Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Don't Ruin Practice with Running: Thoughts on Conditioning.

This time of the year as students are returning Coaches on every level everywhere are all planning their strategy to get their athletes into shape by the start of practice. Some Coaches will have a fitness test of some sort, whether it be a mile test or a shuttle run. They will chose a test to show what kind of shape the athlete is in. Some Coaches will start the first day with trashcans in the corners to see "how bad you want to be on this team." We've all been through or know a Coach like that. I'm going to give you 3 points of my take Conditioning.

#1 Don't Ruin Practice
In my opinion nothing sets a worse tone than after a great practice the dreaded 4 words: "Get on the Line." Your players have just busted their tails for 2 hours. Diving for loose balls, Taking Charges, Talking on Defense and the last thing they will remember is sprinting for 10 minutes at the end of practice. I'm not against running. My teams run. Run during drills. Run between drills. Run to and from water breaks. If you believe your team has to run 17s or a triple-nickel do it at the beginning or in the middle of practice. Spend every moment of practice improving your conditioning. If you are focused and prepared, you can get the same amount of conditioning in DURING practice and you and your players will leave feeling energized about the effort vs exhausted. 

#2 Punishment Can't Be the Same as Conditioning
We've all been in a situation where a basketball practice turns into a tryout for the Olympic 5000m event. We've all had players who need a reminder of how to do things on and off the floor correctly. As a Coach, If I'm using the same drills that we condition with as punishment I'm sending the wrong signal. Conditioning is a need to. Players shouldn't feel like it is a have to. We want Players who feel like I want to. Find ways to separate Conditioning and Punishment.

#3 Build Toughness But GET BETTER
We are spending a lot of time in our indoor facility as well as on the track. Today's players, in part to a bad summer set up just want to play. They don't want to work-in general. We are slowly working on being a better athlete but most importantly watching to see who is a competitor. I've rarely seen the "best player" finish last or not try to win.

*Note to Players- The Best are the Best EVERYWHERE.

Use Conditioning as a gauge for competition. See who will fight through one more sprint.

In my opinion, this is the BEST conditioning tool for Basketball. Enjoy

Syracuse Running Program

Ask yourself this: Why do I work so hard at Coaching? BECAUSE YOU ENJOY IT! It doesn't feel like work. If your players enjoy practice and conditioning they will work harder for you.All days aren't sunshine and rainbows but grind on things worth grinding on.

If you would like more "fun" conditioning ideas follow @AlanStein or @TrainWithPaige

Monday, August 27, 2012

Defending the Dribble Drive Motion

I was a fan of the Dribble Drive Motion offense and still use it as a set from time to time. I ran it for a year and enjoyed coaching it.  I know a lot of successful Coaches that love it.
What I did not enjoy was the monotony of the movement. It is a very predictable movement pattern. The amount of dribbling required allows the defense sufficient time to recover. Most teams that are using the Dribble Drive Motion get caught up in the Dribble but forget the Drive. Most of us also don't  have a Derek Rose or John Wall either.

Before we go on, let's make sure you're familiar with the Player's numbering in the DDM (Dribble Drive Motion). The biggest difference in the DDM compared to other offenses is that the 5 is the 2nd Point Guard so don't get confused when we say we will switch our 1 onto their 5. In most settings of the DDM, the players roles are as follows:
               1 Point Guard
               2 Shooting Guard
               3 2nd Best Post Player, Good Rebounder
               4 Best Post Player
               5 2nd Point Guard

Let me start by saying the best way to guard the DDM is to guard it straight up with great pressure. If you can do that, then do it. The following are some options on ways to help you or give you an edge on defending the DDM.

#1 Force Middle Drive
By forcing the 1 to the middle, you can eliminate the kick-up (pass) to 2. This also forces the 1 to go left. If you choose to do this, make sure your team knows the movements of the offense. 4 will "relocate" to the opposite block. 3 will fade to the corner and 5 will cut behind 1. Deny all passes and force 1 to try to go across the court.

