30 second time outs

Monday, December 29, 2008

Post Defense-Protect the Red Zone

*Pressure on the Ball*
A key is to always put pressure on the basketball. Don`t let an offensive player do anything with the ball--dribble, pass, or shoot--without having one of your hands trying to get into the way. If he is looking to pass, you may be able to get a hand on the ball or discouraging him from passing to an open player. That way for that split second when the post player is open, the passer may be deterred from executing the pass. This helps the post defender immensely.

Low Post Denial
*Low Post Defense-ball above the Free throw line*
If the ball is above the free throw line extended (imaginary line extending from the free throw line to the sideline), then you should deny on the high side (closest to 1/2 court. You should be chest to chest with the post player with your arm closest to the ball in the passing lane.

*Low post defense-ball is below the free throw line*
If the ball is below the free throw line try to get around the post player and "Full Front". We refer to an area called the red zone as an 8-foot to 10-foot imaginary semi-circle on the floor around the basket. The key to establishing good post defense is to beat the offensive player to their desired spot and get in proper position as you are coming down the floor to protect the "RED ZONE".The post player probably is not going to want you in this position, so it is a constant fight for position between the post player and defender. Your teammates will need to help you on any lob pass. Be active and try to AVOID contact. The post player will have more trouble "pinning" you in a position where they can receive the ball.

*Low Post Defense-he`s pushed you out of the RED ZONE*
The low post player might try to push you out after you "full front". If you get out too far you can release and get behind the post player, so that your feet are OUTSIDE of the key. Now you are between him and the basket and have him 12´-15´ away. You may be allowing him to get the ball but this makes it a tough shot for the offense AND you have rebounding position. The post is also closer to your help defenders, making it much easier for them to "dig" or "double" in the post.

*Get behind in the "SMILE"*
THIS IS OUR FAVORITE! We call the area from 12`-15`from the basket and just out of the RED ZONE the SMILE (diagram it on paper and you`ll see why)
Many times the 5 man is big and effective at the block, but not very good from 12` and out. Generally speaking they are not the most adept passers either. For this reason we will "bait" the offense into entering the pass to the post. We`ll initially fight to full front in hopes that the post battles for position (like they are taught to do). Then we`ll get behind. If the ball enters the post, we will either double or lock up on the perimeter (based on scouting).

*Sag off of the ball*
If you have determined thru scouting that the player with the ball is not a a very good shooter or is reluctant to shoot, it is possible to sag off of him defensively and NOT put pressure on the ball. By sagging in the direction of the post player with your hands up the defense has a much tougher pass into the post. Works in conjuction with playing behind after the post has pushed his defender out. Almost gives you someone in front and behind the offensive post player. If that outside player all of a sudden hits a couple of open shots-it`s tim eto change up and put pressure on the ball again.

*Double in the post*
There are many ways to double in the post. Some teams switch from game to game based on scouting. At the lower levels it may be more efficient to have one consistent style. Doubling from the wing who passed to the block allows the post player a clear vision to the help defender and a simpler pass back out to the perimeter. I like to leave that defender "locked up" on the wing. Doubling with another post defender leaves the post to post pass open and puts pressure on rebounding. That always concerns me. If all players are where they should be in relation to the BALL_MAN_LINE, it should be an easy double from the defender on(or near)the point or the weakside wing defender (who should be on the key by now). So I like to double from the top, with high hands, and have the weak side defender "zone up" in the middle. That "zone up" player is responsible to close out on the next pass. The "doubler" now rotates to the next offensive player.
This aggressive double and rotation sometimes causes a little confusion in an inferior passing post player and force them into turnovers.

Low post play is a constant battle for position. During this battle sometimes you may end up in a position where the post may catch the BALL. It is important at those times to be in a position to prevent him from making a good post move and getting a BASKET. And sometimes, when trying to deny the ball, the offense will simply make a good play and execute that perfect pass at just the right time and they may get a BASKET. That happens. But it better not be for lack of trying to deny them the BALL!
The defensive key during this battle is to keep from getting "pinned" in a position where the defense gives up "BALL & BASKET".

Bottom line: In the RED ZONE play Full Front-No Catch.
Once the offense tries to push you out beyond 8`-10`, Get behind them and SMILE - you have them right where you want them!

Somewhere someone is ...

One of the most oft-repeated quotes comes from Bill Bradley, star NBA guard for the Knicks and American Politician who said in his book Values Of the Game,
Somewhere someone is practicing. If you're not and you meet them in competition, all other things being equal, you will lose!

MAYBE the following statement is just as true...
Somewhere, someone is resting and recovering. That will revitalize them to the point when they take the court again, they will work harder, longer, and with more focus. This periodization of training leads to a more productive practice regimen. And when and you meet them in competition, all other things being equal, you will lose!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Love Of The Game

I took special interest in a piece on ESPN's Outside the Lines profiling Elena Delle Donne, the outstanding female basketball prodigy that gave up her basketball scholarship at UConn and returned home because she no longer "had the passion" for the sport. It reminds me of the tattoo that Paul Pierce, of the Boston Celtics has that depicts a basketball with a knife plunging through it that says, "My Gift-My Curse". I sometimes find myself describing players as being "cursed with ability". Too often we have players who happen to be blessed with some physical gifts, but don't have the passion that Delle Donne speaks of. Many times these players appear to be cheating their teammates because of lack of effort on the part of a talented "star", when in reality they may be cheating themselves by continuing to play a game they don't enjoy enough to invest the time to try to and achieve their potential. For that reason we may applaud Delle Donna for being true to herself and not cheating any teammates with a less than committed effort.

Take a look at this feature.

Take a look at this complete interview with Elena.

Interesting that she mentions age 13 as when she felt it was no longer fun. There must be something about that age? If she wasn't GREAT at her sport, she may have been part of the statistic reported by a Michigan State University study that over 70% of kids quit sports by age 13. For professional sports, that is the equivalent of losing one potential Michael Jordan or LeBron James a week. In addition, there is no way of knowing the impact on potential future business leaders and other professions where continued sports participation helps develop critical life skills to succeed in those fields. Is it a quantum leap to think this dropout rate effects society as a whole?

Few departures are as publicized as Elena's decision, but there certainly have been some, and it's a little shocking that we don't hear of more. She chose not to stop playing because she "didn't want to show any weakness to anybody." She "drove the bus" , she asked for help, she said she wanted to work out, she wanted to play. She viewed the game as work, and was always trying to please herself. Not so much her parents or coaches... at that time. However, what we need to be careful of, as parents, is to avoid creating that expectation at an early age and developing those feelings in our children that they need to be perfect and always working. Sometimes it is our job to put on the brakes and force them to take some time off... even if they say they don't want to.

We need to be smart enough to know that the NEED to.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Inside Zone Attack

To start your zone offense it is a good idea to get in a "GAP ALIGNMENT". Against an even front zone (2-1-2, or 2-3) get in an odd front set (1-3-1,1-2-2 or 1-4). Against an odd front zone, get in an even front set. This is to make two defenders think about which one should guard you. If a defender is in a direct line between you and the basket-MOVE and put players where the defense isn´t.

While I prefer to have good, solid zone offensive principles help the offense get a shot, at times a set play may need to be called. Here is one of my favorite against a 2-3 zone that provides an inside attack.

The play starts with an odd front gap alignment and the point guard(1) should "dribble-drag" the defender at least to the free throw line extended and "chase" the offensive wing(2) through to the opposite wing.. The key is to not go so far as to allow the defensive guard(1) to "pass" the dribbler on to the forward(3). If this is done properly, the return pass to (3) who followed the dribble the top of the key should be defended by the other defensive guard(2) at the top of the 2-3 zone.

