Sunday, September 9, 2012

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

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