Sunday, December 30, 2012

Grading your Team: Mid-Term Chemistry Report

   I hope you have used November and December to prepare your team for the main part of your season as conference play heats up for most of us. This time of year, you shouldn't have to be coaching effort and instead be fine-tuning your team for a chance to advance to postseason play. By now, your team has been around each other since school started, probably been on a trip or two and have spent a ton of time with each other. While we all hope that everyone on our teams are close friends we know that isn't reality. A jersey can and will bond players but there are so many outside influences that a team's chemistry can be effected. How is your team's chemistry? So how do you grade chemistry? You have to step back and observe it. Here are a couple of things to observe and grade your team on.

#1 Bench Involvment
   When you watch film, after you've stated and fixed mistakes, re-watch and only watch your bench. Are players on the bench actively involved in the game? Are they cheering, up and active or are they sitting just watching? Let me say this. I am opposed to the "corporate celebration". I know a lot of coaches have their teams stand for substitutes. Are you making them all stand when a charge is taken? How about every assist? Probably not. Get away from image control and focus on what wins.  I would hope and rather encourage our team to support each other. We've all seen the team stand and lazily clap for their teammate because they have to. Teammates should want support each other! 
 Here is a quick bench checklist of the Say, See,and Stand of the bench during games.
*   (SAY) Talking. Helping "Coach" defense. Calling out screens. 
*   (SEE) Watching. Knowing who they would guard. By now players should know who they sub for and   be watching that spot on offense and also that defensive match up.
*  (STAND) Involved. From great plays to time-outs, teammates on the bench should be up. 

#2 Sprint to Teammates
   This is an easy one to see. When a teammate hits the floor (at a dead ball), teammates-all 4, should be sprinting to pick them up. This builds and shows support. The bench should also be up at this point. This a cultural thing. You can teach it early but if you are having to remind them to do it, you didn't do a good job emphasising the importance of this. If your team isn't doing this, fix it now. 

#3 Thank the Pass
   In my opinion, passing is the hardest skill to master. Think about it. A pass is more than me getting the ball to you. It takes skill, timing and target for it to be correct. Everyone can dribble. Dribbling has evolved into an art. Today's players are exceptional dribblers. Even those that can't think they can. (We all have one of those) Same for shooting. That is the fun part of the game. Every player works on shooting and dribbling. HOW MANY SKILL GUYS ARE WORKING ON PASSING? IT IS REALLY "COOL" TO SEE A KID RING A BELL WHILE DRIBBLING BUT CAN HE HIT THE CUTTER COMING OFF A SCREEN WITH A ON-TIME/ON-TARGET PASS?!(Sorry for the rant)
  The assist was the hard part. The guy scoring should be thanking the passer, EVERYTIME. Now that doesn't mean it has to occur right then. If the play permits, yes. A quick point, or "Good Pass" is ok but transition defense is the most important thing after a score. If the player has to wait until a dead ball then that is ok. As long as it happens.

#And-1  Be a Superstar in your role
   Encourage your players to be the best at whatever their role is. If it is helping a manager or trainer get water quickly to the huddle then be that guy. If it is being the rebounder/passer for a starter in pregame then be the best at it. Whatever your role is for that player, encourage them to be the best in the nation at that spot. We currently have the best filmer in the history of basketball because we tell him that, daily. Pride promotes Production. Take pride in what you are doing.

Have a great 2nd half of the season. I've been writing down some topics but would love you hear from some of you.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dealing with Negativity: Program Changers

Let me start by saying I can be & struggle with being negative. For me, not only was the glass half empty, the glass had a crack in it. I use to say "I'm not negative, I'm a realist." Sadly, I coached & lived that way.

Here is where I say thanks to my wife Paige, my friend Alan & influences like Coach Tom Crean, Jimmy Dykes & Jon Gordon for changing my life view. Now that's not to say I still don't get down; it's just not as often.

Negativity kills a program's culture. It's a cancer. It can come in so many different forms its hard to defend against. Whether it comes from a Coach verbally or their body language the leaders of the program have to set the tone. The same can be said for the leaders of the home. Parents' negativity can creep from their lips into your locker room. We all know we can't control every players parents or even everyone's feelings but we can set the tone. Be the thermostat, not the thermometer. So when is it okay to be negative? Here's my 3 points on Negativity.

In Practice

There is a small amount of room for negativity in practice. I'd rather see a coach be negative in practice than during a game. LET ME CLARIFY. I'm not a sunshine & rainbows guy. I believe you teach basketball. I believe you coach kids. When a mistake happens, correct it don't compound it. I use the same terminology with my 4th grade son, my 7th grade son & my 12 grade players. The delivery is all that changes. It's like the pitching mound in baseball. The pitcher is stilling throwing to home plate, just the distance changes. It's hard to be an effective teacher if you're constantly negative. Think about when you learned to drive. I'd guess whoever taught you didn't sit & tell you how awful you were doing the whole time you were learning.

So when is the time to be negative in practice? Anytime you witness bad body language or lack of focus. Attack it head on but once it's dead move on. Some would say after a loss. Did your kids lose on purpose? If so time to get a Uhaul. Fix the problem, dont dwell on it.

Attack the Problem, not the Person

Pretty self explanatory. Fix what needs to be fixed. If it is an oncoming, repetitive problem fix the player. Remove them. Everyone deserves a second chance but not for the same mistake.

After Games

Address the mistakes made. Especially after a win. "Good win, we still need to get better at..." That creates a humble, hungry atmosphere. I am one of the ones that hate to lose more than I love to win. We're suppose to win. I use to have a sense of "just glad we didn't lose" after games. Where's the joy in that?! Being happy is a choice. Negativity is a choice.

After a loss, the negativity is already in place. Talk about why you lost. Talk about how to fix it. The main thing is do not let one loss snowball into more. I'm not suggesting you talk moral victories. That's ridiculous. You can play well & lose. There is no victory in that. Control the amount & time of negativity in your locker room. Losing is suppose to hurt. Every year all of us but one end with a loss. Losing is devastating. How you handle it determines how it handles you.

Hope this helps you out this season.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"How's Your Bench?" In-Game Teaching Situations

As the season approaches or as already begun for some of you, I wanted to take time to address a topic that  most of us, including myself, don't do a very good job with. Using the bench as a teaching tool is a very effective way to improve your team. I'm not talking about using it as motivation for better play or to get a point across to a player. I'm talking about teaching your entire team. The bench in game is a great place to teach your team about being a team. I will cover 3 points that I believe will lead to a better team environment and help your team learn during the game as much as they do in practice.

#1 Coach Practice, Manage Games
This is something some coaches struggle with. I have mentioned my career beginnings in an earlier post. I was a Head Coach at age 22. I thought that I had to "coach hard" to prove I knew what I was doing. The mistake I was making and I guess some of you have to is that I wasn't coaching hard in practice. I'd drill, teach and then at game time I'd overdo it. Players didn't know how to respond. I added to their stress. Games are stressful enough for players as it is. He's got his Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa there. His girlfriend isn't in her normal seat. The cheerleaders are yelling, band is playing, opposing fans know his middle name and the three guys in the Foot Locker uniform are awful as usual. Then he throws it away. He's embarrassed as it is and here comes the horn and you blast him from the sideline to the water cooler. Obviously he didn't throw it away on purpose but now you've piled on the mistake. I'm not saying allow mistakes to go without addressing them. Here's my take. In-game mistakes come from in-practice mistakes not being fixed. Practice is the place for blasting the mistake. Go nuts in practice. Practice should be just as stressful mentally as it is physically. Maybe even more. Coaches have to learn to manage games. If you're having to get your team to play hard come game time you're in more trouble than Xs and Os. Manage match-ups, minutes and make adjustments. Coaching practice requires you to prepare your players for games in every aspect. This includes how your rotation works as well as preparing your players for in-game situations.
       *Practice late game situations with players other than your starting five. Fouls effect who is out there at the end of the game.

#2 Involvement

The Bench shouldn't be viewed by players as a great seat. Players have to be taught to be involved. Now this may bother some of you but I am not a fan of "Corporate Action" on the bench. I have never and probably never will be the coach that requires every player to stand and clap when a teammate leaves the floor. Here's why. If you are having to make your team stand for their teammates then you have a problem in my opinion. The secret to a successful team is this:
    The guy getting 2 minutes can't be jealous of the guy getting 30 and the guy getting 30 has to appreciate the guy getting 2.
Players should want to be involved! That goes for your rotation to the guys at the end of the bench. Here i a tip to help with that.
         * Assign responsibilities to players on the bench. This can be Calling out shooters or calling out screens. I like the players on the bench to "coach" help side defense. This helps keep both the players on the floor and on the bench mentally involved.


