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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #1: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

This actually a article we posted back in 2001. This off-season post doesn't have to be just about our student-athletes but us as coaches as well.  The off-season is a renewal -- about a new beginning.  A great post from John Maxwell on some thoughts for developing during the off-season. How well did you approach your off-season?  Did you have a plan of attack?  In all actuality, we need to come up with another term instead of "off-season."  Because thought we aren't actively involved with our teams per rules and guidelines, we are always (or should be) working to develop ourselves and our organizations.  Here is what John has to say about "off-seasons":

Leaders are revealed during the busy seasons, but they are made during the offseason. Work done for months behind-the-scenes determines what happens onstage the night of the show. Here are five ways leaders, and the teams they lead, can make the most of the offseason.

Develop Stamina
During the offseason, leaders develop stamina through a mixture of rest and training. Recognizing that they’re ineffective when worn out, leaders prioritize rest during the offseason to replenish energy reserves. However, leaders must also condition themselves to be ready for the rigors of the upcoming season. Much as a runner would be foolish to show up for a marathon without having trained, leaders cannot remain idle throughout the offseason and expect to be at their peak when the season arrives.

Revisit Vision
The offseason is an opportune time for leaders to revisit vision and values, and to make sure their team is focused on what matters most. Once they’ve gained personal clarity, leaders then can help their team generate its goals for the future. Keeping a vision in front of a team, and giving it goals to reach for, brings much-needed purpose and motivation to offseason activities.

Build Team Unity
During the offseason, teams face less stress than at other times of the year, and they do not have as many critical tasks to accomplish. This makes the offseason a prime occasion for investing in relationships. When teammates connect meaningfully during the offseason, they form bonds that can sustain team unity during the pressure-cooker of busy seasons.

Pursue Personal Growth
The frenetic pace of life’s busy seasons crowd out time for personal growth. Conversely, during the offseason leaders find themselves with plenty of room to breathe. Wise leaders make productive use of their extra time by attending training seminars, studying industry experts, and reading up on cutting-edge strategies. Those leaders who develop their skills and enhance their knowledge during the offseason have an advantage over the competition once the season starts.

Much as a music band must rehearse before going on a concert tour, a team must practice together in the offseason to prepare itself for future projects. Championship teams spend the offseason shoring up their strengths and working out the kinks in their systems. They conduct trial runs and pilot programs to test new ideas and fine-tune their processes. The practice that a team puts in over the course of the offseason improves its performance, and instills confidence for the upcoming season.

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OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #1: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

We always talk about the importance of utilizing your imagination in coaching.  Whether you are creating a drill or tweaking one to maximize the workout for your players, the off-season is a great time to take a look at your drill package -- especially ones that you would like for your players to utilize in the summer.

Below is a three-player shooting drill form Rick Pitino utilizing The Gun that has movement and passing involved -- "game like action."


OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #1: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

We are firm believers that programs of excellence are that because they strive for excellence each day in all areas at all times.  They're aren't just interested in putting forth great effort the day before a conference game in February.  Concentrated commitment goes beyond a practice session in November.  It's about being the best you can be every day. 

There is an old Bob Knight video that was sponsored by Adidas where Coach Knight said that when the ball is tossed up all players want to win.  But the one's that will be successful are the one's that want to win the day before, two days before and three days before "because the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to PREPARE to win."  Today, I think it can be paraphrased one month before you play and two months and three months.

Coach Don Meyer referred to it often as Arete - a Greek word meaning "the act of living up to one's potential."  In the programs that I have worked with the past 10 years, the phrase we've used, borrowed from a John Maxwell book, is "Today Matters." Our thought is that we must have the mindset that each and every day is critically important to the overall goal of being the best we can be. 

In fact, "Today Matters" is the name of our summer workbook that we give to our team each year.  The book includes a page for each day of the off-season with a quote about the importance of daily commitment.  It also has a suggested workout for them on the basketball court as well as in strength training and conditioning.  The workout suggestions are geared individually to meet the needs of each player.

