I came across Mike Dunlap's new 1-1-3 Zone DVD and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I got from it despite the poor user reviews on the Championship website. If you haven't heard Coach speak before, you definitely want to pick it up for a listen. He has a lot to offer not just in the X's and O's department but also in teaching and motivating. He has a very hard-ass approach, but very refreshing in an old-school kind of way.

Anyways, he was talking about rebounding out of the zone, and of course most of us teach weakside rebounding when shots go up from the wing or corner. 70% of shots that go up from the one side, end up on the other side. In the zone, Dunlap coaches it as the "weakside wedge". The idea is for 2 defenders to wedge any potential offensive rebounder, the bottom player will box out, and a top player will squeeze the ball down. So if the offensive player gets that rebound, you can either trap the rebounder or rip the ball out,

But what happens when the ball is shot from the top?  Well the obvious answer is that it comes back straight. Which is true. But more precisely, the ball comes through the elbows. He teaches his players to play it as "boxes and elbows". You need 2 guys on the block (boxes) and 2 guys on the elbows,

Well, as always each year, wishing every a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I just came back from Maui (which explains my lack of posting in the last 2 weeks) where our Varsity team played in the Lahainaluna Invitational. We played well at times and not so well at other times, the Curtis Vikings of Tacoma will do very well this March. Very well run tournament and definitely looking forward to going back in 2 years.

As I start my first ever season coaching freshmen, I am starting to have a better understanding of all the fundamental skills that need to be taught in order for these young minnows to progress into full-fledged varsity players.

One area that has been taking up a lot of my time has been teaching transition concepts. It's been frustrating because I am used to coaching JV or Varsity and there are just things that as a coach you take for granted such as spacing and passing ahead.

Anyways, here is a great short clip from the folks at Duke Blue Planet and their continuing Blue Print series, this one on transition offense.

Having a pg that can push, that big guy who can rebound and outlet to the pg ASAP is so important, then having that big guy rim run is next. Spacing obviously, finish, and the trailer, all important concepts.

Lots more you can find from the 2010-2011 All-Access Duke Practice DVD set.

R.I.P. Rick Majerus

As many of you probably know, former Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus died yesterday at the age of 64. I followed Majerus very closely since the late 90s as a local basketball star played for him at Utah, Jordie McTavish. That relationship didn't end well, but like all people, he was a complicated man. Things are never always so black or white, but different shades of gray. I think his legacy as one of the great college basketball coaches of our time is fairly certain, especially when you think about the finals run at Utah, his early success at Ball State and Marquette, and finally a Sweet 16 run with the Billikens this past March.

Personally, I've enjoyed watching and listening to anything Majerus had to say, whether it was on ESPN or through coaching videos. His attention to detail was incredible, precision was extremely important to him. It wasn't enough that you won, but that you did it a certain way, the right way. He had his convictions and he stuck to them no matter what.

I read a great article that was written several years ago by Sports Illustrated as Majerus was just getting back into coaching at Saint Louis, click here to read "The Life and Times of Rick Majerus". It talks at length about what made Majerus such a brilliant student and teacher of the game, but also what drove players crazy about him, it's an interesting look at his complicated legacy as one of the great basketball coaches of our time.

Finally, Majerus' health problems were well documented and I don't think anyone wants to die early. And I've written about this before, but as a profession coaching is one of the worst health-wise because coaches often times do not take care of their bodies. Please make sure you eat right, get plenty of exercise, and get regular checkups with your doctor. As much as it pains me to see fellow coaches in really bad shape, there really is no excuse for not taking care of yourself, you owe it to yourself, your family, and your friends.

R.I.P. Coach Majerus...

Some nice behind the scenes video of Michigan State on their trip to Germany to face UConn a couple of weeks ago. Too bad for MSU, they lost, but good to see the players visiting the hospital there in Ramstein and talking with the troops there. Some nice clips of the game action at the end of the video too, anyways enjoy...

Michigan State Basketball - Armed Forces Classic from Micah Brown on Vimeo.

It's hard to think that even 10 years ago, producing good quality video content was still very costly and time consuming. Nowadays, the stuff that you can produce with a simple HD camera and iMovie are amazing. With the college basketball season in full swing, I went and found some of the best 2012-2013 trailer videos produced by college athletics programs to promote the upcoming season. My favorite one is probably this one from Marquette. I like it because they didn't just flash some stock images and put music in the background, they went out with a film crew and put the players in a few different situations (the bowling one was really good). Enjoy...

If I were to pick a number 2, it would definitely be this one from USC. This one is more generic, but the bass in the background really gets you in the mood and for some reason I really get motivated when watching and listening to it.

And finally an honorable mention goes to the Memphis Tigers for putting out this quality video:

Hope everyone is getting ready for their respective basketball seasons. There's always a giddy enthusiasm I get around this time as the thought of "what could be" awaits and there is a high level of anticipation and expectation of success in October. The good news is, everyone starts the season off with the same record, 0 wins 0 losses.

In any case, the folks at Duke Blue Planet are putting together an X's and O's coaching series (called Blue Print) with one of their coaches talking about a certain aspect of the game and with their current squad. In this inaugural episode, assistant coach Jeff Capel is talking about low post play and some of the keys to what they hope will be a productive season for Mason Plumlee.

Coach Capel talks about a lot of the basic fundamentals of low post play, which you can also get from Coach K's DVD on low post skill development. Namely:

1. Early post up. If your bigs rim run, they will probably get the easiest post position they will ever get. The jostling for position that happens in half-court is tough, but if you get out in transition, it's must easier to get that position. It's just a simple matter of first one to the spot.

