While watching the NCAA tournament the last two weeks I decided to chart the type of shots taken and what time the shots are taken on the shot clock.
The Harvard vs New Mexico game was a prime example of managing the shot clock properly. Harvard while using their “Passing Game” offense to control the tempo of the game and thus they won the game.
Commentator Doug Gottlieb said it best when he stated,”Harvard attacked early in the shot clock for a three and attacked late in the shot clock for a lay up or to draw a foul”. This philosophy lead me to look at what events take place in the middle of shot clock situations.
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Screening is an oxymoron. It is an unselfish selfish play. Screening is an unselfish act because you are trying to get your teammate open. Screening is a selfish act because when you set a good screen the screener is often open. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, and Dwight Howard are all examples of good screeners/scorers.
Proper screening allows for the offense to run smoothly and effectively. The quality of the shots, the shooting percentages and the assists all improve because of good screening.
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“And Down The Stretch They Come……”
This phrase was made famous by the legendary horse racing announcer Dave Johnson. In the NBA, it refers to the last 20 games of the season. As teams come out of the “Dog Days” of January and February, the stretch run presents several different challenges. For contending teams, it is the obvious urgency of positioning for the playoffs. For non-contending teams, it may be a question of playing younger players to gain experience, and, positioning yourself better for the lottery. Some teams try and win as many games as possible to instill a culture of playing to win every game, no matter what the circumstances.
Having been on both sides of the fence, here are some observations that may help as your team comes down the stretch. It may be the high school coach preparing for regional and state tournaments, or the college coach heading into conference tournaments.
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I started my basketball coaching career in 1983, with a goal of becoming a head coach at the DI level. As a 22 year old kid, I was fortunate to have George Raveling as my first boss. As I reflect back on the lessons he taught each one of his players, assistant coaches, managers and all of the people who surrounded our program, I realize how lucky I was!
In 2000 my career changed paths, and I had the good fortune to move into the NBA as a scout for the Washington Wizards. I have another great mentor, Leonard Hamilton, to thank for taking me with him when he left the University of Miami to go to the Wizards.
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There is a certain trait that defines a visionary and that is they are just different. I’ve had chances to meet many very successful people in all walks of business and you can tell that they are just different from most. There was something about them that set them apart from the rest of the room.
When you look at most of the visionaries of our time like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg their approach to their business and life were against the grain of most and they never gave it a second thought. They knew to be great that they couldn’t think like anyone else. Yes there were others in their industry that were successful that they probably emulated a bit, but to make it big and change the world they it was understood that they had to be different.
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(Obviously, the drill can be used for males or females. The pronoun he will be used throughout for brevity.)
*Suggestion: Coaches and players will easily understand this drill after they’ve done it a few times. However, because the explanation is wordy, it would probably be best for an assistant coach to read and administer it at the beginning.
There are a multitude of ways this drill can be done. Let’s use, for this example, a team of 12 players, split into two groups, with six players at one basket and the other six at the basket at the opposite end. One player is at each FT line, the others are placed around the lane as in a game.
For the purpose of explaining the drill, let’s say the goal is 10, i.e. whichever group that gets to +10 is the winner (any number can be used, usually depending on how much time a coach has to allot for the drill). Regarding that point: no one has limitless practice time, so it may be necessary to put a time limit on the game, e.g. get to +10 in 8 minutes or, say, they run. As your players understand and compete at this drill, you’ll usually find the number can be raised. At the colleges where I implemented it, we’d usually use +15 and, occasionally, if we were on break or even at a weekend practice, we’d use +25 as our goal. Read on and you’ll see how this can tell you, the coach, which guys to have on the court at the end of a close game (when you have a small lead) and which guys to make sure are sitting next to you.
Here’s the drill: Each player must shoot two free throws (not one-and-one). The score is kept for the group, not the individual. Each made FT is +1. Each missed FT is -1.
(Note: if a team gets to -3, they automatically have to run – maybe a “down and back” or “wall touch” or whatever the coach wants. It should be short and explosive, however, like in a game where the players are running hard and someone gets fouled. That’s why push ups as a penalty in this game are foolish because when does your team ever do push ups in the middle of a game and then have to shoot FT’s?)
