Been even more busy then ever picking up more teaching blocks to fill my schedule, which means I'm driving 30-40 miles a day to and from schools and then practices at night. Oh yes, the joys of being a first-year high-school teacher. Anyways, basketball is in full swing now and I'm thoroughly enjoying the assisting role that I'm in. Our team had a good couple of weeks but ended with a loss in the finals of the big tournament in town.

I went through the plethora of highlights and interviews from college gameday yesterday, and this ESPN coaches roundtable with Coaches Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, and Bill Self really resonated with me, especially when talking about coaches and losing games. It really is true that the losses always feel way worse than any of the wins (Although I don't know about the feeling about the win to win the Championship that Self talks about because I've never won one). I remember almost every loss I've coached (both as a head coach and assistant), between football and basketball, over the past 7 years. And I've lost a lot of games. I've often hoped that the older I get, the less the losses will wear on me, but it never really does. I would say though that I used to think a lot more about what we could have done, and now I focus more on what we need to do to get better, but it still wears on you.

Another great quote from the interview is from Tom Izzo talking about how a player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team. If the leadership is there, if the players have demonstrated to me that they can take responsibility for making their own decisions, then I think Izzo is absolutely right. I've never had a big enough ego to think that I as the coach was above the team. Ultimately, I tell players that it is their team. It's a cliche but it's true, they aren't playing for me as the coach, they are playing for each other.

Finally, I think Bill Self is right on when he says that the more you get there, the more you want it. I have been fortunate enough to have coached (as a head and as an assistant) in a few Championship games in both football and basketball, unfortunately I have been on the losing end each time. But once you get there, you have that burning desire to get back. And I don't think winning it all will make it any less desirous the following year. Winning is contagious as they say.

Without further ado, the coaches roundtable...

I realize it has been a long long time since my last update but in between starting new jobs, planning, preparing, marking, report cards, and transitioning into the basketball season, finding time to write something meaningful here has been difficult, but I will try my best to pass off some good info. I had a chance the other day to catch some of the ESPNU's All-Access special and it was great to see inside their practices.

In this segment, Coach K is doing film sessions with his team and I like the first comment he makes about whether his freshman know how to watch film. That to me is a teachable moment, do you know what you are supposed to be looking for when you watch film? What is the objective of the film session? What have you learned that you didn't know before the film session?

Anyways, it's a good time of year, the squeak of shoes on the floor, balls bouncing, and the smell of a freshly waxed floor always give me the butterflies, it's the start of another great basketball season. Good luck y'all...

I've been recovering from laser eye surgery the past couple of weeks which would account for my lack of updates recently. Over on the X's and O's forum, a coach had posted an interesting observation from this youtube video below, and how they use towels to emphasize the proper positioning of their hands during their shell drill,

I've never thought of using towels or skipping rope as another coach had suggested but I think it would help alot in reinforcing the proper position of the hands, palms out, pistol at ball, thumbs pointed in.

I love any little trick like this to help in reinforcing concepts. If you're interested in the video above from Coach Pat Summitt then definitely check out Pat Summitt's All-Access Practice DVD. Coach Summitt is the head coach of the Lady Vols of the University of Tennessee and winner of 8 NCAA championships.

We all know one of the keys of great Man-to-Man defenses is teamwork and help defense. This is where your players' basketball IQ will be tested defensively, being in the right position defensively for help but not losing sight of their man. Went through some notes from the NIKE clinic this past spring and Bob Huggins has a couple of good teaching points on help defense that might help reinforce the concept.

Tape a “help” line on the court every day
o From rim to rim, middle of the court
o Guys need to straddle the help line
o If they’re not at the help line, they go to treadmill

2v2 Sprint to Help Drill
o Coach up top
o Player at each wing (offense & defense)
o Pass to one wing, other wing must sprint to help line
o We do this every day during practice
o If they don’t sprint and straddle the help line, they go to treadmill

I'd like to experiment with treadmills in practice someday. I always hate it when we do sprints and suicides and there is always someone who is loafing. You can't cheat the treadmill. For more great practice ideas for M2M defense, check out the Bob Huggins 2-pack DVD which includes his M2M defensive philosophy and intense practice drills. Coach Huggins is the head coach of the men's basketball team at West Virginia University.

We all know that free-throws are important, and in games, its the first one you take that often is worth more in a one-and-one situation. I came across this great competitive team drill for free-throws from Coach Duane Silver's newsletter the other day. It is a drill developed by Washington State women's head coach June Daugherty. Hope y'all are enjoying your summer, and enjoy...

By June Daugherty

Coach Daugherty uses a free-throw drill with the following rules: The players start with eleven points and shoot one-and-ones. If they make the first shot, subtract two points, and if they miss the first shot add two points. If they make the second shot, subtract one point, and if they miss the second shot, add one point. The first player or group, depending on how you divide it up, to reach zero points WINS.

If you're always on the lookout for more great practice drills, check out Bruce Pearl's New All-Access Practice DVDs. Coach Pearl is the head coach of the University of Tennessee.

Downloaded some great notes the other day which cover Bobby Knight's DVD on Practice Planning and Drills (notes created by coaches at Springs Valley Blackhawks). One interesting tidbit that I thought I would share is Coach Knight's philosophy on the dribble, against zones, and against man. He says that the dribble is the most effective against the zone, and against man he is straight motion. An extract:

Four Possessions
- Inside man should be the screener
- Do not throw the ball to the corner
- Talk about balance to your players…get the ball off the baseline…don’t crowd baseline!
- Players have a tendency to resort to the dribble vs. man, but Coach Knight actually encourages the
dribble against a zone
o Dribble against a zone every time that you catch the ball on the perimeter
o Attack a seam
- Causes the top defenders to react and move
- Dribble does more to change a zone than anything…it forces it to become something that it does not want to be

Man Offense: Eliminate the Dribble (No Dribble Drill)
- This drill develops cutting and spacing as well as encouraging good passes
- Players should only dribble to change position or to get to the basket
- Teams develop confidence that they can score without putting the ball on the floor
- Man/Man D…three-point line is the last line of defense for picking up the ball
o Half-court is the farthest
o Point of pick-up is dictated by how quick you are and how quick the offense is
- Post players need to hold their posts…don’t come off the block
o Other players do not come into areas where a post man is holding a post
- Don’t just run around…SEE AND REACT
- Offensive players need to get off the baseline
- No cross court passes against man-to-man defense

Traditionally, the idea against the zone is that you move the zone with the pass, by quick reversals and skip passes. But I've used the dribble in the past to great effectiveness against a zone as well, so I think there is a lot of merit to this idea. As for against man defense, I can see Coach Knight's point about over-dribbling, but the dribble penetration is still the hardest thing to stop for the defense.

I don't think it ever gets old, anything about early offense and the secondary break of Coach Roy Williams at the University of North Carolina. I pick up a thing or 2 from these clinic notes every time, these are from the NIKE Las Vegas clinic this past May. For example in these notes below, I like the idea of making sure your PG stops on a dime and changes direction after receiving the outlet. Too many times you see a team which has scouted well, on transition defense, have the defender on the PG plant right in front of the PG and draws the charge from the PG who turns his/her head too quickly.