This is the tell all about a player. A player's body-language is the billboard of their character. Take for instance the player sitting on the end of the bench slouched down in his chair, mad because he isn't getting any minutes. Now picture the player that just turned the ball over and hears the horn signal a sub. He walks over to the bench and slams himself down in the chair refusing to slap five with a teammate. Both are forms of selfishness that can't be allowed. No one considers the damage done by the player taken out of the the game acting like that. Odds are the guy beside him would give anything to get the chance to be on the floor. Players leaving the floor for any reason, good or bad, must be thinking of team first. Players are taken out of the game for various reasons. Hopefully every player wants to stay on the floor but they must realize their attitude and actions effect their Coaches and their teammates.
    *Coaches must NEVER allow a player to show disrespect to them when leaving the floor. 
The player may have had the biggest turnover in their career and be trying to get under the bench but they must stop and listen to what their Coach has to say.
    *Players must NEVER display negative body language toward another teammate. 
Regardless of how embarrassed or angry a player is he must never disrespect his team. This also goes for managers and trainers. Players must stay focused on the task and team and not themselves. A great way to promote this is to encourage daps, hi-fives plus verbal encouragement.
     *Don't Choreograph positive body-language, Encourage it.

I hope that this helps you and gets your season off to a great start. I'd also recommend this. If you haven't watched Alan Stein's Play Present video I'd strongly endorse it. Play Present

Sunday, October 28, 2012

3 From the Corner Spotlight: Coach Tom Crean

I was a huge Bobby Knight fan. Still am. Outside of the Arkansas Razorbacks Indiana was my favorite college basketball team growing up. As I've gotten older I've become more a fan of coaches rather than teams. I've learned to respect the job being done by coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, John Calipari and Rick Pitino. As a Razorback fan I loved watching Nolan Richardson and I know that Mike Anderson will do a great job here. Brad Stevens has become a favorite of mine because of his approach and quick rise to success is inspiring. Barry Hinson taught me to be gracious and to work hard. I've tried to learn as much as possible from these coaches.

As a younger coach (I still consider myself a young coach) I thought the angrier I appeared the smarter it made me look. Don't ask me why but for whatever reason I wanted to appear fiery. Maybe it was because I was a 22 year old Head Coach coaching kids that were four years younger than me. That's where Coach Knight came in. When Coach Knight was fired at Indiana I hated them. When they were struggling I thought "Serves them right."

I always liked Coach Tom Crean and loved what he did at Marquette. When he took the job at Indiana I really didn't know how to feel. I respected Coach Crean but was angry still at Indiana. The more I learned and listened to Coach Crean the more a fan of his I became. This was a guy I could use as an example and role model; both on and off the floor.

Our staff attended practice at Bloomington last year. It was amazing. I became a bigger fan of his. Getting to talk basketball with him for 10 minutes after their practice was well worth the 20 hours spent traveling and I worked it out with IU. I forgave them. I exorcised the demons and even paid respect to the General.

 Here are my 3 points on Coach Tom Crean

#1 Tenacity
A lot of coaches are intense. Coach Crean is intense. Anyone that watches him can see that. What people don't see is his Tenacity. That's a word you can't use to describe a lot of people. Coach Crean is tenacious. People don't realize the train wreck Coach Crean and staff had to clean up at IU. There was mess everywhere. Think about raking leaves in your yard on a windy day. Now picture your yard is a football field  in the middle of a tornado. That type of mess. Coach Crean knew what he could do there and stuck to it. He had to be a little bit stubborn to think he could change it. So did his staff. The first couple years weren't easy to watch but he stuck with it. That's tenacity.

#2 Teacher
He is a great teacher of the game. In every drill he gets the skill taught without sacrificing speed for skill. He relates to his players and they listen. A teacher's job is to get the student to comprehend the lesson. Same goes for a Coach. A player needs to know the how, when and why for anything to be successful. He explains what he wants and the players respond to it. Or they spend some time on a treadmill....

#3 Restore

Restoring something is hard. To get it back to exactly how it was takes meticulous effort. It's easy to replace something but restoring something takes the right person. Right now Indiana is ranked number 1 in the AP poll and by others. The job done at Indiana is nothing short of incredible.

That's my look at Tom Crean. Follow him @TomCrean and learn more about him and his accomplishments here. Coach Tom Crean

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Teaching Shot Selection: Lay a Solid Foundation

Shot selection is a topic that all of us should be addressing early and often with our players. Shot selection should be considered the foundation for a great offense. Regardless of what you run offensively getting the correct shot has to be the number one goal for every possession. If you are a coach that runs a lot of set plays, you already dictate who, when and where shots are taken. Those of us that run motion or a continuity offense must ingrain shot selection into our players' offensive DNA. Here are the 3 points on teaching Shot Selection.

#1 At Release not Result
It's a good shot at Release. Regardless of the result, make or miss, whether or not the shot was a good shot is determined at the release of the shot. Players have to understand that the only positive on a bad make is the points going on the board. The term "heat check" is a polite way of saying "That's an awful shot." Players have to understand the reason they are "hot" or "in the zone" is because of the quality of the shot; not the quantity.

#2 Right Person at the Right Spot at the Right Time
Coaches that run multiple set plays do so to dictate who gets the shot, plus when and where it occurs. While I'm a believer in true Motion offenses like the Read and React System, I also believe that you should have a "60" play (stop a 6-0 run) and an "80" play. In teaching motion offenses, we have to be detailed in teaching when and where the shots should be taken. It's also imperative that players know each other's strengths and where they are able to make shots from. Some players need to understand that they are open by design of the defense, not your offense. Know when, where and who should be taking shots.

#3 Teach It or Allow It
This is one of Jimmy Dykes 20 truths of basketball that is my favorite. We have to teach shot selection. Period. If we allow a bad shot to go unaddressed then we're allowing it. Don't complain about things you're not willing to change. This has to go for every player on the team. This is where it gets personal. Players have to understand its the action not the player. Superstars take bad shots just like the twelfth man does. A bad shot is a bad shot regardless of who takes it.

If we do a better job of teaching shot selection we can alleviate a lot of problems. Understanding shot selection can lessen the chances of "My turn" possessions. You know, when a player takes a bad shot so the next trip another player takes a worse shot because it's my turn to shoot. Teaching shot selection is hard. You have to be willing to hurt some feelings, especially with younger players and occasionally with older better players. I think the key is to be consistent. Consistency with every player and every shot. Identify the mistake, explain why it was bad, show the better option and then redo the possession. Video is also a great way to teach players about shot selection. (Just don't show an NBA clip).

This is an area I know I have to improve on so I wanted to share with you the steps I'm taking to improve.

3 From the Corner Spotlight: Coach Mike Neighbors

Coach Neighbors has had a major impact on me and he doesn't know it until he reads this. I'll let you read more about Coach Neighbors here. (Mike Neighbors bio) He has a tremendous grasp on the game as a Coach and a recruiter. He is a top clinician because he is such a good teacher of the game. Here are the 3 qualities that I think set Coach Neighbors apart.

#1 Real
The guy is real. I could use the words authentic or genuine but that doesn't do justice for him. How else does a guy from Greenwood, Arkansas make it in college basketball? In Arkansas, Greenwood is known as a football power. They just won their 33 consecutive game. For me though Greenwood means guys like Coach Neighbors. Tough, hard-working players and coaches. In every sport. Real and consistent. You know what you get with them.

Coach Neighbors is the same guy in person that he is on twitter or anywhere else. We all know Coaches who are always in "Coach-mode". I want you to talk to me like a peer, not a player, parent or especially a member of the media. We all know guys like this. "How are you guys going to be?" (Coach-mode)"You know we're going to be okay. Got some good young players..." (Real)"Man, we're not very good right now." Coach Neighbors can talk to you about Xs and Os or name his top 100 movies and songs. That's a real person. Not always "on" but always real. He is true to you and to himself.

#2 Distributor
I was motivated to start this site by Coach Neighbors. He is the Fed-ex of basketball coaches. His weekly newsletter reaches 64,228 (as of this week) coaches! The amount of time he spends preparing and gathering information is commendable. The fact he does that on top of all his duties as an Assistant Coach is amazing. So many times when we are looking for a new set or idea it's in one of his newsletters that we find it.He gathers and distributes great information. His passion for spreading the game is remarkable. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Coach Neighbors has started a major fire!

#3 Quality
Everything he is involved in is quality. More importantly he values quality;especially time and the time of others. All of the information he shares, whether it is for you or another is designed to make the most of the time invested reviewing and reading it. There isn't a newsletter where I felt "Well that was a waste." I hope to be the same way for all of you.

