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

Foul for Profit: Teaching Players How to Use Fouls Properly

If you were one of the millions clued to a TV or attending a college football game this weekend you more than likely saw an Offensive Lineman get called for holding or saw a Defensive back get a Defensive Pass Interference called against them. What I guarantee that you didn't see was an Assistant Coach or a stat keeper yelling to the Head Coach, "He's got two" and see the Head Coach pull that player for the rest of the half. Welcome to the world of a Basketball Coach.

An Offensive Lineman can get a holding penalty and never have to leave the field until his Coach has decided he can't stand it anymore. Basketball and Soccer are the only sports where a normal penalty can cause the player to not be allowed to participate. (I didn't want to include soccer because they flop way too much to actually tell if they were really fouled or not but I figured there is at least one soccer fan that reads this.)

There are too many factors that factor into fouls in a basketball game. The one you can't control or play without are the officials. We've all seen it. An Official will get temperamental and take or lose control of a game. They kick calls. They get defensive because you call them out about kicking a call and blow another one. The whole time this is going on Players are the ones being penalized. If a Football official misses a holding or makes a mistake on a holding call unless it is on a scoring play its a redo. A basketball player kicks a call and that player just got put at a disadvantage.

As a Coach you have to teach your kids how and when to foul. Use fouls don't lose them. Here are 3 emphasises we place on how and when we foul. My philosophy on fouls is to (1) stop an easy 2 or (2) block/charge situation and the Official misses the call. Any other foul is unacceptable.

#1 Only 1 Touch-Foul per game
We've all seen it. You are playing your rival. Crowd is packed. Ball is tipped, your team is on defense and your best player gets a hand check call fifteen seconds into the game just so the Officials can "set the tone". The worst thing to your team is to get another hand-check called, especially the same player. ADAPT! Why waste another team foul on the same foul? If I stick my hand in hot water and scream "Man, that's hot!" are you going to say "Let me try" and walk over and dip your hand. If you answered yes or probably stop reading now. During practice sessions have a "touch foul session" and a "NBA (no babies allowed) session. Teach your players to be able to defend both ways.

#2 Nothing Easy
Teach your players to take pride in never allowing a easy basket. If we have a breakdown defensively and our opponent has a chance for an easy two we are going to challenge it. Teach your players to foul and stop the ball from getting to the rim without getting an intentional foul called. Teaching Point: Watch your Player's facial expression when fouling. If they are gritting their teeth or look mad that is the first tip off to an official. Fouling is business, nothing else. (Sidenote: Why is it called an intentional foul when 99% of fouls are intentional?) We use the DeMatha Finishing Drill taught to me by Alan Stein that Coach Mike Jones uses at DeMatha High School. Bonus Action: Work on Finishing with contact

#3 Block/Charge
My defensive philosophy is Drive=Deck. If our opponent drives, someone is on the deck, preferably both of us ending in a charge call. This is something you have to instill into your Defensive DNA. This is not a hard call for officials to make if the defender is early. The slower the defender to get into position, the odds of a block call against you go up. This mentality will change your opponents offensive mentality as well. (More on this in my Defensive DNA post later this week)

#And+1 Soft, Stupid, Selfish
Lazy, Cheap, Soft: However you want to label it but a dumb foul is selfish. It is false hustle. It puts teammates at a disadvantage to make up for selfishness. It will destroy your defensive plan.

If you have a topic you'd like to discuss please email me at

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rethinking the Shell Drill

If you're like me the Shell Drill is a staple of your daily defensive preparation. It was instilled into our Defensive DNA. Before we go on let me stop and explain that I'm not suggesting that I've rewritten this drill or think think that the Shell Drill needs to be changed. What I am providing are some different approaches to use with the 4 on 4 box we all grew up on and continue to use. Some of this will be old news to some of you. Some of you will find something you can add to your practice schemes. The biggest thing to stress is the Shell Drill isn't teaching a drill but teaching defense.  Take a look at the following situations.

#1 6 on 4 Shell Drill
The only thing I hate about shell drill is when you are teaching baseline drive you have to "let your man beat you" to accomplish the drill. Let your man beat you? C'mon. That goes against every moral fiber of defense. This drill allows you to work on the rotation without losing intensity of the on-ball defender.

#2 & 3 Make Shell Fit Your Needs
Use Shell as a personalized defensive drill. Take the drill and use it to meet your need. If you're playing a team that passes and screens away, practice it. If you're playing a DDM team that never screens work on containment and help. The following are just some other ways to use the Shell Drill.

These are just a few ideas of mine. If you have any similar or different ways to use the Shell Drill or do not have FastDraw please contact me at

Get Personal With Your Personnel

For most of us August and September is filled with excitement about seeing your players. You want to see who has grown, who has put on good/bad weight and lastly who has improved. A lot of impressions are made from the first meeting to the first practice. The way you as a Coach view a Player's commitment to the program is often formed by the way they prepared themselves in the off season. 

A great way to open the lines of communication and also determine expectations and goals for each player is through interviews. For new incoming players it is a way for them to open up more than they did during recruiting or the try-out stages. Here are 3 points of emphasis for a productive player interview.

#1 Players Have to Be Honest With Themselves
Start every interview by asking the player to describe themselves to you as if you have never seen them play or met before. Do this with your returning seniors as well as an incoming freshman.You'll learn about their family situations. You'll learn about their values.
Explain to the players that you are listening to how they describe themselves and together you will discuss how you see them. This forces them to realize and verbalize their weaknesses. You'll be surprised how some players feel about themselves. Some will be extremely hard on themselves while some will be delusional about their abilities. By Having Players speak about themselves you as a Coach will know better the mentality you are dealing with.

#2 Coaches Have to Let Expectations and Roles be Defined
After the Player has described himself, start with their weaknesses. Don't make it personal by saying " I told you this before" or "If you'd listened to me last year" but keep it very non-personalized. If the kid can't go left, say "You struggle going left." Be honest. Let them know what is keeping them from their potential. Be Honest. End your evaluation with their strengths. This is suppose to be a building experience. Let the last thing they hear from you be positive about them.  

#3 Build a Plan for Personal Growth
Discuss what this player needs to improve, regardless if it's your All-American or the player who sits all season. Be honest, but most importantly be practical. If a player needs to lose weight, start with two pounds a week, don't slam a kid with dropping 30 pounds. Make it attainable but getting the same result. This is also a great time to talk about how the player wants to be coached. If he wants you on his tail, do it. Remind him of that when you do and he doesn't take it well. Find a plan that the player can do, you can monitor and both will be able to see the results.

I hope this helps you with your pre-season planning and gives you a plan for your player development.