2. Screening action. Be it, on ball, or off ball, if your bigs screen, they are moving, and thus harder to defend and keep out of a certain area.

3. Have a go to move. For Plumlee, he likes the sweeping middle hook (left and right).

4. Have a counter. When you feel the defender cheating to take away your go to move, make sure you have a counter to make them pay for over-committing.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk 2012-2013

Anyone who has followed me over the past several years knows that I'm a big Bill Self fan, and therefore a Kansas Jayhawks fan. With the Jayhawks coming off such a fantastic run last season, I'm very looking forward to watching them this season, enjoy this pump up trailer, and of course rock chalk jayhawk!!!

Last week I had the opportunity to attend our Superconference during our Pro-D day and the keynote speaker was Mike Jones, the head coach of the famed DeMatha High School. He spoke on a number of topics, including his favorite practice drills, his man-to-man teaching progression, and the DeMatha version of the flex offense.

It starts out just like every other flex offense, like the Gonzaga, Boston College, or Maryland. They are 4 around 1, and the post sets a flex screen for the guard who flex cuts towards the ball,

 This is where the DeMatha flex differs from others, instead of a downscreen, they set upscreens. O2 looks for O4 off the UCLA cut. O5 sets a flare screen for O1 who flares out to the other side.

If O4 is not open, then he goes and sets another upscreen for O5 who cuts to the low block and looks for a post-up.

Then the continuity goes again to the other side.

In addition to the main flex continuity they have, they have also added the following variations:

- they like the upscreens because once those guys go up to set those screens, the wing player always has the option to take his man off the dribble and get into the lane because everything is opened up with those 2 players setting upscreens.

- The top player can dribble/replace with the wing player if the wing is overplayed on the initial pass from top to wing

- The top play can always go backdoor if being overplayed on the reversal from wing to top

- After the ball is reversed from wing to top, if the wing player is being overplayed, the flex cutter can set a backscreen for the wing player and the top player can hit him going to the basket.

Finally, if you want to see a little video of it, here is some from Youtube, but you can't see the whole continuity, you'll have to buy it here to see it all,

Like most of you all, I'm really looking forward to the college basketball season. Here is a nice video from the folks at Duke Blue Planet for their upcoming 2012-2013 season. As always, they always produce the best quality videos,

Are you ready?? The NBA season is getting ready to go, no lockout/strike this year. A nice (but short) segment on NBA Coaches at practice. My favorite sound bites are from Frank Vogel, enjoy...

Another great video produced by Duke Blue Planet, the official Duke Athletics department. Great message as well, true champions are created in the off-season... what are you doing when nobody is watching??

Midnight Madness 2012

October 1st means that the college basketball season is near. A lot of Div1 teams getting ready for the tradition known as midnight madness. A couple of videos to get you pumped up, first one is from Oregon:

Here is a cool timelapse of defending champion University of Kentucky, setting up to sell tickets to Big Blue Madness. Think about that, this is just for tickets to the event, and not the actual event, and people are camping out. Wow...

It's taken me a couple of days to absorb the shock that came when I heard that Jim Calhoun decided to retire from the University of Conneticut as the men's head basketball coach. As I think about it more, it makes me sad to think that the ultimate tough guy in Calhoun could only take so much. Although his incredible coaching legacy will inevitably be overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding the recruiting violations, and academic probationary sanctions, I can't help but feel disappointed that a guy who had always been known for doing things the right way would unfortunately get dragged down by the progressively worsening sliminess of big-time collegiate athletics. Perhaps it would have been fitting if Calhoun decided to retire on top after winning the 2011 NCAA Championship, but the fighter within decided to keep going despite what he knew was coming.

In reflecting specifically on Calhoun's legacy on the college game, I think his biggest contribution schematically was his "pro-style" based approach. In other words, many coaches are system coaches -- they use a 4-out motion, or flex, or dribble drive, 7 seconds or less, spread pick and roll, 40 minutes of hell, 2-3 zone, 1-3-1 zone, etc... Calhoun's philosophy has always been that the best system to use is the one that gets the best players the ball. So, when he had the likes of Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton, it was all about the box sets, and stagger screens to free up those jumpers on the wing. When he had Emeka Okafor and later with Hasheem Thabeet, it was a man-to-man defense that featured a dominant shot-blocking big man, leveraging their offensive rebounding prowess, and a post-entry based offense. With Kemba Walker, it was half court trapping, and a 1 man fast break and the drive and kick game. It was not a surprise to see so many star recruits gravitate towards UConn, future NBA players were developed by Calhoun because he featured them, and found ways to make them successful. And when they went to the NBA, they became stars because they played in a system which featured them.

It's certainly true that Calhoun rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. He wasn't always graceful in defeat nor in victory, but with Calhoun you always knew that what you saw was what you got and that he didn't give a damn what anybody else thought. There wasn't a lot of pizzaz, he didn't care to put on a show, he just coached his a** off and was always about his players.

Since making the final four a year ago, Shaka Smart's VCU Havoc defense has been much discussed recently. More than anything schematic, it is really more of a philosophy and an attitude. Certainly it requires a certain amount of stamina to run this kind of defense, but when run properly it is very very effective. Enjoy this "Havoc" compilation from the 2011-2012 season,

With the college football season already underway, here is a little something to get you excited for the upcoming college basketball season. It's a short 7 minute behind the scenes look at the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team on their recent European trip to Switzerland to take on the Swiss Men's National Team. Some good raw footage of EJ talking about focusing on defense because when you think too much about your offensive game you tend to get more nervous. And also some highlights of the games vs the Swiss team.