#2 Deny, Don't Help
After teaching the Drive, the next part of the offense is the kick-up, or the penetrate and kick, to the SG. Our on-ball defender will force their 1 to drive. Our player defending their SG will face guard deny and not help on the penetration. This method requires our help side to be very active. Our post defender will stop the ball and our backside will drop to cover the post. This is a taught pass so a lot of times when the 1 sees the post defense coming to help he drops the ball off for 4. That is why our backside has to move quickly.

Once our post defender has stopped the ball, if their 1 did not make a pass that we deflected or got a steal on, our post defender and defender that was guarding their 1 will trap him on the block.

#3 Cut the Head Off
In a true Motion Offense the movement differs based on how the defense is defending. The Dribble Drive has a pattern that players in the system struggle when it is interrupted. That is another option. Allow their 1 to penetrate. Bring the defender that is guarding their 2 over to stop the penetration. Here is an opportunity to get a cheap foul on their 1 by our defender stepping up to take a charge. If you notice their point guard is careless after making the pass, have the help defender step up and take a charge. Work on the defender guarding their 1 going behind him to pick up the 2.

If the 1 jump stops to pass, our defender should be in position to "cut the floor in half". The 2 is programmed to drive back to the middle to keep the offense moving. By switching, our defenders can keep him from going to the middle. Make him react. If he drives, our post defender and backside react.

I hope this gives you some ideas for the next time you face the DDM.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

3 Guys From The Corner

When most people think of Northwest Arkansas, there are a few things that jump to mind. Most don't know that Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, is based in Bentonville, Arkansas. 15 minutes south on I540 you find the world's second largest processor of chicken, beef, and pork, Tyson Foods, in Springdale, Arkansas. Just south of that is the University of Arkansas located in Fayetteville. Pretty incredible in a state our size.

The big 3 for me are 3 basketball guys that have been a great influence on me and are also having a great impact on our game in the collegiate level. These guys are examples of hard work, a willingness to teach, and a great example of servant leadership. Here's my big 3 from the corner.

# 1 Jimmy Dykes  @JimmyDykesLive

Jimmy might be the hardest working guy I know. I don't know of another person that is more prepared and more professional than he is. He is a Coaches' Announcer. He talks the game as we as coaches see it and in my case, a lot of what I don't see. I use his games as a weekly clinic. Even more impressive than his basketball knowledge is the way he lives his life as an open book. He's as authentic as it gets. His hard work and work ethic are examples of why he has achieved so much.

#2 Matt Zimmerman @CoachZ_ARKANSAS 

I don't know if I've ever met someone so dedicated to his job than Zim. Coach Z is a gym-rat, even as a Division 1 coach. He loves basketball. He lives it, breathes it and is a great teacher of the game. I''m lucky enough to be able to attend practice and watch his drills. His precision and attention to detail are second to none. Coach Z is an example of how being loyal and a hard worker pays off.  He went from being a student manager at Arkansas to being a small school head coach to being an assistant coach at his alma mater.

#3 Mike Neighbors @coachneighbors

I would be willing to bet Coach Neighbors couldn't pick me out of a lineup. I've only been around him a couple of times since he coaches out on the west coast. Coach Neighbors is a great, if not the greatest example of spreading our game. His weekly newsletter touches thousands of coaches from around the world. The time he spends on making sure to share any and all of his basketball knowledge is a great example to us all of how we can improve our game by sharing.

Next blog I'll get back to talking some situations and thoughts. I just wanted to take time to show my respect to 3 guys from Arkansas who have made a huge impact on me and our game.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Inside the Cutting Edge

I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of our games most innovative thinkers this weekend. Alan Stein (@AlanStein is at the forefront of Basketball Athleticism.He doesn't claim that his programs will make you a better. His program makes you a better athlete. He focuses on the needs of basketball players. By becoming a better athlete, you can perform your basketball skills at a higher level.                          