Here is the first page of our "Today Matters" off-season book:

Improvement, consistent improvement, is done on a day-by-day basis. To improve anything in your life, you must work at it in some form each day. For our basketball team, we are looking for student-athletes that are committed to improving. We desire to have a team that will leave a legacy of leaving the program better than when they arrived — this is consistent and constant improving. Improving is not a result-oriented program. It is a process–related experience. It is why so many fail to improve at a rate that they are capable. Working in the gym for two hours on a Sunday night by yourself doesn’t give you immediate results. There is no scoreboard to keep count of your made

baskets. No crowd to cheer on your good play. No coach to oversee your dedicated effort. But those that pay the price — working daily on their game, out of the sight of many — are

the ones that reach their potential.

If you have not accomplished what you desire than you can be sure that you are not working hard enough:

“If you want something you have never had,
you must do something you have never done."
And don’t sell yourself short — you can be great! Just remember:

“Good enough never is!”


Tuesday, April 15, 2014


A big thanks to Jeff Osterman for passing along a great article on Rick Majerus as written by one of his assistant coaches at St. Louis, Paul Biancardi.  It's a great article and you can read it all here.  But here are some the excerpts that struck a chord with me:

During the season on our "days off," you would arrive in the office in the morning, then we would meet at noon for lunch on The Hill and talk about our team, recruiting, scheduling, academics and in between he would have to take some calls. Before you know it is was 5 o'clock and he would say, "Let's go have dinner and talk ball."
As we prepared for that first season, he had us come to Milwaukee, near where he grew up, for staff meetings. We went to the playground he grew up on and walked through all of our offensive and defensive drills and concepts outside on the cement, with cracks and weeds popping out of the ground. It was so pure. It was so Rick.

As a coach, he was an extraordinary teacher of the game and a master of detail. He would always cite people he learned from or coached with, such as the great Al McGuire, Don Nelson, George Karl, Del Harris, Don Donoher and Doc Rivers, whom he coached at Marquette. He had a philosophy and a plan for skill development and every phase of the game. His preparation for opponents was overwhelmed with detail.

The first time I ever scouted a game for him, I thought I had just taken a final exam. He was one of the best at preparing his teams for a game. Like all great coaches, his favorite place to be was practice or watching film. In the film room, he could pick out multiple breakdowns or good plays in just one possession.

His teams and players always improved under his tutelage. His practices were special because there was never any slippage from him. Whether it was the first practice of the year or the last, he was always well-prepared and detailed. He beat teams that were more talented because his teams were better prepared -- and when he had equal or better talent, he rarely if ever beat himself.

There are many reasons he will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time in my book. His knowledge of the game, his thirst to learn more and his ability to translate that knowledge to his teams was remarkable. Games are won and lost in practice and coach Majerus conducted an incredibly detailed practice with purpose.

But as detailed and demanding as he was on the court with his players, he was equally concerned about their academic effort and progress. He would spend hours lecturing them about the importance and value of their education and how hard all of their parents sacrificed for them over the years. Rick would get off on life-lesson discussions that were deep and personal. One of his main points and phrases to all of his players was, "I don't expect an A, but I do expect an A effort in the classroom, and in your conduct and character toward others."

Friday, April 11, 2014


The following comes from "Finding The Winning Edge," by Bill Walsh:
-Once you have a plan, you must sell it to the players. It is not enough to put it on the blackboard and say ‘Okay, here it is.’ You have to convince the players that the plan is a good one and show them, in specific ways, why it will work. If you do, you send them out to the practice field with more confidence.

-Although physical conditioning must obviously be an integral part of an athletes efforts to prepare for the upcoming season, great care must be taken to avoid overtraining your players. Unfortunately, it appears that overtraining is a common occurrence at all competitive levels.

-Overtraining can lead to several negative consequences. For example, it can result in excessive physical and emotional fatigue, thereby exposing a player to a higher risk of being injured and diminishing his capacity to master a particular skill or subject.

