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Saturday, October 3, 2015


One of the great things about social media is not only the information that becomes available but new relationships developed.  One of those for me is with Coach Steve Finamore (a great follow on twitter) who has an amazing passion for the game -- he, like all good coaches, is a continual learner.  Steve recently visited the Detroit Pistons for a practice session and Steve was great enough to share those notes and we want to pass them on as well.  This is part of I of Coach Finamore's notes:

Detroit Pistons
Practice #1
Tuesday September 29, 2015
10:00 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.

- Huge sign on the wall at the Pistons practice facility behind basket:


- Championship and division banners hang from the rafters.

- Pistons team and coaching staff walk onto court together at 10AM.

(Many players were at practice facility at 8 A.M. getting in extra shooting with coaches)

Coaching staff:

Stan Van Gundy, Brendan Malone, Bob Beyer, Malik Allen, Tim Hardaway, Charles Klask.

- Coach Van Gundy has said in the past that attending a clinic should not change your overall philosophy.  Beyond clinics, SVG suggested to go out and watch people practice. I agree. In the past I have found attending practices has helped me so much as a coach.

- This morning there are a few college coaches observing practice. Pistons give out three handouts. One handout is a card asking for any feedback we would like to share about practice. SVG values anything you can share with him regarding practice. One thing I came away with is that SVG cares about the game and its coaches.

- Pistons start with a walk-through on transition defense.

- “Getting back on defense” is emphasized the entire time.  

Reaction time is key. Get back to middle of floor. Point and talk.  

“Getting back” is something you can control states SVG.

- Coach Van Gundy is one of the best I have ever seen teach the game.  He makes it so simple to understand. He’s teaching pro’s why it’s so important to get back on defense.

Detroit Pistons Defensive Musts:

1-Get Back

2-Protect the Paint

3-Close and contest

4-Pressure the ball

5-Defend without fouling

6-Block out and rebound

- Pistons work on running their offense.  After they score, Van Gundy emphasizes getting back to half-court. He wants them getting back to the center circle.  Assistant coaches on sidelines shouting to get back to all five players.


What are your rules on getting back on defense?

-1 and 2 are back on the release of the shot. Dead sprint to the other end of the floor.

-4 and 5 go to the boards unless they are above the free throw line.

-3 makes a decision to crash or sprint back.

Match up when you get back. You don’t have a man in transition.

- Pistons worked on their four-man shell drill for :24 seconds.

“Twenty-four seconds of work!” –SVG

- Lots of energy. Lots of talking. Everyone was involved and engaged and encouraging each other.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Shout out to Coach Buzz Williams for passing this article on to me.  If you're not following Coach Williams on twitter you are really missing out.  The article was written about Bill Belichick for the Washington Post by Adam Kilgore.  It's a lengthy, well-written article and you can read it in its entirety here but I wanted to share some of my take aways.

Coach Belichick is a forward-thinking individual.  He has no time to think about pass accomplishments or failure.  He is about coaching and living in the moment.

He was asked what was the most important thing he had done over those four decades to evolve as a coach.

Belichick looked up from the questioner, gazed at the back of the room, and replied, “I don’t know.” He snorted. He stared. The room waited for him to say something else. He didn’t.

Belichick has left it to others to fill in the blanks behind his gloomy facade, and the effects of his success — admiration, animosity, loyalty, jealously — have created wildly divergent portraits. 