His body of work and expertise has changed the landscape of strength training and the way coaches are preparing their players for and during the season. If it isn't evident by now, I'm a believer. my wife Paige and I attended the Stronger Team Huddle last Spring. I drink the kool-aid. I'm all in. Our program went an entire season last year without one sprained ankle. That was a first for me in eleven years and it was also the only season where I exclusively used Alan's guidance on stretching, strength training and pre-game/pre-practice preparation. I know that wasn't a coincidence.

Alan conducted a Cutting Edge clinic here in Northwest Arkansas on Friday, August 24th. If you are not familiar with his clinic, it is a three hour of non-stop learning and exercise for players. There were 132 players that attended. 132! The most impressive things were this:
1. For 3 hours Alan kept 132 kids ranging from 12-18 moving and motivated
2. His energy level never dropped from minute 1 to minute 180.

Here are 3 things I'd like to share with you.

#1 Play Present

Play Present. This wasn't from our clinic but it is one of the greatest things you can show your team.

#2 Brick by Brick

A brick wall isn't just thrown together. Each brick has a specific responsibility. Some bricks can be weaker, even missing at times but the more you focus on each brick the stronger the wall will be. You can't build the top row without something in the middle and you can't even build a wall without a foundation to build it on.

# 3 Euro Passing Drill

Here is a drill Alan passed on to the coaches in attendance:

Those are only 3 points out of about 30 I wrote down. I highly recommend that you attend one of Alan's clinics. contact him at

Monday, August 20, 2012

Defending the Basket: Doubling The Post

Doubling the post on defense is a method of defending and limiting the effectiveness of an opponents post player. Most coaches when they hear or talk about doubling the post they envision a team with a powerful, dominating post player. What if I told you that doubling a weak post player was just if not more beneficial than doubling a strong one. Your first thought would be why bother? There's no need to "waste" another defender on a post player that isn't a scoring threat. By doubling the post every time you can incorporate a strategy that will change the way teams prepare for you. After all, that's what we as coaches want; your opponent focusing their time on you and not on their teams. Here are a couple of thoughts on doubling the post.

#1 Reasons to Double:
*  First it forces teams to make shots outside the "smile" (think Charge arc under basket). Doubling forces the offense to take and make contested shots.
*  Doubling increases the game tempo. Think of doubling the post as a full court or half court trap. It creates confusion.
* It makes your defense active and engaged. Even if you are playing man to man defense their are times when your defense becomes stagnant. Doubling makes an active defense even more active.
* It is interchangeable. You can choose to double different ways, with different players. It can be made to fit your personnel.

#2 Rules on Player Positioning to Double:
     #1 Rule for Post Defense: It starts with Ball Pressure.
* Never let the ball enter the post from the top of the floor. If the ball is above the free throw line, "full front (butt front) to force any pass to the post to be a lob to the backboard. (This allows help to attack the ball in the air like a defensive back in football). 
                * Side-note: When you are full fronting, have your player sit on the offensive player's leg and
                                    defend with both hands. This position allows your player to defend the lob pass and 
                                     also draws attention to any push off by the offense.
* Play behind when the ball is on the wing or in the corner.
   * Defending from behind
             1. On catch defender has to have his nose level to offensive players chest.
             2. Take the 1st initated contact. 2nd contact take the charge.
             3. On shot, hands go to eyes, walk into offensive player and block out.
* Move when ball moves. This is a normal teaching point for any defense but especially important when doubling the post. Anytime you use two defenders to guard one player the rest of the defense has to be quicker.
* On line Up line. This holds true whether you are doubling out of a man or zone defense. The backside has to be on the help line and up the help line. Up meaning in the passing lane. This takes away vision from the player being doubled and forces the offense to move.

#3 Choices on How to Double:
* On the pass (Best Option). Move when the ball is in the air. Again, think of doubling the post as you would a full court defense. On the entry pass to the post, the other 4 defenders have to react.
* On the catch. This is a way to disguise that the double is coming.
* On the bounce. If the post player uses a dribble to set up his offensive move, send the double team then.

Playing Zone Defense: Thoughts from a M2M guy...