The other part I like is the idea to cherish the highs of coaching. Which has less to do with the wins and losses and more to do with the relationships you make, and enjoying the process of improving your coaching ability. Anyways, here you go:

- Point Guard’s job is to go as fast as he can from top of the key to top of the key
- Make a commitment to run every single time
- We practice taking the ball out of the net
o Coach stands in front of FT line, shoots the ball
o Post player takes ball out and quickly outlets it to manager at the 28 foot line
- Make or miss

- Outlet pass
o Point Guard
- As you catch the ball, make sure you can stop on a dime and change direction
- Don’t risk committing the charge

- Primary Break
o 2 or fewer defenders
- 3v2 or 2v1
o Shot within 2 passes

- Secondary break
o 3 or more defenders

- Everybody on the team must like the shot that’s taken by a player
o Poll the team in practice during play

How many people on blue liked the shot that was taken by Joe?
- Post players: Deception
o Pretend like you’re catching the lob
o Tyler Hansbrough was so good because when he was in the post, he fought the hardest and demanded the ball every time

- Cherish the highs of coaching
o After we won National Championships, the next day I was on the road recruiting
- Didn’t celebrate the successes
o With a subpar season, we dwell too much on the negatives, we need to balance that out with celebrating the wins

For more on early offense and the secondary break, check out Roy Williams' DVD on the Tar Heel Offense. Coach Williams is the head coach of UNC winning the national title in 2005 and 2009.

Here are some recent notes that I downloaded from a talk that Chris Mack, coach of Xavier University did on his ball-screening offense variety (notes via Zak Boisvert and DribbleDrive). Just some general information about running a ball screen offense, reads, etc... With Mike D'Antoni running his euro-style ball-screening, Coach K at Duke running their spread a few years ago (and still some this past year when they won the NCAAs) and Bill Self at Kansas with his ball-screen continuity, there has been a lot of attention on ball screening offenses.

For me, the key question on whether you should run a ball-screening offense has always been: are your players smart enough to make the reads? It sounds kind of like a leading question (towards no), but you really need to ask yourself honestly if the group of players you have are smart enough to make the right basketball decisions. Now, of course it takes reps to get good, but cerebrally, you have to have a PG that knows what is a good shot, a good pass, and when the right time to give the ball up is. You have to have bigs that know what it looks like when a defender is going to hedge, go underneath, and then make the right read. Easy on paper, hard to do in game-situations. But if you have the right group of players, smart players who know the game of basketball, ball-screening is definitely a good way to go. Without further ado, here are the notes:

Why Ball Screen?
- Keeps ball in primary ball handlers’ hands—Low Turnovers
- Players make plays
- Gets your team to the FT Line
- Creates Rotations which Lead to Open Shot
- Spacing
- Isolates the Low Post
- Offensive Rebounding due to Rotations
- Makes bigs defend away from the basket
- Pressure Release
- Bigs are more likely to screen on a ball screen than an off screen

Ball Handler’s Role
- Set Up (From Triple Threat, Live Dribble)
- Separation
- Level of the Ball Screen
- Reads
- Flat Hedge—Hesitate & Go, String 3
- Hard Hedge/Trap—Drag Throwback, Late Split
- Under—Shoot 3, Screen Re-Screen
- Switch—Drive the Switch, Post the Switch
- Overplay—Reject, Early Split
- Passing Routine
- Pocket Bounce Pass
- Late Throwback Jump Pass
- Drag Reverse Pivot Throwback
- Slip Pass from Triple Threat
- Slip Pass with Live Dribble

Screener’s Role
- Stationary, Sprint into It, Screen into it
- Pop Your Feet, Hold the Screen!!! (Must make contact!)
- How do we roll? Tap & Go or Traditional
- How do we pop? Sprint or Traditional
- How to Slip?
- Change the Angle
- Roll to Bury if team goes under

Ball Screen Actions
- Flat Hedge— Middle Ballscreen, Roll and Replace, Duncan action
- Hard Hedge/Trap—Slipped screen, Pick and Pop Sideline
- Under—Rescreen, Set it Lower, Old Spur action (Tony Parker)
- Switch—Seven Cut, Post the Switch, Sideline Roll and Replace (Hi-low flash)
- Overplay—Buffalo action

For more info on this offense, then check out Chris Mack's brand new DVD on his Ball Screen offense.

Ever since the school year finished up this past week, I've been addicted to this site. Probably most of y'all have heard it, but in case you didn't, you'll thank me on this one. It's the NCAA's Vault, past March Madness games going all the way back to 2000 for the Sweet 16 and rounds forward. It's a gold mine, but be careful, you could easily lose several hours/days just watching games, and taking notes. The only thing that would be better would be all the rounds, maybe that's coming soon. Anyways, enjoy...

I've also been addicted to watching old SEC football games too, though the SEC website only keeps games from the past couple of seasons.

For me, the offseason is all about reflection and ideas. It's the time for coaches to do the deep thinking that we don't get to do during the season, with the necessary chaos of practices, games, and ya, of course teaching. I keep coming back to these set of notes from Mario De Sisti and he's listed a bunch of his top teaching points. I don't think all of them apply for me, but certainly the first 10 or so really resonate with me. I've always been someone who liked to keep teaching points to the minimum, because who's going to remember a list of 30 teaching points. Anyways, you can take a look here at all 30 or so and judge for yourself.

Top Teaching Points:

1. Teach “mentality”. Players need to learn to read the defense. Avoid drills on air. As much as possible use guided defense. This means a defender is directed in which way to play defense. It could also be a coach or manager. The offense learns to read the defense. When first learning give two options controlled by guided defense. For example go right or left. If you want players to learn the game you must teach it in every drill. By using guided defense the offense learns the reason for their actions. It gives them a target as to where they should be going. For example: Cut off the shoulder of the defender. It discourages actions that could not happen in the ‘real” game. For example chest passes to a post player. It also helps defense become smarter. The defender learns how his/her actions can influence offensive decisions.

2. If you have two options stay on offense three times in a row. Guided defense give you option one, option two, and a choice on the third. Add an option when the first two options have been consolidated.

3. Stay on offense or defense for multiple repetitions without changing positions. We so often rotate from offense to defense to a sub in many drills we do. This is easy for the coach, but it is not best for the athlete to learn. By staying on offense defense for multiple reps you get a chance to immediately learn form the rep before.

4. Add transition for conditioning and concentration.
a) Offense transitions vs. air i.e. 1on 0, 2 on 0, 3 on 0 etc. (add a coach for guided defense)
b) Transition giving the offense an advantage i.e. 2-1, 3 on 2, 4 on 3
c) Offense and defense transition 1 on 1, 3 on 3
d) Defense transitions vs. new offensive with an advantage 1on 1 on 1, 2 on 2 on 2, 3 on 3 on 3, 4 on 4 on 4

5. Teach offense the first 3 months, next 3 months 70% defense 30 % offense, last 2 months 40 % transition, 30 % offense, 30 % defense. Players need time to learn. By trying to teach everything at once it is very confusing for the athletes. The same idea can be used in training camps for teams that must come together for a short period of time. The first part of training camp should be offense with guided defense only. Play players are still playing defense and using transition during this time. It is just that the details are not being taught in drill situations.

