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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Defensive Communication

All good coaches stress defensive communication. But how many outline what the players should be saying to each other. Most kids just know "ball" and "help" then are lost on what else they should be saying. Here are a few examples of what the defense should be saying to each other...

Shooter- One that is very important in while playing a zone to make sure people know they need to get out on a particular player.

Skip- Let everyone know there was a skip pass since that involves drastic defensive movement.

Cutter- Probably more important while playing zone than m2m but you can still let teammates know of cutters while playing m2m.

Over/Under- Telling your teammate how you want to get around a screen.

Obviously, there are a lot more but that is a start to get more talking during defense. Some players don't want to ask what they should be saying because they assume they should know and will get looked down upon for asking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Feast Week

Feast week is here and I could not be more excited. ESPN has a full slate of games from 3pm to midnight on Monday so plan accordingly and set your dvr's. Maui will be a great tournament as always. Indiana almost wastes their trip to Maui this year since they do not have a realistic chance at winning the tournament. The rest of the field is mighty strong though.

There are also good match-ups in the CBE Classic tomorrow. I believe it is the semi finals of that tournament. Syracuse and Kansas are both in action. I have not been able to see either of those teams play yet so I look forward to seeing what Kansas has added to their team.

This week is also the start of the regular season for Indiana high school basketball. I'm hoping to see most of my AAU players play this season while also seeing the top talent around the state. The talent in the state is as good as ever. The sophomore class (2011) could be a great one, but things can change when you are talking about potential. Many coaches have been fired because of their players' great potential that was never realized.

I love basketball season!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Changing Pace/Direction

When teaching dribble moves it is common to detail many different change of direction moves. They might include crossovers, spin dribbles, behind the back dribble in the package of moves. Coaches often under teach the art of changing pace at the younger levels.

Changing pace can often be more effective against a pressure defense than change of direction. How many presses and traps rely on the defense to "turn" the offensive player? Take a run-n-jump press for instance. The press relies on the offense to turn or at least change direction drastically. If a player can change his speed well though, the defense has no chance to trap because he will always be seeing the whole floor.

How about on a fast break...let's say it is one on one in the open floor. A good hesitation dribble around the free throw line or three point line will get the defense to start closing the gap so the player cannot shoot. At that time, the player accelerates and can get his hips passed a quicker player.

One of Bobby Knight's favorite sayings about basketball is "mental is to physical that 4 is to 1." I believe the same can be said about change of pace to change of direction. I would say change of pace is two or three times as important as change of direction moves. Yet, how many coaches work on change pace or really emphasize it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Arizona's Fouling Mistakes

If you have not seen or heard about Arizona's ridiculously bad late game mistakes from Tuesday night you can watch the clip here.

If you make that mistake once in your life or see it once in your life you should learn the importance of time and score immediately. For it to happen twice in the same game by the same team in the final minute of a game is just absurd. It will make a coach's head explode. I guess it shows the importance of communication even with things you assume players know. Assuming players know something will always get a coach in hot water.

I can imagine the Arizona coach didn't want to dwell on the mistake in the huddle when they were designing their final shot but you probably must say if there is a turnover or missed shot just get back on defense and make them hit a tough shot. That way you don't dwell on the huge mistake, but also remind the other players that you don't need to foul.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

By the way this is one of the areas of coaching I have tried to improve the most and I think I have made leaps and bounds but still need even more improvement. Coaching is just like are either getting better at it or getting worse. I don't believe you can stay the same. It might be a tiny fraction for better or worse but there is change.

Fast Breaks

I was able to watch a lot of games with ESPN's marathon of games to kickoff the season and the way teams have been running the floor in the early part of the year was trying me nuts. About 90% of the fast breaks I have seen have been poorly executed by the offense. They either don't get wide enough and allow one guy to guard two people or they don't pass the ball on time. Meaning, they get down too far and then decide to pass it which usually leads to a turnover and a non-finish by the guy receiving the ball. Have teams quit running 3-man weave drills? I don't think so. Have teams quit doing fast break drills? I don't believe so. I guess it is just early season mistakes because they want to score so badly that they actually keep themself from scoring.