Hope you enjoyed it...

I was watching parts of John Calipari's All-Access DVD with his 2011-12 Kentucky team and one of the coaching points that Calipari talks about and is often overlooked but is probably the most important regarding BLOB and SLOB plays is choosing who will be your inbounder. Here is a short clip from the video where Calipari talks about it (about 4min in),

A lot of times, we get lost in the scheme of OB plays, but I don't know how many times I've watched games where the wrong person was inbounding the ball on an OB play, and it ended up in a turnover going the other way for a basket (my own teams included). I think as a coach, you need to find out which specific players can inbound the ball reliably under pressure. I used to change the inbounder depending on what kind of play we ran, but now, I decide in advance the 2 or 3 players who are allowed to inbound the ball based on how reliable they are.

Been going through a number of coaching clinic videos and DVDs recently and one of the common concepts that keeps coming up breaking presses and traps is the idea of having 3 passes available at all times -- sideline, middle, and behind.

You can use any number of sets, 1-3-1, 1-4 across, 1-2-2, but the idea is to always make sure you have those three passes available at all times, with one of the players cutting diagonally to become the new middle player and everyone else cutting and replacing. In Bruce Weber's Press Break DVD, he calls this "pistons",

The idea translates to attacking half-court traps as well. The idea is you always want to present 3 pass options -- sideline (O3), middle (O4), and behind (O2). Lason Perkin's talks about it briefly in his Euro Ball Screen Offense,

Note above that the 4th player (O5) is always opposite the ball. This is for spacing as once the pass is made to one of the 3 options, you want to have a player on the weakside who is open for a quick reversal and layup.

In addition to this schematic concept of sideline-middle-behind, players need to know how to square up so that they can see the 3 passes and not throw the ball to a defender, and learn other concepts such as the crab dribble for pressure release which I've talked about earlier.

Anyways, hope everyone is enjoying watching basketball at the olympics. A devastating opening loss from the Team Canada Women's team against Russia, but they will come back today against England.

I've written about the Triangle and 2 defense before and since Kansas used it to great effect this past NCAA tournament, most notably in their win over North Carolina, I thought I would revisit it and add some thoughts to what I had written previously especially since I used it off and on during this past season.

As Rick Majerus says in his Triangle and 2 defense Clinic DVD, the triangle and 2 should not be used as a staple of your defensive system. I agree completely with that statement, and Majerus goes on to say that the most important aspect of running the defense is knowing when to go to it, and when to go out of it. The perfect example is the way Bill Self used it with his Kansas team against Purdue and North Carolina, late in the 2nd half when they needed to cool down a hot shooter, and to slow the relentless Carolina fast break. I also agree with Bill Self's decision not to use it against Kentucky, if the other team has 4 good players/shooters on the floor, the triangle and 2 is not the defense to be in.

The key to running a good triangle and 2 defense is finding a player to put on their 3rd best player. That defender will play the point at the top of the triangle in the zone, but is also responsible mostly for the 3rd best player on the floor. That is where your best overall defender should play, not against any of the 2 top scorers. In fact, you probably want to put 2 of your more mediocre defenders (but must be quick) on the 2 top scorers, they are in all out denial (butt to the ball, belly to the man), and they are forcing those 2 players to go backdoor.

Yes, I said that correctly, you want to force the 2 top scorers to go backdoor into triangle zone where they will be met by the 3 defenders. Dribble penetration is encouraged, again because they will most likely be dribbling right into the zone.

Back to the 3rd best scorer on the floor. Your point man in the triangle has the toughest job because he must help on any dribble penetration by the 2 top scorers, but also closeout on the 3rd best scorer. The 3rd best scorer must not be allowed to take a catch and shoot open 3-pointer, instead we want to force the 3rd best scorer to dribble into a shot.

The 2 post defenders must play good post defense. There are some differing opinions on whether to half-front, full-front, or play behind. Majerus likes the full-front, others like to play behind for better rebounding position. I think it depends on your scouting report, if the team has capable back to the basket post players, you probably want to play some form of front. The key for the post-players is that if they are forced to play anybody on the perimeter or in the corner, they do what is called a fake and fade. They stay square to the ball with high hands to entice a dribble drive with a hop forward, then an immediate hop back. In this way, they attempt to level off any dribble drive and force the dribbler to go around the defender where help will eventually be there.

Based on past experience, what hurts the triangle and 2 the most is when the offense uses screens (off-ball and on-ball) between the 2 scorers and the 3rd scorer. The 2 scorers can play a little 2 man game and screen for each other in a pick and roll to get open. It is therefore critical that you have a plan to deal with those screens, whether you plan to trap, hard show, go under, or switch. My experience has been switching has been most effective. Another offensive tatic that is particularly effective is to put the point defender on the triangle in conflict by:

- dribble drive at the point defender and kickout to the 3rd best scorer for a 3-point shot
- wide pin down screen for one of the 2 top scorers backside forcing the point defender to defend the curl
- slip screen the 3rd best scorer and force the 2 post defenders to rotate

Finally, in transition defense, the point defender cannot be an offensive rebounder. His job after a shot goes up is to immediately sprint back to the defend the basket. The 2 deny defenders find their checks immediately to deny, and the 2 post defenders get back as soon as they can.