6. “Flying corrections” – make corrections without stopping the drill. If one player is having problems pull this player out of the drill and correct. Have an assistant coach take the player and work on the problem and then insert the player back into the drill. The art of coaching is to know what mistakes need correction. A coach could stop the play on every single action. When do you stop the entire
group? When do you coach on the fly? And when do you ignore the mistake? What are the important ones?

7. The coach makes the players read by giving signals that force players to react i.e. a number to keep head up when dribbling, an arm up to indicate which way to dribble, two hands to call for a pass, signals to indicate the type of guided defense.

8. Continuity in practice. It is hard for players to follow the flow of a practice if you jump from drill to drill with no logical progression. Practice should read like a book. Start with the introduction and proceed to chapter 1 then 2, 3 etc. You don’t start at chapter 5, and then go to 1 then 7 etc. Ask your players at the end of practice how many drills they remember. They should be able to remember them all and the teaching points for each drill.

9. If you have a shot clock in the game must practice with one. Even if it is a 10 sec call by the coach. Players need to learn to adapt. What do you want to happen at the 10 seconds mark? You need to attack at about 7 seconds.

10. If you don’t have a centre; don’t play with a centre. Don’t force players to fit a system that does not promote development. Coaching at the development level should be about producing players who have the skills need to play at the next level; not the number of games won. In school we teach skills so students can be promoted to the next grade. This is not happening in basketball.

11. The game continues to evolve. To be current coaches must constantly up date how the game is taught. We run many “old” offenses and teach “old” offensive concepts. Many pre-dated the shot clock, 3 point line and the new physical defense. We need to create problems for recovery by the defense. Spacing and movement are key. Making use of the contact by defense. We need to make use of penetration, movement off penetration, continuous picks or screens into picks. The chest pass is an “old” pass yet is the first pass many still teach. It is most used in drills where no defense is prevalent. Almost impossible to use in today’s game.

12. Make use of your assistants. Give them specific things to do. Debrief with assistants before practice as to what will be done that day. Have assistants take notes in practice. What corrections they had to make. You want assistants to ask to do things rather then you tell them to do things. Make assistants think about the why. When they have a suggested should tell you why he things this is a good thing to do. Let players know which assistant will be working with them that day in
practice. Who is in charge in each drill? Debrief with your assistants at the end of practice.

13. A coaches’ positioning is crucial to the being able to “dominate” the practice. When drilling for offense the coach should stand under the basket. This way you can see all the players. For defense you need to stand at the top. If you position yourself under the basket the sagging defenders will block your sight lines. For full court drills stand at full court. The head coach is responsible to position the assistant coaches.

14. The coach must inspire the creativity of the players. Teach players to have imagination. Many players cannot picture what is going to happen in a game. In drills the coach must help the player see what will happen. Use guided defense, increase the intensity. It is very difficult to have imagination when you play 1 on 0, 2 on 0 etc.

15. Teach the fundamentals not the tactics. Coaches of young players should be more concerned with the number of player he/ she develops than the number of championships won. Championships can be won by taking advantage of the physical and mental limitations of young players. Using a zone defense that packs the key against mini basketball kids is an example. The children do not have the physical ability to shoot from long distances or the cognitive ability to read the number of defenders. When we teach tactics there is very often no carry over to the next level. Tactics that are affective at one stage of development often do not work at the next.

16. Evaluate the attitude and behaviors of the players not the outcomes. With young players we cannot get overly concerned with outcomes. Do the players have the right attitudes and behaviors should be your main concern. Over time with proper coaching the desired outcomes will occur.

17. Scouting. Who passes to the centre? What happens when the ball is in the post? What type of screens does the team run? What zone do they play? Who are the shooters?

18. A player is denied when the elbow of the defender is in the passing lane. A hand is not denying. Pass high outside and the offense will move to get the ball. Also a player can step through the hand to get the ball. Cannot step through an elbow.

19. Teach to teach. Be fussy. Make corrections. If you don’t make correction when the players are young you will never be able to make them when older.

20. Keep the same drill and add to it. Instead of changing drill formation all the time. This allows players to concentrate on learning the concept not the drill.

21. Never pass back without penetration first. Must force the defense to help first. Dangerous pass without penetration.

22. Practices at tournaments – shooting, no running. 1 day before soft, 2 days before hard.

23. No easy 3 point shots. No help for a 3 point shot. It has changed the game. The more players who can shoot it the more dangerous your team.

24. The first dribble is the responsibility of the ball defender. The second dribble is helps responsibility.

25. Scouting reports – pro’s watch video, juniors – scout players, Go through the types of screens you will see. Who passes to the centre? Be aggressive on that passer. Work mostly 2 on 2, 3 on 3 not 5 on 5. Too confusing.

26. National teams – invite assistant coaches from different regions. The national team coaches dictate what skills are to be emphasized.

27. You cannot cure details if you skip around in practice. One offense one defensive drill. Stay consistent. Finish the offensive book before you start your defensive book.

28. Don’t teach dirty tactics

29. Reward good defensive players. Start them. Have good offensive players come off the bench.

30. Give quality reps to one or two players while others are working on reads and timing. North American we think about keeping everyone ‘busy” or active. Mario uses players just as passers or as guided defense. Their job is to help the others learn.

31. Start in odd formations and flow into a drill. Forces the players to move into positions, which is more game like.

More food for thought for the offseason, check out Chris Mooney's All-Access Practice DVD to see how the University of Richmond runs practices. I love watching other teams practice, because you can see how drills and scenarios are run in context, and not just in isolation at a clinic.

I've always been a big fan of Alan Stein's strength and conditioning videos primarily because everything he does is targeted specific to basketball. Sometimes when I watch kids go through off-season (or in-season for that matter), they're doing things that maybe relevant for say football, but basketball requires very specific skills.

After a long stint with Montrose Christian, Coach Stein has joined famed DeMatha as their strength and conditioning coach. If you're like me, you probably don't have the luxury of having a dedicated strength and conditioning coach on your staff, but thanks to the Internet, you can bring a little Coach Stein with you. Coach Stein has been starting a Youtube series focusing on a bunch of stuff he is doing with his team. You can follow them on his Youtube channel, or his blog.

In this clip here, he has his players go through a series of conditioning drills in a progression leading up to 100% and head to head. I love the idea of competitive conditioning drills. Setting goals, and having the kids go up against one another in practice. Take a look,

3-Peat for Phil Jackson?

It was a great Game 7, maybe not from an offensive, aesthetic point of view, but certainly from a coaching perspective. Who do you put on the floor, who should take the shots, when to call a timeout, how do we defend X, how do we respond if the other team does Y. I think Coach pretty much sums it up in the video below where he says Ron Artest's effort and Pau Gasol's post play in the 4th quarter put them over the top.

