30 second time outs

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.

Lok's Ledger