His work is outstanding. Whether it is a newsletter, preparing for practice or speaking to coaches, He is very detailed and delivers information that is useful, enlightening and improving.

Follow @CoachNeighbors and subscribe to his newsletter here at Coach Neighbors Newsletter

Monday, October 22, 2012

3 From the Corner Spotlight: Stronger Team's Alan Stein

If you're reading this post, I would wager that most of you know who Alan Stein is. For the minority of you that don't or aren't as familiar with him here is an introduction to Alan. (Alan's Bio) Most of you have either seen Alan in person or at a clinic or purchased a DVD of his. Some of you bought in. Some didn't. Those of us that have understand his impact on the game. Here are a couple of thoughts on Alan and his work.

#1 Innovative
I've seen Alan speak a handful of times. My wife Paige and I attended his first Huddle last spring and we recently hosted him in August where he put 132 kids through a Cutting Edge Clinic. The most inspiring and amazing thing for me is this: He is always looking for new things. Almost two weeks ago I got to hang out with him when he spoke at the Tri Lakes Clinic in Missouri. I learned a pageful of new things that I had either forgotten, misinterpreted or just didn't know. He keeps it fresh which keeps your players interest high. He's been with the best. He is the best. What player doesn't want to be doing the same exercises and drills as the top players on the planet with the top trainer?

#2 Tireless
As I mentioned earlier, the last time I saw Alan, about eleven days ago, his day started at 3am. I picked him up at 9am from the airport, we had a quick lunch meeting to discuss some future planning, then he spoke and worked out a team for 90 minutes. After that we watched Drew Hanlen then a trip back to the airport for a flight to Chicago and a day ending around midnight. If that's not impressive enough, he never complains about being tired. I consider him a good friend and can tell you that he treats people and acts like he just woke up from a great nap. His energy level is incredible. I'd almost describe it as condemning. I watched him first-hand work with my team for 3 hours and I left there knowing for a fact that there were multiple days that I didn't have the energy and passion he does every single time out. He will awaken your passion. Having said that the last thing about Alan is he is...

#3 Instrumental
When I think of people that are revolutionizing the game I always include Alan. The impact he has had on strength training for basketball players is incredible. Players are now equipped with the knowledge to train for basketball using sport, specific exercises that train movement and muscles used by basketball players. Now we can train to build better basketball athletes, not just athletes. We don't have to do what other sports are doing in the weight room. Alan's presence in social media has led to the spread of his instruction to players worldwide. Players and Coaches are getting to see what elite players receive when they train with Alan. He's a GameChanger.

If you have a chance to host Alan I would strongly endorse that for your program and basketball in your area. I would also suggest that you attend the StrongerTeam Huddle in the Spring of 2013. Follow @AlanStein , check out StrongerTeam or email him at

Helping Teach Help Defense: Rethinking Defense

I believe that this is one of the most important posts I've written. We all believe that Defense is important. We all agree "Defense Wins Championships". I would take that a step farther and say that Great Help Defense is what wins Championships. Let's face it. Help Defense isn't very fun. It's the Offensive Lineman of Basketball. You don't know something is wrong until its done something negative to bring attention to itself. The more trained eye will recognize good help but for most part we take it for granted. It's either there or not there. Fact is help defense is where mental toughness and playing present  on the defensive end come it to play because it's in the shadow.You have to be mentally engaged. It's not the focus of play.  Help defenders make or break the defensive possession

In this post, let's look at more than the positioning of the help defender. I'm guilty of this and I'd wager most of you are too. When we are in Shell Drill, we teach when the ball is here, help defenders go here. When the ball moves, you move. That's great and it really is the foundation of great defense. Being in the right spot at the right time. But what do we teach our players to do in help? Most players would answer "I'm here to protect the basket, stop a drive and say Help, Help over and over until I get to move into deny or ball defense." How can we as coaches get the most out of our help defenders? Is being in help enough? Here are a couple of ideas that I've picked up and have spent some time thinking on. Some of these you'll like; some you already do and some will not be what you want. Either way, Let's think about help defense together. Here we go...

#1 Help with Your Inside Foot on Post or Non-Driving Player
As discussed earlier, I believe that positioning is the foundation of any defensive position, especially help-defense. Let's look deeper at the position. A defender helps with the inside foot. (Inside foot = foot closest to the action). When most think of help defense they immediately picture shell drill- ball in the corner - defender head under the basket "guns"up. (Teaching Point: Help Defense has to be a mentality for the entire floor, not just under the basket) Teach defenders to "jab" at the ball. This rule goes for defenders in deny position and more than one pass away. This action causes the ball-handler to prepare for and focus on the rest of the defense as well.
Even if you are not a trapping team, causing your opponent's players to think you are by jabbing at the ball will lead to unease for their players. Players only jab with their inside foot. When the ball is in the post, the same rule applies. The defender "digs" or jabs down on the post player to cause the offensive player to pick the dribble up.
Only the Inside Foot. If the defender helps with both feet you might as well go ahead and trap. Helping with the inside foot allows the defender to help without giving up positioning.

#2 Up not Over
When a defender is in help on a drive, they must help up and not over. We've all said "Step over and take a charge." Change that to "Step up and take the charge." Imagine it. Player with the ball driving, help defender slides over Offensive player stops and makes a pass for a kick-out 3 while two of your defenders stand their hopelessly watching. (Hopefully they at least block out). Coaches have done a very good job of teaching players to stop and kick. We have to find a way to counter that. The answer is up. I use this analogy a lot. "If you fall down, I'm not going to run to you but stop about 2 steps from you and ask if you need help. I'm going to get to you." The same is for help defense on a drive. Don't get close; Get there.

(Teaching Point: Help Diagonal. Step Diagonally in front of the Offensive player driving.) When you are helping on a player driving the help-defender must make contact. As described before, stopping the drive isn't enough. The defense has to find a way to not allow a kick-out for a clean 3. When the defender helps, He has to step up into the drive, with outside hand out to attempt to deflect the kick-out pass. There has to be a collision. If they drive, someone has to hit the deck.

#3 Don't Over-Help
Only help when help is needed. After that statement some of you said to yourself "Help is ALWAYS needed." I'd agree that being in the position to help is always needed but you only help when needed. Scenario: Offense is in a 5 out set. Player on wing dribbles towards the player at the top of the key and that defender slides up and over to stop the ball giving up a back door cut. Why? (Teaching Point: Help Only to Protect the Rim) Earlier in point #1 I mentioned teaching jabbing and digging at the ball. This keeps pressure on the ball but doesn't give up position. Too many times players will help when it's not necessary. I wrote a post earlier on Defending the Dribble Drive. One of the teaching points of the the DDM Offense is to drive to create help for passes out and away from help. Defenders should be in a position to help but ONLY  help when it protects the rim. This stops unnecessary kick out 3s.

I hope this helps you when you're teaching help defense. Take this and use it with your defensive philosophy to make for a strong defense this season. I'd like to hear from you at

Sunday, October 21, 2012

3 From the Corner Spotlight: Pure Sweat's Drew Hanlen

I got to meet and see first hand why Drew Hanlen is one of the world leaders in skill training earlier this month at the Tri Lakes Basketball Clinic. Drew is  phenomenal at what he does. I consider myself lucky that for the most part I'm associated with skills trainers that teach game skills through drills, not just drills. I've seen some skills trainers spend more time worrying about whether the drill is done correctly versus the skill being taught or done correctly. Drew is the exact opposite. What I witnessed was a Coach teaching game skill through innovative, precise drill work.

Drew's intensity and intellect are on display in every drill. He gets it. More important than that he makes sure you get it. He is a great communicator. The Saint Louis native and former Belmont Bruin understands how to teach the game of basketball and relate it to young players and veteran coaches alike.

Here are a couple of Drills that I learned from him.

Here is a great video to show some of the work Drew has done with players such as NBA lottery pick Bradley Beal.

Pure Sweat Workout

If you are able to attend a clinic or host Drew I would highly recommend it . You won't be disappointed. Follow him @PureSweat or for more information check out Pure Sweat Basketball.

3 From The Corner Spotlight: Coach Scott Cross

I came up with this idea because there are some really great basketball people that I have met or spoken with that have made an impact on our game and myself. This is a way for me to show respect and appreciation to that person and also share what they are acheiving in our game. 

The first spotlight is on Coach Scott Cross. Coach Cross is leading his alma mater UT-Arlington in the right direction. He has worked his way from an assistant to being the Head Coach for the Mavericks. He has led them to a Southland Championship and post-season play in both the NCAA and NIT tournament. Here are the 3 points on Coach Scott Cross.