As for Phil Jackson coming back for a 3-peat? I can't imagine him not coming back. Of course there's his age and injuries he's been dealing with, but I think Coach is looking for a reason not to come back rather than reasons to stay. In other words, if he doesn't come back, it will be because physically his body just can't take it anymore. Well, we'll wait and see in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, congrats go again to the Lakers, back-to-back champs.

With the offseason upon us, I was going through some more individual skill development stuff and came across these notes from a Danny Hurley clinic where he was talking about ball handling. Definitely something you want to really hammer down during the offseason. For me, ball handling has always been addictive because as a small guy, it was important to have a good handle. But I know for other bigger guys it can get frustrating, so it's important to use drills that are flexible to allow players to work on different things. I like this drill because it allows you to do that (I've cut out the first part of the drill which is just up-downs using the same move, but you can start with that first before moving on), so without further ado, Danny Hurley...


Teaching point: Remember that your players must be focused on going hard at all times to get better at what they are working on. Shoot FTs to rest in between sets.

So you'll need 3 chairs, cones, or markers for the drill. Place the first 2 at halfcourt on either sideline. Place the third one at midcourt.

For each section of the drill, you will go down the right side of the court on the way up and back and then do the same thing on the left side of the court down and back.

Spin Move:

The first move to work on is a spin move. Speed dribble up to spot 3 with your right hand. Spin dribble at spot 3 putting the ball into your left hand. Defensive slide from spot 3 to spot 2 while dribbling the ball with your left hand. Once you hit spot 2 spin dribble back to your right hand and in 3 dribbles get all the way to the hoop to finish. Do this move up and back on the right and left sides. When starting on the left side you will use your opposite hand you used from the right side.


For the next 3 moves you will use the shuffle crossover, shuffle, between legs, and shuffle behind back. You will come from the baseline to the halfcourt spot doing shuffle, crossovers.

Once you hit the spot you shuffle cross to your left hand and move from spot 3 to spot 2 defensive slide dribbling with your left hand.

Once you hit spot 2 you will crossover from left to right and take 3 dribbles for a pull up bank shot, pull up jumper or pull up 3 pointer. Do this coming up and down the right and left sides. Use the opposite hand you used from the right side when doing the drill from the left. Next, do the same drill with the shuffle, between legs and finish with the shuffle behind back.

Teaching Points:

Like all drills this one must be done at 100%. Make sure and do every move low to the ground and work on snapping the ball quickly. When the drill is asking you to focus on handling and hand speed don't worry about sprinting, concentrate on improving you handle. Remember, you can add in things to this drill to make it fit your needs. You can also adjust it to be more or less intense based on your skill level and condition.

For more ideas on individual skill development and offseason drill work, check out the Brand new DVD by Derrick Rose and John Calipari on Point Guard Skills & Drills Series. Derrick Rose is the starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls and John Calipari is the Head Coach of the University of Kentucky.

An ESPN special on Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo talking about what he thinks about on defense in terms of steals, and how to steal the ball. I agree with him that to a certain extent, you can't really teach it, stealing the ball is just something that you have knack for, quick hands, good anticipation, and good coordination,

For more defensive info, check out Chris Lowery's DVD on transition and halfcourt defense. Coach Lowery is the head coach of Southern Illinois University.

When I think of Coach Wooden, I think of Integrity and Greatness. Instead of sadness, we should celebrate the 99 years of wisdom that Coach has given us not just in basketball but in being better human beings. I have several books from Wooden and I stare at his Pyramid of Success every day in front of my computer,

To the man they call "Coach", Well Done, Well Done indeed, Coach...

Just a great story about friendship and basketball from the NY Times about Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. There's a certain trust there that is evident. I don't know if it's just me but have y'all every noticed that somehow it's usually the best player on the team and a role player that develop that deep bond? It's funny how that dynamic develops. Logically, you would think it would be the 2 best players but it somehow rarely works out that way, probably because there is always that tension between the top 2 players as to who is better, whose team it is. But between the best player and one of the role players, there is a balance you could say which allows for that honesty to develop between the two.

Like all team sports, at the end of the day, its the relationships that matter most. Everything else fades away with time, but the memories of playing together, the stories you share, those are what will last a lifetime.

I think every coach has a way they coach free throw shooting, usually done towards the end of practices to simulate the fatigue factor. Here is one that I read from the Basketball BC website which is worth using to switch things up a little from what you might normally use.

Jay Wright Free Throw Drill

Divide the team into pairs and send each pair to a basket. The players will shoot free throws in this fashion: 3 in a row, 2 in a row, and 1. This will simulate the number of free throws they could get in a game i.e. fouled on a 3 pt. shot, fouled on a 2 pt. shot and fouled on a made basket. Total the number of free throws each pair makes. The losing teams may have a suicide, push-ups, etc. as a penalty.

If you like Coach Jay Wright, then check out Jay Wright's DVD on Innovative Late Game Sets. Coach Wright is the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats of the NCAA.

Some great analysis by Sebastian Pruiti over at the NBA Playbook on the Lakers using a Pin and Skip vs the Suns zone, and then the Suns adjusting to a matchup zone to get a man on Kobe.

I like what the Suns are doing on defense, but to me, this series comes down to the Lakers' ability to control the tempo of the game. The Lakers will win every time if they can keep the Suns under 100. The Lakers are just a better half court team offensively and defensively than the Suns, and they're getting baited into running and gunning with the Suns. They won the first 2 games, because the Suns had problems matching up M2M defensively due to the Lakers' size. But the zone is causing just enough problems to allow the Suns to create a few more run out opportunities.

I'm still going for the Suns of course, because of my bias towards Steve Nash. The realist in me says that they will lose the series though because Phil Jackson is going to make the necessary defensive adjustments in Game 5 and Game 6. The real chance the Suns had to win this game was in Game 2, when they were tied heading into the 4th quarter, in LA. But Gentry went with his routine of keeping Steve Nash on the bench until the 6 minute mark, which turned out was too late, and the Lakers managed to build a big lead. If the Suns lose this series, they're going to look back at Game 2 and say that was the one that got away.

Anyways, I leave you with another picture of Steve, now with a broken nose to go with that still healing black eye:

You know you've really made it as a true Canadian icon when you get a plug from Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry:

Found a couple of great timed shooting drills to use. I got these from some old notes on motion concepts created by Coach Pfeuffer in Pennsylvania. I had the chance to put them through some 8th graders that I was helping out with the other day and they really liked it, plus its a great conditioner.

3 line—12 Second Shooting Drills
- Set up with 2 players on each side of the center circle. Player on right side has ball. Third player is on right wing at three point line. 12 seconds on clock.
- Player with ball will dribble at right elbow. On dribble the wing player will make a basket cut and go all the way through to opposite side of court. The player who started on the left side of center court will sprint to left side of court and will work will set a screen for the cutter.
- Now players will run the various screens and cuts, and passes for 12 seconds and take a shot at the buzzer. Don’t give the offense too much to think about, just
have them “play” out of concepts. The only “rule” we use for this drill is that whoever has the ball should have that side of the court to himself. The other two
players should be screening and cutting on the other side of the court. After a few repetitions the players will get used to working with each other and will surprise you with the motion concepts that they have picked up.
- Players like this drill as well if you use the clock because they get to take shots at the buzzer.