Let me start by saying that our team last year played man to man defense 100% of the time last season and in the past 3 seasons I'd guess my teams have played 65-70% man to man with the remaining being mostly a half court trap or full court pressure. Having said that, someone would think that I am against using a zone defense. Some coaches are man to man regardless of personnel. I respect that. Some coaches are zone coaches for different reasons. I run more zone defense with my AAU team mainly because we don't practice daily. Recently, I've started leaning more towards zone. I believe that everyone should be taught man to man defense. It is a fundamental priority of youth, and junior high coaches to teach man to man. Teach, not necessarily use in win/lose situations but it should be taught. Here are 3 thoughts on playing zone vs man.

#1 Sometimes You Need a Fence to Guard the House when You Don't have a Big Dog
Using a zone to limit and neutralize an opponents strong post play is a reason I've used a zone defense in the past. Teams of limited size need to have a pack mentality, especially on defense. Post defense shouldn't start on the block where it's one on one. It should start twenty feet from the basket with ball pressure limiting vision and passing opportunities. (This is true of man to man also). Teams lacking size have to "Pack Rebound"- all five attacking the glass. By utilizing a zone defense, teams are able to continue pressure while not allowing the opposing team to control the paint. Zones slow down fast teams, provide help on post-play driven teams and provide teams a chance to limit touches inside the 3 pt line.

#2 Don't play zone because "We just can't guard them."
The hard part for me as a "Man guy" is the urge to "We'll have to go zone" after a defensive breakdown. Some coaches view playing zone as a failure; a last resort before forfeit. That mentality is way off. If and when you do play zone, your team's mentality is already set to a negative tone. What happens if they score on you in man to man, you angrily switch to zone and they score then to? I'd guess Coach Jim Boeheim doesn't go into recruiting or games with the mindset of I need to get and use guys that can't play  man to man defense. Zone defense isn't accepting defeat...unless you already have.

#3 It's Not What You Do, It's How You Do It.
Utilizing a zone defense and using it to attack an offensive system has many benefits. Think boxing. A zone shouldn't be because you are backed in the corner protecting yourself. A zone can be a uppercut when used correctly.
This is my own personal philosophy on teaching a zone defense. Start with teaching full court man to man . As intense as possible. There will be a situation where you'll need this defense plus it makes for great game conditioning. Add players until you have progressed into 5 on 5 full court shell drill. Once you've established your full court defense, continue with pressure man in a half court setting. Teaching your players to sprint to help, being in position. Now work on a "sagging" man where you have ball pressure but still focus on your help. (Ex. Pack Line). Lastly, choose your zone alignment; 2-3, 3-2, or 1-3-1. Don't allow your players to relax. Keep the same intensity as if your in full court man! This formula has worked with our program.

Whatever defense you believe is the best for your team, I know and believe the key is in the presentation and passion you teach it with.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Coaches Guide to Defending vs Screen

This is the second part in a series of discussing screens. Basketball has evolved into a full-contact sport. Football is collision, Basketball is full body contact. There is rarely a possession where a player is not in contact with an opponent. This is why physical and mental training are so important. You can't fake toughness when it comes to screening; neither the offensive player or the defender. Here are 3 points that we stress when teaching defense. First let me explain that I am not promoting or suggesting malicious or dirty play. I teach players to play as hard as possible within the rules being enforced by the officials.

#1 The Screener is expecting contact, so deliver it.
Teams that use a lot of screens are using them to create an advantage for themselves by setting screens that force the defense to challenge every screen while also remaining in the correct defensive position. This requires your defender to be in constant communication with their teammates and concentrating on their assignment. Our philosophy is to bring contact. "Check their belief" in their offensive system. Again,  I'm not suggesting a malicious or cheap shot but we are going to get through the screen.We want to find out how strong each player's belief is in his team's offensive system. Is he willing to take contact every time he is suppose to set a screen?
Teach your Defender to "blow up" the screener's hip by getting low, just like driving with the basketball, and focusing on getting shoulder to hip. You may get? If the defender is constantly getting screened or wasting space to get around a screen the offense wins the advantage.
A HUGE part in defending a screen is the defender defending the screener. We want him to "stand-up" the cutter to allow his teammate to recover into position. The offense is initiating  the contact. We're just doing our part. Deliver Contact.