 -Training that does not provide adequate time for recovery can also bring on staleness and a decreased level of performance. Furthermore, this type of training can lead to a sense of apathy, irritability, and an altered appetite in your players.

-Somewhat surprisingly, several research studies have shown that the average football player is more fatigued prior to the first game of the season, not at the end of the season when most people might expect.

-It is very important that you, as the head coach, make sure that your coaches and players understand what you expect from them concerning the tempo and pacing of the team’s practices. In this regard, you should remember and be sensitive to the fact that an up-tempo , fast-paced practice offers the most conducive environment for learning on the field.

-Committing to an up-tempo, fast-paced practice does not mean that such a pace must be maintained at all times. In reality, occasionally, a situation may arise when you must temporarily slow down the pace of practice in order to emphasize a particular point.

-As a general rule, however, the basic pace of practice should encourage the players to exhibit a high energy level- one that “forces” them to keep up with the tempo.

-Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


The following comes from an article from written by Mike Herndon.  You can read the article in it's entirety here.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said before his team's loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in January that he detected a slip in its mindset and focus late in the 2013 season.

Saban believes a team's identity is forged during off-season conditioning and strength work, and he never felt like the 2013 team fully embraced it the way past teams had.
"I don't think our team, coming off beating Notre Dame a year before, ever did that a year ago," he said. "They were a little complacent, a little satisfied. Where we always prided ourselves in hard work, all the sudden we resented it."
This year, Saban said: "We probably don't have the talent in some positions we've had in the past, but this team has a much better attitude."
"Our fans think success is a continuum -- it's going to continue forever and ever," he said. "The problem is, it's just momentary. As soon as you put that trophy down, you have new challenges."

How do you meet those challenges? Saban said success is founded on three things: vision, commitment, and discipline. 
His definition of discipline: "There's something you know you're supposed to do that you really don't want to do. Can you make yourself do it? Then there's something over there that you really shouldn't do, but you really want to do. Can you make yourself not do it? Those two decisions we have to make probably a couple hundred times a day.
"You have to have an ability to be where your feet are," he added. "Most people worry about what's going to happen in the future ... Be where your feet are. Focus on today."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


One of the great things about being in the business of collegiate athletics is the amazing people you meet along the way.  During my stop at the University of Central Florida, our Sports Information Director Jenna Marina came to be someone I greatly respected -- not just for the job she did but because of how obviously she cared about the student-athletes that she is involved with and how she worked to make their experience special.

Further evidence of this is that in May she is headed on a service trip with a group of 25 student-athletes and staff.  They'll be travelling to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, off the coast of Venezuela. One of their goals there will be to rebuild a library and encourage education as well as teaching children on the islands that sport can make a difference in opportunities for education. 

She quickly reached out to me because she knows of my love for reading. You can easily donate money through this link:

If you would like a tax deduction, you can write a check out to the Golden Knights Club and put "Knights Without Borders -- Jenna Marina" in the memo line. They can send the check to me to:

Jenna Marina
UCF Communications
Wayne Densch Bldg 39
4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816

I love it when athletes go the extra mile to give back to communities -- and the gift of reading is certainly a great investment towards education.  I sent my check in the mail today -- hope you will consider helping as well.

Good luck Jenna & Knights!



"We never set any numerical goals.
We just talk about trying to be the
best team we can be by playoff time."

Thanks to Eric Musselman for posting this quote on twitter.