3 line—12 Seconds 2 shots drill
- Same setup as prior drill and same initial action.
- This time however players work together and take a shot about 6-7 seconds into drill.
- After shot the shooter will run to the top of the key. Other players go to the offensive glass, whoever does not rebound will then sprint to the top to screen for
the initial shooter. The rebounder will then pass to the shooter so he gets a second shot at the buzzer as he comes off of the screen.

Looking for improvement help during this summer? Take a look at Jay Wright's DVD on 28 Competitive Drills for Shooting and Footwork. Coach Wright is the head coach of Villanova.

Most of y'all probably know my bias towards Steve Nash, being Canadian and all and especially from B.C. After he played game 4 with one eye and completed the sweep of the Spurs, everyone I know here said exactly the same thing, "Good old Canadian kid."

That got me thinking about point guards and as I was going through some old notes, tidbits from here and there, I came across an article talking about good guards by Dave Bollwinkel of the Boston Celtics, that Steve Nash does every single one of them. Show me a good team, and I'll show you a good point guard, the 2 go hand in hand. The article is below:

"Good Guards"
By Dave Bollwinkel, Boston Celtics Scout

Far too often, high school guards believe that what college coaches are looking for is someone to light up the scoreboard. While scoring is certainly an advantage, you can make it as a college guard if you understand and master all nine points listed below, even if you are not a great scorer.

Good guards...

1. Get their team into offense by:
- Developing a good handle
- Including the retreat dribble

2. Know how to attack pressure.- Always looking up the floor

- Looping the lag guard to create an open side of the floor (reverse the ball early in the offense)
- Using the retreat dribble to back out of traps, stay out of trouble, and to space the floor
- Avoid dead man's corner (at half court)

3. Know when and how to feed the post.

4. Creating through dribble penetration.
- Both for the post and the perimeter
- Deliver the pass into the shooting pocket
- Make use of on ball screens to assist in penetration and to create your own scoring opportunities

5. Make good decisions
- Know their teammates
- Take reasonable risks, think running the break
- Know game situations (clock, score, possession arrow, etc.)

6. Knock down the open jump shot

7. Doing their homework early when it comes to foot organization.
- By "one-twoing" into all 3 point shots (step into their shots)

8. Defend the dribble
- Can pick up full court and work the dribbler
- Can flatten out dribble penetration in the half court

9. Run the show
- Recognize the importance of good guard leadership
- Are "self-authorized leaders" (They take Ownership of the team)

If you're looking for more on developing guard skills, take a look at the Five-star Basketball DVD on Becoming a Championship Point Guard from Memphis Grizzlies NBA Scout, Scott Adubato.

Reading through the news of the day and came across this golden nugget of advice from none other than Coach Bobby Knight who gave a commencement address to a group of graduates today at Trine University:

“Preparation is the key to victory in any game that you play. The prepared people win a lot more than the unprepared people. You can never spend too much time on preparation. The will to prepare to win is far more important than the will to win.”

I count myself as probably someone who prepares alot, probably too much, as some of my friends say. In fact, the lack of preparation is one of my major pet peeves. When I observe other coaches coach, or other teachers teach, the first thing I take note of is how prepared they are. To me, preparation is so important because it's really the only thing as a coach I have complete control over. There are so many other things that are out of my control, but the one thing I know I can control is how prepared I am for each practice, for each game, for each season.

Want more practice planning advice, then don't miss Bobby Knight's DVD on Practice Planning.

A great article from Johnny Ludden on Yahoo!Sports today on the evolution of the Phoenix Suns under Gentry, and the vindication of Steve Kerr with the Suns on the cusp of overcoming past playoff demons up 2-0 on the Spurs. Kerr took a lot of heat the past couple of years, and rightfully so with the Shaq trade, but I think with the success of the Suns so far in these playoffs, and the continued ineptitude of the Knicks, at least one of Kerr's moves has proven to be right on the mark.

For us coaches, I think it was all pretty evident, that the Suns would never win the championship unless they played some semblance of defense, something Mike D'Antoni never could admit to committing himself to. I've been critical of Mike D'Antoni and his philosophy in the past. It's not just that he doesn't emphasis defense, but the biggest thing for me is that D'Antoni's ego getting in the way of common sense. D'Antoni has gotten so tied up into the 7 seconds or less offense. So much so that instead of focusing on the fundamentals of the game, he's obsessed with proving his thesis. In a way he screwed himself because if he changes his ways now, it would be an admission that he was wrong all along. My only non-negotiables as a coach are to always keep an open mind, don't be afraid of change, and always look for new ways to improve.

As for the Suns chances, I think they're good, very good. The Spurs are a little too old now, they remind me of the Utah Jazz just before Stockton retired and Malone left. The Lakers are still the team to beat, but Kobe maybe a little too banged up this time around.

From the other night, the Czar, Mike Fratello, breaking down a little of the Lakers offense, which we all know is the triangle offense. One of the keys of the triangle offense is the give and go, which is why you need a versatile big man to run it properly,

For more info on the Lakers' famed triangle offense take a look at Tex Winter's DVD on the Encyclopedia of the Triangle Offense. Coach Winters is of course the longtime assistant to Phil Jackson.

I've been watching the NBA Playoffs lately but with teaching and Spring football I just haven't had time to breakdown any games. Of course being Canadian, I've been following Steve Nash and the Suns very closely. I was very impressed with the way they were able to beat a good defensive team in Portland. I was going through my RSS feeds the other day and one great website I recommend for all of you players, coaches, fans who follow the NBA is the NBA Playbook. The author does a great job breaking down plays of NBA teams.

In the latest post, the author breaks down this specific play the Suns used consecutive times to score against the Blazers in Game 6. It's really quite simple, it's pretty much their standard secondary break out of the 7 seconds or less they inherited from D'Antoni, using a strong side small to big screen, the person screened reads the defense and either curls up top to receive the handoff, or cuts hard to the basket.

The defensive breakdown, as the author presents, is basically Brandon Roy who is defending Grant Hill in the weakside corner. As a rule, we usually say weakside defenders should have 1 foot in the lane. As you can see, Roy is about 1 step to far. This may not sound like a lot, but it allows Richardson enough room to make the play twice,

(Pictures from NBA Playbook)

But really, in my opinion, it's just a great job of spacing by the Suns. They do a great job with that spread offense that it forces the defense to take that extra step out, with a guy like Grant Hill out there, you can afford to be caught trying to close-out, especially with a not 100% Brandon Roy.

For more on the spread offense, check out Billy Donovan's DVD on the Spread Offense. Coach Donovan used it to win back-to-back national championships at the University of Florida.

There is a great thread on the X's and O's Coaching forum talking about warmups and dynamic stretching. One poster suggested searching for "Duke warmup" in Youtube, and so I did and there were some great videos that I found. I'm a big believer in teams who warmup properly, it shows discipline, and concentration on the task at hand.