#2 Run Through a Shooter's Screen
When a team's best shooter is setting a screen, we are going to "run through" on his shooting side. Most shooters do not like contact. Don't believe me? Look at the number of free-throw attempts (prior to a late game fouling situation) that your best shooter is taking. Most shooters try to avoid contact. When a shooter is setting a screen, we are running full speed on his shooting side[Ex. Right-handed shooter=right shoulder]. If he is committed to screening, he will make contact with you. All we've done is align ourselves with that side of his body in an attempt to quickly get into the passing lane. If he is committed to screening, his shot will suffer. Think of it as performing 100 dumbbell front raises with a 50lb dumbbell and be expected to make shots after that. Choose How to Deliver Contact

#3 If You're going to Switch, Switch Early
Whatever your philosophy is on switching screens, there can't be any confusion in this. If you are going to switch, the switch needs to occur early; before the screen is set. Too many times a player waits to late to call the switch usually AFTER he has been screened and realizes that he can't recover. Players need to communicate that they are switching before the screen is in place. The call needs to come from the defender guarding the screener. Here's why. Most of us teach our teams that if you hear "Switch" you open back up to the pass or slip. If the offense knows that you are going to switch, they have to use an alternate plan to their normal offense. That's a benefit in itself.

That's a lot of thought given to screens. Probably more than most of you have done in a long time, if not ever. If you have an idea or want to bounce an idea around I'd be more than happy to talk about it. Email me at

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Inferno Drill

This drill is a great drill to check the intensity level of your team and also prepare for the physical side of our game. The inferno drill is an 8 minute, high impact (literally) drill that involves constant screening and movement.

Teaching Your Offense

As the calendar changes, its time to start planning and preparing for you season. My offensive system is where I begin. It is the fun side of basketball.Let's face it. If your first day of off-season practice is two hours of shell drill, your kids are not going to be as ready to return the next day when their first game is two months away. {Side note: In Arkansas, we are blessed to only have a two week dead period. We can practice as a team year round except those two weeks.} If your first practice is two weeks before your first game, then your priorities are going to be different but like in war, offensive weapons always develop first. Here are 3 keys I use when teaching Offense.

#1 Be Creative
Make your offense your offense. No two teams or players are ever the exact same. Just because you love a certain college coach doesn't mean his offense will work for you. He's in a poker game where he got to select his first two hands; yours is dictated by distance from your building. Use his ideas, but keep in mind you can't mimic what he is doing. Don't be afraid to adjust systems like DDM or R&R. Make them your own.

#2 Position Breakdowns
Take your offense and break it down for all five positions. analyse what every player does in every situation. Be able to teach what every player does and the importance of each movement. If your offense is a back-door cut, explain why its so important for the other three players to move and "sell" the play. After you have broken down the offense, it is time to...

#3 Find Drills that Fit Your Needs
We are all a product of what we do. If we want a player to be a better shooter, we tell him to get up more shots. Repetition. We all have a library of drills that we grew up on and still use because they have benefits but how beneficial is a 3 man weave if that is what you use for a transition drill? I wonder the number of coaches who have in a game actually made a player pass ahead and then follow behind the pass? I have found success in developing drills made for our team. Take your offense. What actions are happening? Make drills for those actions. You'll see that your offense runs smoother if you will do the drills then teach skeleton offense. Most of us learned to drive in the driveway before the highway. It's the same concept. Start with simple actions, add options, then bring it all together.

I hope this helps or makes your think about how you teach your offense. That's another 3 from the Corner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Screening the Zone Defense

Screening the Zone
As you can tell from the plays that I've shared on , I am a huge proponent of the use of screens versus a zone defense. This concept may be foreign to you or against your own personal philosophy but I want to share with you the 3 reasons that I employ this strategy.

