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.