Coach Belichick, despite being at the top of his profession is a driven, continual learner which goes a long way to explain why he has been able to stay at the top:
People close to him describe a reliable friend, a voracious learner, an ardent student of the game, a man whose grim public demeanor hides sharp intelligence and understated humor. He engenders loyalty with both surprising kindness and utmost competence. “As a player, what more do you want?” former Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy said. “You don’t want that fluffy [stuff]. He just wanted us to be focused on ball.”
Supporters, associates and former players say Belichick has adapted with a wickedly dexterous mind and a curious bent. “Probably the story of his career, from my vantage point, would be his attitude toward learning,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, a Belichick confidante. Belichick once told his college economics professor that what he studied in class helped him stay under the salary cap. (“That’s an application of marginalism,” said Dick Miller, the professor.) His current defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, was a rocket scientist before he became a football coach. Belichick seeks. He listens.
“It’s really amazing when you think about it: He’s been coaching longer than any player on this team has been alive,” Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “That says something about his leadership, the way he learns. The way he views the game is very unique. He’s been able to stay ahead of the curve because of the mind the good Lord has given him for football.”
And how's this for the being a servant leader:
For nearly three decades as a coach in the NFL, Belichick had divined creative solutions to complex problems, the skill that fueled his rise from playing center at Wesleyan to coaching at the top of the sport. On the day the Patriots arrived in New Orleans for his first Super Bowl as a head coach in late January 2002, he confronted a problem without precedent in his career: Milloy, his star safety, wanted a new hotel room.
At a walk-through practice, Milloy explained to Belichick that he had heard first-year defensive tackle Richard Seymour beaming about how spacious his room was. Milloy could barely squeeze luggage into his. What was up with a rookie scoring a bigger room than a veteran? “Really, Lawyer?” Belichick responded. Belichick was already trying to prepare a two-touchdown underdog to face the St. Louis Rams; he didn’t need another headache.
When Milloy returned to the team hotel after practice, a concierge greeted him with a key to a new room: “Big as hell,” Milloy recalled, and with a panoramic view of Bourbon Street, a Jacuzzi and, oddly, a treadmill in the corner.
At the Patriots’ team dinner that night, Belichick approached Milloy. “How do you like that room, Lawyer?” Belichick asked.
“It’s cool,” Milloy replied. “But I don’t know why they put that treadmill in there.
“That’s because it was my room,” Belichick said.
One of the things that makes Belichick a better leader while assisting him in his quest for knowledge -- he's a great listener:
“I hate to think what his IQ is,” Rick Forzano said. “He looks beyond what’s happening.”
“Bill’s always moving forward,” said Al Groh, an assistant alongside Belichick with the New York Giants. “He’s not just thinking about this season. What is distinguishingly unique for somebody who is very bright and on top is he’s a terrific listener. He’s interested in anybody and everybody’s opinion because out of that might come a good idea. That was the case even when he knew he wanted to do.”
The great ones are always looking for ways to improve and not sit status quo:
In the spring of 2007, Belichick — a better lacrosse player than football player at Wesleyan — called Johns Hopkins lacrosse Coach Dave Pietramala to congratulate him on winning the national championship. They talked on the phone for an hour. Later, after an awards banquet both men attended, they met at a restaurant afterward and chatted for three hours. Pietramala realized Belichick had as many questions for him as he did for Belichick. They still talk or text weekly.
“The amazing thing to me with Coach, he’s always in search of a way to do things better,” Pietramala said. “I’m really taken back at how inquisitive he is about lots of different things. It doesn’t have to be in coaching. If we have a guest speaker, he wants to know, what did he talk about? What was good about it? For a guy who’s extraordinarily bright, extraordinarily successful, he’s always searching for a better way, a different way.”
 Championship level coaches understand the importance of details:
“He knew everything,” Evans said. “Literally. He knew every detail. There was instant accountability, every second of the day. Bill just knew everything. It was scary sometimes.”
One season during his tenure in Cleveland, Browns coaches met with Chicago Bears coaches to swap notes about teams in their respective divisions. “I swear, he knew more about Tampa than the Bears, who played them twice,” said Ferentz, then Belichick’s offensive line coach. “Their guys were looking at us like, ‘Holy smokes.’ ”
Belichick prepares for everything. During staff meetings, he asks questions about a tactic an opposing coach used a decade prior. During Super Bowl XLVI, in 2012, the Patriots’ headsets malfunctioned in the second half, leading to harmful miscommunication. And so, in the week leading into last season’s Super Bowl, Belichick stopped practice and shouted for the coaches to drop their headsets.
The best coaches know how to challenge and, in turn, prepare their players and team:
During practice, he can spot a fullback missing a block out of the corner of his eye, halt the drill and correct the mistake himself.
“It’s still mind-boggling how I sat there and watch that take place,” said former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest, now an NFL Network analyst. “He would break down both sides of the ball and be instrumental in planning every phase of the game. Other coaches can’t do that. That’s just amazing to me, having been in the league 15 years.”
Playing for Belichick can be stressful. Evans would pass him in a hallway or the locker room, and Belichick would present a situation and play and ask him, “What is their linebacker going to be thinking?”
The strict standard also brought comfort. Players understand their role with uncommon clarity, and they trust Belichick’s detailed instructions will reap success. “Playing for Belichick was the most pressure-packed and most peaceful experience of my career,” Evans said.
“He’ll put it up on the board,” McGinest said. “He’ll say, ‘This is what’s going to happen. This is how they’re going to attack you. If you do X, Y and Z, you’ll be okay.’ And it seems like every single week, it happens. So it’s not hard to play in that system.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