Like all defenses, the triangle and 2 is a defense in which all players must constantly communicate. Everyone must know where the 3rd best scorer is, and be ready to help on any dribble drive or backdoor cuts.

This past season in the second round of a tournament against a top team, we used the triangle and 2 after getting slaughtered in the first half 30-10, we ended up losing the game 42-37. We came out of halftime and the other team was completely stymied, they went scoreless for 8 straight minutes, their players were heard going to the bench during a timeout saying "we don't know what they're running, it's like a zone but not a zone". The other team ended up hitting a 3 pointer late to give them the lead and we tried playing the fouling game but just couldn't overcome the deficit. The team ended up going on to win the tournament.

Coming from one of the better defensive minds in coaching, Jim Larranaga, according to Larranaga, he claims that transition defense is the most important and hardest thing to teach in basketball. If we take him at his word, then considering the importance of "getting back on D", one would expect its antithesis -- the early offense -- to be a fairly well-developed area of coaching. However, in my opinion, it is quite the opposite. As an area of coaching, early offense is quite a bit undeveloped as compared to its cousin, the half-court offense. (Just so we're clear, I'm not referring to a 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 situation, which is universally termed as the fast-break). So if you think about the major theories on early offense (or secondary break as it is often termed), they range either from the very unstructured "just lob it up there" to the many structured versions such as Roy Williams' Carolina break or D'Antoni's 7 seconds or less offense. But what you don't see at all is anything in between the two.

What I mean by that is for example in half-court offensive theory, you have something referred to as the motion offense. The motion offense lies somewhere in between 5 guys playing pickup running random cuts and screens, and a highly structured system like the Flex or the Triple Post. A motion offense isn't a continuity, in that players don't follow a preset pattern, but it is instead a set of rules that govern what the players do based on what the defense is doing -- in the half court.

In search of the elusive "motion-styled early offense", I found myself going through Billy Donovan's DVD on the Unstoppable Transition Offense, where he talks specifically about this idea, a concept-based early offense. Not a patterned secondary break, nor just a bunch of guys running down the floor randomly. Instead, Donovan talks about transition offense concepts which I've briefly outlined below.


There will be 2 wings, 2 forwards, and 1 primary ball handler. The 4 man is the guy that will usually inbound the ball. The wings will run out wide, Donovan doesn't have a preference if it is the 2 or 3, they just go out wide. The forward who doesn't inbound rim runs, and gets to the ballside low post block. The ball handler will attempt to advance the ball up either wing if the pass is open.

Auto Post-up

If O5 has busted his butt to get down the floor and is open for a quick post-up, that is always the first look. An early post-up is always a favorable matchup in transition because the post-entry pass is usually not contested nearly as much as once your are set in the half-court and by hitting the early post-up you virtually eliminate the possibility of the double-team on the post,

As O3 is looking for O5 for the quick post-entry. O1 who made the initial pass up the court, will cut through the lane to the opposite corner. O4, the trailer, will start down the middle of the lane. 

Pick and Roll

If O5 is late getting down the floor or if for some reason the post entry just isn't there, then there are secondary options. O5 will clear to the weakside if he does not get the ball. The first option is the pick and roll. What we're looking at here is the gap between O4 and his defender X4. If X4 has gotten back on defense, for example, to help out on an early post-entry into O5, then as O4, the trailer, comes down the floor, he should immediately take an angle into the side pick and roll with O3 on the ball.

In any ball screen situation, you want to have separation from the defender. The reason for this is because you want to create a temporary 2-on-1 situation (which we have here because of the separation between O4 and X4). Because X4 is not in a position to really defend the ballscreen, the offense has a number of options, dribble into the lane for a drive or a shot, or hit O4 rolling to the basket after the screen, or shoot the open 3-pointer if X3 goes under the screen.

Wide Pin-Down

Second option if O3 chooses not to go into a pick and roll, for example if O4's man is playing right on him, we can run the wide pin-down. O3 will reverse the ball to other side of the floor,

O2 can look for the post-entry again with O5 who has attempted to seal his man on the low block. On the weakside, O3 and O4 and playing a little 2-man game with O4 setting a downscreen. O3 will setup the screen by going to the short corner. 

O3 has any number of things he can do depending on how the defense plays the downscreen. He can curl and O2 can hit him in the lane for the quick layin or baby hook. He can come up to the elbow or 3-point line to shoot the open jumper. If the defense overcommits to O3, O4 can roll to the basket for a lob pass,

Middle Ball Screen

All of the above is predicated on O1 making the advance pass up the court to O3 or O2. If O1 does not, then it is an automatic middle ball screen by the trailer O4. O1 should attempt to use the screen and get into the lane for a quick score, or dump off to O5 if X5 helps,

So the idea here is to give your players a framework of how to play fast and score quickly in the secondary break with some semblance of organization and to do it with a certain purpose to attack the defense given a certain set of parameters. Principally, the objective is to take advantage of certain situations that present themselves, situations that are most present when teams are attempting to "get back", opportunities from an offensive perspective to take advantage of a slow big man to defend the post-up, the over-helping trailer defender, the unprepared ballscreen defender, helpside defenders caught in a downscreen away from the ball. In watching some old footage of the Gators in both their back-to-back titles and in most recent games from this past season, you can definitely see the early ball screens, and even the odd wide pin-down as well. And since their primary half-court offense is the spread pick and roll, they transition from early offense to half-court offense rather seamlessly.

Or.... you could just tell your players to run like mad down the floor and throw over top of the defense. My personal experience is sometimes the simplest solution is the best. The last team I coached was an example of where my attempt at installing a secondary break resulted in confusion and indecision, throwing over the top was indeed the best way for us, but I digress.