Teams that play man to man are looking at ways to eliminate their opponents’ offensive weapons. Most offensives versus a zone defense utilize ball movement and players flashing to voids left by the movement of the defense. By adding screens to these practices, you’ve cause confusion as to how to continue your defensive assignment while being screened in that area.

The purpose of a zone is to protect the basket by placing one player defending the ball and four defenders in position to help while protecting the basket. In other words, a really good zone looks like great man to man defense! (Later blog on that coming) By screening on the ball you immediately force the zone to react and rotate which typically leads to an open shot. By screening away from the ball, you allow a player to move into an area where the zone can’t rotate without over-extending itself. By using a screen you force the zone to decide what action to give up.

The biggest benefit that using screens versus a zone has done is create advantages for our offense. Think of it in terms of transition. We all love 2 on 1 or 3 on 1 situations; by screening the zone we cause 1 defender to guard 2. We force 2 defenders to guard 3 and lastly by choosing where the screen happens, we dictate which defender we attack. Some coaches use a zone to hide a player. Screens allow you to attack them either directly or indirectly. You can screen that player if he is a weak defender or you can screen away from him causing him to rotate correctly.

Continuity Offense.

Zone Set Series.

Zone Set Play

Zone Set Play

Zone Set Play

I hope this gives you a little insight on screening the zone. It is a strategy that we’ve had success with. That’s another 3 from the Corner…

Clock Management?

As you read this I am mindful of the personal commodity thatyou are spending now: Your time. Time is the most precious element that makes up our life. If you’re looking for a play or two, those will be coming in later blogs but today is about how you and I manage our time.

As I write this, my wife and two sons are asleep. This makes me feel like I’m not taking time away from them to work and plan. I’m giving up 30 minutes of sleep versus taking 30 minutes away from them. I’m only going to get to be their dad and her husband once. I don’t want to mess that up. They understand when a game/family conflict come up but I have to make an effort to keep those to a minimum. I’ve coached roughly 30 games a season for the past 12 years. Obviously some of those have been bigger than others, but none bigger than the challenge of being a husband and father. As I write this, I realized “Do I spend as much time preparing to be a husband/dad as I do to coach a conference game? Ouch…”


“If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you find time to do it over again?”

– Coach John Wooden

Time is the only commodity that is more expensive to replace. You don’t get time spent or the lack of it back. The clock is always going. I here coaches this time of year talking about the amount of hours theyare spending. My first question is why? There are only so many things you can do to help your team win. Preparation should be a daily task. I want the staff I work with to have family time. Demand they do. With today’s technology I can watch game film on my iPhone. Most of us have laptops. Send your staff home. If you think you don’t have time now, wait until a member of your staff is having family problems. It can be avoided.

A Coach spending nine hours a day preparing for three two hour practices and one game isn’t rational. That’s 27:8. That’s nineteen more hours more than the player who is actually participating. Ask yourself, would you ask your player to spend 27 hours preparing for one game? Ask them to watch film over and over, charting plays, lifting weights, practicing and expect them to be ready to compete? They’d probably be ready to quit. A sponge can only hold so much water. Focus on the priority, study it, perform it and move on.Consequently, if your priority is taking nine hours of planning, its one of two things: Either too big to succeed at or you waited too long to address it.
Plan! Plan! Plan!

If you don’t plan when you don’t have time you won’t plan when you do have time. Everyone needs a schedule, especially coaches and coaches families. (This is something we are going to implement) Head Coaches should be mindful of their assistant coaches’ time. Assistant coaches should try to eliminate any extra duties of the head coach. The only thing in life that should ever surprise us is illness and accidents. We know when birthdays,anniversaries, holidays, practices, & games are. Write it down then plan your day around it. My wife’s birthday is in mid-November. Every year we have had a game on her birthday. Planning and communication in September eliminate any confusion in November. If I plan first then tell her instead of waiting until the week of everything is smooth; that and she is the world’s best Coaches wife.
I hope that you feel the time spent reading this was beneficial to you. Now make a plan and start on it. The clock is ticking.