Kevin Eastman
, who is an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics, had a good article on his blog about spacing. He talks about why you need spacing and what spacing the floor actually means. Some players know they are supposed to space the floor, but they are never taught why they need to so they don't realize how important it is. I believe players learn quicker if they know why they are supposed to do something. If they ask why it forces the coach to know why. If the coach doesn't remember why than he should probably re-think his point.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ESPN Marathon

ESPN is currently running a 23-hour college hoops marathon to kickoff the college basketball season. I think it is a great idea since there is no official first day of games like the NBA or other leagues. It would be interesting to play a midnight game like some teams played last night or this morning. They played at midnight in Memphis, St. Mary's (CA), and Hawaii. The Hawaii game was a 4am est tip. I'm a night owl but that was even too late for me.

I was back up in plenty of time for the 10am game between Penn and Drexel. It was a very solid game. Both teams played well with the factor of it being an early season game combined with the fact that the tip was at 10am. Both teams are the type that can make noise in the tournament. Fundamental teams with good shooters always have a chance to pull upsets in the tournament.

The highlight game is the finale tonight at 9pm. UNC without Tyler Hansborough versus Kentucky and Patrick Patterson. Kentucky is coming off the loss to VMI at Rupp Arena. I would suspect a focused effort from UK after that type of loss. Those losses are not acceptable at a program like Kentucky.

Happy Viewing!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Michigan State

Michigan State will win the Big Ten Conference regular season if Delvon Roe gets/stays healthy. He would be the top frosh in the conference if he didn't have micro fracture surgery (the thing Greg Oden had) ten months ago. He is trying a quick recovery. Tom Izzo said he is about 60% right now. Even though he is not completely healthy he still can help the Spartans. He is a very smart player which is usually a characteristic of the nonathletic players. Once he regains his full athletic ability he will be fun to watch.

The Spartans are slightly undersized at the guards, but have superior quickness. They are very deep as they want to play up tempo while applying a lot of pressure on the basketball. Gordon Suton is back for his senior year and I expect him to up his play. He has always shown flashes of being a good player but lacked the consistency. I predict he puts it together this year and helps the Spartans big time.

Raymar Morgan could contend for player of the year in the conference. He is super athletic and can play inside and outside. They will be running a lot this year and he should get a lot of "easy" (you have to work hard to get easy points) points in transition. He definitely lacked consistency last year and Michigan State will only go as far as he takes them.

I expect Michigan State to be in the top 10 range nationally all year. They might not be a top 5 team, but somewhere right outside of that. They have the talent, but I have to question if they have quite enough experience to make a deep run in the tournament. Only time will tell.

Early Thoughts: Wisconsin

I just watched the first half of the Wisconsin-Long Beach State game. Long Beach came out playing well from the start. They are coached by Dan Monson who is the former Minnesota coach.

Wisconsin is pretty young especially for a Badger team. They usually like to play upperclassmen for the majority of the minutes. They are still experienced compared to most teams just not up to par with the "Wisconsin style."

They didn't look good on offense in the first half. It is the first game of the season so that can be somewhat expected. They lacked much movement. Long Beach State was moving without the ball much better than Wisconsin in the first half. Long Beach State would have been leading at the half if they did not start to take some suspect shots...mainly off balance three's.

Wisconsin will be solid this year of course. I would predict they will be in the 15-20 range in the national polls all year. They will be solid defensively and you will rarely get more than one shot on each possession against them. They won't make many unforced turnovers and when you do all those things you will be in any game. That's basically the Badger recipe.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First Week of College Games

This week college basketball started its regular season. I've had a chance to watch a few games. Here are some of my early thoughts.

Indiana will be slightly better than most expect. That said, it will be a long year. Northwestern State forced them to turnover the ball way too much. IU got caught in the air with no where to go many times. They have no inside guys to go to offensively. They will probably get out rebounded every game this year.