Championships Are Won Today. That is a strong statement. When that statement becomes a mentality, the person believing it becomes powerful. Don't wait! Win the championship today in every action. Whether that is the weightroom, training room or in the practice gym. Every action from every player is either building toward or keeping away your team from winning hardware.

#2 Hang Your Hat on Defense
There is no doubt what the Mavericks and Coach Scott Cross stress in their program. Every thing that comes from their program is defensive-minded. Coach Cross put out a "mix-tape" from practice last week. It was of a player taking four, count'em, four charges. Watch it here. What your are stressing everyday in practice is what you stress on the whiteboard before the game. You don't have to worry about the Mavericks not getting a stop. They believe and live this motto: Defense Wins Championships.

#3 Drills, Drills and More Drills
When I contacted Coach Cross about writing about him and asked for one drill, he sent me a fifteen pages worth. Even better, he wanted me to share them with you all so here you go! Coach Cross D Drills.

Follow Coach Cross here @CoachScottCross.

How to Become a Great Coach

First let me start by telling you that this isn't a post with tips from myself about how to become great like me. I, just like all of you, am striving toward greatness daily. Whatever level you coach on, whether it is elementary basketball or professionally, I hope that your goal is to be considered a great coach. What makes a great coach? Who would you consider a great coach and why? To me, greatness is simple. A great coach is consistent.  I think we overuse the word great in sports. Great is an achievement. Great doesn't happen very often but when it does everyone knows it. Here are what I believe and have learned from others are the keys to becoming a great coach.

#1 Get Your Eyes on I First
Jimmy Dykes includes this is his 20 truths of Basketball. Great Coaches get their eyes on themselves first after a loss. "I didn't have my team ready for this..." Great Coaches take the blame. Average Coaches place it. "Kids just don't know how to win. They don't get it." A Great Coach takes responsibility for the team's failures. Fix yourself before you attempt to fix the situation. Once you learn to self-evaluate and improve yourself you can ...

#2 Fix the Situation
Great Coaches fix the situation. A lot of coaches can see the problem but not very many are able to fix the problem. A Great Coach understands that you do not complain about what you are unwilling to fix. A Coach that is able to see a problem and fix the problem right then versus complaining, waiting until later or even worse ignoring the situation, will find themselves having less problems to deal with in the future. We all will have problems that arise every year. Hopefully they are minor but some will be major. As a Coach you have to be able to assess and fix each and every problem that arises.

#3 Be a Communicator
There is a difference in being a teacher and a communicator. I had the pleasure to watch Coach Brad Stevens practice last year and I think he is one of the best communicators in our game. He was coaching a drill that I'd guess his players had done multiple times but the way he taught it, talked and explained I left there feeling like I've done that drill since middle school after seeing it for 5 minutes. He is a great communicator. A communicator gets all the necessary information to the audience in a manner that instills the message into a unforgettable moment of learning.

One of the things about being a communicator is this. You either teach it or allow it. As a Coach, any and every action that a player does, including off the floor, is either taught by you or allowed by you. Think about that. EVERY action- Either taught or allowed. This ties in with the don't complain if you are unwilling to fix it.

So that's it. If you were looking for Xs and Os or a certain philosophy I don't think that weighs into the process of being great. Sure, most of the coaches I consider Great have that knowledge but they are also consistently doing these three things to the highest level. That's what makes one great. Consistency.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

White Boards, NotePads and Napkins: My Offensive Philosophy

We all know that Defense is the key to championships in basketball and until Auburn had Guz Malzhan as their Offensive Coordinator and Cam Newton as their Small-Forward/Quarterback running their "Fast Break Football" offense I would have said you can't outscore someone to a title. While that is definitely not the nor, it as fun to watch; especially since I've coached in two of the schools that Coach Malzhan did when he was a high school coach. 

Offense is fun. It's what kids like to do. It's what makes basketball greater than other sports. Everyone is a skill player. I have a lot of respect for guys that don't get the glory, like an offensive lineman. I even mention and use them when teaching like in the post on Screens. But there is something promising for a player and sometimes down right frightening for a Coach that every player on the floor has a chance to touch the ball. No "Lineman down field"  or "make him a Defensive Back because he can't catch it". Even baseball understands the power of offense in the American league with the DH. (If you're a traditionalist sorry. I like seeing it. Nothing is worse than a pitcher hitting.)

Here are my 3 points that make up my Offensive Philosophy.

#1 Movement
There has to be movement. Players moving. The ball moving. But most importantly forcing the Defense to move. I coach youth (my sons), High School (my job) and AAU (my free time) brands of basketball. Out of the 3 I would say youth and AAU are the most similiar. Here's why. In AAU, it ends up being one on one with eight other players watching. That is if they are even playing man (Don't get me started on that). Youth basketball is the same becasue of lack of skills. Players standing and watching. 
There has to be movement by all 5 players for any set or continuity offense to work.
Most of us Coaches can think of a really good set play with ball action, maybe a pin down or a flare screen. Here is where I would get you. When and before we install a set, all 5 players have to be moving. If you are only creative enough to get the shot, our team will beat you. We'll pull the weak side so far to the middle you'll be forced to skip it. If you are facing a team that is really good defensively and has Coaches that know how to scout you'll be in trouble.
The ball needs to move. I believe in a 2 bounce max. Our team currently runs the Read and React by Rick Torbett. We recently added a Pick and Pick Offense I developed using most of the R&R rules and layers.
Players have to move, preferably toward the rim. Lastly, the defense has to be forced to be in help, close-out and then recover back to help. ANY TEAM CAN GUARD THE FIRST ACTION; CAN THEY GUARD THE 3RD,4TH,5TH?

#2 Attack Good Defense
A lot of Coaches look for a teams weakest defender to exploit. That's an easy fix for any Coach: either sub or switch him to another man. Eventually they'll hide him or you'll take yourself out of your own system trying to get that guy instead of worrying about getting baskets. I believe you should attack good defense. That's why I love the Read and React and my Offense. You can play perfect defense and still get scored on in these systems. I want the opposing team's players spirits crushed on the defensive end. I want them to know that no matter how great their positioning is they can't stop us. That effects their offense.

#3 Shot Selection
This should be the foundation of every team's offense. Coaches, it is our responsibility to teach what a good shot is. Some players are under the assumption that if it goes in it was a good shot. IT IS A GOOD SHOT ON RELEASE, NOT AT RESULT. I believe that we should never take a challenged shot unless it is at the rim. We shouldn't have to take guarded shots. If we are doing the first 2 points and understand the 3rd we are in good shape.

Lastly, Teams that are successful have success in the areas: Get to the Nail (FT line), Get to the Cup, Get Clean 3s.- Jimmy Dykes

If you'd like to talk offense, trade sets or  just talk hoops hit me up at
One of my great friends Vic Rimmer, is a genius at BLOBs and SLOBs. He's a two time state champ Coach.Check him out. Kyle Gilreath is a mastermind at set plays as well.Learn more from Kyle here at Words on the Bounce.

Program Builders: Defining Your Program.

When the air starts turning cooler outside it means that the temperature is getting hotter inside! While some of you guys still have to wait a few more weeks to begin practice, those of us who can and have begun practice are all looking for that separation factor in our teams. What makes us special or what are we lacking that will make us special?

This past week we gave our players off a couple of days; mainly to get their legs back, it was football homecoming which means we lost our gym (ever wonder how and why football closes a gym?) and to get ready for the start of "real" practice. In our state, we can practice year-round, all-out except for 2 weeks of the year. Since most of our players play through out the spring and summer, we use Aug-Oct 15th as our pre-season. On Thursday I was able to spend most of the day with my good friend Alan Stein. We were able to watch Drew Hanlen and also hear Jimmy Dykes speak on the 20 Truths of Basketball. at the TriLakes Coaching Clinic. (Coach Todd Mercer does a great job putting together a great line-up) If you haven't heard Jimmy speak, you need to make it a priority to attend a clinic that he is speaking at. His passion for basketball, life and other people is inspiring. His contract was just renewed with ESPN which is a win for all of us. Every game he covers is like a free clinic.

One of the twenty that stuck with me this time more than ever before was this: "What in your program is nonnegotiable?" What is a pillar of your program? I've already discussed in a prior post what 3 things I believe  to be Game Changers. Jimmy's 20 truths are a part of that but this one truth got me thinking about it ever more.What is the nonnegotiable part of your program? Is it the foundation of your program or a pillar? In this  post I'm going to challenge you to look at your own program while providing you with some resources to compare and work with.

When you think of a Basketball Coach, for most of us it happens like this. You first think of your Coach, then a couple of great coaches. Most of us would agree that Coach Wooden may be one of  the greatest coaches of all time. His record speaks for itself. His Pyramid of Success has been a doctrine of basketball. While most of us can't name the individual blocks, we recognize its influence and impact on basketball coaches.