When the ball is rapidly swung to (2), who was chased from the opposite wing, the low defender(4) should be required to closeout. When that defender breaks the offensive post(4) seal(4) should find the center defender(5) and screen, allowing the opposite offensive post(5) to flash to the block or short corner to receive the attacking pass from the wing(2). If the defensive center(5) should defeat the screen to guard the offensive(5), the screener(4) should be open on a roll back.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Twelve Weeks of Basketball

I always get players (and coaches) asking for how they can improve any number of different skills or strategies. Everybody`s "wish list" is a little different -some are thoughtful and some are...interesting. Players usually want to know how to increase their vertical, or dunk in no time flat. Rarely do they ask how to execute a proper jump stop, bounce pass, or mid range jump shot off the glass. Some coaches want that one drill or play that will turn their team into championship contenders. It`s good to add drills and plays to your arsenal - as long as we don`t forget to simply teach players HOW to play.The amazing thing about the game of basketball is that there are NO short cuts. It`s different than Christmas. There is nothing "magical" that is going to happen one day, nothing that is going to show up under your Christmas tree that will make you instantly better. Santa Claus is not going to bring you an amazing vertical or a pure jump shot. Kris Kringle will not make your team a group of turnover free, tenacious defenders. There is no one tip or one special play that will make a player or team instantly better. Just hard work and repetitions with a specific goal in mind. Over and over again. The right way. With coaching feedback NO slippage. Practice makes perfect? Or the quest for perfect practice makes perfect?

In keeping with the Spirit of Christmas I thought I`d leave you with a little song, sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

*******The Twelve Weeks of Basketball*******

On the first day of practice my team promised me: a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the second week of the season my team promised me: 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring.

In the third week of the season my team promised me 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the fourth week of the season my team promised me: 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the fifth week of the season my team promised me: 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the sixth week of the season my team promised me: 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the seventh week of the season my team promised me: 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the eighth week of the season my team promised me: 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the ninth week of the season my team promised me: 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the tenth week of the season my team promised me: 10 Guys Competing, 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the eleventh week of the season my team promised me: 11 Tough Rebounders, 10 Guys Competing, 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the twelth week of the season my team promised me: 12 Strong Defenders, 11 Tough Rebounders, 10 Guys Competing, 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a Dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 Quarters Played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 15, 2008


While running the 2-Guard Continuity a good option is the Weakside Duck-in. Sometimes the defender will be on the high side of the post during the duck-in, enabling the ball to be entered from the player fading from the top to the weakside wing. If it is determined that the defense is doing a good job of denying the duck-in, the "Turn-Out" can be a good counter. The duck-in sets up the defender, and the weakside post can then "turn-out" the strong side off a double screen for a jumpshot.

Alternating looks will then, in turn, loosen up the post defender and the duck-in may be open once again.

Pete Carroll's Winning Coaching Style

There was a great piece on 60 minutes about USC football coach Pete Carroll. In the piece there are some great examples of positive coaching where Pete never passes up an opportunity to fill his players emotional tanks by giving truthful and specific praise. He's also not afraid to correct, critique, or discipline - and realizes the importance to follow up that discipline by taking advantage of the teachable moment.

The most amazing part of the piece is what Coach Carroll is doing OFF the field. Take a look here -

Watch CBS Videos Online

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Player Profanity

I was asked recently how to deal with "Player Profanity". The first step, obviously, is everyone setting the proper example. It's tough to say "Do as I say not as I do".. and that includes the parents. A conversation with them is necessary to get them on your side and maybe they realize that they are contributing to the problem.

Explaining that we're here to learn and the field is our classroom, so let's behave like that. You certainly can't use that language in the classroom. Build good habits that allows you to speak in any setting. Use of foul language is simply a vocabulary issue. It sometimes reveals the lack of one, and the inability to express themselves in any other manner. Have the kids practice "alternate" phrases and maybe make a game out of it. Over the years I settled on "Doggone it" and Coach Wooden's "Goodness Gracious!". Some people use a lot of "frickety-fracks" and "flippity-flops".

Peer pressure is tremendous - in both directions. I've used team consequences/loss of rewards if someone swears. Eliminate a fun drill if someone swears or the whole team does 3 push-ups as a reminder. Then you have the players trying to police one another.

As symbolic rewards I've used a game-by-game "Sins&Saves" chart to keep track of execution, hustle plays and the like (positive charting) while things like language could be in the "Sins" column. Total points could earn individual/team rewards.

I'm not certain that I like it, but a trend out our way has parents passing a can around during the game after goals/runs/really big plays. Money put into the can goes towards defraying the cost of the end of the season party. Possibly remove a dollar from the can for every curse word. That should "hit 'em in the can!"

Monday, December 08, 2008

Weakside Duck-In

In our 2-Guard Continuity, a pass to the High post creates a great opportunity for the player at the weakside block (in this case 4)to duck in for a great high low look. If 4 is not open directly from 5 because the defender may be in position to deny the pass, 1 could fade to the weakside wing and the ball could be entered to 4 holding the seal posting up from there

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I picked this up quite some time ago and it is a great exercise to remind players that their daily efforts add up to an improved performance. Have the players read it prior to the first 21 practices of the season and rate their performance after practice. You'll be surprised how honest players are and how they start to understand what their best effort really is - and what they're capable of.


I dare any aspiring athlete to read and comprehend the material presented on this page, word for word, immediately before the start of his/her daily practice sessions for the next 21 days. I dare you to tape this exercise to the inside of your locker door and to use the columns provided in checking off an honest appraisal at the conclusion of each practice.

It is one of the athlete's illusions that the present hour is not the critical decisive hour, e.g., the event or game is a week or weeks away...ample time to prepare in a gradual type of way. Forget it! The critical time for accomplishing anything is in the here and now. Write it on your heart and imprint it on your brain that every day is a day to dare to do your best. Each day provides opportunity for self-improvement,self-renewal. Today's accomplishments, not yesterday's or tomorrow's produce the most satisfaction, as what you accomplish today can give you an immediate feeling of self-confidence and direction. The critical time for accomplishing anything is in the here and now. Today. The most important ingredient in future performance is present performance. The most difficult tasks are consummated, not by a single explosive burst of energy or effort, but by consistent daily application of the best you have within you.

Whether we call our practice exhausting work or relaxing play depends largely upon our attitudes toward it. Practice is an opportunity to improve our skills. The majority of athletes perform in games and events like they perform in practice. Approach each practice session with enthusiasm as nothing great has ever been accomplished without it. One spark of enthusiasm is worth more than two hours of uninspired practice. Be aware that it is not simply that certain activities are boring but that the mind has been programmed for boredom or distraction .

We program ourselves for boredom or distraction when we think we already know all about something. We learn and perform at our best when the mind is calmly alert, interested and enjoying itself. Challenge yourself mentally as well as physically and you will start to enjoy the price of success rather than pay for it.

My Best Effort/Above Ave./Ave./Below Ave./Poor Effort


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Weakside Pinch Post

In the case where both the low and high post entry passes are denied, the next option is for the weak-side guard to fake a cut inside, and then cut across to receive a pass and initiate a side-post game on the weak side.

The weak-side guard will receive the pass at the top, and the weak side forward will cut up to the mid-post - or pinch post, or side post, or whatever you want to call it, it's the same thing. (Note: this is also the reversal sequence in the Triple-Post Offense. You'll see Kobe Bryant receive the ball a lot in LA's pinch post sequence, and it looks almost exactly like this.) He weakside guard passes the ball to the side post, and begins a two-man game with the side post player. Meanwhile, the two forwards now on the weak-side form a double screen for the other guard, who will try to come under them for an easy layup, and when that is denied he will re-use the double screen and pop out for an opportunity for a jump shot on the weak side.

The two man game that the mid-post and guard play is dependent upon the guard's defender. The guard fakes down and cuts outside the mid-post. If his defender goes under the mid-post (which acts as a screen), the guard will cut outside and receive the pass back for the jump shot. Meanwhile, the mid-post player dives for offensive rebounding coverage or a post-up opportunity, the high forward on the double screen cuts to the middle for rebounding coverage, and the low forward remains in rebounding coverage. The other guard cuts high for defensive balance.

