Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Game Checklist

I am writing this blog more as a self reflection exercise than anything else. This year I've tried to get in more Xs and Os stuff than any year before. It's my belief that it's most efficient to spend the first two weeks doing all your Xs and Os stuff instead of working on "skills". The reason for this is that if you spend the first two weeks on skills you will panic the rest of the year and not have time for skills because you are putting stuff in. If you put it all in right away you spend the rest of the year tweaking and refining the Xs and Os and have a lot more time to teach overall. Along with that I believe that a year long, progressive skill program is better than 2 heavy weeks. With all that said, I am trying to come up with a check list of stuff to get in before your first game. Here is my list below, I would love to get any feedback that anyone has.

1) Base Motion vs. Man and Zone
     *Pass and cut
     *Back cut pressure
2) 1 Baseline Inbounds Set
3) Press Offense
4) 1-3 Man Sets
5) 1 Zone Set

1) On ball principles
2) Off ball principles
3) Defending ball screens
4) Defending cuts
5) Defending single screens
6) Full court defense
7) Half court trap from man to man

Anything I am missing? Any thoughts?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Notes from the MN Coaches Association Clinic

It's getting cold outside, got to use my leaf blower this week, and the days just got way to short. All of these developments are signs that high school basketball is right around the corner here in Minnesota. The number one sign the season is coming for me is the MN Basketball Coaches Association Clinic, which was held last Friday and Saturday. It was a good clinic with lots of solid speakers. I got over 35 pages of great notes on a variety of topics. I'm going to share some odds and ends that I found very helpful.

Ben Howland: Transition Defense
Former UCLA and Pitt head coach Ben Howland was the first one to speak on Friday morning and had some great things to say. One of the first things he talked about was transition defense. In his transition defense he sends his 2 all the way back, his 3, 4, and 5 crash, and his 1 gets to the top of they key extended in the back court. The 1's job is to pressure/jam the outlet and slow the ball early. It is a great idea that does not let teams get into transition and instead forces them to be thinkers.

This is a concept I hadn't heard of - most traditional transition revolves around getting guys back and how many. This involves trying to disrupt the opponent. So then I started thinking - why can't we defend transition in a few different ways? It should be pretty simple to teach - one main transition philosophy with a curve ball or two thrown in. Imagine dropping three back in traditional Rim-Ball-Man transition for most of a half. Then with 3 minutes left in the half, when they are comfortable, you start having your 1 try to read the rebounder and pick off the outlet pass, or have your 4 and 5 immediately trap the rebounder. After half time you are back to your normal transition. You then continue to change your transition from time to time giving the opponent a variety of looks that can be low risk, high reward. That could force a few turnovers, or at the least give the offense some issues.

It also allows you to play different teams differently. If they are not aggressive in offensive transition, careless, or have poor ball handlers, you can get up and really pressure them. If they are good in transition you can simply get back. It might seem like a trivial thing, but to me it may have been the most important idea I picked up this weekend.

Ben Howland: End Every Play with a Transition
This was another great point that Ben Howland made was his use of transition to end every drill. In practice they end every drill with a transition. Even in 5 on 0 offense, the players transition down and pretend to get into defensive position 5 on 0. Last year I didn't do a good enough job teaching transition and need to fix that. This would be a great way to incorporate transition into everything we do. For example, when we are playing 4 on 4 on 4 the team that is out transitions down. If it's the offense they sprint down and get into position like they are going to be on defense - talking and all. If it's defense and they get scored on they grab the ball and transition down to the other end. The coach has an extra ball to throw to the offense in the cutthroat game. So as they transition down, the next session of cutthroat is happening.

This is a lot more useful than just "going out" of the drill to the sideline and waiting to come in. On top of working on the transition, it also builds the "Next Best Action" habit, forcing them to build the habit of immediately moving onto the next thing in transition mode.

Richard Pitino on Control
The biggest thing he's learned is that once the game starts you don't have much control over your players and what happens. Players must be able to play without you. This is an obvious statement, but it reinforces my belief in the use of a games based method of teaching the game.