One of the recent, great stories in College Basketball has been Coach Brad Stevens and his quick rise to success at Butler. As you know Coach Stevens led Butler to back to back appearances in the National Championship game. I was fortunate to attend a Butler practice last year and meet Coach Stevens. (If you haven't visited Hinkle Fieldhouse, you need to make the trip.) Coach Stevens is the perfect example of efficiency. It wasn't much of a surprise to me when I learned he had a pyramid of his own. (Coach Stevens' Pyramid)

I sat down and developed my own pyramid. Actually it's a "Program Outline". You may be asking yourself why? I would not mention myself in the same sentence with a coach the caliber of Coach Wooden or think that I am on the same level as Coach Stevens. My answer to why is simple. If you want to be "big time", you treat where you are as the "big time". I believe EVERY Coach on EVERY level should outline and know their program standards. What's nonnegotiable? What is the foundation? Whether you coach on a 3rd grade, Junior High, Senior High, Collegiate or Professional level, you should be able to identify and defend your program's standards. Here are 3 of mine from my Program's Outline.

#1 Foundation : ATHLETICISM
It is my belief that improving each player's athleticism allows us to do everything we desire as a basketball team. The goal is to take each individual to their athletic peak. This allows us to perform as a team at our highest level possible. We can't make each player 6'7 but we can take each player to their genetic peak athletically.

#2 Belief: TOUGHNESS
To me Toughness is the bloodline of a program. It's presence or lack there of  is evident in tough times. Toughness allows us to compete versus teams of higher caliber and teaches how to compete. Toughness leads to self-less play and being a great teammate.

#3 What can I control: SKILL-DEVELOPMENT, Xs & Os, GOALS
Skill-development and athleticism go hand in hand but your skill level will not be where it could be if you don't improve the level of your athleticism. Xs and Os are what we all work at but with out a skill set it's hared to run anything!

Goals are our way of rewarding and motivating ourselves. Set a few goals you can achieve to show progress but never loose sight of the big picture goal of absolute success. What is success to one is a failure to some. As a Coach it should always be a goal to win the last game; as lofty as that may be for some.

That is a sample of what I came up with for myself. Again, these are my beliefs. If you'd like see a copy of it email me at and I'll send it to you.

I did want to give you this. Your Program Pyramid Use it to define your program. Use it to define your life. Have your players use it.

I wanted to take time to thank you. I started this blog 60 days ago and have had over 11,000 page views. I appreciate your time so I will always try to put purposeful, practical information out there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Planning for Success: Staff Responsibilities

As we all prepare for the upcoming season now is a great time to go over duties and responsibilities for each member of the staff. It is important that every Coach knows their duty and expectations. By taking time to evaluate and assign roles for the staff, you will find that there are aspects of the game and the program that y will be improved by having one member focus and accept responsibility for it.

All of our staff situations are different. Some of the folks reading this are in the college game and have obvious advantages versus those of us in the high school game strictly on the size of their staffs and resources. Some high schools have multiple coaches, some will have a "part-time" coach on loan from another sport. My first job I didn't have an assistant so I actually kept a notebook with ideas and plays to glance at. I also kept a pen to write down when something worked, didn't work or something worked against us. In a sense I was taking notes. (Its not a bad idea to take notes in a game. Use them for halftime adjustment or steal a set.) Regardless of your situation, you have a job to accomplish.

The biggest concern when dividing up responsibilities is trust. That goes for care of equipment to calling BLOBs (BaseLine Out of Bounds). This is a great way to increase the way your staff works together and also for Head Coaches to help promote their assistants.

I've attached a checklist for you to look over with your staff. Again, this is just a template that I've had success with, both as a Head Coach and as an Assistant. One relationship I didn't include is that with your Athletic Trainer. A working relationship with your trainer is simple: Treat them like a coach and they'll think like a coach. Listen to them about rest and recovery for players. You're not asking them to diagram plays. Some may have that ability, some may not. Trust them.

 Success is found in Trust.

Coach White's Checklist for Staff Responsibilities

Coach White's Checklist for Staff Responsibilities (older excel version)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Creating a Culture of Toughness

When Jay Bilas wrote his article & later his book on toughness it brought to light what is in my opinion the greatest trait of a player. More so than that it changed the way I coach and what I want a program built on. To me the three most important traits for a team are toughness, unselfishness, and relentlessness. For a team to be truly unselfish and relentless they have to be tough. Toughness allows players to achieve great things. Coach Tom Izzo said it best. "Players play, Tough Players win."

I don't think toughness can be taught but I do think it is learned. Let me explain that. We can all think of  "Toughness" drills that we've done or do to make our kids tough. Loose ball drills, charge drills, wall sits. Anything to force you to be tough. My question is this: Why isn't every thing we do instilling toughness? If we have to do drills to teach toughness we aren't really tough. Toughness isn't a sometime thing, it's an all the time thing. Toughness has to be evident in everything thing you do as a program.

You can't fake toughness. Let's face it. If a player can't play you can't hide that, just like you can't hide a lack of toughness. Basketball players don't have the luxury of a helmet to add to their "character" as a player.
Basketball is raw. Every expression is visible to everyone. Toughness isn't a look, it is an ability. You are either tough or not. There are plays where the presence and absence of toughness are evident but if you are creating a culture of toughness you don't wait for 50/50 ball or someone taking a charge. You look for and instill toughness in every drill, every day and in every player. Here are the 3 points I believe lead to a Culture of Toughness.

#1 Without Fear and With Urgency
Toughness only knows the boundaries set by oneself. A tough player has a willingness to compete without fear of failure and sometimes without fear of injury. Tough players do the dirty work. Loose balls, take charges, block out every time. They play with an urgency that this play is the most important of the game. This is all coachable but more importantly adaptable to any player. If this style of play is the norm you stop looking for signs of toughness and see the players not displaying it. More importantly , it becomes evident to their teammates who the ones are that aren't willing to sacrifice.

#2 Everyday Guys
Guys that do their jobs everyday are extremely tough. These are the guys succeeding in class, in practice and in the classroom. They don't take days off. They don't take plays off. Sadly, this is a dying breed. I appreciate all the things our athletic trainers and medical team does for us but sometimes "I wonder if getting smarter made us softer?" Our athletic trainers in our program are extremely good and are as vital a part of our staff as our coaches. Trust has been developed where they can make decisions about the players without any second guessing.

Today's player is more knowledgeable about their bodies than we were in the past. If you rolled an ankle in most cases your Coach shoved your leg in a 5 gallon bucket of ice water. I've seen guys play on an ankle the size of a grapefruit rather than endure the ice to hot routine. The rule is simple. If you're hurt get up. This includes your pride. If you're injured we will help you.
Everyday guys make a Coach's life easier. They are the players you don't ever have to worry about. In the NBA, I look at Duke Alumni as everyday guys. That toughness was instilled at Duke by Coach K. You can't win without everyday guys.

#3 Away from the Ball
This is the "sign" for me if a Player is truly tough or not. Away from the ball, whether on offense or defense is where toughness is displayed. Whether you have the ball or are guarding the ball you are forced to be engaged. Everyone is watching you. It's showtime. I'd say even the guys one pass away are working hard. What about the guys "out of the play"? Are they in a stance? Talking? Cutting and screening with purpose. This is where toughness must be evident. The Block/Charge is determined here, not by the official. The play is determined in the mind of the defender. Are they engaged? Same goes for the offside offensive rebound. Away from the ball is where games are loss more often than won.

This goes for your best player especially. This player is use to having the ball and being in the spotlight. There are times when we will make sure that our opponents best on the ball defender is put in a position of help defense because it's out of his comfort zone. "No one is watching me so I can rest." Hopefully all of us are coaching off the ball defense and teaching on the ball defense.

When Toughness is the norm, Players are forced to be tough. You can't survive without being tough. It's a culture, not a drill. It becomes an adaptation. A must for survival.You can't teach a player to be tough. The player has to learn it, and most importantly need toughness to succeed & survive in your program.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Deciding How to Defend Ball Screens

Everyone has different philosophies on defending a ball screen. The pick and roll may be the most successful two man action in basketball because of that. If there was only one way to stop it and it worked, we'd all have probably said goodbye to the Pick and Roll. The different approaches to defending it is what allows the offense to continue to flourish. Sometimes you have too many options. You can do them all but the odds of you doing the all well are very low. Changing the way you defend the ball screen is a great way to disrupt your opponents offensive rhythm but the fact is you have to find one way to stop it. I wrote an earlier post on Defending Screens and this goes along with that. Here are my 3 favorite ways to defend ball screens.