But generally as offensive ideology goes, I do like the idea of a motion-styled secondary break. I strongly believe that a team full of smart basketball IQ players (ie. smart gym rats), could use these concepts along with a loose 4-out 1-in motion offense and easily be "unstoppable" as Donovan's DVD claims his system to be. Because your players are playing based on concepts, and not on some structured system that is easily scouted, analyzed, and broken down into easier-to-defend parts, it is much more difficult to stop if run properly. The keyword being "properly", in that players have to be smart enough to read how the defense is playing and then make the right read. The players are relying less on the coach to call certain plays to get them into advantageous situations but rather must rely on their intuition to make the right decision.

A great video from the Duke Blue Planet themed "Always Home". There's an old saying -- tradition never graduates. You get that sense of tradition when you watch and hear the former players talk about coming back home to Duke.

Anyways, I've been reading lots and watching a bunch of coaching DVD's, some good X's and O's content to come now that summer is upon us...

Team Canada is in

Congrats to the entire Senior Women's National Team for playing their win into the London Summer Olympics this past week at the qualifying tournament. It always starts with having high expectations and this group is hungry for Gold. Here is a nice video done up by Basketball Canada featuring this year's team in their lead up to the Olympics, it is aptly titled "Win the Day"...

A great behind the scenes look with Head Athletic Trainer Chris Simmons from the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats putting the players to work in the weight room. The question you need to ask yourself is, what are your players doing to be better than your opponents this offseason? Enjoy...

Looking forward to watching Game 3 tomorrow night between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. The combined experience of the Heat gives them the big advantage in my opinion, but my goodness, the Thunder are so tenacious, and they simply never give up. It is going to be a fantastic finish if the first 2 games are any indication.

In my opinion, one of the most important decisions in the game came when Coach Scott Brooks left Kevin Durant in the game despite picking up his 5th foul early in the fourth quarter. A lot of people say it was a big gamble, but I think more importantly than just trying to comeback in the 4th quarter, it shows trust.

Sure, Durant could have easily picked up another cheap foul and ended up on the bench, and the near comeback probably would not have happened. But again, there is more at stake here then just the 4th quarter. There will be more important moments in this series, and in their career together, where that trust will become even more important, a last second play to win the game, a critical defensive stand.  It's hard to trust your players when they make stupid mistakes, but once a player knows how much you believe in them, they will respond when it counts the most.

"We get to play for all the marbles..." as coach Doc Rivers said best in his game 6 post-game conference. There's nothing better than a winner take all game, and as a coach it doesn't get any better than that. It's been such a great series so far, and going back to last year when the Heat took out the Celtics, and then when the Heat were unable to close it out against the Mavs, no doubt that all eyes are on Lebron. He certainly played magnificently in Game 6, but it all comes down to tonight's Game 7.

In coach Erik Spoelstra's post-game conference, he talked about defining moments. Game 7 will be a defining moment in Lebron James' career, the question is will he define the moment? Or will the moment define him? We shall see. I'll leave you with coach Doc Rivers and his game 7 message, "I Know They'll be Ready..."

Defensive Practice Planning

Sorry for the slight delay, closing off the loop on practice planning by looking at a defensive emphasis practice. We usually get 2 practices a week during the season, so one of the practices will have a defensive emphasis. In the pre-season, we will practice 3 or 4 times a week, in that case, the ratio is more like 3-to-1 offensive to defensive since early in the season there is a lot more offense to install as compared to the defense. But by mid-season, it is definitely almost 1-to-1 and by the post-season you may end up even more defense as you prepare for specific opponents.

The plan I have chosen to breakdown (click here to see a PDF version) is during the same week as the offensive one I broke down earlier, that way you can see a little bit of how the two work together. I follow the same rough structure as an offensive practice:

1. Dynamic warmup
2. Mental concentration drill
3. Early Offense drill with FTs right after
4. Play Insertion/Walkthrough period
5. Individual defensive development drills
6. Defensive team breakdown drills
7. Team period
8. Team shooting drill

I won't explain again the parts at the top. It is the same as an offensive practice. I will however, setup teams more evenly for a defensive practice, mixing in starters and second unit players. In an offensive practice, I like to keep the starters together for chemistry purposes. But in a defensive practice, I want them even so that they can really go after each other.

Overall, I really keep the periods shorter in a defensive practice as compared to an offensive practice. For example, in an offensive practice, I may have periods that go 10-15 minutes, whereas in a defensive practice, rarely will I go more than 5-10 minutes. Players tend to get bored when the defensive drill lasts too long, and then the quality of the reps goes down. I feel it is important to keep the content fresh and moving quickly so as to keep their attention focused.

I'll skip the dynamic warmup as I covered that in the offensive breakdown and it is exactly the same.

Mental Concentration Drill:
I covered the rationale behind the mental concentration drill in the offensive breakdown. I just want to make a little comment on this drill I picked up from an Alan Stein DVD. I call it sprint/circle/pickup. And what happens is each player has a tennis ball, they roll it along the ground, then they speed dribble and try to circle around the ball, then pickup the tennis ball (all the while dribbling the basketball in the other hand), then finish with a layup. We go half-court only, and work left and right layups. It really is a great drill to work on ball handling and finishing, but mostly it is a great concentration drill because you have to be really dialed-in to do it right.