And, if the guard elects not to shoot the jump shot for whatever reason, you're right back into your Triangle setup:

In the case where the defender comes over the mid-post player, then the guard will take a handoff or drop pass for a quick dribble and layup opportunity.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Lakers: Commit to the basketball

A post during the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals addressed the number of uncontested shots the Celtics were getting (scroll down to see some photos). It seems that Los Angeles has a renewed commitment to the basketball and is making a concerted effort to get to shooters.

Contrast that with this open jumper from last years finals.Contrast that with this open jumper from last years finals.

or this back-breaking breakaway that all but sealed the championship for the Celtics

Friday, November 21, 2008

High Post Triangle

When running the 2-Guard continuity diagrammed below, there are a variety of looks, options, and specials that can be run during the continuity, Here is something to look at that is a great shot opportunity for the player at the low block (in this case 2) and also gives the screener a chance to post up if the matchup dictates.

When the ball is at the wing, a pass to the high post sets up a downscreen by 3. While the screen is approaching 2 should step in to set up the defender prior to using the screen by 3. On the catch 2 should be shot-ready or look to 3 in the post.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Factory

While stations CAN be really good, I think some kids have a bad view of "stations" from some poor camp experiences. They might get the image of mindless, repetitive drills with little or no supervision.

It's a little thing but we have always had a section of practice that we called "The Factory".

An "assembly line" of driils that help us "build" our game.

Most of the drills were rapid fire, high intensity, competitive situations. Maybe a pick and roll, post D, help side, getting through screens, etc and almost always with an offense and a defense. This would put players in a short-sided and semi-live situation with a number of repititions to help them work out game situations.

The other thing I might suggest is rather than doing something different at every basket, We took to doing the same thing at all baskets - then switching drills/games/activities every 3-5 minutes. this way I was watching the same thing at each basket, and if I made a verbal correction - I could do it loud enough that it might be an effective teachable moment at every basket.

Plus it was much easier for me to really focus on what I was teaching, instead of switching from skill to skill and basket to basket.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2 Guard

2-Guard is a continuity offense designed to allow four perimeter players equal opportunity to be in all spots at sometime during the continuity. This is the initial cut and the basic ball reversal. Four players need to be able to function on the perimeter and it helps if the high post is a decent passer, as you will see later. Over the next couple weeks we'll add some options and specials that make this a pretty comprehensive offense that you can build on and use from the youth level on up.

Check back soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Advantage Disadvantage

Those immersed in the basketball community will read “Advantage Disadvantage” and recognize many of the “usual suspects” and familiar situations that will make you chuckle… or bring your emotions to anger, disgust, sadness, excitement, and joy. Readers foreign to the world of hoops will gain some insight into the machinations of prep basketball, recruiting, officiating, and the cracks in the system that allows the slime to sometimes find it’s way into our beautiful game.

“Advantage Disadvantage” is a fictional tale with high school basketball as the backdrop for an intriguing story of a cast of characters that challenges you to examine the purity of amateur sports. We get to know some individuals who are faced with some very real life temptations and we follow them while they try to reconcile right from wrong – all while wondering whether their decisions will prove to be an Advantage or a Disadvantage.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Multi-Sport Athletes

USC head football coach Pete Carroll uses the ability to play multiple sports when evaluating prospective recruits. He says,

“I want guys that are so special athletically, so competitive that they can compete in more than one [sport] here at USC. It’s really important that guys are well-rounded and just have this tendency for competitiveness that they have to express somewhere.”

“We want [athletes to] show that it’s really, really important for them to excel and [that] they have that special will and that competitiveness that can really define a desire to be something unique,” Carroll explains.

According to Carroll, the hunger to compete is what gets a player noticed. Being a well-rounded athlete, playing multiple sports and attending combines and camps will make coaches pay attention to your abilities. He says, “All of that is [just] guys looking for a chance to compete and learn, but also show who they are and what they’re all about. That’s why I like to see guys play other sports too, because they want to show off who they are. All of that is what makes them the kind of guy we would want here at our school.”

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Do you believe?

There was the Amazing Mets motto "You Gotta Believe!" ; Jose Lima proclaiming Lima Time by exclaiming "Believe It"; the Golden State Warriors "We Believe!" and the most famous Al Michael's line at the end of the Miracle on Ice when he's heard screaming "Do you believe in miracles? YES!"

In sports we always talk about what we believe, we can achieve. Every coach, teacher, and parent needs to check out this video and realize how we can make a difference in kid's lives. One statement, one action by a teacher or coach can mean so much and seemingly small moments can help to shape their life’s direction.

After seeing this, I am sure that you will feel pretty good about the next generation.

Here is the text from the speech, and there are plenty of nuggets that should speak to each of us:

"I believe in me. Do you believe in me?

Do you believe I can stand up here, fearless, and talk to all 20,000 of you?

Hey, Charles Rice Learning Center – do you believe in me?

That's right – they do.

Because here's the deal: I can do anything, be anything, create anything, dream anything, become anything – because you believe in me. And it rubs off on me.

Let me ask you a question, Dallas ISD.

Do you believe in my classmates?

Do you believe that every single one of us can graduate ready for college or the workplace?

You better. Because next week, we're all showing up in your schools – all 157,000 of us – and what we need from you is to believe that we can reach our highest potential.

No matter where we come from, whether it's sunny South Dallas, ...whether its Pleasant Grove, ....whether its Oak Cliff ...or North Dallas or ....West Dallas or wherever, you better not give up on us. No, you better not.

Because, as you know, in some cases, you're all we've got. You're the ones who feed us, who wipe our tears, who hold our hands or hug us when we need it. You're the ones who love us when sometimes it feels like no else does – and when we need it the most.

Don't give up on my classmates.

Do you believe in your colleagues?

I hope so. They came to your school because they wanted to make a difference, too. Believe in them, trust them and lean on them when times get tough – and we all know, we kids can sometimes make it tough.

Am I right?

Can I get an Amen?

So, whether you're a counselor or a librarian, a teacher assistant or work in the front office, whether you serve up meals in the cafeteria or keep the halls clean, or whether you're a teacher or a principal, we need you!

Please, believe in your colleagues, and they'll believe in you.

Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe that what you're doing is shaping not just my generation, but that of my children – and my children's children?

There's probably easier ways to make a living, but I want to tell you, on behalf of all of the students in Dallas, we need you. We need you now more than ever.

Believe in yourself.

Finally, do you believe that every child in Dallas needs to be ready for college or the workplace? Do you believe that Dallas students can achieve?

We need you, ladies and gentlemen. We need you to know that what you are doing is the most important job in the city today. We need you to believe in us, in your colleagues, in yourselves and in our goals.

If you don't believe – well, I'm not going there.

I want to thank you for what you do – for me and for so many others.

Do you believe in me? Because I believe in me. And you helped me get to where I am today.

Thank you."

*******************Dalton Sherman

Apparently, this was not Dalton's first rodeo. Here he is from last March.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Basketball Playbooks/Notebooks at the High School level.

Here are a few thoughts that might make the use of Player Notebooks and Playbooks most effective. I've used them some years and some years we didn't. Not really sure why. Sometimes it can become a chore to police their use at first. But if you feel strongly enough that their use will be effective - it may be worth it.

Having one place to store schedules, tournament brackets, workout schedules, charts, or the players meetings and appointments is simply a good organizational skill that you are teaching your players that may carry on later in life. There were plenty of times we need to bring our Faculty Handbook to meetings or they may be in a business meeting where they must show up with their Operations Manual. And if they do play at the next level, they may very well be expected to take care of their playbook. They already take notebooks and text books to their classes - basketball is our class and it is not unreasonable to think that they can be responsible to do the same.

We had a pretty good football program and as hard as I found it at first, I tried to take the lead from them and emulate them a bit. If they can keep track of and demand the use of playbooks in HS - why couldn't we? I took the same approach to watching film, team or position meetings, conditioning/strength training and even more importantly the precision, timing and execution of our offense. Imagine what happens if linemen don't execute blocking schemes, quarterbacks and running backs don't time handoffs, backs don't hit holes at the right time, or the receiver doesn't break when the quarterback is ready to deliver the pass on a timing route!?! While teams can't get players to set and use screens properly? Shoot, the band and drill team moves at halftime are more coordinated than many basketball teams offenses. In an Olympic year we won't even talk about synchronized swimming! In a pool? Underwater? And point guards aren't ready to deliver passes when players break open.