Richard Pitino on Downing Ball Screens
At the clinic he was talking about his ball screen offense and he made a great point about "downing" or "icing" ball screens. It's really hard to down a pass and follow ball screen because of how quickly it happens. This is an interesting point for designing ball screens in the offense, and working on defending ball screens using Iceing.

Hans Skulstad on Performance
Hans is part of Minnesota Sports and Mind, which works with the mental side of athletics. One of the things he talked about was athletes who freeze under pressure. When players get stressed, the brain releases hormones that shut down the thinking side of the brain and put them into feeling only. There are several ways that players can learn to "reboot" their brains. Some of those things are rapid eye movement, fist clench 6-12x, feet tap, breath in for 5 seconds - hold for 2 seconds - and breathe out for seven. So obviously these are things we can teach players to get over their stresses. In basketball I would teach the rapid eye movement or fists because it can be done quickly - the other ones might take too long to be effective in a game. It's important to teach athletes to manage stress and the mental game - and this is a great tool to work with them on.

Henry Barrera on Warm Ups
Henry Barrera (@hoopdiaries) is a Nike and Stronger Team instructor. He may have been my favorite of all the presenters and I loved his energy. Unfortunately he went so fast that I didn't get it all - but I did get the gist of it. He was very good at seeing how players moved and correcting those movements - it's something I want to get better at. My favorite part of his presentation was the warm up.

This year I am really interested in warm up and injury prevention because I believe it's a way to gain an advantage. Obviously the more guys you have healthy, the better you will perform. I've been doing some research on what the Phoenix Suns are doing to keep guys healthy and some of it is along the lines of what Coach Barrera is doing. His warm up had three parts:

  1. Warm the Muscle - using basketball movements. 
  2. Stretch the Muscle
  3. Teach the Muscle - teach it how it is supposed to move. 
He took the guys through a 5 minute warm up. It started with some basketball specific warm ups like close outs, direction changes, etc. That warmed up and stretched the muscles. He then went into a progression where he did the training of the muscle - a lot of form running, skipping, and accelerating. I'm not going to try to put it all down because I'm not confident my notes are good enough, but I would encourage you to check him out as I think he's doing some great work.

Rick Torbett - Decision Box
And yes, we had the master of Read and React at the clinic. His presentation was good as he showed some updated layers of his Read and React that I liked. He used the term decision box to describe what happens when players get into the lane. Once they are in the lane they have several options on how to get out - flash to the short corner, flash to the high post, back screen, or fill out. Nothing earth shattering, but I did love the terminology and am going to steal that for sure.

Kris Fadness and Tandeming the 1-3-1
Coach Fadness is a high school coach in Austin, MN. He's taken the Austin program from the basement to a yearly state tournament contender and he's done it using the 1-3-1 zone. He plays his a little bit differently, almost like a 3-2. I'm not going to get into deep detail, but did want to talk about one thing he does out of it. He tandems his bottom and middle guy in the 1-3-1.

So the defense starts off like a regular 1-3-1 look. The wing takes the ball, the point is in the middle, the bottom is shaded to the corner, the middle has the high post, and the backside wing drops. Pretty standard stuff here.

 The difference is on the ball reversal. The wing comes up and takes it, the point dives to protect the drive and pops back, the new opposite wing drops, again nothing to see here. The difference is the middle (X2) and low (X1) guys. They exchange positions. The bottom (X1) sprints to the high post and the high post (X2) sprints to shade the corner, making slides shorter for the X1 and keeping him from having to go corner to corner. I've never seen it played like that and it gives it an interesting twist.

Well, that's all I have. Nothing ground breaking, but I think there are a few ideas in there that you can use with success. Next week we will be started here in Minnesota and the season will be under way. I want to wish you all the best of luck on your journey this year! Enjoy it because it always goes fast and you never know when it will be your last. As coaches it's important to reflect on that and find joy in every moment this year - good and bad!