If you follow my blog or follow me on twitter you know I'm a big fan of Michael HyattHis blog is outstanding in terms of helping us with organization, time management, social media, technology and much more.  And he is absolutely a must follow on twitter.  You also know of passion and belief in the importance of reading which makes this post by Michael a must read in my book.

Here are some brief excerpts from a recent post from his blog titled "5 Ways Reading Makes You A Better Leader."  Again, these are just short takes form the post and you can (and should) read it in its entirety here.

"One of the best ways to become
an indispensable leader?
Crack open a book."
-Michael Hyatt

1. Reading Makes us Better Thinkers
Reading is one of the most efficient ways to acquire information, and leaders need a lot of general information to keep perspective and seize opportunities. But reading does more than give us a toolbox of ideas. It actually upgrades our analytical tools, especially our judgment and problem-solving abilities.

Research by Anne E. Cunningham compared the general knowledge of readers and television watchers. The readers not only knew more, but they were also better at deciphering misinformation. In other words, reading improved their judgment.

2. Reading Improves Our People Skills
Sometimes we think of readers as antisocial introverts with the their nose in a book and ignoring the people around them. But reading can actually improve a leader’s people skills.

Stories give us an opportunity to walk in other people’s shoes and see the world through their experiences and with their motivations—this is especially true for novels, biographies, and memoirs. When asked about the reading that helps her lead her business, one CEO said the insights about human nature in fiction and poetry has made all the difference in understanding and relating to her people.

3. Reading Helps us Master Communication
When we read, especially widely and deeply, we pick up language proficiency that transfers across the board, including speaking and writing.

Reading uniquely expands our vocabulary. According to Cunningham, the books, magazines, and other written texts we read as adults use double and triple the number of rare words we hear on television.

4. Reading Helps us Relax
An ongoing challenge every leader faces is managing stress. The great news is that while we’re reading and picking up the benefits of Ways 1, 2, and 3, we can simultaneously lower our stress levels.

One study compared reading to other stress relievers like walking, listening to music, or drinking a cup of tea. Reading was found the most effective, and it worked to lower heart rates and relieve tension in as few as six minutes.

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read,” according to the doctor who conducted the study. “By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world.”

5. Reading Keeps us Young
I recently explained why older people make better entrepreneurs. They typically have advantages in experience, knowledge, and social networks.

It’s the same with leaders—and readers are especially positioned to leverage these advantages because reading has been shown in research by Keith E. Stanovich to keep us mentally sharp as we age. By exercising our brains with books and other reading we might even be able to prevent dementia in later years.



I found these going through some of my clinic notes and can't seem to find who they originated with...I will continue to try and discover who I got them from so I can give proper credit.

Examples of when to trap:
1. When a specific opponent catches the ball in a prime area such as the low post.

2. When a specific opponent dribbles once or twice in the post or on the wing area.

3. When opponents run isolation plays.

Examples of where to trap:
1. Low post.

2. Baseline or lane area when there is penetration.

3. Wing area against a pick/roll or a 1-on-1.

4. Corners. The “corners” along the baseline and those where the half-line meets the sidelines are nice areas for trapping, due to the help the lines add to the defense (D-1).

Examples of whom may be trapped:
1. Good low post scorers.

2. Good 1-on-1 players.

3. Pick and roll participants.

4. A playmaker in good feeding position.

5. Any weak ballhandler.

There are some automatic trap situations:
1. An offensive player has a defender in a “bad way” and is ready to score.

2. When a smaller player is mismatched in the low post.

3. When a big player is mismatched outside and faced with defending a good smaller 1-on-1 player.

4. When there are 10 seconds or less remaining on the shot clock and the ball is in good position or with a good scorer having the ball.