But I digress....as usual!

I guess what I'm thinking is that you get what you emphasize, reward and are willing to demand. When we began to demand the same level of discipline and commitment as our football team we began to be taken more seriously and less as something to do between football and spring football.

One year I stapled our "playbook" together and found one on the floor of an opponents locker room after a game. The next year I put them in 3-prong portfolios and things weren't much better. A good 3-ring binder or even a "Trapper Keepr" style may be even more effective. So the better the quality - the more they may respect it.

Our league away games were anywhere from 45 minutes to 1:30 away, so we wanted them to be able to review the books and scouting reports on the bus. Are you willing to make the notebook their bus ticket? You'll only need to leave someone behind once to solve that problem.

When you have a team meeting, have them show you the book upon entering. If they don't have it - send them away. If you have consequences for missing a team meeting, those consequences would kick in. Again, that might happen once - or twice. But are you willing to enforce that? You get what you are willing to demand.

Maybe you're a team that uses targeted symbolic rewards to motivate. Stickers for assists, rebounds, points, steals, loose balls, wins, etc. They could get a sticker, when they show up with their book. Some coaches think that's a little juvenile - but I see a bunch of "paw prints", "tomahawks", and "buckeye leaves" on helmets every New Years Day! Another concern is where do you display those stickers. On posters in the locker room? In the gym? Well, maybe you can put them on the back of the 3-ring binder that houses your playbook. Then it becomes a badge-of-honor. Do you think kids might take care of it better and maybe even carry it around to "display" their success?

From a practical standpoint, seasons that I was really committed to using the books we'd give out the page(s) of the play that we were going to put in at practice tommorrow and players were responsible to study and be prepared the next day. When tomorrow arrives have them walk through it. In a matter of just a couple of minutes, you are now working 3/4 speed and discussing KEY components of execution such as timing, floor spacing and the sequence of options. We might have saved 5-15 minutes for each play/set we put in. Add that up over the course of a year.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Golden Triangle

The "Golden Triangle" is a, somewhat, overused description of some of the most important, wealthiest, or influential geographic areas in many parts of the planet. i like to refer to another very important piece of real estate as the "Golden Triangle" -the area a step outside each block to the midpoint of the FT line.

For rebounding purposes, we emphasize all FIVE defenders getting into the "Golden Triangle" where a majority of the rebounds fall (statistically it's probably more like an ellipse - but that's nitpicking!: ?) We talk a lot about geometry and anticipating rebounding angles.

Perimeter shots will be in the air only a little more than a second. That gives the defender time to get position between your man & the basket, make contact stop his progress, then get in the "Golden Triangle". If the defensive player is too deep in the "Golden Triangle" that's when they must block out to create space and get to the outskirts of the Triangle.

The Bottom Line is if all 5 defenders can be on the outskirts of that Triangle and be between the basket and the man they are responsible for blocking out...we're going to get a large majority of rebounds. If only a few guys get in the Triangle and the other two are posing on the perimeter with perfect block outs, the offense may have a better shot at some of those long rebounds.

Of course that's just one way to "skin a cat".

Monday, July 07, 2008

Senior Experience

Every really good team I've been associated with had great senior
leadership...at the end of the bench. 3 or 4 mature kids that had
been program players, understood their role, practiced their
rear-ends off, and were willing to help others achieve their goals.
The bench was less "squirrelly" and those players understood the way
we did things so they could be another set of eyes for the players
that did play.

Those teams always had 4 or 5 guys that might not be as good a
basketball player as the top 3-5 players on the JV team. But why
have those underclassroom at the end of a 15 player bench when they
can get more reps and minutes on the Junior Varsity.

Make those players feel special on a daily basis, praise them
relentlessly, mention them to reporters, let them know that their
efforts are as important as the top 8 players, lavish them on Senior
Night, and make a big deal about them at the banquet.

Often times, those are the kids that keep in touchthe most, come
back the most, and end up being coaches in your program.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Coaching today

I apologize in advance - I'm about to vent, ramble, and get on my
soapbox. You've been warned!

The days of the dictator coach are behind us. We need to find other
methods of teaching and relating to players that are more meaningful
than "My way or the highway." There are too many "highways" for kids
to choose from. These days persuading is far more effective long
term, than coersion. It is not my way, or my X's & O's that help us
succeed. It is their daily efforts. You want kids to learn to do
things because it is the right thing to do - not because they are
afraid of the consequence or looking forward to a reward.

Methods are adjusting for classroom teachers, and the basketball
community needs to keep up with the times. In the classroom,
teachers are continually finding ways of making their subjects more
relevant and useful to their students, and applicable to the world
that they live in. Most players(and students) now want to know “why”
something is being done. It would benefit the coach to have an
answer ready. Let the player know how it is going to help him/her
individually, as well as helping the team. A good example might be
setting a screen. A screen may be a method of helping a teammate get
open. However, a good screen forces the screeners defender to "help"
and becomes one of the best ways to free yourself for a shot. I have
found that players set better screens after they are told that it
can also help THEM! I'm reminded of the scene in "Field of Dreams"
when Costner says, "I've done EVERYTHING that you've asked and not
once have I asked 'What's in it for me?'" To which Shoeless Joe
asked, "What are you saying, Ray?" and Costner said, "What's in it
for me?" Deep down, we are all a little like Ray Cansella, kids just
a little more than others!

We talk all the time to our staff about coaching the way that we
would want our son or daughter coached. We would expect the coach,
first and foremost, to be fair. We would want the coach to display
patience and understanding with our child and the team. We want to
be clear and concise in how we teach, giving the player the know how
to perform, and then help them towards improvement, encouraging them
all the way.

Most of all we want to treat the player with the same respect that
we ask of them. Scold and discipline when necessary, but re-teach
and praise immediately following. We never want a player to leave
the gym with a negative impression of how the coaches feel about

I remember something that I wrote in a paper in college. "As a coach
you should 1)Be knowledgeable and organized. 2)Love your players
equally, unconditionally, and care about them off the floor. 3)Work
FOR them as hard as you expect them to work FOR you.
Do these three things and your players will: 1) Listen and try to
understand; 2) Show the desire to be a good team player and 3) PLAY
HARD. I don't think that has changed over the decades.

This concept of "Servant-Leadership", or "Servant-Coaching", might be
more prevalent than you`d think. First, Servant-leaders have a deep
belief in the unlimited potential of each person player. Robert
Greenleaf points out that a Servant-Leader is a servant first…wanting
to bring value by lifting up others and doing what supports the
greater good for all. I think that most good coaches desire that.
This is sharply different from those who see themselves as a leader
first. Those coaches are usually motivated by the need for power,
wins, prestige and/or material rewards.

Common characteristics of the "SERVANT-COACH" are:
1. Listening: Seeking to identify the needs of the TEAM and to work
on those in practice. Listening needs to be coupled with reflection.
2. Empathy: Players need to be recognized and accepted for their
special gifts and talents.
3. Awareness: Especially self-awareness. Coaches need to have
develop their own inner serenity.
4. Persuasion: Seeking to convince the team rather than coerce
compliance; SERVANT-COACHES are effective at building consensus
within THE TEAM.
5. Conceptualization: "SERVANT-COACHES dream great dreams"; seeking
balance between visioning (thinking outside the boxes) and a day to
day focused approach.
6. Foresight: SERVANT-COACHES understand the lessons from the past,
the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a
decision for the future. They use these to develop their game plans
on a weekly basis.
7. Stewardship: "Holding something in trust for another"; a
commitment to serving the needs of others. The TEAM is everyones
TEAM, past, present and future.
8. Commitment to the Growth of Players: Recognizing that players
have value beyond basketball.
9Building a program: This may be one of the main things a
SERVANT-COACHING holds that the primary purpose of a team should be
to create a positive impact on its players and community, rather
than using winning games as the sole motivation.