#1 "Screen the Screener" Bump and Go Under

The key to defending any screen is to be early. When playing versus a team that utilizes ball screens to attack the basket this is a great method of defending them. Most of us teach our ball handler to come off the screen tight. That is why so many teams hedge hard; to force a wider path. Try this. The defender on the screen will "screen" the screener. This is done by placing hands together low and pressing up against the screener. Think of a T. The screener has his shoulders turned to set the screen and the defender on the screen has his back to the basket. He calls out the screen and the on ball defender goes underneath the "T". Here's a great point on this. As the ball-handler is going over the top, bump his own man into him with a subtle nudge. This method also takes away the roll by the screener because of the defensive positioning. The negative to this is a guard who can stop and pop from behind the screen. (pretty rare on the HS level though)

#2 Trap and Kill

I struggle to think of any team that runs an on ball screen with another guard.(email me at if you know of one) Another way to discourage and disrupt ball screen situations is with a hard trap. Most of us wait for the ball handler to dribble into the hedge to trap. One way of trapping is to go before the screen. Show a hard hedge then go. This requires great rotation on the backside to do this. Occasionally you'll get a situation where the screener slips and can hit a mid range jumper. This is a very aggressive way to defend it and takes breakdown drills to master.

#3 Turn Away

The best way to defend a ball screen is to not have to defend a ball screen. Force the offensive player to go away from the screen . This allows you to keep help toward the basket and not toward half court. Make them drive. See how robotic their offense is. Is the guard willing to take the driving lane provided or will he force himself over the screen. If you divide the floors into thirds, this fits into your philosophy. Rarely is the screen set from the baseline side.

This is just a couple of thoughts on defending ball screens. The most important thing is you find the method that fits your team and stops your opponent.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Teaching Your Offensive Players to Expect and Embrace Contact

Unless you were a Post Player growing up, you probably preferred to not have contact as an offensive player. I was a skinny, lanky kid when my Coach taught me to play post in about 3 minutes on the bench. I was buried deep in the guard rotation so I was eager to learn anything that would get me on the floor. The defensive side of post play (blog coming later) was the easiest for me because you got to give the contact. It wasn't until much later that I learned to use the contact on the offensive end to my advantage.

Most players, especially shooters, don't like contact. Look at your best shooter's free throw attempts outside of late game scenarios. You'll be surprised how few attempts they are getting at the line. Shooters tend to try to avoid contact. Same can be said for your Slasher-type players. That type of player usually will attempt a 720-double pump-reverse rather than attack the rim and take a hard foul.

As a Coach, teaching Players that contact benefits them as a scorer is a must to become a complete player. Kobe spends a lot of time at the line. That's the easiest place to get points every night. Players have to expect and embrace contact. Want it. Create it. Below are the 3 points that are stressed to players in our program.

#1 You Own the Defender After the First Bump
No matter who initiates it, after the first bump, the offense owns the defense IF the offensive player sees and uses it as an advantage. Most young and less physical offensive players shy away after the first signs of contact and physical play. Teach your offensive player to attack and use the first bump as a "springboard" to get past the defender. Teach every player that when driving to get their shoulder to the defenders hip. This is especially helpful and a great way to attack a hard hedge on a ball screen. By attacking the defender you can get them off balance and more than likely draw a foul.

#2 Use Rips to Break or Create Contact
Players can create space one of two ways: Retreat or Rip. While there are times a retreat dribble is necessary, it is not when you are attacking the rim. Too many players want to bounce backwards so they can shake and shimmy then attack. The hardest thing for a defender to defend is someone moving at them. By using a rip-through, the offensive player can create or discourage the defender's mentality for physical play. There are three rip-through that we use. They are: Clean the floor (shoe to shoe), Hip to Hip and Across the Face (Hip to Nose to Hip)

#3 Keep Defense in Reverse
I don't know of a Coach that works on defending by retreating straight back. We all teach contain, whether you funnel or fan the dribble. It is impossible to guard a player that attacks in a straight line without backing off the offensive player. By using Rips, Attacking Shoulder to Hip and Stepping Past the Defender, the Offensive player can create and use contact to his advantage. Teaching offensive players to step past the defense, (get your foot past his feet) you automatically force him to retreat. This allows you to step-back or go to the rim. By attacking his hip and stepping past the offensive player has initiated contact and has beaten his man and initiated contact.

Hope this helps you relay this message to your players. Here is my favorite drill to drive this message home. DeMatha Finishing Drill

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Communication Silences Chaos

Communication. We all need it. It is a vital need in our lives. I would guess we all agree on that. What about your team? How important is Communication to your program? Do you have effective lines of communication? Have you defined the proper lines of communication for your program? These are all questions that if you haven't answered you need to answer for the sanctity of your program.

Effective communication begins with leadership. As a Coach you are responsible for the lines of communication; both internal and external. Internal communication is any communication that happens inside your program. External refers to anything outside such as media, sponsors and boosters. Personally I include administration and parents as external. I define external as "anyone who is not involved in everyday actions of the team."

Communication between staff members has to be at a peak level for the team to be successful. Knowing what, why and how is imperative to seamless instruction and implementing of program goals and philosophies. Communication between Coaches and Players has to be open where there isn't any misunderstanding of what is expected from each player. Players should also feel free to talk to their coaches.

Communication between Players is where a lot of teams, including some I've coached struggle. It is a maturity process for players to speak to each other without causing dissent and conflict. Don't let the message get lost in the delivery. Players communicating with each other is what separates elite teams from great teams and great teams from mediocre ones. So What defines Communication; more importantly Good Communication? My friend Alan wrote and developed a great tool for rating a player's Communication. (Link attached at bottom of this post)

Here are my 3 points on teaching communication.

#1Build Confidence
I, just like all of you, have taught and probably were taught to talk on defense through Shell Drill. In my attempt to make everything I do purposeful and practical have reexamined that teaching practice. In my opinion, I'd rather have my players having "meaningful" communication with each other. Having a player saying "Help,Help,Help," over and over is okay, but I prefer for the player in Help to let the player on the ball know  who is in help. "Jason, I've got your help." The player in deny position saying "Jason, He can't come this way." Now Jason knows that he has teammates where he needs them. Now Jason can focus on guarding the ball because he knows someone is there. This also causes some uncertainty for the offense. Again, this is just my opinion. If you feel that your players are better fit to say what they are doing then do so.
That brings me to my second point of...

#2 Verbalize Your Offense
Everyone knows the fist above the head is the universal sign for setting a screen. So why not say, "Vic, I got your screen" or "Chris set me one"? Communicating on Offense may be more important that on defense. I'd debate that a team communicating on Offense is more successful than a team that is a great communicating defensive team. Communication isn't limited to talking. Great Offensive players lie with their eyes; sending false lines of communication for the defense while eye-contact with teammates leads to a great number of highlights. When you run your offense in practice, have your players verbalize what they are doing. Every pass, every pick. When you add Defense use the verbal as a tool against them. Have you ever noticed how players change their defensive posture when a teammate calls out "Pick Right"? Use that against them. Want to see your shooters shoot with confidence? Have your passer talk to them. "Knock that down." That shows an invested interest in that shot. It's now the team's shot versus that Player's shot. Talking makes things better.

#3 Silence the Chaos
When things get crazy, there has to be a voice or voices that can silence the chaos. Down by one, on the road, just a few seconds left, you call a zone set and they change to man defense. You can't hear yourself think. Is your team prepared to make the right decision and can your PG or leader communicate with the rest of the team? Prepare for that situation.

This drill will help instill Communication with your Offensive players. Get two groups of 5 on the same end and run your motion offense. Each group has a ball. You can't pass back to the player who passes to you. Do Not Allow a Shot.You can make it a competition to (1) first to 20 passes or (2) a set time. This drill forces your players to communicate while working on your offensive system.

Communication is our job. There are a lot of great minds out there but true genius is in getting that information out for others to use and grow.

Below is the link to Alan's Communication Rating System. Coaches, If you are truly looking for a competitive edge then I would seriously consider attending Alan's Huddle. It's a game changer.
Alan Stein's Communication Rating System

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If and Do: Finding the Balance

As we approach October our minds starting racing and getting cluttered with all the possibilities of our upcoming season. What if? What to do? What if we do this or if we don't do that?  If is a really major player in our lives as Coaches. Most of our regrets as Coaches are based on lack of spending time on If and relying solely on Do.
I started thinking about this topic a lot recently. I spend a lot of time (Paige would say ALL my time) thinking about the IFs of Basketball. I like to be prepared. My friend Alan says " Over prepare so you don't under preform." There are many examples of preparing for Ifs. Watching film, scouting, and practicing are the easy ones to point out. But like with anything, If has limits.  All Coaches by nature are Doers. We all know Coaches that are Sayers more than they are Doers but let's stick to the positive side of people in this topic. Do gets things done. Action is what makes things happen.The key is finding how to balance your IFs and DOs. Here is what I came up with.