After the first player shoots, his group’s score will be +2 (if he makes both); 0 (if one is made, the other missed); or -2 (if both are missed). By the way, the reason the group doesn’t run until -3 is so that one bad FT shooter can’t cause his entire team to run. Plus, after the group gets to -2, it puts the pressure on the next shooter because if that first shot is a miss, their score goes to -3 and everybody in the group runs.
After the first player shoots his two free throws, the players move around the lane (clockwise or counter clockwise doesn’t matter – as long as every player shoots two). This rotation continues until the group gets to the goal, loses to the other team(s) or time runs out.
Next shooter is up. Let’s imagine the first guy made both, so the group’s score, when the second player gets to the line, is +2. Let’s say shooter #2 also makes both. Now the team score is +4.
HERE IS WHERE THE GAME CHANGES.
The third shooter is up. Each make is still +1. HOWEVER, each miss (once they get to +4) is -2. So, if the third shooter makes his first FT, the score is +5. However, if that first FT is missed, the score goes down to +2). For the second FT, a make is +1 (makes are always +1). A miss is -1 since the group score is now down to +2. An initial miss followed by a make would change the score go from +4 to +2 (on the first miss), then to +3 (when the second FT is made).
The game continues like this: every make is always +1. The price of the misses are as follows: -1 if the team score is +3 or less; -2 if the team score is +4, +5 or +6; -3 if the team score is +7 or +8 and, here’s the ultimate beauty of the game, when the team score gets to +9, each miss is . . . -9.
Why so severe? Because it’s like getting fouled with no time left and score’s tied. What’s the situation? Simple. Make the free throw and your team wins (i.e. +10), but miss it, and you go to overtime (i.e. the score goes back to 0).
Benefits of the drill:
Once a player understands the proper mechanics of shooting, his improvement comes with 1) confidence, 2) practice and 3) concentration. He gets confidence through practice. The coach provides the concentration, e.g. punishments, rewards. With this drill concentration is guaranteed. On every FT, each player is shooting for the team. Just like a game.
You, as a coach, never know who is going to be on the line for the big FT. It teaches coaches who can be counted on to make the pressure FT. When I was at Toledo, we had a 6’7″ forward who was academic all-conference and one of the smartest, nicest, most competitive kids I’ve ever been around – and a 75% FT shooter. Yet, during this free throw shooting game (we used to play it to +15) this kid NEVER made a free throw when he was on the line at +14. At first, we kidded about it. Finally, we realized we just couldn’t have this kid in at the end of a close game.
“The FT missed in the first two minutes cost us just as much as the miss at the end” might be true, but the pressure is different, causing that miss to seem like it costs more. As a game goes on, FT’s seem more and more valuable – just like in this game. As your team gets closer to the goal, the misses tend to carry more weight (and tend to devastate a team more). This game doesn’t let that happen. You must get to the goal or else the game goes on forever. Since each make is only +1, the only way to reach the goal is one make at a time.
Yet, there’s no need to hurry. If time is running out, tell them that each group will be allowed to “run it out,” just like sudden death – next miss loses. No matter where the team is, i.e. between -2 and +9, they can win only if they get to the goal without missing. Same rule if one group wins. The other group (or groups, depending on how the coach wants to split up the team) gets to “run it out.” This means that if one group gets to +10, the other(s) continue to shoot, two shots per player. If they reach to the goal without missing, they’re considered to have “won” as well.
The reason there is no need to hurry is that the only way you can be stopped (after time is out or one of the other groups beat you there), is to miss! Also, if one group is a lot closer to the goal than the other, a couple misses by the team that’s ahead and/or a couple makes by the one that’s behind, and the whole complexion of the game changes.
