 4 to the corner for a shot in a screen the screener action.

The set starts in a box with guards on the bottom and posts on the top. All for players start to cut toward the ball.
 As the backside players reach the lane line the bottom players (2,3) keep cutting, The back side elbow (5) sets a back screen for the ball side elbow player (4) who cuts to the rim for a score.

Line BLOB Set
Forest Lake ran this classic against us several times and ended up with two easy baskets, one on the initial dive and one on the screener's roll. It's a pretty solid play if you have a few other line plays. Also a good one to only bring out when you need a basket at the end of a game.

It starts in a pretty simple line stack with the guards low and the post or big wing players high. The bottom 2 players cut to the corners and the third player in line faces the ball and butt screens the top player's (5) defender.

The top player (5) cuts hard off the butt screen to the rim and the third player (4) spaces out to the opposite side. 4 will be open if they cheat off him to cover 5 or switch it.

Our JV team got a good test playing Mounds Park Academy's varsity. They ran this play several times and I liked the looks they got out of it. I think it could be a play that you add some counters to and make really good.

The set is a 2-3 high look. The point reverses to the opposite wing.

The high post back screens the point who cuts to the rim.
 The point then fills out the ball side off his cut. As this is happening, the opposite guard (2) comes off a double flair screen by the post (5) and backside wing (3). The wing with the ball (4) dribbles up at the flair. The post dives after setting the first flair which really can create mismatch issues if they switch.
They would often throw to the 2 coming off the flair and he would attack and dump to the post or kick to the pg. Once the 3 flashed middle go the ball and attacked as well.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Toughness as a Coach

Lots of good stuff on Twitter today about being tough as a coach and the need for toughness in coaching. Dean Benton (@athletico_dev) tweeted a link to this Huffington Post article defending the toughness of the ousted Canadian rowing coach. Then, Greg White (@GregWhite32) had a string of great tweets about how players need toughness from their coaches. My favorite was this one:

All this talk gets me thinking, what are tough coaches really about? And that brings me to the man in the picture. This is Coach Reinhardt, Hall-of-Fame football coach from Rushford-Peterson (MN). I played for R-P my freshmen and sophomore years, so I didn't play much varsity, but I got to be around Coach Reinhardt a lot. The thing that made Coach Reinhardt great was that he was a tough SOB, but at the same time, you knew he cared. He would be the first one to tell you that you screwed up, but also the first one to pat you on the back when you did something right. That philosophy stuck with me and is what makes a truly great tough-guy coach. You can't be a yeller and a screamer all the time and expect consistent results. Would he yell when he needed to? Of course, but he also developed meaningful relationships with his players. And because of this, his players would run through a wall if he wanted, with no questions asked.

We do need more toughness and honesty in coaching. I truly believe that every player really does desire to be coached, pushed, and held to a high standard. But being Bobby Knight is not productive either. Today's players don't respond to that. Today's tough-guy coach has to be a lot like Coach Reinhardt - have a high standard, don't compromise, be brutally honest, but also work on relationships and give positive feedback when deserved.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Silver Stars and Shock Notes

Not having cable is hard, but having ESPN 3 makes it a little bit more bearable. Tonight I was watching a re-peat of the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars and Tulsa Shock. I've said it before on here and I will say it again, if you are an average high school boys coach and you want to watch basketball to pick up Xs and Os the WNBA is far superior to the NBA. There are a lot less iso plays, straight pick and roll, backing guys down, and throwing alley-oops. The coaches in the WNBA run some really great team oriented stuff. Below are a few simple things I grabbed while watching the first half tonight.

Silver Starts SLOB
Quick hitting SLOB set that I really liked as a different take on a classic. The set starts with the offense lined up in a box, big post on the ball side elbow and the point guard on the ball side block. Your shooter should be on the backside block (3). The point upscreens for the big. If you can't get the big going to the basket, or there isn't a big on small mismatch, the point pops out and gets the ball.

Right on the catch the back side block shooter (3) cuts toward 5 like he's coming off a baseline screen - which is a pretty typical SLOB. Instead of coming off the baseline screen, the shooter changes course and comes off a down screen by the back side elbow player (4).

Silver Stars Side PnR to Post Entry
I always like inventive ways to get the ball into the high and low post and put pressure on the defense. The silver stars ran a nice side pick and roll set to do just that. It starts with the point on the wing with the ball, the big post on the elbow and the power forward/big wing (4) on the ball side block with two shooters spotted up on the backside. The point comes off the ball screen set by the post on the elbow. As the point clears the ball screen the block player stepps up and sets the back screen for the screener to go to the rim.

If the post isn't open off the screen, the ball is immediately thrown back to the screener (4) popping out to the wing. The screener then entered the ball to the post player. This is gold because it's almost impossible for a defender, even a good one, to be in the lane to defend the cut off the screen AND also get around front to deny the entry pass. You may have to teach your post to seal and leg whip on the pass to the wing but if they get a good deal it's going to be a very hard cover.

Shock Take on the Iverson Set
Everyone has run, or seen run, the Iverson set out of the 1-4 high where one wing goes under, the other goes over across the posts and then gets the ball on the move to attack the rim. This set was a nice variation off of that.

The point has the ball on a laneline. The wing on the ball side is on the free throw line extended and the back side wing is in the corner. In this set the 2 should be your best shooter and the 3 should be a guy who can drive the ball, at least ideally. The set starts in normal Iverson fashion, the ball side wing comes across the top of the two post players.

As he gets over the top, the backside wing (3) goes under but also loops around and over the top of the two posts. Once he clears the posts he receives the pass. The other wing (2) should finish the cut at the block opposite the point at be on the block as the 3 catches. 

As the 3 catches the ball, the posts (4, 5) and point (1) go and set a triple screen away for the wing (2) on the block who comes up the lane line looking for a shot. The 3 can also go baseline if the defense overplays the triple screen and doesn't pay attention.

Again, I think the WNBA is a great resource to find coaching material. I would urge the male high school coaches who read this to watch more than you did last summer. You'll find that you'll be surprised at how much you will get from it!