Using a “live man.” A team may use its smallest man, or quickest man to be ready to trap in the low post whenever he thinks he can do it profitably. He can be called the “Sandman,” throwing sand on the fire. Or, it can be set up so that whoever is guarding a certain poor-shooting opponent will be “live,” the Sandman.


I've been reading "Coach Wooden" by Pat Williams and he had a great story about understanding the importance of today and how today truly matters to the best:

Greg Maddux is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win at least fifteen games for seventeen consecutive seasons. He recalls some advice he once received from then-Cubs manager Tom Trebelhorn. “You know what the problem is with players these days?” Trebelhorn said. “They are always looking forward to something. They’re never trying to do something today. They’re always looking forward to the next off-day, the All-Star break, the end of the season. They never stop and enjoy the day that’s here.”

Maddux says that he thought about that and saw that Trebelhorn has a point. In fact, Maddux realized that he had that same mind-set of looking only to the future and never enjoying the present moment. From that day forward, Maddux concluded, “I started enjoying each day… and really started loving the games from that day on.”

And as Pat quoted Coach Wooden:

“When I was teaching basketball, I urged my players to try their hardest to improve on that very day, to make that practice a masterpiece… It begins by trying to make each day count and knowing you can never make up for a lost day.”

Sunday, September 20, 2015


There's a great article on Chicago Cubs' manager Joe Maddon written by Mark Gonzales of the Chicago TribuneYou can read the entire article here but there were some direct takeaways the resonated with me.  The first, as all outstanding leaders, Maddon is a continual learner and his philosophy evolved from conversations with a football coach.  That evolvement included a great understanding for being process-oriented in his approach.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has a great appreciation for football coaches, particularly assistant head coach Tom Moore of the Arizona Cardinals who won three Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts.

Before the Cubs’ 3-2 comeback win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night, Maddon spoke of how he learned from Moore that in football, teams are trying to break the other team’s will.
“And how do you do that?” Maddon said. “Through the relentless execution of fundamentals and technique. Not one time do you talk about winning? Not once. I don’t even know if when I’ve talked to our guys this year, if I’ve talked about winning a lot.

“I’ve talked about process a lot. So a lot of my philosophy was validated through Coach Moore, whom I have a ton of respect for.

“When you come down to really these close moments between winning and losing, everyone wants to win every night. I want to win. How do you do that? Through the relentless execution of fundamentals and technique. The better we get at that, the more often we’re going to win and win one-run games.”

“You got to understand it’s not easy to fight through that at that age with that lack of experience.”
But Maddon continues to stress his theme of doing simple better.

“It’s not a complicated issue,” Maddon said. “The more basic we can become in our approach, the more successful we’ll become.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Today I enjoyed talking leadership with Coach Marsha Frese of UMKC today and one of the things we were talking about were books that were good for coaches and players.  One we talked about was "Go For Gold" by John Maxwell.  I love the book because its laid out with daily readings for leaders to take in and apply.  Here is quick example:

The next time you experience a failure, think about why you failed instead of who was at fault. Analyze any failure:

·         What lessons have I learned?

·         Am I grateful for this experience?

·         How can I turn the failure into success?

·         Practically speaking, where do I go from here?

·         Who else has failed in this way before, and how can that person help me?

·         How can my experience help others someday to keep from failing?

·         Did I fail because of another person, because of my situation, or because of myself?

·         Did I actually fail, or did I fall short of an unrealistically high standard?

·         Where did I succeed as well as fail?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


If you want something that will greatly improve your communication and connection with your players during meetings, timeouts, practice, half-time and games, here it is!  I can remember the first time I heard Coach Don Meyer explain this and it had a "Wow!" effect on me.  It will take a commitment from you to make it habit but players respond to it.  I got this example directly from Here's how it works:
First, tell the player one thing that YOU are doing WELL and WHY.

Then tell the player one thing WE can be doing BETTER.

Before correcting a player, give them something they are doing well. By saying "you" you give the player ownership for the good deed.

The "why" is critically important. Don't tell a player he/she made a good pass. Tell he/she why it was a good pass. 

Wrong Example: "Good pass Katherine." Right Example: "Katherine, great job of utilizing the pass fake to set up the feed to the low post and giving her the ball away from the defense."