Dealing with adversity: When you’re on the line and your group is at +8, if you miss, the score goes to +5. How many times has the first miss affected the second one, so that one is missed as well? In this game, if you get to the line and your team’s score is +8, you’re shooting two. If you miss the first, the score goes to +5. If you make the second, it goes to +6. So, you got there with the team at +8 and when you left, it was at +6 – not good, but not devastating. If you miss the second, though, it goes to +3. So when you got there, the team was at +8 and when you left, it was +3. That is really hurting your team. Moral of the story: Don’t let the first miss affect the second. Each FT is separate unto itself, i.e. whether the first one goes in or not, it has ZERO effect on what the next one will do. Similarly, how many times does bad FT shooting become contagious? One kid misses and the others say, “Wow, he’s our best shooter. How can anybody expect lil’ ol’ me to make one if the star can’t?” If you get to the line after your stud just bricked two (with the team score at, say, +6), it means when he got there it was +6, but when he left it was +2 (-2 at +6 bringing the score to +4, then -2 at +4 bringing it to +2). What are you going to do? Miss both and send your team to zero? After you’ve been so close (if he and you had made both, the game would be over!) OR make yours and put your team at +4 and back in the game.
Groups must yell out their score after each shot and, only when a group gets to +9 (or whatever is “game point”), is trash talking allowed (just like when the player’s taking that big FT on the road – with the game on the line and the home fans not wanting their team to lose).
If you have more time, e.g. a weekend practice, try the game with a goal of +25. The rules are +1 for a make, -1 for a miss if the score’s +5 or under, -2 for a miss when the score’s between +6 and +10, -3 when it’s between +11 and +15, -4 when it’s between +16 and +20, -5 when it’s +21, +22 or +23 and . . . -24 when it’s +24! If you have a kid with the courage to knock down a FT at +24, knowing it’s “make it and end practice or miss and put you team back at 0”, that’s a kid you want in the end of a close game and a kid you want to make sure gets the ball.
Which brings up the main coaching point: There’s no quick fix, no “five point FT.” The only way to win is to … make one free throw at a time.”
Try it and let me know how it works for you (firstname.lastname@example.org).Download PDF
One subject that I wanted to talk about today is bridging the gab between young and old coaches. Not only their approach with working together, but an overall attitude in working in the industry. Many times it is hard for older coaches to relate to younger ones and vice versa. I think it has to do with the fact that at most levels of basketball there is a sense of territorial thinking and paranoia about sense of worth on a staff or overall standing in the coaching profession.
When I speak to younger coaches their biggest complaint is that older coaches is that they have lost their pulse on the game. They think older coaches still think back twenty years ago and don’t embrace no only the nuances of the game today, but also how to interact with younger players today. On staffs that use technology it is also a common complaint that coaches that are older never embrace using a computer for email, video, or playmaking software.
There also is a respect factor s well. When my young coaching clients talk to me about this issue another big complaint that they have is the lack of respect that older coaches show them. They are dismissive with their ideas and blow of any suggestions that they make without giving them any thought. There is a general frustration from younger coaches when dealing with coaches from older generations in some situations.
The first thing that I tell my clients is these are things that they should be voicing to the coach in question. Lack of communication when dealing with differences between coaches is what tears them apart. I tell them that in most cases its best to sit down with anyone that they are having a disagreement with and hash it out rather than letting it linger. Young coaches certainly can learn from their piers. They have been places and done things that they haven’t and can be. Life experience is such a big thing in any walk of life, but especially in basketball.
Experience is something that you can never have enough of. It is always good to speak to coaches that have gone through the countless wars that this game has. Young coaches for the most part think that they know everything that there is to know because of the clinics they attended or tapes that they watch. Yes it is good to be proactive in learning the X’s and O’s of the game, but that can never take the place of actual basketball coaching experience. Take the time to learn form your elders in the game. Not everything that they have gone through can help, but there are always little things that they can give you to help you in your career not only on but also off the court.
Coaches that have moved up the ladder have always dealt with coaches that were older. We’ve all been through those talks that we’re not old enough to be ready and to wait our turns. No one likes to be told that, but when you do get older you understand what is said. It is frustrating to be not taken seriously because of our youth and lack of experience. The one thing that I can tell you is to take advantage of the developmental time in your coaching career. Take advantage of any opportunity that you get to spend time with older and more experienced coaches. They can be a wealth of knowledge for you and be a great building block to your success.
Older coaches have the same types of frustrations when dealing with younger coaches on a staff. They feel as though young people try to move too fast as well as thinking that they know everything. Older coaches feel as that every year it is harder and harder to get through to younger people to educate them. Many older coaching clients that I have as well as others that I interact with reject technology and refuse to use it as well.