Anyways, this first one is from Maryland,

This one is from Duke,

Anyways, if you are a big fan of the championship winning Duke Blue Devils, check out Mike Krzyzewski's All Access Duke Basketball Practice 4-pack DVD which includes 438 minutes of practice and Q&A with Coach Krzyzewski.

Hope y'all are enjoying the playoffs as much as I am. Here is a great interview from NBA TV with Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown. It's a short clip, but if you read between the lines, what he's saying is pretty profound. Once a coach, always a coach...

Some quotes from the clip:

(On differences in the players 20 years ago and now). Players don't play 4 years in college anymore, and when they come into this league and they don't play on a good team, they play right away, and they don't have a lot of good role models (ie. its easy for them to fall of the rails).

I coach execution, I don't coach effort (ie. that's your responsibility).

(Talking about David Robinson asking Coach Brown to introduce him at the Hall of Fame) When you're a coach, and you are around greatness, and somebody recognizes that you are a part of that, that's special.

Anyways, if you are a Bobcats fan or Coach Brown fan, take a look at Larry Brown's DVD on Secondary Break and Pick and Roll Offense. Coach Brown is the only coach to ever win both a NCAA Championship and an NBA Championship.

A feel good segment from ESPN on Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl who is undergoing radiation treatment for his throat cancer which has therefore kept him away from his job and the playoffs. It's interesting to watch Coach Karl talk about how hard it is to not be with the team, I think as coaches we all can relate to that feeling when we are away and someone else is coaching your team, its gut wrenching.

I was helping out a friend's teenage son the other day with his shooting form. Right away I could tell what one of the major problems was, incorrect use of the guide hand. One of the common bad habits that form early on is the habit of shooting with two hands. Kids who start playing basketball early (8-10) begin shooting with 2 hands because they don't have the arm strength to shoot the relatively heavy ball with one hand, so they use two. The problem is that they get used to it, and once they get older, even though they've stopped officially using 2 hands, the guide hand tends to still get in the way of the proper shooting motion. It's a hard habit to shake, but absolutely necessary in my opinion to become a consistent shooter.

I've used the one hand behind the back before but I've found it awkward because nobody plays with one hand behind their back, in other words its not a realistic way to help someone change their habits, they're likely to give up on it very quickly. I went home and looked through my notes and more notes and found these great tips instead from the Basketball BC website. They really helped me so I hope y'all enjoy them...

One of the most common flaws in shooting is the incorrect use of the non-shooting hand, also called the guide hand. The guide hand should only be used to help the player lift the ball up to the release point – it should not be used to help propel the ball to the basket.

Many players use their guide hand, particularly their thumb, to help shoot the ball because it adds more power to the shot; i.e. two hands are stronger than one. However, the more the guide hand is used to shoot the ball, the more likely force will be applied to the ball that is off the shot line. Keeping the shot on-line is simply broken down into two parts: 1) ensure the ball leaves the index and middle fingers of the shooting hand last, and 2) ensure the index and middle fingers point at the basket. If these two things are done the ball will always be on line. If the guide hand is used to push the ball to the basket it becomes more difficult to accomplish these two tasks.

How can you tell if the guide hand is used to by the shooter? Often the rotation of the ball may not be the true backspin associated with the great shot. However a more conclusive method, to see if the guide hand is used, is quite simple – look at the guide hand at the conclusion of the shot, and if the palm of the guide hand is facing the basket then the thumb of the guide hand has been used to generate power.

The more important question is, how can you help a player who uses their guide hand? What techniques can you use to eliminate the use of the guide hand on the shot? Here are several suggestions:

1. Flat Guide Hand - have the player pull the fingers of their guide hand back so the finger tips are off the ball. Now only the palm of the guide hand, as well of the shooting hand, is used to help lift the ball. This technique will help the player to recognize the shot will executed by the shooting hand, and that the guide is not necessary to help get the ball to the basket.

2. O-K Shooting – this technique reduces the effect of the guide hand’s thumb on the shot. The player will make the O-K symbol with the guide hand and shoot the ball. It will be difficult for the thumb to have any impact on the shot when the ball is held this way.

3. Thumb and Index Finger Pinch – have the player move the thumb of the guide hand directly beside the index finger. The movement will make it more difficult for the player to bring their thumb through on the shot. To keep the thumb and index together a coin could be lodged between the two. With the coin in this position it will make it unlikely for the two to separate.

4. L Shooting - have the player focus on keeping their off-hand and off-arm in the shape of an "L" – upper arm parallel to the floor. This will help teach players to move their guide hand off the ball earlier in the shot and minimize an adverse effect on the ball's rotation.

I had a real hard time to find some recent pictures which illustrate clearly the correct use of the guide hand, but here a couple I found (notice how both have the palm parallel to the shooting line):

For more great info on shooting technique, take a look at Ed Palubinskas's DVD on Becoming a Great Shooter. Coach Palubinskas has worked with professionals in both the NBA and WNBA.

From last weekend, ESPN aired a 2 hour documentary titled, "The Association L.A. Lakers" from NBA Entertainment which chronicles the entire regular season of the L.A. Lakers including unprecedented locker room and off court access, narrated by Andy Garcia. Of course for me, the best parts were the short snippets talking to Phil Jackson. Here is the trailer from NBA TV:

If you missed it this when it first aired last weekend, thanks to the Internet, someone has uploaded it here (around 200MB).

My favorite Phil Jackson quotes are:

Phil on player leadership - Leaders have to be assertive, I think Kobe has come to realize that.

Phil on teamwork - Sometimes I criticize myself about not exploring the modern game, kicking the ball and shooting 3s. But the principle of this game is teamwork, it always has been, it always will be.

Recently, I've become fascinated with trying to find out how other countries around the world develop their players. I've always been fascinated with the former Yugoslavia. Up until say 1993, the best players in the world outside of the U.S. came from the former Yugoslavia. I read a great article the other day which talks about the "Yugoslavia School of Basketball". Here are some great quotes from the article:

The Yugoslav national basketball team never played 'run and gun' basketball and rarely played a full court press (both dominant in the U.S.A), but did effectively play various types of zone defense that require a lot of teamwork and intelligence. At a basketball coaches’ seminar held in Italy in the early 1980s, a Spanish coach, wondering why Yugoslav players dominated European basketball and were highly competitive on a global scale, concluding that 'what matters most is that they are Yugoslavs!'

The Yugoslavs, knowing that they lacked the athleticism of their counterparts, had to rely on good shooting, sharp passing, and creativity instead. The author also points out the 3 pillars of the "Yugoslavia School of Basketball":

1. The national team. This included men, women, and junior (boys and girls) select teams.

2. Second, a strong national federal league was established. In the words of the professional player Dino Radja (Boston Celtics, 1995–1997), the Yugoslav federal basketball league used to be far stronger, more competitive, and balanced than any other European national or international league. The quality of the domestic competition was maintained thanks to the Basketball Federation’s provision that players could not work for foreign employers until they were 27 years of age.