By telling "why" you allow the player to understand what she did well. She can process it as a good thing and work to repeat it. If you just say "good pass" she has no idea why so she may or may not repeat the action.

After the compliment, you will have the attention of the player and they will better listen to the correction. Coach Meyer likes to use "we" so that the player knows that we are in this together in terms of improving in that particular area.

Terminology is critically important. Good coaches work and practice at how they talk to the team and individual players.
Don't you get the feeling this will work off the court as well -- with people you work with, your children, or any other interactions you have with people?



Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at some the thoughts, principles, and guidelines for our defense. In Aggie Defense: Part I we talked about philosophy and the key concepts for our non-negotiables.  Today we will look at some basic thoughts and concepts for our Transition Defense:

“If you don’t get back on defense,
you may as well get back on the bus.”

-Don Meyer
In all successful journeys there is the first step. For each defensive possession, there is transition defense and those teams that stress and excel in this phase are further a long in being good defensively than those teams that don’t.
Ironically, I think when you start the conversation about great transition defensive teams, you must being on the offensive end.  Your offense can go along way in setting the table for your transition defense.
Offensive keys that aid in solid transition defense include
1. Floor balance...have proper spacing which allows your offense to be in a position to get back defensively is extremely important.
2. Shot many times have you seen a bad shot lead to a transition basket?  You offense can anticipate transition defense better if they know when, where, and by who in terms of the shot being taken.
3. Value the ball...the hardest thing to convert back on is a turnover.  If the turnover is in the open court it can be.
Therefore, teams that shot at a high percentage and take care of the basketball tend to be at the least good defensive teams because they have given their defensive an advantage in terms of conversion.
The other element of transition defense before we go over the guidelines is conditioning — and I believe this is two fold:
1. Physical Conditioning
Teams committed to great transition defense are in great physical condition.  They pay the price in fall conditioning and continue to value conditioning through their practice habits.  One of the first places a player will take off when conditioning is a factor is in getting back defensively.
2. Mental Conditioning
This is one that must be developed through the structure of your practice.  There cannot be a mental “delay switch” for players in terms of getting back.  It can’t a be a shot taken and then a one or two-second period where the defense is watching.
"If you think that your half-court defense wins your games, you don’t understand the game. If you take film and break it down, you will find out that only 30% of your points are coming out of your set plays and the other 70% are coming in transition, second shots, and foul shots. So the transition game is what it is all about." 

-Hubie Brown
We tell our players its “one or the other.”  Either you are going to the offensive boards or you are sprinting back (unless we are in a full court press).
The setup and execution of your practice will be singular most important thing you do to develop both physical and mental conditioning for transition defense.  While certainly all coaches have a series of transition defensive drills they live to utilize, one of the most important things you can do is to always convert during scrimmage situations.  And in those conversion situations, stress, teach and coach transition defense.
Important to know in transition defense that the first three steps are the most critical...don’t worry about find the ball during those first three steps...get out quickly with long strides and cover as much territory as possible.
To be successful on a consistent basis, all five players must be engaged in talking and pointing...there will be times when we have to defend someone other than are original assignment but there should never be a situation where we have two players on one offensive player and another player wide open.
As we are getting back, if you are not sure immediately who you are picking up, move to the middle of the floor in a help and anticipate will give you a closer angle to pick up someone on the ballside...if end up defending someone opposite the ball then you are in help where you should be any way.
We want to pick up the ball as early as possible and funnel it out of the middle...however, we don’t want to leave someone under the basket wide open...once we know we have the rim covered, aggressively and intelligently attack the basketball.
While this is the primarily responsibility of our post players, perimeter players may have to assume this responsibility at times...make sure we don’t allow easy post feeds from the point guard or the wings...if we are mismatched, fight to front the low post until help comes.
We want to be waiting with an extended forearm...the goal is to stop the post or force her to veer one way or no time is it acceptable to allow an opposing post a direct cut to the low post for an immediate post up opportunity.
At least 3 steps above the up an open, rhythm 3 is also unacceptable...Goal #1, take away the touch...Goal #2, force catch further away then where she wants to catch...Goal #3 (last resort), closeout hard to force her to put it on the floor and now allow her a clean rhythm look.