Early Offense drill with FTs right after:
You can do play insertion before or after fast-break stuff, the problem I found was that I wanted to get after my guys a little when running the fast-break drills and if I did play insertion first they tended to be more sluggish, so I found that doing fast-break stuff before was better overall.

I covered this in the offensive breakdown, and it is basically the same. The only difference being that I usually shorten the time duration for a defensive practice. My goal here is to get them running, bust their tails, and like the mental concentration, I want them focused and finishing hard.

We do FTs as usual after fast-break stuff, to simulate shooting while tired. 

Play Insertion/Walkthrough period:
You can see here, we're going over what we called "Magic", which was a full court matchup press. Last year, we basically ran the Pitino white and black presses. It worked really well with the players we had, it's a kind of pressure that only works when your players have a high basketball IQ. I would not recommend it if you have players that are new to basketball, as it requires players to see the floor and make reads appropriately.

In this practice, I've picked a couple of things to focus on. First is an adjustment versus a team that goes 4 across in their press break. This can present a problem for a man press, so our forwards have to let those bigs get the ball if they cut to the baseline, but then we bump them with our chest if they try to beat us long, to buy some time and turn and run with them. We're also working on backpursuit once we do get beat, stunting and/or jump-switching. I usually setup a 2v2 backpursuit drill full court to rep this.

Individual defensive development drills:
The order of the actual plan might be backwards. I think what I wanted to do here was to do the exchange to closeout drill first, then ballscreen defense afterwards. I like to work some form of individual defense here after an install and before team stuff. I believe in doing a lot of 1v1 work. I think it's vital for players to work 1v1, and understand how to defend 1v1. To many players I see do not really know how to defend a person 1on1. And if you cannot defend 1on1, you rely too much on help and then defenders get out of position and you cannot recover in time.

Specifically, this drill is a 2v2 on 1 side, and 1 shooter on the other side of the floor drill. The 2v2 on the one wing are working exchanges on a coach's call, and when the coach throws it to the shooter, the help defender has to closeout on the shooter, the other defender has to block out 2 players and rebound the ball. It's a great drill to work on closeouts and weakside rebounding. It is a drill I got from the Billy Donovan All-Access DVD.

Defensive team breakdown drills:
I will either choose a modified shell drill or in this case we're working on ballscreen defense. It is usually 2v2 or 3v3. This is where having an assistant coach is important. You can split players up to different baskets and then give some 1on1 attention to specific players.

Everyone has a different way to defend ball screens, the important thing is always teach in a progression, so that's why 2v2 is important. You break things down into smaller parts, and have the players master the skill with specific parameters, before introducing them to the entire sequence.

Team period:
Defensive practices are a little different in that there will be a few different things we will do in team. We will usually work on some kind of team press scrimmage, or team trapping scrimmage. The idea is to work our press or half-court traps in a live like situation.

We will also work our shell drills in this time. I like having the guards and forwards cross as they come into half-court so I can see ball to help side positioning right away. You must have a "live" call so that as a coach you control when the players can score. Before the "live" call, I'm watching if the help is where it needs to be as the ball is reversed and players are cutting through. I'm also looking for good closeouts (under control), communication by the players, and how they are playing the cutters. I will also have the players play cutthroat shell, so defense needs 2 stops in order to go on offense.

I like to insert a short shooting drill somewhere in between team periods. As mentioned, players everywhere hate defensive practices, so having something in between to break the monotony is good, especially as you go into a team scrimmage period where you want players to be a little more enthusiastic for.

I've talked about the team scrimmages I like to run in the offensive breakdown. I will the same thing here at the end of practice, but the period duration will usually be shorter. I will usually incorporate full-court pressing or some of our half-court trap calls in the scrimmages too for defensive emphasis.

Team shooting drill:
Like in the offensive practices, I like to end with a team shooting drill. Again, I find it useful to take 5 minutes to gather my thoughts about practice, and to remind myself of any things I want to say to the team before we break for the end of practice.

End of Practice:
Same as offensive practices. I will give them an evaluation of the practice and lecture them a little about something we worked on. I will also remind them of any important details for our next game or next practice, such as rides, or early dismissals, or forms they need to hand in.

So there you have it. My philosophy on practice planning in 3 separate posts. I hope you found that helpful and even if there was one or two things you can take from it, I hope it was worth your while to read my posts. Definitely would like to hear from the rest of you on your philosophy on practices, feel free to email me or make a post about it on the X's and O's basketball forum.

Offensive Practice Planning

As promised, I'm forging ahead and talking about how I approach an offensive practice. First off, I'll just say that I do like separating practices with an offensive and defensive emphasis because I think that if your practices are 2 hours or shorter, you cannot go into the kind of detail needed for either offense or defense unless you separate them out. But as you will see, we still work on some component of offense during defensive practices and some defense within offensive practices, but there is a focus on working on offense or defense on a particular day. I also do not like having practices longer than 2 hours. I find that after 1.5 hours, the players' attention spans go sideways, and the law of diminishing returns begins to take into effect.

Before I breakdown the nuts and bolts of the plan (click here to see a PDF version), here is a rough chronological summary of how I organize offensive practices:

1. Dynamic warmup
2. Mental concentration drill
3. Play Insertion/Walkthrough period
4. Early Offense drill with FTs right after
5. Shooting or individual development drills
6. Offensive breakdown drills
7. Team period, controlled scrimmage
8. Team shooting drill

I always have the date and our next opponent listed at the top. It keeps me focused on who we need to beat next and not on anything else. I like to setup who will be the teams for the practice before practice begins, that way I think about which players I want playing with who that day. I also use it to take attendance (I just check them off with a pen).