3. Third, organized, systematic scouting, and early development for teenage players. As the result of this type of development, the national team would bring together entire generations of friends from all over the country, who would frequently begin to play together for the national team as 16-year-olds. They remained together throughout their careers, thus preserving the esprit de corps of their teenage days.

I think there are too many special interests in the U.S. system of development to adapt to the "Yugoslavian School of Basketball", and given the dominance of the U.S. in basketball, I'm not sure change is needed. But for Canada, I think it is definitely something worth exploring. The author of the article also talks about the "cult of the national team".

The author also talks about the Yugoslavian philosophy on shooting and practices:
Come off the bench shooting cold. Start practice with a shooting drill. No shooting in the middle of practice. End practice with pressure shooting must make certain amount of shots in a certain amount of time. Do not leave until the goal is reached.

No soft shooting drills.

Two styles a) form b) pressure (especially when mentally and physically fatigued)
50 baskets in 2 minutes – 2 point shots then 3 point shots

Experiment with team – how shots or time to make 10, three pt shots

For more offensive skill development info, check out Kevin Sutton's DVD on 2 Ball Development Drills. Coach Sutton is a NIKE Skill Academy Instructor and head coach of Montverde Academy.

I always love watching these soundbites from behind the bench of games. I wish all college and high school coaches were mic'd up like this. This clip was from the playoff game yesterday between the Celtics and the Heat, Coach Doc Rivers and Coach Erik Spoelstra:

I caught most of the end of season press conference by an embattled Jay Triano, head coach of the Toronto Raptors the other day. My big takeaway was the idea of creating a culture of accountability. Some quotes from the press conference:

"Do I have to demand more discipline from these guys who maybe aren't going to be professionals and act in a professional manner every single game? Absolutely. I have to make adjustments. Just like players have to get better in the off-season, I have to make adjustments as well."

Often times, you hear the phrase, "coach is too soft on them, he's not tough enough". In my opinion, it's not about being "tough" on your players, it's about making them accountable. Players have to know what is expected them, what is acceptable and what is not. You don't have to be "tough" on them to make your players accountable.

What kind of culture are you striving to create? What are your non-negotiables?

I always like to watch the benches when I watch games, I can always tell the culture of the team by watching the bench, and how players behave when on the bench. When I look at the Raptors bench this season, I didn't always see a team that was business-like and focused on the same goal.

Along this theme of accountability, I was observing a Spring Football practice the other day and there were several questions that I left thinking about afterwards:

What is your policy on dealing with lates to practices?

Do you allow players to come in late? How do you think this is perceived by other players on the team? Why are players are allowed to waltz into practice late and start participating in drills?

How do you deal with the alpha-dogs on your team?

Are you consistent in your treatment of players? How is this perceived by the other players? Why are certain players allowed to take plays off and not others? When and how do you choose to deal with motivation issues with your star players?

I was going through some newer notes today and went through some notes from a coaches clinic with Mario De Sisti. It broke down some of the youth programs from different countries around the world. The idea of standardizing how fundamentals are taught I think is important when trying to develop consistency from place to place.

Specifically, this one below from France was quite intriguing to me. I like the idea of focusing only on offense for the first while. The skills involved with shooting, dribbling, and passing require much more time to develop. Defense comes much more naturally and isn't so much a skill but rather attitude and communication.

I also like the idea of introducing transition basketball only after players have a certain mastery of the fundamentals (maybe Gr 7 or higher). Too many times at the lower levels, its the taller athletic kids that go coast to coast over and over who score. Force the kids to play within the 3-point line, then gradually add transition offense afterwards.

Anyways, here is the extract for you to read yourselves:

France – sport school system (CPEQ)

Analyze the fundamentals. You must be “fussy” about corrections. If you do not correct at the student level you will have problems at the cadet etc.

Mini level should be fun. Do teach spacing.
30 minutes – fundamental
Shooting games
Dribble games
Passing games

Mentality – don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Players need to learn to receive the ball inside and outside. Play guards inside posts play outside.

Defensive pick up points
Student – 1st year - inside the 3 point line, 2nd year – ½ court
Cadet – 1st year – ¾ court, 2nd year – full court

Also the intensity changes as you move through the different categories.

Student – 100% offense – do not teach defense – learned through the offensive skills
Cadet – offense / defense no transition
Junior – offense / defense / transition

First three to four months – only offensive skills with GUIDED defense
Second three to four months – 70% defense / 30% offense
Last 2 months – transition / offense / defense

Conditioning is done through the drills

This allows the players to keep concentration on the skills being learned. If you jump around players are not aware of the concepts being learned. Players cannot remember form one day to the next.

NBA Tribute to Coach Don Nelson

Catching up on news from last week, this is a nice video tribute of Coach Don Nelson who recently became the NBA's winningest coach with 1,333 wins surpassing Lenny Wilkins. Coach Nelson is the only coach of the top 5 winningest coaches that has never reached an NBA final. I think his greatest moment was when the 8th seeded Warriors beat the 1st seeded Mavs in 2007. Anyways, enjoy...

For those of you who happen to teach physics, this is a neat little video you could use in the classroom especially if you have some basketball players in your class. The analysis was produced by Sports Science and aired on ESPN showing the last shot attempt by Gordon Hayward of Butler which almost won them the national title game over Duke this past Monday.

Key terms:

- launch angle
- velocity
- x-axis

Can you tell that I'm in lesson planning mode... Anyways, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

You hear often times that your are what you emphasize. I think intuitively when we teach good defense to close out hard with high hands to challenge the shot and not foul. When in the lane, we definitely want to go chest-to-chest. I came across these set of notes the other day from Dick Bennett which talks about "Walling Up On Defense". Basically what we already teach our players, but framed in a way in which you can emphasize with your players easily during practices and games, here ya go:

Of all the techniques we teach on defense, "Walling Up" is probably the single best thing we do as a program. It is drilled every day in some shape form or fashion, it is emphasized in every live ball situation, and it's something you hear at least one player or coach from the bench yell when the situation arises in a game.

We believe by Walling Up we save outselves 3 to 5% points of defense and 3 to 5 fouls per games on our players. That keeps our posts out of foul trouble, it helps our rebounding, it keeps our opponents off the free throw line (where we can't defend), and provides a mind set that builds the rest of our defense. Walling Up most often occurs in the paint (lane) when an opponent is trying to score. Statistically speaking even the very best players in the game don't make a very high percentage of contested shots. We Wall Up in the post to force players to score over the top of us rather than around us (You put both hands straight up in the air when you wall up and put your body on the offensive player. You don't even have to jump.) We Wall Up on the perimeter to take away vision of a shot or pass you do not put your body on them in this situation.)

The basic technique is to keep your boyd "straight up" without bringing your hands/arms down. In practice we force players to over exaggerate our angles knowing that in a game situation it's a natural tendency to reach a little.

*Teaching Point: The hardest thing to teach is to keep your feet moving and lower body moving to take up opponents space before they have terminated their dribble of pivot.

*The Best Way to teach this technique: Give the ball to an offensive player with his back to the basket on the block on the right side of the rim. Tell the offensive player to take one dribble to the middle of the floor and turn around and shoot a jump shot over the Walled Up Defender. The defender will need to body up to the offensive player and keep both hands up high.