Whom do you serve? For what purpose? I`d ask: Are we that kind of a
coach? Strive to be!
That is when you develop trust from your players. Then they will buy
in when you try to build that trust between teammates.

They should learn to trust their teammates, and to play with that
trust. For the TEAM to be successful, work to build trust with yje
teammates and work together with them. Then the day will come when
they know NO OTHER WAY to play.

If they trust one another they'll play a different kind of game.
They'll play a team game. They'll play a game where They'll want to
pass off the ball and let their teammate score rather than pull up
and take their own shot. They'll play a game where They'll strive to
make their teammates look good - They'll make a real effort to find
the open man.

Convince them to ignore some of the struggles of others that have
been irritating them. Instead, learn to value their strengths. Look
for areas in which they may be in a power struggle with someone and
give it up, it`s not about the power - it`s about the team. Take the
focus off themself and put it on others, it will come back to,

Be more transparent. Recognize the high potential in someone’s
talents and allow them the opportunity to utilize them. Give someone
your trust and let that person know that you are confident that he
or she will succeed. Then give them your undending loyalty. That is
missing in many teams, staffs, organizations, and schools these

Get them to commit to a common cause and sell out for each other.
The fruits of your victories will be much sweeter.

And they'll know no other way.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Feelings" After a Mistake

When kids get down on themselves after a mistake, it is about *how they feel*. Feelings CAN"T be wrong. They are what they are. You can't tell someone not to *feel* a certain way.
(Those that are married sure know what I'm talking about !:?)

What you can try to help him realize is that allowing those feelings to effect his play is not being productive. As a sophomore he is probably trying so hard to earn respect from you and his teammates that he is pressing. I agree that it would not be effective having the other players talk with him.

What he probably *feels* is, " I'm having a crummy day, I've let you and the team down, whoa is me, how will I ever be able to do anything right again, nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I'll eat some worms."

What we need to do is to help players get over those feelings and, as you say, toughen up. Mental toughness is just the ability to overcome obstacles and look forward to accepting a challenge. We help players turn those feelings into challenges that real
competitors truly love by teaching them to use what's called the "Power of the Big BUT" (notice the spelling!)

The word "BUT" generally *erases* everything that is said before it. Imagine telling your wife, or significant other, "I really like that outfit...BUT... about those shoes...?" She's probably going to forget the initial compliment and focus on the bad news that's coming next.

So after a mistake, players should try thinking, "I feel like I can't guard this guy, I can't make a shot, etc, etc...**BUT**, if I (*insert appropriate coaches instructions here*) then NEXT TIME....(*insert positive result here*) "

All we've done above is use the "Power of the Big BUT" for good instead of evil by putting the negative part first, *erasing it* from their mind then presenting the challenge next.

Get your players to try it. You'll be surprised at their positive outlook and improved performance

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cross-Matching on Defense as an Offensive Strategy

How many times before a game do you hear a coach or a player say, "take the guy who has you"? This happens more often in situations when no scouting is possible prior to the game to determine more appropriate matchups. So, generally, they guard someone of similar size, the point guard takes the point guard, the off-guard takes the off-guard, and so on...and vice-versa.

This NBA Playoff season I heard more about "cross-matching" than I had ever before. "Cross-matching" is when defensive players on one team are guarding different players than are guarding them at the other end. During the Lakers/Celtics NBA Championship Series it happened often when Kobe Bryant would guard Rajon Rondo at one end, but at the other end Paul Pierce or Ray Allen were the preferred matchup on Bryant. This also would occur more often in situations where teams would switch screens and complete a possession with different matchups than where they started.

That's where the problem, or advantage, may begin. Many coaches feel that cross-matching may effect their transition defense due to the difficulties of finding your matchup, and that may be true depending on your method of transition defense. I've addressed a method of Transition D in an earlier post that may not be effected by cross-matching quite so much.

However, for teams that want to push the tempo, it may be possible to create pace by forcing some cross-matching opportunities. In contests where one team clearly would prefer to walk the ball up the floor and set their offense, the faster paced team might tempt them into a quicker pace by cross-matching. At worst. if the opponent sticks to their strengths and slows the game down, then finding their man and transition defense won't be a problem anyway. On the other hand, when running your fast break, the cross-matching now might make it difficult for your opponent to matchup with you. This might create quick mismatches at one end and allow teams to get some transition baskets or get some early offense opportunities that might not otherwise be available.

I, personally, wouldn't use cross-matching if it weakened me substantially at the defensive end.But if it doesn't make much of a difference, I certainly would give it a look to help me at the offensive end.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Celtic Championship/Knick Futility

You may have missed this report.

Two boys were shooting hoops near the Championship Parade route, when one is attacked by a vicious Rottweiler. Thinking quickly, the other boy fires the basketball and managed to hit the dog in the head and thwart its attack.

A reporter who was strolling by sees the incident, and rushes over to interview the boy.

"Young Celtic Fan Saves friend from Vicious Animal..." he starts writing in his notebook.

"But, I'm not a Celtics Fan," the little hero replied. "Sorry, since we're in Boston, I just assumed you were," said the reporter and
starts again.

"Red Sox Fan Rescues Friend from Horrific attack..." he continued writing in his notebook.

"I'm not a Red Sox fan either!" The boy said.

"I assumed everyone in Boston was either for the Celtics or the Red Sox. So, what team do you root for?" the reporter asked.

"I'm a Knick fan!" the child beamed. The reporter starts a new sheet in his notebook and writes:

"Little Bastard from New York Kills Beloved Family Pet."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Caricature of ourselves

One of the most impressive aspects of the Lakers' rise back to the upper echelon of NBA teams, to me, is the manner in which Phil Jackson has allowed the team to develop. What was once a young, erratic and mistake-prone team is now back among the league's elite. Along with Kobe Bryant becoming a better leader and teammate, Jackson's patience and commitment to his players gave the players the confidence to begin to approach their potential.

Phil is often criticized for being hesitant to call timeouts or substitute when players struggle, but that has also proved to be a strength. He trusts his players to make decisions and allows them to play through some difficult times by trying to self-correct their own behavior and performance. This gives players some freedom to play without the fear that a mistake will result in a substitute being sent to the scorers table or that an irate coach will call a timeout to read the player the riot act. Without this confidence the players may not have become the team that they are today.

However, there is always a fine line between "doing what we do" and "overdoing what we do!" This is true in all areas of our lives, not just on the athletic courts or fields. At times Phil seems so convinced that if he continues to be patient, the players will "find their way" that games do sometimes spiral out of control and it becomes difficult to regain command. We may have witnessed that in the Championship Series against the Celtics.

A caricature is a drawing that exaggerates distinguishing features. Often we run the danger of becoming a caricature of ourselves by recognizing the very qualities that bring us a certain amount of success and over-emphasizing those traits to the Nth degree. "The General" Bobby Knight took his personna a bit too far at times and became the very person that the media expected... and then some. Many times the act gets old and a coaches run with a team or school runs it's course. That isn't happening with Phil, unless you listen to sports-talk radio, but it's happened to Pat Riley... a few times. It happens with actors, comedians, performers, and certainly players. While we want them to "do what they do well", they need to have some versatility in their game to be most effective. Too many times people adhere to the "Lottle Principle", That is *if a little is good - a *lottle* must be better!* What do they say about too much of a good thing?