I like to plan the first 1hr or so of practice in either 5 or 10 minute chunks.  I always use the scoreboard timer to time everything, it really helps to keep practice on time. I think like all of you, there is usually something that goes overtime in practice, and you end up having to skip something, but I try my best to stay on time, and the scoreboard timer really helps. If you can't use a scoreboard, definitely use a pocket timer, I use it as a backup when I have to split the gym or practice in our mini-gym.

Dynamic Warmup:
I give 10 mins for a dynamic warmup. Our dynamic is pretty simple. They do high knees, quad stretch, hammys, groin, etc... If it were up to me, I'd cut it down to 5 mins, but I also use this time to talk to the players, sometimes it is a little bit of a pep talk, other times it is logistical (how are we going to get to the next game). So I don't mind 10 minutes. Also, sometimes our practices start late because of prior games, or the gym needs to be setup (put the wall up), or the previous team went over time which can happen a lot. So, 10 mins, is good as a buffer, when you need to cut time out, you do it here and you can get away with a 5 min dynamic.

Mental Concentration Drill:
Next up, I always like to start practices with some form of drill where the players have to think a little. I think it's important to set the tone where players have to concentrate on something very specific. At the end of a busy school day, a student can have any number of crazy things going on in their head. I need them zero'ed in on basketball so I always start with something that will get them 100% focused on what we're doing. In this case, I have chosen a semi-circle passing drill, where the player in the middle has to really concentrate on 2 balls being thrown at him. Another series I like to do in this period is to do 2-ball dribbling. Not only is it skill development, but the players really have to concentrate with 2 balls in their hands.

Play Insertion/Walkthrough period:
It's not shown in this practice plan, but early in the season, I will use the time right after the first mental concentration drill to do any play insertion. I find that if you are introducing new material to players, especially using the whole-part-whole method, that you introduce it early on in practice. I like it right after the mental concentration drill because that is when you have their greatest attention. I spend no longer than 15 minutes doing install, doing a walkthrough of the new play or continuity, and switching players often so that everyone gets at least 1 rep going through the new play.

Early Offense drill with FTs right after:
I like working some form of early offense drill, like a team fast break or a 3-on-2 2-on-1 drill right after play insertion. I like getting this done early in the practice when their bodies are fresh and I can really push them hard on the break. There is always some goal they are trying to reach (25 layups in 2 min as a team) and if they don't reach it they run, or 2 pushups for every missed layup. Right after the drills, I have them break up individually and shoot FTs. I always have them shoot 10 in a row and start them off trying to make 7. If they make 7, they don't have to run. Then I give them a short water break.

Speaking of water breaks, I always put 45 secs on the clock, as soon as the horn goes, the players know they have to go to the baseline and be ready for the next drill. This way, you cut down on wasted time after they go for water and they mess around shooting, and you get distracted talking to a player. It's 45 secs and we're on to the next thing.

Another thing on FTs. You'll notice throughout, I have bolded FTs for winners. After any competitive drill where there is a winner or loser. I chose a player from the winning team to shoot FTs. They have to hit both of them to avoid the consequence. If the player misses both, their whole team shares the whole consequence with the losing team, if the player makes 1, their team does half the consequence.

Shooting or individual development drills:
After fast break stuff, I like to breakdown and do individual skill development. This is usually some form of a shooting drill or as you can see in the picture above, I have a hustle drill listed. Each practice is different, but I want to focus on 1 or 2 of the following if it is an offensive day:

- effort (hustle drills, rebounding drills, finishing drills)
- execution (3-on-3 breakdown like flex drill or blood drill)
- technique (shooting drills, passing drills, cone drills)

In my opinion, you can't work on everything in one practice. So early on in the season, it is mostly technique or execution. Footwork is really important to me, so I want them using the right steps to get into their shot. Or passing with the outside hand, extending the outside hand to call for the ball. Or how to cut to the basket, how to post up, etc... I also want to work on executing the offense, so this is where the "part" of the whole-part-whole comes in. I break them down into 3-on-3 or even 2-on-2 and they work on the specific components of the offense. This way, the floor is more empty and you can give more focused instruction, if you have assistant coaches this is where they can be invaluable. Later on in the season, I want to keep the intensity up so I focus more on effort and finish. This practice is in mid January, the doldrums, so I want them to stay sharp, so my focus is on diving for loose balls, banging the boards. But we're also doing the blood drills for the DDM stuff, and I also have another fast-break drill, but instead of it being fast-fast-fast, I am teaching in this period, I'm working on specific things that I want them to do in a 2-on-1 situation, how to get the rebound, how to outlet the ball.

The second half of practices is some form of team period. Early in the season we will go 20-30 minutes of team. As we get into mid-season or later, it is less time. As you can see here, I've injected a team conditioner and a high-intensity rebounding/finishing drill in between team scrimmage and team shooting, since we are in mid-Jan and I want them to focus on effort and finishing.