One of the definitions of If is "a supposition,uncertain possibility: My definition of IF is simple. It is an Impact Factor. If you attempted to prepare for every Impact Factor in basketball, you'd spend more time scheming and less time "skill-ing". In a sense, you'd be so prepared you'd be under prepared. Take the uncertainty out of the possibility. Select your Impact. Factor what the result will be. "IF we don't block out..." I'm certain that if you don't block out you lose most games. "If we don't turn the ball over..." You win..

All of the definitions of Do deal with action. From the current action to the past tense (finished) form of done. Take DO. Now accept that DO is a Direct Opportunity; Directly on you and it's your opportunity. Direct yourself to your opportunity. Some will think of DO as Direct Others. As a Coach DO is Directing others to Opportunity. Always keep do in the right perspective. Don't Do just for the sake of doing.

While IF is the important part of planning, DO is what we are actively pursuing. Do can also be negative. Whether you do or don't do something, there is a positive or negative reaction. As a Coach your control over DO is limited by your attention paid to IF. Players are the Doers. Coaches can increase their control over DO by doing more with the IF. As a Coach it is important to have a balance of IFs and DOs. For every If I try to have an equal Do. For every offense you use, continuity or sets, create drills that work on every IF. (Teaching Your Offense)

Here are a 3 quick thoughts on IFs and DOs:

IF there is a chance it can happen in a game, DO a drill for it in practice. 
        Don't get caught off-guard.
IF you don't understand something, DO research on the topic. Ask questions. 
        The only stupid questions are the ones that don't get asked.
IF it's not working, DO something else. Don't be married to a failing ideology.
        5 most important words in Coaching: "Crap it is not working."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

3 Game Changers to Build Your Program Around

 So how do you as a Coach decide what is best for your program? I'm not talking about Offensive and Defensive systems. I'm talking about resources. Beliefs. Inspiration. In rethinking my Offensive and Defensive philosophy I began thinking about things and people that shape my basketball beliefs. I have discovered how strong I feel about and how often I refer to three things. I think these are three of the most relevant & essential concepts dealing with today's game. Here are my 3 Game Changers:

#1 Toughness
In 2009 the "Trillest Man on the Planet" Jay Bilas wrote a column for ESPN that has become part of my Basketball Doctrine. The former Duke Player/Coach turned Attorney/Analyst took the topic that every Coach talks about but struggles to define and composed one of the most powerful pieces ever written about Basketball. It is a must read for Players and Coaches alike. Toughness by Jay Bilas

#2 20 Truths of Basketball

 Jimmy Dykes spoke this summer at Coaching U Live in Indianapolis on this topic. It is a must read for Coaches on every level. Jimmy's expertise and work ethic are shown in this piece and in his daily tweets. He is a great example of living an authentic life. 20 Truths of Basketball

#3 Play Present

I consider Alan Stein a good friend of mine but also one of the most influential people in my life. I've watched the Play Present video hundreds of time. I've heard it live four times and each time it's a new experience. I learn something different about myself every time. It has changed my daily approach as a father, husband and coach.  Play Present Video

Most of you have seen, read or watched the above mentioned people. In my opinion they are in touch with today's game more than anyone else. When you are looking at your beliefs as a Coach, I hope you look deeply into their work.

So it the words of these guys: "Another Day to Say Thanks" (Jimmy Dykes) "Be > Yesterday" (Alan Stein} and "I gotta go to work" (Jay Bilas)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Basketball Success Depends on a Successful Staff

Like with any company that is successful you find the secret to their success by looking at their leadership. Phil Knight at Nike & Steve Jobs at Apple are both great examples of successful leadership. Leaders that have a vision and more importantly hold on to that vision ensure their companies success. Sure there are going to be setbacks, but holding the vision is what leads to success. What empowers the leaders to lead is they surround themselves with people that have similar beliefs and also the same vision. Rarely is there a successful company that doesn't have a successful Board of Directors making collective decisions.

This is the start of my 12th season as a coach. Nine of those I spent in the first chair as a Head Coach. The three years spent as an assistant have been for the same Coach in different locations. People ask if I miss being a Head Coach. Sure I do. While I think it is every Coaches' dream to be a Head Coach, I think the best place for a Coach is where he can be used to his fullest. Some Coaches find their place in the second or third chair. For me personally, I have a job in mind but at his point in my life I'm more concerned with my Wife and kids happiness than chasing any open job. If it is a good move for our family, then we discuss it. As a Head Coach you are responsible for the success of the program. As an Assistant you are responsible for making the Head Coach and the program a success. Here are my 3 main points about Successful Staffs.

#1 Everyone isn't singing the same note in a Perfect Harmony
Don't be a YES man. This goes for the Head Coach and the Assistant. Have an opinion in the appropriate setting. Discuss and question why things work or won't work. Head Coaches, Don't be a "Because I said so" type of leader. The Common Sense decisions are and should never be questioned. What should be discussed are things that can affect your win/loss column: Personnel, Offense and Defense situations, match-ups. It's okay for a staff to disagree. But when the door opens, that's where opinions have to die and whatever and whomsoever decision the staff is going with becomes the team's decision.

It's okay to have a Bad Cop/Good Cop as long as the Assistant isn't the Bad Cop. If this is the relationship, it won't work because realistically the Assistant doesn't have final say. Find a relationship that works.

#2 Define Roles and Responsibilities and Allow Them to be Done
I just have to sit back and laugh when you see an Assistant Football Coach named the Offensive Coordinator and the Head Coach is the one calling the plays. In my situation, I guess I'm the Special Teams Coordinator in that I call all BLOBs and SLOBs as an Assistant Coach.While I have other duties in games and practice, I have the responsibility of installing and ensuring success of all Out of Bounds plays.  On of my in game duties is I coach On-The-Ball Defense. The main reason is this. Since only one Coach is allowed up, it is easier for the Head Coach to coach the Help Defense because he can move closer to them. I'm also over all our Strength and Conditioning due to my relationship with Alan Stein and my wife Paige being a trainer. I probably have more say than most Assistants in that (1) I've been a Head Coach and (2) my current Head Coach has an enormous amount of trust in me.
As a Head Coach, if you trust and empower your Assistants to take ownership of different aspects of the game, it gives you more freedom to manage the entire program. I attended a Duke practice two years ago. Coach Collins was on one end running drills team drills while Coach Wojciechowski was running another group and Coach Krzyzewski was observing both ends and making coaching points to players on both ends. The amount of work done and the amount of coaching being done was impressive. If Coach K didn't trust his staff, you would have had 3 coaches watching 5 players while 7 others stood and waited for their turn. Use the resources you have to their fullest.

#3 Choose Wisely
As an Assistant and a Head Coach, choosing a job should take a lot of consideration. As a Head Coach, are you going to be able to select your Assistant Coach or are you going to be forced to keep the previous one. This is a slippery slope because 9 out of 10 times the Assistant applied and didn't get the job and the 1 time he didn't apply he knows it's an awful job so why are you applying?! In most high school settings it is hard to demand that due to teacher contracts and limits on hiring. As an Assistant looking for a job, how well do you know the Head Coach? Are you going to be allowed to Coach or are you going to be the bus driver and laundry facilitator? While that is part of every job, ask what your responsibilities are going to be. Talk to previous Coaches, both Head and Assistant. Why did they leave?

Lastly, I'm at a point in my career where happiness is my number one decision maker. I am leery of open Coaching jobs, on any level, that say: "Basketball Coaching position. Must teach ....." Is this school looking for a Coach or a Teacher that also Coaches. While we all know that it is Student-Athletes we deal with, I've yet to see a newspaper article say  " Home Team 40 Visiting Team 70 but Coach Whatshisname is doing a great job in Science."

That's a quick look at Basketball Staff. If you need or have any questions feel free to contact me at . I will go into more detail with you about bench duties, practice duties and administrative duties.

Defensive Philosophy: Define your DNA

First let me start by saying I've really enjoyed this blog and exchanging emails with Coaches from around the world. It's been exciting and humbling while providing myself and hopefully some of you some thought provoking topics.