Coach Wooden would always say, "Balance is everything", and he meant on and off the court. I'd also say that we need to maintain balance in our demeanor and personality. It may not be those distinguishing qualities alone that make people successful, but those qualities in the proper balance with other personality traits.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Contesting Shots

One of the main differences between the Celtic defense and the Lakers defense (when they choose to play some( is the manner in which they *contest shots*. The Lakers, as coached by Phil Jackson, attempt to get to shooters but are instructed *not to leave their feet*. Jackson is somewhat of an "old school" coach and this is just how you played in the '60s and '70s. PJ has been true to that philosophy throughout his days as a coach.The Celtics, on the other hand, CONTEST shots! Maybe part of this is Garnett's influence, but Doc Rivers also played in a different era where leaving your feet is a little more acceptable. His final coach as a player, Larry Brown, really believed in contesting shots.
The bottom line to a good defensive system puts players in position to contest as many shots as possible. The Lakers, typically, are not a very good off ball defensive team, and you need to be to contest shots. Players miss contested shots. And they tend to make open shots. Funny thing.
So, at the very least, get a hand up so it limits his vision of the basket or he has to shoot over you. While you may not block the shot, you will put the shooter under a maximum amount of pressure. The Celtics do this very well.
Defenders should always make an attempt to play good team defense and get out on shooters. Even if it is not your man. Close out, get a hand up and make that the player shoots a contested shot. Even if you have to rush out and the defender is able to put the ball on the floor and go by you, that is not what they normally practice. They would then have to dribble, stop, and shoot without traveling or even stop and pass to a teammate. Other defensive teammates then can help play team defense and the offense would have to make a good pass and be able to catch it and execute all of those things without a turnover.

So force the offense to be able to make a play. That is why there are so many average to poor defensive teams out there. Too many players will not leave their man to help a teammate and not enough coaches demand it.

Don’t worry - a teammate will help you. Never allow an opponent to shoot the ball uncontested - they make those.

And the worst, sometimes game changers...

or series changers,

are uncontested breakaway layups.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Phil Jackson, the Celtics, and 38-10

Some people claim that Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, a nine-time National Basketball Association champion, ripped referees for giving Boston a huge free throw edge that helped the Celtics win Sunday.

This is how Phil Jackson's post-game press conference began:

What are you most struck by, your rally at the end or your difficulty scoring points on them the first three quarters?
(Laughing) I'm more struck at the fact that Leon Powe gets more foul shots than our whole team does in 14 minutes of play. That's ridiculous. You can't play from a deficit like that that we had in that half, 19 to 2 in the first half in situations like that. I've never seen a game like that in all these years I've coached in The Finals. Unbelievable. ...

Phil answered a later question with," The referees referee an illusion. Our guys look like the ball was partially stripped when they were getting raked but it was in the crowd so the referees let that type of thing go."

Now I don't think that a professional coach ignoring the disparity of foul calls is an absolute show of sportsmanship Not nearly as much as the "manner" in which those are discussed during an international press conference in which the question is obviously going to be addressed. It might be a bit of a stretch to say that he "ripped the referees." By opening his comments with this quote he took the issue head-on by saying,

"..I think my players got fouled. I have no question about the fact that my players got fouled but didn't get to the line. Specifically I can enumerate a few things, but I'm not going to get into that.

I don't want to get into dispute with those situations..."

So some might say he took the high-road by refusing to discuss specifics. If you were to have heard or read the next sentence after the quote that was just printed, Coach Jackson also went on to say, which the Boston papers chose NOT to print,

"...So we have to create the spacing that gives the right impression, and that will have to get accomplished...."

Jackson taking "responsibility" for his team not having the correct spacing and driving into a crowd, making the officials' job more difficult could be considered the honorable thing to do in a professional setting. He also credited the aggressiveness of the Celtics leading to more trips to the foul line. It didn't appear that he was making the excuse of poor officiating, but rather saying the team needed to execute differently in order to give the officials a better view of the contact.

I think professional coaches are allowed a certain amount of latitude because they are about winning games and entertaining people. So a certain amount of gamesmanship is expected, and I think that Phil chose his words wisely. As evidenced by the lack of a fine by the league office.

I also think that college coaches, and even HS coaches in certain programs, play by slightly different rules than our typical youth sports organization. I might have had 3 or 4 reporters at certain games and many results were above the fold the next morning, with your performance judged by the readership. You're going to be asked the question, so you better have a decent answer if you want it to read well the next day, expect the reporter to be fair in his report, and hope that he comes back next game. So like Our local papers have PrepSports blogs and on the message boards the coaches are open season. when jobs are at stake it changes a bit. We just need to be able to handle all of that within the framework of our principles. That is why it is so important to reach the organizational leaders and parents with our message.

Most coaches would prefer to be Double-Goal Coaches, given permission, the tools, and the opportunity to do so. It is up to the Culture Shapers to provide that opportunity.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Recently, on the Coaching Hoops Email Group a bunch of coaches were asked, "What are some times in your life where you had to sacrifice things for the better of your career? Or when did you have to put things on a higher priority list then you'd like? I think that another question to ask might be "... are some times in your life where you had to sacrifice your career for the betterment of your life?" As coaches we make choices as to what level we want to coach, and many of us enter the profession with the desire to coach at the highest level possible. As those opportunities are presented to us it becomes time to decide what is really important to us and what we are willing to do - and how we are willing to live to have "a career".

Coaches spend a lot of time developing a Coaching Philosophy, but do we spend time regarding our Career Philosophy? We have Team Goals, but do we have Daily Life Goals? We work really hard at creating a winning Team Culture, but what about our Family Culture. And we certainly do things to establish our Programs Priorities with signs and posters in the locker room, but do we surround ourselves with the same kind of reminders of what OUR priorities are?.

On top of the computer armoire in my office is a display of memorabilia that began to develop, paying "homage" to some career successes. I began to reflect on what was really important, and the display took on a different life. I began with a poster against the wall courtesy of Jostens, our championship ring provider, that shows our ring design and includes a celebration photo from the floor of the Anaheim Pond.

We like to frequent some of the great Flea Markets in Southern California, such as the one at the Rose Bowl, and I came across a wonderful brass clock which had a "Scale of Justice" that I had to have, and I set it up there in front of the poster. Then it occurred to me that the weighted scale signified the weighing of importance - or balancing priorities. It is here that analyzing the positioning of my memorabilia reminds me daily of my priorities.

Here is a photo of the display, that I'll explain leter. You can click on the thumbnail photos to view larger copies .

On the right scale is a basketball and a photo of cutting down the nets... the pinnacle of a season. Next to that scale is a gift mug with the phrase "#1 Coach", and a salvaged trophy figurine from an old award.

So often, and so many seasons we have that vision, that goal, to cut down the nets... but at what cost? A great quote that I like is, “Success is only another form of failure if we forget what our priorities should be.”

On the left scale is a piece of driftwood found on a special family camping trip one August (the only month that some coaches allowed them selves to have off) and a photo of my four children. In front of the photo is a cross made of nails and a gift keychain that says "#1 Dad". Notice the juxtaposition? Next to the scale is a photo of my wife that sits atop three books, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Awaken the Giant Within, and 7 Habits of Highly effective People.

Guess which scale sits lower, reminding me daily what needs to carry more weight in my life? Basketball, awards, championships, and being the "#1 Coach"...or faith, family, quality time, and being a "#1 Dad"?

Sitting in front of the scale is an old set of glasses (before RK - radial keratotomy) to remind me to "see" what is important, and behind it a preseason photo of that tuxedoed championship team gazing into the distance with a "vision" of where we wanted to go. Wrapped around the back of the scale is a three panel Family Circus cartoon where Billy asks Dad to " play some one-on-one". When Bill says no because he's busy, Billy says , "That's OK ... I'll just play one-on-NONE". Then in the final frame Bill and Billy are seen shooting hoops in the dark. There have been plenty of times when I've had some work to do, that I can be found in the driveway shooting hoops with my son... because I'm reminded daily of what I believe is important.

“The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Stephen R. Covey

Friday, June 06, 2008

Flush It!

The most impressive aspect of the Lakers' rise back to the upper echelon of NBA teams, to me, is the manner in which Phil Jackson has allowed the team to develop. What was once a young, erratic and mistake prone team is now back among the leagues elite. Along with Kobe Bryant becoming a better leader and teammate, Jackson's patience and commitment to his players gave the players the confidence to begin to approach their potential.