They will improve a lot over the season. Some of their guards have the athleticism, but made a lot of fundamental errors and Coach Crean will clean that up quickly. IU played everyone tonight so that hurts rhythm between the players. They will shorten their rotation after a couple more games.

Michigan hasn't looked too impressive early. They struggled against Michigan Tech until late and they played a little bit better against Northeastern, who is a solid mid-major team. Manny Harris is the real deal though. He is my pick for Big Ten player of the year. I believe the coaches picked Robbie Hummel from Purdue. Hummel makes Purdue go, but Harris is the most skilled player in the league.

Michigan needs an inside presence. They are bringing Sims off the bench right now, but I think he will end up starting as the year goes on. The reason for my logic in that is they need him on the court as much as possible. If they get their 1-3-1 half court trap working really effectively it could help them win some games they have no business winning since you don't see many 1-3-1 traps throughout the season.

I'll try to get some predictions and previews up here in the next few days.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Coach's Journey Forum

I have created a coaching forum. I hope to grow it into a big forum with superb information. I'm contacting all my coaching friends and hope to get them to contribute regularly. I have found most coaching forums are either for the really basic or for people to advertise their products. I'm hoping to provide a place for any coach at any level to contribute and learn from the forum. Here is the link to the forum...;c=5;sa=expand#5

I have also listed it in my links section for future reference. I encourage all coaches to register and to visit the forum regularly! Thanks.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Perception is Reality

Perception is reality is an old saying. It's very true in basketball. If people perceive you as being a fundamental team then you probably are a fundamental team. If people perceive you to be lazy and undisciplined then you probably are a lazy and undisciplined team.

I coach AAU in the spring and summer. My team is pretty top 100 players in the nation but solid players with the potential to play college basketball. Many will be borderline division 1 players. I have been around AAU tournaments for many years from either playing or now coaching. I will tell you after the top 50 players in the nation (which is very easy to see the difference in the top 50 and everyone else) it is a bunched and crowded group. You know how many 6'2 shooting guards there are in America? What seperates them all...athleticism, skills, but an often overlooked factor attitude.

I'll define attitude not just as body language and actual language but also the willingness to hustle and make the extra effort plays. It's the perception of what kind of player/person you are. College coaches don't want to take a borderline talent that is going to cause them problems. So, even though the player might be a great kid and usually has a good attitude if they come to the bench moaning about coming out or are complaining to the refs...those things could hurt a "good kid."

Perception is reality and kids need to understand they are being judged more often by their worst moments instead of their best.

NBA League Pass

NBA league pass broadband is doing a free preview until Nov. 11th. I decided to try it out last night and I wish I would have known about this from the start of the season. It's pretty sweet. Can watch 3 games at once and get stats whenever you want.

If the college version is like this for the computer I would have to look into it. I prefer college basketball over NBA but I still enjoy the NBA more than most people do. College is more intense and players play with more energy overall. NBA players are in the NBA for a reason (usually). They are truly the best of the best if they play focused.

I would check out the free preview of NBA league pass broadband if you like basketball. It's pretty neat and its free so you can't beat that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Situational Scrimmaging

How often do you scrimmage in practice? Most coaches try to scrimmage a little bit at the end of practices if not more. Although they are usually controlled and stopped for teaching points I think more would be accomplished with applying situations to the scrimmage. It adds game dynamics and game strategy but it also will add to the players' focus. They aren't just "playing" for the sake of scrimmaging. They have goals and things they must get accomplished.

Any coach will agree that practice must be as close to a game environment as possible, but most don't had situations to scrimmages. Coaches might practice situations once a week, but why not add a few situations to all scrimmages. Even setting the scrimmage at a tie game and 3 minutes to go. It doesn't have to be drastic, but anything is better than nothing.

I was at a Butler University practice the other night and Brad Stevens said "the more situations the better" and it really clicked with me. Preparing for late game situations is crucial. In pressure situations you need the confidence that you will get the job done.

The more situations, the better.