Recently, I was asked by a first year coach on my Defensive philosophy. I really have never sat down and put on paper my core beliefs on Offense or Defense. I tend to lean to the Offensive side of the game because I enjoy teaching kids how to play. I believe that you "Teach Offense and Coach Defense". In practice we spend more time coaching our defensive effort and teaching our players how to make decisions on the offensive end. I would encourage each of you to take time to sit down, alone and with your staff and define yourself offensively and defensively as a coach. This is my defensive philosophy. I'm not intending to convince or sway you but mainly give you an example of how to define your Defensive DNA and motivate you to find your own.

Ball Pressure isn't just the Defender guarding the ball

Hopefully all of us are using the phrase "5 guys guarding the ball". That is a pillar of teaching help-side defense. Be in position to stop the basketball. I take that a step further and say All 5 applying ball pressure. Most of us when you hear ball pressure you picture a guy just getting after it guarding the basketball. He's turning and turning the dribbler and when the dribble is dead he looks like an octopus his arms are so active. Ball pressure to me starts with this.
  * Great Close-Out: A  catch and shoot is unacceptable.
  *Hand-In: The defender guarding the ball must get a hand in. Take away the triple threat. When a player catches the basketball our defender will get his hand on the ball. This takes away the shot and pass option of the dribble threat. We spend time in stationary drills on this. (This also teaches our offensive player how to rip, jab step, pivot to create initial space.)
 *Jab-At: We want the players closest to the ball "jabbing" at the dribbler. This causes the dribbler to think a trap is coming, or change direction.
All 5 players are involved in applying ball pressure.

4 in Help, 5 with Back to the Basket

When it's time to start teaching defense, we do so by teaching 1 on 1 full court then add players. We want our players denying, in the passing lane in the full court setting. (We'll all find ourselves in this spot sometime in our seasons where we need a :05 violation or a steal/foul) We then continue this into a half court setting. This goes with a fundamental belief: It's easier to loosen up then tighten up later. After we feel comfortable with our intensity, we will go into our 4 defense. we want one player applying ball pressure directly on the ball, the next two closest applying ball pressure by jabbing and the remaining two players in a help position. By definition, we want 1 on 4 in help. If the ball is at the top of the key, we want our defense to look like a 1-2-2. This benefits us defensively in these ways:
*Teams will run a zone offense. Now unless it is a team I coach or a coach who has read my blog on "Screening the Zone Defense", most teams will rely on moving the ball and cutting.
*Offensive players will relax which means their minds will relax. This leads to "easier" defensive possessions.
* On the Passing Line, Not in the Passing Lane. The Passing Line is the outline of the passing lane. We want players on the passing line so they are able to get in the passing lane. When an offensive player sees an open passing lane, they tend to relax on decision making. This gives us opportunities to run through passes that lead to easy scores.
* 5 guys with their backs to the basket. When we are on the passing line, we are able to remain in position to help. This also keeps players from backdoor cuts vs us.

Technically, All we've done is taken away one step. If I ask you to race, are you going to start with your back to the finish line? Help defense is a race. It is a race to a spot between the offense and the defense. by having our back to the basket instead of our back to the ball in denying, we slide or cross step over instead of drop step, slide then cross-step. A lot of races are lost by one step.

Drive = Deck
This is the bloodline of our defense. If a player drives, it has to end in a collision. We want to draw a charge on EVERY drive. This has to be instilled in players. You can't let a live session go without players taking charges. (It'll improve your offense too)

That's a look at my defensive DNA. I hope it made you think about your own philosophy. If there is any of this you would like to discuss please feel free to email me at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Guarantee Success by Practicing Failure

This post is a partnership blog with my friend Alan Stein. I had started my post on practicing failure and we talked about a post he had done earlier. There are not very many chances to work with the best in the world in their craft so I'm thankful for this opportunity. If you're interested in seeing Alan's work up close, I'd encourage you to find MAKE a way to attend his Huddle.

Failure is something we are all as coaches drastically trying to avoid. In Alan's post he talks about the benefits of failure. I agree 100% with him and most of you would too. The fact we acknowledge we need failures for the teaching and learning experience shows there is value in failing. It's the moment of failure we are trying to avoid. You can control the timing of failure. All of us as Coaches practice daily on doing things the right way. Why are we not practicing failing and more importantly how do your players and yourself deal with failing? Teaching your players to overcome adversity is a major trait of a winner.

Here are 3 ways I practice failure.

#1 Stack the Deck
In a 5 on 5 situation put your players on teams in the order: (1 = best player regardless of position)
1,2,8,9,10 vs 3,4,5,6,7
Make one team's chances of winning seem impossible. For our college coaches this may be more difficult. What the players reactions after teams are announced? Did one team concede defeat already? See how your 2 best players respond. Do they stay in your offensive system or do they decide to do it on their own? How does your other starters perform without the best two players? Do they concede defeat?
If your best is a post player, how hard does he play knowing the guards may not be able to get him the ball?
Do whatever match ups you feel necessary to cause a defeat. Then watch for poor body language and lack of effort.

#2 Be a Awful Official
Some of you after reading that thought "so just be a normal referee". While I appreciate your sarcasm, I mean be truly awful. Call hand-checks on one team and allow Battery charges to go uncalled on the other. Call walks on pivots, away from the ball offensive fouls on made shots; Anything you can think of to disrupt any flow that is positive. If possible, have one coach officiating and one coach coaching. After a bad call, if there is any negative body or verbal language the official should reward the other team while the coach should remove the player. We've all been in a situation where we felt we were getting a raw deal. This drill can be a training moment to focus on what you can control.

*Disclaimer: When one team is benefiting from another team's misfortune, be prepared to step in quickly to defuse anything too heated and explain what and why you were doing what you were doing.

#3 Go Against the Odds
Make success almost unattainable....but demand it. Practice vs more players. Run your press offense versus 10 players; 5 in a zone press and 5 in full court M2M. Practice with uneven numbers in half court defense with consequences for not getting a stop. Here is a drill to use for this.

This is the Man Down drill. If at any time a player isn't in proper stance, position, or communicating remove him from the drill. The drill continues 4 on 3. If another player on defense makes a mistake, remove him. You can go down to 4 on 0 if you wish. This drill stresses the importance of each possession while placing a large amount of distress on players. (It does create some great teaching points. 1 player guarding 2 if a defender gets misplaced or injured on the other end. Asking 3 to guard 4 for 15 seconds isn't unheard of. It's hard, but not impossible.

 Fail when you want to so you can succeed when you want.  I hope this helps you all plan your success by scheduling your failures. That's another 3 from the corner...


Monday, September 3, 2012

Pick and Pick Offense

The Pick and Roll is commonly referred to as the most successful offense in basketball. When I hear "pick and roll" I immediately picture John Stockton and Karl Malone.It's simplicity yet effectiveness make it a pillar of basketball offenses worldwide.

 For many, the ball screen is one of the hardest things for young players to defend. As a coach, you have to decide the best way to defend ball screens for your team. Some will choose to double, hedge, or switch. That is why I like this offense. It provides a way to attack and be successful versus however the ball screen is defended.

I posted this play with FastDraw. If you're not using FastDraw I HIGHLY recommend it. In my opinion, its a must have for coaches serious about teaching players how to play the game.

The concept of the Pick and Pick Offense is simple: Use a ball screen and an additional screen to create scoring opportunities. After reading that you're thinking "Isn't that the purpose of every offense? To create scoring opportunities." That is correct but most offenses are limited to offensive movements. I feel that this is the only continuity offense that gives as many options as the Read and React system.

The key to how and which way we score is based on how the defense is going to defend the ball screen. Frame 5 would be the start to the Continuity. Frames 6-8 are breakdown of the ball screen.

Here are the breakdown drills used to teach the Pick and Pick Offense. As I described earlier in "Teaching Your Offense" we break down every aspect of the offense into a drill movement. I learned that from Rick Torbett and the Read and React Offense. Each Action is covered here.

If you don't have FastDraw, email me at and I'll send it to you as a .PDF file.

Defensive Paint Game

This is a quick post from a drill I received from a 3FTC follower Coach Dan Carey. Coach Carey is the Head Girls Coach at Hamilton High School in Sussex, Wisconsin.

Offense goal is to simply dribble the ball into the paint -- no
shots, just get into the paint safely with both feet and under control
with the ball.

This game really helps with a "no help needed" mentality guarding
the ball -- something we say all the time to the girls (I coach varsity
girls in suburban Milwaukee, WI). We want them in "one-on-one
mentality" when guarding the ball. But when focusing on help, and
getting into gaps, this is a great drill to build the habit of being
there early with your FEET on helpside, and not reaching.

Put in a "shot clock" of 15-20 seconds that the offense has to try
to get into the paint

*Offense not allowed to play "butt ball" and just catch it, back
your man down and get into the paint -- has to be on a direct drive

*Great drill to build toughness in your team. Also a great drill
for taking charges