Phil is often criticized for being hesitant to call timeouts or substitute when players struggle, but that has proved to be a strength. He trusts his players to make decisions and allows them to play through some difficult times by trying to self-correct their own behavior and performance. This gives players some freedom to play without the fear that a mistake will result in a substitute being sent to the scorers table or that an irate coach will call a timeout to read the player the riot act. The Positive Coaching Alliance concept that "Mistakes are OK" if we treat them as opportunities to learn is clearly one that Coach Jackson embraces within his coaching philosophy.

The use of a "Mistake Ritual", as suggested by PCA Trainers, establishes the ability to put a poor play behind you and move on to the next play. A quick sign or symbol that tells the player the coach recognized the mistake and yet offers them the reassurance that the coaches confidence is unshaken gets the players mind off the error and gets them ready for what's next. PCA recommends "The Flush" to remind players to "flush away their mistakes." I'm guessing that Phil Jackson has adopted the use of the phrase and philosophy, even if we don't see him making the flushing motion after bad passes, missed assignments, or ill-advised shots. Following Game 1 against the Celtics this came through loud and clear.

During the post-game press conference Kobe Bryant was asked about his subpar, 9/26 shooting performance. He said he had some "great looks", the shots didn't go down, and he had to just "flush it" to get ready for Game 2. This isn't the first time I've heard Kobe say this, just on the largest stage.

When you mess up on a play, you stay focused, put it behind you and look to the future, not the past. The Lakers have been able to flush the tumultuous offseason and find themselves in the NBA Finals. The flush, and the ability to move on to what's next, can apply to anything in your life.

Sports is just life in a game situation, a laboratory for life. If someone has a bad day, does poorly on a test, or loses a job, just stay focused, learn from it, flush it, and move on. Life has no rear view mirror. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Awards Banquets

A few ideas about the speaking portion of a teams awards banquet that I've seen done (or have
done myself).

If I remember, the team struggled a bit on the scoreboard. So take
the focus off that by avoiding the "season talk" and focus on the
other stuff.

My daughters high school coach would go to the 99¢ store and buy a
"gag gift" for every player. Maybe a box of band-aids for the player
most often injured, miniature furniture for the player who "did the little things", a roll of toilet paper for a player who was
teased about being soft, sunglasses for a youngster whose "future
was bright", etc.

My daughters most prized awards might be a rock she got as a
sophomore because they were "going to build their program on this
rock" (maybe a little sacrilegious for a Christian School) and a
toy "Warrior" she received as a junior for playing thru injuries.

Coincidentally, her college hired a new coach her senior year - and
he gave the same kind of awards and printed "Certificates" such as
"Most Likely to Commit Assault" for a girl who fouled too much, and
other similar awards.

Of course they both talked about how they improved and some good
moments on the year too.

If you want to be a bit more serious, a couple of times I've taken
Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success and said the team needed each one
of these to be successful Once we had 15 players and won a title, so
I assigned a block to each player and talked about each players
personal qualities - more than their game. Our staff was the
"mortar" on the side - Faith and Patience, and our MVP was
"Competitive Greatness".

Another year I chose to use it when we had a real young team that
didn't do so well (alot like how you described your team). That year
we had 12 players and I left off Competitive Greatness, Poise, and
Confidence.. . saying that those were the things that we needed to
develop in order to succeed.

Finally, about awards. Most suggest MVP, Hustle, and you could
maybe go with defense, or a "Coaches Award" which gives you some
leeway to make something up for that deserving player who doesn't fit into a category. Here's something for everybody to
think about. Many times I think that we spend so much time preaching
*TEAM* and the value of every player... and then at the end of the
year we say who is *Most* Valuable???

One of the best coaches I've ever coached for has had 3 of the top 4
scorers in California's Southern Section history (over 600 schools)
and doesn't ever give any individual awards at his banquets. Every
single kid gets a really nice framed photo with his locker plaque at
the bottom. All the same. Each player has equal value. even the
leading scorer in section history.

Something to be said for that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is there an epidemic of Sportsmanship in Washington State?

First the Central Washington softball players carry an injured opponent around the bases for her home run, and now high school track runners switch medals at the State Championships to correct a percieved injustice.

Read the story here:

Is it contagious?

Is a new culture created one random act of sportsmanship at a time?

Positive Coaching Alliance thinks so...one coach...one parent...one kid...one organization at a time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cycle of Life

My oldest daughter just graduated from college and a speaker took the mike at the baccalaureate. She started her talk something like this.

"I started college in 1973 and after my freshman year decided to take a year off. It became 2...3...4...5. Then I got married and had a beautiful child. It became 2...3...4......5! The cycle of life kicked in, their education became more important than mine...."

... and her story went on. Ultimately she went back to school THIRTY YEARS later and said, "... the first day the students thought I was a teacher, the teachers thought I was a parent, and the parents thought...I was CRAZY!"

She ended up graduating magna cum laude with a double major and recieved the loudest ovation from her fellow graduates than any other student.

Now she gets to live her dream. It's never too late to go back, especially with todays degree completion programs and online education options
(Lord knows we ALL spend enough time online !:?)

Best of luck to all who choose this route

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rim Reducers

Does anybody have any *real* statistical evidence that rim reducers are effective? They claim,
"...trains you to be more accurate on all types of shots. Practicing on a 15" ring will significantly improve shooting accuracy when playing on a regulation 18" rim...."
Now I get the theory that once removed the rim "looks" larger, but I've got some hesitation about using them.

I want players to shoot with confidence and confidence comes from repeated success. I'm a little reluctant to use anything that limits a shooters success. I'd love to see a reverse study that uses larger rims in the offseason to see if it would increase a shooters confidence and build a "truer" release. I absolutely think that larger rims should be used at younger levels to increase the success rate and keep kids in the game until they have a chance to get good. Too many kids leave the game early because they can't make a dang basket.

I worked for a coach that has produced some great scorers and during the offseason he would loosen the rims as much as he could so the kids would get every bounce and would shoot a great %. By the time the season came around they knew that they were good shooters and, in many cases, it became a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Just thinkin' out loud...kind of !:?)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Program Pen-Pals

I think that if you have a close relationship with a college coach and was within reasonable proximity, taking your players to the college for a mentor/mentee experience amongst players of both teams would be a benefit to both groups of young men.

Also, as a high school coach, turn that around and create mentoring opportunities for *your players* in the community. I was thinking about this a while back watching the Tennessee/Indy game during a speaking trip in Toronto, Canada. I'm not sure if the commercial broadcasts were the same in the States, but they featured a high school football team in Florida that instituted a "pen-pal" program between it's players and players in the local youth football league.

Every week they would exchange letters about a bunch of topics. That is not only a great mentoring opportunity, community service, a chance to play "big-brother", and a big thrill for the younger kids, but also a great chance to build some continuity in the area and develop young kids that look forward to being in your program like their pen-pal.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"Carrying" Sportsmanship to the Extreme

This is not about basketball but absolutely a story worth posting anywhere.It might be the greatest act of respecting your opponents and Honoring the Game - whatever your game is.

The video tells it all...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Free Throw Goals

The only Free Throw goal that we had was to "Make more Free Throws than they shoot". The first part addressed our offense (how many FT we got) and our effectiveness at the line (were we making enough of the ones we got) while the second part dealt with our defense (were we fouling and putting them on the line?)

As I think about it, does talking about achieving a certain percentage motivate a kids to get there? Or does it get kids worrying about their shot when they fall short of the goal? Ask the Memphis Tigers. Or Shaq!

I'm starting to think that, while it is harder to chart, an *effort goal* of getting enough arc, holding their follow thru, and using proper technique rather than a *result goal* might help kids get there quicker.

Just thinkin' out loud.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Coach/Official Relationships - a work in progress!

When I played, my coaches rarely said anything to officials and I always felt they didn't stick up for us. So I set out to be the opposite. Soon I figured that if the other coach got up to "work the official" that I had to match that and "work him" a bit harder. Punch - counterpunch.