*This technique will win five games a season for you. DS (I don't have any research on this, but I do believe it.) Plus it is fun to teach and emphasize!

Here are a few pictures of NBA players I found that help to illustrate this basic defensive concept around the basket,

Here is a picture of walling up a player a little further away from the basket to prevent an easy pass,

For more info on M2M defensive concepts and guidelines for running the packline defense, check out Dick Bennett's DVD on pressure defense. Coach Bennett is retired formerly of the head coach of Wisconsin and Washington State.

Like most of you, I'm getting really excited about the games tomorrow at the Final Four begins in Indianapolis. From the PBS talk show Charlie Rose yesterday, here is a great 1/2 hour interview with Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Unfortunately, I can't embed the clip, you can view the entire clip online on the Charlie Rose website. They talked about a number of different topics and I've added some of the best quotes below:

On Adapting to Your Players Year to Year:
We had to change, half-court defenders, rebounders. Less drive and kick, pressure full court defense.

You have to decide what team you are. Are you a drama, a comedy... then combine that with the basics of being good defensively.

On Trust:
When asked why he is so successful? There is instant trust.

I'm not more melo, I listen better. I let people talk more than when I was younger. I trust my people more.

Shoot your bullets, don't leave anything on the court. I tell players to trust their instincts.

Don't over talk your players so that their cup overfills. Allow your players to fill it up on their own.

It's not about what you know, it's about what the players know and can do. If you fill your players with too much info, they're thinking more about what to remember then reacting.

On Player Roles:
The rebounder is as important as the shooter. The rebounders have to believe that they are playing as an important role as the one taking the shot.

Well, hope y'all enjoy the games as I will. Anyways, if you are a big Duke fan like me check out Mike Krzyzewski's new All Access Duke Basketball Practice 4-pack DVD which includes 438 minutes of practice and Q&A with Coach K.

A little late, but I thought I would just talk a little bit about the game over last weekend's Elite Eight game between Duke and Baylor. The big talk was about how Duke was going to able to beat Baylor's 1-1-3/2-3 matchup zone. Especially when you compare how Kentucky fared against West Virginia's 1-3-1. In the end, Duke just hit some big shots, especially down the stretch to take over while Kentucky couldn't buy a 3-pointer if their life depended on it.

A couple of articles, this one from ESPN, this one from CBS Sports, have described Baylor's zone as a version of UNLV's Amoeba Zone used by Jerry Tarkanian back in the day. I posted a long while back on the Amoeba Zone. It certainly looked similar especially when they would trap the post on the catch from the pass from the corner.

But for the most part, I thought they played it more like a normal 1-1-3 zone, but with alot of matchup up at the top of the key to ensure they got good ball pressure. I also posted on the 1-1-3 matchup zone earlier last year. The keys to the 1-1-3 matchup zone that I posted were:

1. Apply tremendous ball pressure at all times.
2. Sprint to coverage areas with strong closeouts and hands held high.
3. Push the ball to the sideline alleys and corners.
4. The closest player to the ball takes the ball handler.
5. There always must be a player in the low post and high post.
6. All five players are required to rebound.
7. Once the ball is forced to the sideline, stay on the player’s “high hip” in order to keep the offensive players from reversing positions and dribbling to the other side of the court.
8. The defender stays on the ball until called off by a teammate.
9. All players must communicate verbally for this defense to work.

I thought Baylor played their zone defense well, but in the end, I thought Duke was able to rebound, and shoot the ball when it counted. It wasn't pretty, but zone offense doesn't usually end up looking pretty anyways.

Ironically, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins also has a 1-1-3 zone in his back pocket, and he's used Jim Beilein's 1-3-1, as recent as last game. But WVU is good enough M2M to matchup with Duke, which is what I expect them to play most of the game in the Final Four.

A couple of big games tonight including that 1 vs 4 matchup with Duke against Purdue, and Northern Iowa against Michigan St. I must have missed this article the first time round, but thanks to Chris Brown at Smart Football, here is a unique, scientific look at the importance of shot arc to shooting percentage from the New York Times.

A few very interesting quotes to consider.

Height of where the ball leaves your hand matters:

In a classic study in the 1980s, Peter Brancazio, then a physics professor at Brooklyn College, determined that adding two feet to the height at which a shot leaves the player's fingers increases the success rate by a whopping 17 percent. No wonder you see so many jump shots.
So what exactly is the optimal launch angle with the least amount of force:
Brancazio explains that you need 45 degrees plus half the angle formed by a straight line between the position of the ball at launch and the basket. Depending on your height and where you are on the court, that typically ranges from 7 to 14 degrees. Thus, for a shot leaving your hands at eight feet above the floor from 18 feet out, you'll want to launch the ball at a bit more than 48 degrees. For most players at a distance of 10 to 25 feet, the least-effort angle ranges between 47 and 52 degrees.
Finally, the perfect shot angle for free-throws is:
Using that system, you can calculate the ideal free-throw angle. It's 13.75 feet from the free-throw line to the center of the basket, and a 6-foot player launches the ball from about seven feet above the hardwood. That works out to a shooting angle of 51 degrees.
Last but not least, backspin matters:
Free-throw success is also improved by adding a little backspin, which pushes the ball downward if it hits the back of the rim. The North Carolina State engineers calculated the ideal rate of free-throw backspin at three cycles per second. That is, a shot that takes one second to reach the basket will make three full revolutions counterclockwise as seen from the stands on the player's right side.

Have fun watching the games tonight...

What a crazy weekend of first and second round action. From today though, it's that burning question that all coaches have to ponder as a back and forth game inches closer to its finale. From today's thriller between 2 great teams in Michigan State and Maryland. MSU is up 1, but Maryland comes back and hits a potential game winner with 6 seconds left on the clock. MSU inbounds and brings it down the floor,

As I read The Dagger later today, clearly from the video, you can see Tom Izzo thinking about calling a timeout but he decides not to at the last second, just before MSU hits the 3-pointer with no time left on the clock,

As a coach, I think it all just comes down to the maturity of your players. With a veteran team, it's probably better not to call a timeout, because the timeout will only benefit the defense who has a chance to rest, re-collect themselves, and prepare to defend against the most probably 2 players who will take the last shot.

However, with a young, still maturing team, as a coach, I would take that timeout. It is unlikely that a young immature team would know what they should do in that situation, who should take the shot, and how they should be setup. A timeout, would at least assure that the players were in the right position.

Its hard to say whether Izzo made the right or wrong decision. From just going on the limited information I have, MSU is a team that has the experience and maturity to come down the floor with 6 seconds left and make the right play. It seems obvious now, but I think even if MSU misses that shot, based on what I know of MSU, I would still say it was the right call, to not call a timeout, but it's always a tough call, and even for Izzo, you can see he was going back and forth in his head, to call or not to call a timeout.

If you are a big Tom Izzo fan like me, then you'll probably like Coach Izzo's DVD on 'Basketball Smorgasbord' of Drills and Basketball Wisdom. Coach Izzo is the longtime coach of Michigan State.