If you haven't read "Help The Helper" by Kevin Pritchard and John Eliot, I'm going to strongly suggest you get it.  I mean I just love the title -- but it's a great read that will help you help your team. The book delves into the topic of building a culture of extreme teamwork. It goes into great detail giving evidence and examples of the importance of building an atmosphere of a servant attitude -- where everyone is there to help each other and from that comes benefits for all. Here is a great example not just for your players but for your staff and everyone involved in your program:

Our stance is this: if we're going to boast, let's boast about someone else.  We want expressive, passionate emotion flowing around the office.  But we want it pointed out, not pointed in.  Getting totally jazzed about the good work someone else is doing accomplished four key performance enhancements that, in return, give you more success yourself:

1. It keep your head up.  In order to notice others' success you have to be watching for them, which means you can't be looking down. Physiology research teaches us that body posture (as simply as raised shoulders versus lowered, eyes up versus drooped) has a massive influence over our mood, energy level, attitude.  So we tell our teammates and clients all the time, "Go searching for examples of other people doing great."

2. It keeps you from getting caught up in your own little world.  When you think about your job duties, your deadlines, and your production scores, it's easy to get blinders on or lose perspective; it's easy for your challenges and hurdles to magnify into larger issues than they really are.  Flip the script.

3. It infuses more energy into your game.  Taking pride and pleasure when other people excel allows you to experience success more often.  Success breeds success; you are more apt to thrive personally when you're in the practice of having success-packed emotions.

4. It strengthens relationships...immeasurably!  When you outwardly, viscerally communicate happiness to someone else regarding their success, you communicate to them that you've got their back, that you're there in the trenches for them.  That extends confidence.  They perform better.  They are thankful. They do the same for you in thanks and appreciation.  You perform better.  The whole system improves.  Mudtia becomes ingrained as part of the culture.

Monday, April 7, 2014


I have received a lot of requests for notes from my WBCA Convention lecture on "Maximizing The Shell Drill" and so I am posting them today.  When I spoke to the convention on Saturday, I told them I wanted to show them various ways to best utilize the shell drill without delving into defensive philosophy.  There are a lot of outstanding defensive coaches out there with various methods of defending -- from Pack Line to Pressure and in between.  However, I believe the shell drill is one of those common denominators for developing any defensive system.

As we talk about the shell, one of the things I told the convention was that I thought the best drills created the following:

1. Made players think -- this leads to anticipation which is critically important to good defensive play.

2. Made players see -- you have to have good vision to be a good defender and good drills stretch a defenders vision.

3. Made players communicate -- it goes beyond talking -- it's about communicating.  Not talking for talking's sake.  And of course, it's about listening.

There are three basic thoughts in understanding the importance of shell defense and what it can do for your system.

1. Build your base defense

2. Teach how to defend a movement or action

3. Prepare for an opponent
The most basic of shell defenses has been 4 on 4 Shell with two guard and two wings.  This was a primary defensive drill daily for Dean Smith at North Carolina and is an important part of our shell series as well.  At North Carolina, they liked to make a guard to wing entry pass, cut the passer through and fill with the other two. But how can you take a 4 on 4 Shell and put it to even great use?  Below is one of my favorite quotes from Bob Knight:
“The greatest thing a coach can have is an imagination.”
-Bob Knight
We may work on 4 on 4 Shell and not allow any cutting.  With the utilization of the dribble today, we may tell our offense that they can only attack off the dribble.  For us, this is "4 On 4 Shell: No Cutting/No Screening."  Of course we can also allow cutting and screening and we do a large majority of the time depending on what we want to accomplish that day.  You can also control the alignment of your shell.  It doesn't have to be two guard and two wings depending upon what you want to work on.
Diagram #1: 4 Out Shell...working 4/4 on the perimeter
Diagram #2: 3 Out/1 In Shell...working 4/4 with a single post
Diagram #3: 2 Out/2 In Shell...working 4/4 with a double post set

What are your guidelines in regard to your shell?
No Cuts or Screens...just penetrate and pitch
Allow Cuts and Movement but no Screens
Allow Screens...Ball Screens and/or Screens Off The Ball
This is a great way to maximize your shell further.  You can dictate the entry movement in your shell to either work on something you need to improve in or to prepare for an action by an opponent.  Diagram #4 shows a basic guard to guard pass with the passing guard setting the down screen.  We got this action from Coach Buzz Peterson.  We utilize this one a lot because it works on screen of the ball and great emphasizes the importance of jumping to the ball.  Now it's up to you how you defend it.  You can slide through the screen, tag it or switch it -- that's up to you and your philosophy.  What we will do is make this an automatic action for the offense.  Guard to guard pass, down screen away.  At some point, I will yell "Live" and then the offense can deviate from the scripted action.  Another example is shown in Diagram #5 where the guard to guard pass can lead to a double staggered action.  There is nothing you can't do with your imagination in terms of giving your shell an entry to improve your defense.