Team period, controlled scrimmage:
Now we get to the team period. There are all kinds of philosophies on scrimmaging. Here is mine. I think in any practice, you have to go 5 on 5 at some point. The players need to be able to put together what they've been learning in a 5 man setup. However, I do not believe in just putting up 8 minutes on the clock, and just having them play. At the same time, I do not believe in going 5 on 5 half-court only, and switching every 3 reps. In offense, you have 2 distinct phases, transition and half-court. Players have to learn how those phases are executed from start to finish, you can't do that in a 5-on-5 half-court only, and you can't do that in 3-on-2 fast break drill. You have to practice the phases together. You need to setup a scenario which is as realistic to the game as possible. I have 2 scenarios I like to setup the players in for a controlled 5-on-5 scrimmage for offensive practices:

1. Circle Setup. Setup 9 players (5 defense and 4 offense) running the circle near one of the baskets, the offensive player inbounding the ball is standing out of bounds. I talk to the players quickly (15 secs) to give them instructions that I want them to execute, like a play call, or defense is going to press, etc... I also name 3 or 2 or 1 players on defense that will have to run back to the baseline before they can play defense. This way, I can control the fast-break situation (either a 5 on 4, 3, or 2). When I throw the ball in to the inbounder, it begins. The players will go down the floor, and then the defense becomes offense and comes back down. So basically each team gets 1 rep on both offense and defense. At the end, I can quickly debrief, then we go again with the same teams or different teams. These are the teams that I have specified on my sheet at the top.

2. FT Setup. Another setup I like to use is a FT setup. So I as the coach will pretend to shoot a FT. The player lineup as either the defense (closest to the hoop) or offense (1 man away). Same as first setup, I can call out instructions, play to use on offense, etc... I lob the ball up, and the defense has to rebound, then run offense going the other way. If offense gets the rebound, they play offense on the same hoop. They go there and back and we run it again.

I usually will start with the Circle setup and move to the FT setup around mid-way through team period. In 20 minutes, I hope to get about 8 good mini-scrimmages going back and forth. In my opinion, it's as realistic as possible to a real game, but I also get a chance to stop the scrimmage and give my coaching points so that it isn't just 8 mins of free scrimmage. 

Team shooting drill:
Finally, I always like to end every practice with some form of team shooting drill. I always make it competitive, so it's usually Team A vs Team B, and whoever scores the least has to run. If time is running short, the loser has to put all the balls away. I have used the Walberg around the world 3-point shooting drill, or 5 balls 5 lines, or what I call Iowa shooting. You can do whatever you want, but the idea is that they are competing, working on shooting, and building team chemistry. I also use the 5 minutes to gather my thoughts about how practice went, write down some notes, and prepare what I want to say to the players at the very end of practice.

End of Practice:
I try to give the players a short lecture towards the end. Sometimes I come down hard on them, sometimes I pump them up. I also give them an evaluation of the practice, so they have an idea as to my expectations. Finally, I remind them of any important details for our next game or next practice, such as rides, or early dismissals, or forms they need to hand in.

I realize that was a lengthy post, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. I'd be very interested to hear what others do in terms of practice planning and organization. When I go to observe other coaches, I always want to see how they plan and organize practices. I also coach football, so I always look for things that I can incorporate into either sport that I coach. Efficiency is a big one for me, I'm always looking to squeeze as much into a 1.5 or 2 hour timeframe as possible. Next up will be a breakdown of defensive practices.

Practice Planning 101

Yes Allen, we're here to talk about... PRACTICE

One of the things that I really came to enjoy doing this past season was planning practices. After being an assistant the past 5 years, I never really had much input into the practice plan so I just filled in to coach wherever needed. As a head coach, I think it's one of the most important aspects of the job. To me, practice time is sacred, I feel like the best way to evaluate a coach is to observe that coach running a practice. And so I take it extremely seriously as to exactly what I am teaching, why I am teaching it, and what I want the players to be able to do. There really is so much that goes into it, and here are just some of the philosophical questions to answer as you plan your practices:

- How many periods do you have in your practice?
- When do make announcements on housekeeping and logistical items (rides, fundraising, etc..)?
- Do you have an offensive practice and a separate defensive practice? Or do you do both each day?
- How do you setup your teams? Starters vs non-starters, or do you even up the teams?
- When do you do install periods - beginning, middle, or end?
- When do you do conditioning?
- Do you have closed or open practices where parents and other coaches can observe?

I don't think there are any right or wrong answers, but there is a lot that you should think about when preparing for the season, and for each practice. I will make this a 2 or 3 part series of posts (hopefully done over the weekend), and I'll start off by explaining a little bit of how I've structured my practice plan template. Below is the link that I used this past season for planning my practices and the rest of the post explains how it works.

Practice Template in Excel Format

It is an excel worksheet template and I use the same file for all practices in a week (we practice 2 times a week). The last sheet is a drill worksheet that lists all the drills that I use by category (ball-handling, dribbling, shooting, defense, 1v1, team, etc...). The drill worksheet is handy because when I start planning and want to look for drills that I want to use that week, I can just scan it and pick the ones that I want and paste them into the practice plan sheet. The template also includes small court diagrams on the second page when printed. I always print double-sided, so I get the practice plan for the practice on the frontside, then the court diagrams on the backside. That way, I can draw in any X's and O's on the fly on the backside if something comes to me just before practice, during practice, or after practice.

I always print off 2 copies of the practice plan (sometimes 3 if I have an assistant coach working with me). The first copy goes into the binder that I keep, and the second copy I fold up and carry with me in my pocket during practices. I often take notes during practice of what worked, what didn't work, etc.. I then go back to the copy in my binder and record the attendance, and write down any final notes. The folded up copy goes into the recycling bin. In my opinion, you must keep a recorded copy, that way when parents come up with any number of questions and concerns, you can go back to your records and show who was at practices and what they did during practice.

In Part 2, I will upload a copy of an offensive practice, and break down my philosophy of how I break down an offensive practice (and yes, I do believe in having an offensive emphasis practice and a separate defensive emphasis practice).