Players definitely should not be the ones to EVER talk to an official. The coach needs to be the one doing the communicating, outside of the team captain, who can be a good buffer by building a good on court relationship wit the officials. However, when the coach does talk, he needs to pick his spots. If you chirp all the time (and I did) they stop listening. It could also backfire on the coach. A coaching friend of mine tells a story about a ref that asked him if he thought it was a good call. When the coach proceeded to tell him all of the reasons that it wasn't, the ref said, "then wait 'til you see the next one!"

Officials are human - as much as we wish they weren't. If the only time you talk to them is when you think they missed one - you're going to get a worse performance from the ref than had you said nothing at all. Studies show that people perform better when they experience more positives than negative interactions with others in that environment. Officials are no different. So it is beneficial to take a "kinder, gentler" approach. Help them by keeping your players under control. Ensure quality crowd control, to whatever extent possible. Laugh with them. Back them up when they make a good call by "re-instructing" your player to avoid what they just got called for. Admit when you think that they made the right call against your team. The official will at least *think* that you feel they made a good call.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that they like coaches to say, "good call!" when one goes your way. That implies that you think they made some bad ones. Maybe, tell them, "yes he did" when one of your guys reaches, charges or walks. They'll respect you more. And you *might* get the benefit of the doubt a couple of times.

I also tried to convince myself when we made a couple of nice plays after I had a little tirade that I "fired the team up". Then I realized, while they might have been a little excited for a while, it wore off pretty quickly - just like a fire & brimstone pre-game speech. Wouldn't it be better if we could just get them to play "inspired" all the time? If we have to coerce our team into playing hard by going ballistic, we're not going to be very good anyway. Convince them to play hard every possession - because it is the right thing to do!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Pick-Up" Leagues

I've often thought that it would be a service to kids to provide a league that was NOT refereed - but merely "moderated". Allow the kids to call their own - and give them a minimum time to agree before the moderator steps in. Kinda like we used to do at the park. Players no longer have (or don't take advantage of) those opportunities.

And how much do you learn about *life* by settling your own disagreements, admitting that you made a mistake (foul), or having
the courage to call someone on one of their "transgressions", and coming to a consensus in a timely fashion ?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why they call you "COACH"

The small, 14th-century, Hungarian village of Kocs is located on the main road along the Danube between Vienna and Budapest. These two great cities needed well-built, fast vehicles that would carry more than two people over the bumpy roads of the day in as much comfort as was then possible. So in Kocs they began to build superior wagons, carts and carriages.

One of the best of these multi-horse carts was called, in Hungarian, "kocsi szek√©r" or a "wagon from Kocs". Its design was so compact, elegant and sturdy that the design spread throughout Europe. The German-speaking Viennese started to call this vehicle a Kutsche, which is how they heard Hungarians saying the name of their little carriage-making town. From Vienna these lively vehicles traveled to Paris and the French, adapting the Austrian word, called it a coche. When it arrived in Rome in Italian, it was a cocchio. Eventually, the English called it a coach. When Anne of Bohemia married England’s Richard II in 1382, she brought carriages from Kocs, Hungary with her to England. Wealthy squires had their servants read to them as they drove in these coaches about the countryside or on long trips into a nearby city.

So the first coaches took very important people from where they were – to where they wanted to go. And many of them learned along the way.

Are we taking kids where THEY want to go? And are we teaching them other valuable life lessons in the process?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Team Communication - be seen AND heard!

Communicating on defense is crucial, but for some reason is very
difficult to get players to do. We can`t get them to be quiet in
class and can`t get them to talk on the court - go figure!:?)

To just get them to talk, and also help foster a better team
attitude, we would use a "Buddy System." Whoever your pre-practice
shooting partner was is your "Buddy" for the day. It was up to you
to recognize EVERY positive thing that your "Buddy" did and let them
know. In order for that to happen players had to watch, recognize,
and understand what they were praising. Soon players will be doing
it, on instinct, to players who are not their "Buddies" also. So it
also helped to keep players engaged and positive - leaving them more
receptive to coaching.

Simply encouraging players to talk at all times helps, but having an
organized method gives players specific verbal cues to go with
situations and fosters effective team defensive communication.
Here's our defensive communication system

"BALL"- The most important thing to guard is the basketball. The
player with the ball is the only man that can score. Every time a
pass is throw, someone should let everyone know, verbally, that they
have the "BALL". If you are playing defense and do not hear this,
theoretically, you should turn and look to go cover the player with
the ball.

"BASKET"- The next most important aspect of team defense is to
protect the basket. Once the ball is covered, a player needs to
reteat to the key and call "BASKET". The player responsible for the
basket is usually the furthest man away from the ball, on the side
opposite the ball(weakside).

"HELP(left or right)"- It is helpful if the player guarding the ball
knows if he has any defensive help to his left or his right. The
next defensive player in either direction of the ball should holler,
"HELP"(left or right)". If the offensive player sees(and hears) a
player in position to help, they might not even try to penetrate via
the dribble in that direction.This also allows the defender on the
ball to pressure with a little more confidence.

"CHECK"- When a defender is guarding a player on the weakside of the
floor, many times they are responsible for the basket. In some
offense their man may "flash" to the ball side. The defense should
"check" that cutter in a denial stance and verbally let the team
know, by saying "CHECK". This verbal cue reminds the player to
"check" his man and also reminds the rest of the team to "CHECK" and
see who should be responsible for the "BASKET" next

"CLEAR"- Sometimes an offense will "clear" out the weakside, and
take away the "basket" defender. IF a player has the basket and his
man clears, he should yell,"CLEAR" to let any player in the post
area know that the basket area is clear and there is limited help.
This also could cue teamates to see if , maybe, they can drop and
help protect the "BASKET".

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Special Situations - Gut Feeling...or by "the Book"

To clarify our situation chart and the use of "the book", I have a
bench coach that has this chart on the bench and it's been his job
to be "in my ear" and remind me when one of those situations occur.
That doesn't mean that sometimes a "gut feeling" won't trump the
chart, but this serves as a guideline. Obviously, the chart has our
calls, so come up with the plays that you have in your arsenal that
best fit that situation.

Next to the situation have a play or two that you'd prefer to run in
that scenario - then maybe you can choose from a couple diferent
ones. However, some of the situations, for me, ARE pretty cut and
dry and this is what we will do in that situation *every time*. This
way the kids are prepared, through practice, and time outs are not
as necessary. KNOWING what they are going to do does wonders for
their confidence in the fact that they CAN get it done.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lessons Learned

Having not had a great high school or collegiate experience with
coaches, When I first stopped playing and got into coaching
I thought that I knew better and had all of the answers.
After a few years I realized that I had mentors that were letting me
hang around (regardless of how stubborn I may have been) and I was
not letting them mentor me. So we began to get in open debates and I
took to becoming a real student of the game.

Allowing yourself to be exposed to a variety of ideas and styles of
play helps you solidify what you really believe and enables you
develop your own unique philosophy, instead of just being a clone of
those that you played for.

Later I realized that one of the the most important aspects of teaching was that a player recognized that they made a mistake - not to just let them know how much I know, that I'm in charge and then chastise them for making it. If a player knows that he made a mistake, what to do to correct it, and he also knows that you know - that is far more important than
the tirade that lets him know how upset you are over it.

Developing an economy of words allows you to be more productive in
practice. I remember in practice my first 3 or 4 sentences would be
useless to the kid.

Typical rant: "Dog-gone-it Johnny, how many times are you going to
make that mistake... we've been working on this for a month and you
are still doing the same stupid things that you were doing the first
week in practice... you're so much better than that ...I can't
believe...yada. ..yada... yada..."

At that point I hadn't done a thing to help him yet. He's now checked
out and entirely unable to hear whatever advice I was eventually
ready to give. Get to the point - the tirade is useless. (then when
you finally do have to let loose it will really mean something!:? )

I read a study in Psychology Today by Tharp and Gallimore that
followed John Wooden during his final year and categorized all of
his communication to his players. As a college project I audio-taped
my own practices to try and compare the amount of instruction,
information, praises, criticisms, hustles, etc. I've tried to, less
formally, go back throughout the years and analyze practices
accordingly to keep myself in check.

Lok's Ledger