Relating to players is something that my older coaching clients struggle with. In may cases they feel as though it is much harder now than it was in other generations to relate to kids. They feel as though as they get older there is lesser and lesser respect for them from not only younger coaching colleagues, but with young players as well.
Just like with my talks with younger coaches, older coaches can’t just dismiss people because they are young and inexperienced. The first solution to this is to don’t quickly judge young people and take the time to get to know them. I tell them to remember back to the time when they were young and how having a place at the table was important. Young people just want to be taken seriously and want to be respected. I do agree with my frustrated older clients for the most part that younger coaches today want to skip steps to move up and are less respectful of their elders. I tell them to take things in stride and to be patient with young people.
For young coaches what I can give you advice is simple. Don’t be in such a rush to move to the top. With older coaches for the most part they have been where you are right now as well as where you want to go. Respect the time they put into the game. Older coaches made it possible for you to be in great positions because of the way they changed and shaped the game. Older coaches never had some of the opportunities and tools at your disposal. Technology and the networks that you have used for most of your life is like a foreign language to them. Take the time to know people and keep an open mind with them. Older people may not have the energy and drive that you have, but can be a very invaluable resource to your development as a coach and a person.
For older coaches you have to take the time to get to know people and don’t come to judgement so fast. Remember that you were a young pup once as well and you wanted to move up and be respected. Young people need to be educated as they aren’t as patient as you may have been when you were their age.
Some things like technology and new methods may not be what you are used to doing, but need to be embraced. No one expects you to be a computer wizard, but take things slowly. Be open to taking classes or having people show you at your own pace. Don’t be so quick to dismiss. You may not like the game changing or the people in it getting younger, but its either move with it or basically get left behind. Your knowledge and life experience is invaluable to basketball,but don’t force it on people just be there for them to use it..
Basketball is a great game , but also has so many moving parts. There are a lot of great “characters” that you come in touch with that can you can learn a lot from. People are very different some are good some aren’t. Regardless of their age you need to take the time to get to know them and embrace their beliefs. Some you may be able to use some you won’t. Remember the phrase that you’ve heard a million times. Dont EVER judge a book by its cover. That person that you don’t like for one reason or another can be your biggest allie and resource that you ever met. But you will never know if you don’t give them a chance.Download PDF
One of the major career goals for a vast majority of NCAA Division One Assistant Basketball Coaches is to land a highly coveted and somewhat elusive NCAA Head Coaching job. The road to achieving the goal is not an exact science, but there are things we can do to put ourselves in position to be considered as a Head Coaching candidate. Also, there are many things we can be doing NOW that will prepare us to be a Head Coach if/when we get that call.Download PDF
During the holidays I was having a conversation with Coach Raveling and we were going back and forth about story ideas. He mentioned to me that a good idea for a story would be what players should be doing during a game when not in it. Coach thought it was something that wasn’t covered and thought our readers would enjoy it. Coach is always so insightful and a step ahead of most when thinking about the game.
When developing young players there are multiple layers to consider. It isn’t just about putting your players through drills and coaching them up in practice. Game preparation, especially during the games are so important. There is nothing worse than watching a game and an inexperienced player checks in and runs around clueless like a chicken with its head cut off.Download PDF
At a clinic I attended about three decades ago, I heard a head coach say that his assistants’ jobs were to “make my life easier.” That’s right only so long as your program exists for and revolves around your head coach. Nearly every (other) coach I know feels that the job of every coach is to make your program as successful as it can possibly be.
1 – Loyalty: if you work for a man, work for him (or her). A head coach has many concerns and responsibilities – worrying about whether he (or she) can trust you shouldn’t be one of them.
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Often times, a new leader – weather a Coach, President, or CEO – will enter an organization and quickly state that it’s essential they “change the culture”.
What does does “change the culture” really mean? We need to define” culture”. According to Wikipidia, “culture” is the beliefs, values, behaviors and material objects that constitute a people’s way of life. Culture can also mean the arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.
Before any cultural changes can or should occur, I feel that is important for the leader to clearly articulate – in their Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Value Statement -the standards are for their program/company. Then, the leader must live them out through their actions on a daily basis.Download PDF