5/4 Open Perimeter (Diagram #6)
Playing 4/4 with an open perimeter player

Guidelines: The open player can move about the floor but you can only pass to her outside the arc...when the open player catches, she is to drive to the rim...when the helpside rotates and stops her she can pitch it out. We like to put a red scrimmage jersey on the open player to distinguish her from the rest.
Shell Movement: Freelance the 4 player movement or give them some action to work on.  This is another that we like the down screen action we first saw from Buzz Peterson.  We will stay with the down screen action until I yell "live" and then they will be open to freelance and utilize the open perimeter player.  It should be noted at this point that I rarely utilize the shot clock in shell drills.  I want to condition our team to be able to defend for extended periods of time.
5/4 Open Post Low (Diagram #7)
Playing 4/4 with an post player

Guidelines: The open post player can move block to block to receive the ball but not shoot...have post player catch it, chin it, check it and then pass it back out.  Again, your defense of the low post is your own.  As I said at the convention, I do believe all coaches should have a plan for attacking the low post with defenders other than the low post defender.  You can dig in from the ballside or attack with your helpside but you should have something to fall on when needed.  At LSU, we had the National Defensive Player of the Year in Sylvia Fowles.  We often utilized our helpside to double the low post.  Not because Syl needed help but the more low post touches, the more possibility of her fouling.  So against certain post players, we would try to double and force a quick pass out.
Shell Movement: Freelance the 4 player movement or give them some action to work on.
6/4 Baseline Rotation (Diagram #8)
Playing 4/4 with two open perimeter players in each corner.

Guidelines: You want to look to hit the open players in the corner often...want them to drive until the helpside rotates and stops...looking for complete rotation in this shell set.  This drill is designed not only to give quick, early help but to maximize the execution and important of rotating.  You've got to help the helper.
Shell Movement: Freelance the 4 player movement or give them some action to work on.
4/4 or 5/5 Change — Half-Court (Diagram #9)
Playing 4/4 or 5/5

Guidelines: The offense executes offense until coach yells “change”...offense must lay the ball down on the floor at the very spot...offense becomes defense and defense becomes offense...however, offensive player that becomes defensive player can not guard the man that was guarding her...attack at the same basket.  I love this drill because it creates instant chaos. Basketball possessions are rarely if never perfectly orchestrated.  The good defensive teams can defend when things break down.  And that's what this defensive drill does.
4/4 or 5/5 Change — Full-Court (Diagram #10)
Playing 4/4 or 5/5

Guidelines: The offense executes offense until coach yells “change”...offense must lay the ball down on the floor at the very spot...offense becomes defense and defense becomes offense...however, offensive player that becomes defensive player can not guard the man that was guarding you are converting to the other basket.  I really love this drill as a transition drill -- both offensively and defensively which reminds me of another great Coach Knight quote:
“The best drills work on both offense and defense at the same time.”
-Bob Knight
Change Segment
This is the final phase of our shell action.  It is actually a culmination of all our shell drills and is another great way to create chaos, and get your team thinking and talking. Call out a shell and whose ball it is...let them play it out and call out another...keep continuing...up to the players to get the right number on the floor.  We are calling these out as soon as the possession is over.  It is lightning quick and if they are slow to react -- offensively or defensively -- I'm on them.

“5/4 Open Perimeter...Maroon Ball!”

“4/4 Change Full Court...White Ball!”

“5/4 Open Post Low...White Ball!”