Wednesday, September 30, 2009


From "The Heart of a Leader" by Ken Blanchard.

Coach Don Shula believed in "practice perfection." He often quoted Paul Brown, the legendary coach of the Cleveland Browns, who said, "Football is a game of errors. The team that makes the fewest errors in a game usually wins."

Organizations need to approach the performance of their people with the same kind of attention to quality, but as I travel around looking at organizations, I rarely find this emphasis on "practice perfection." Far more often, companies hire highly competent people, get them started, and then leave them to struggle on their own.

No individual or team can reach "practice perfection" alone. It takes ferocious concentration and unyielding commitment to continuous improvement. That means day-to-day coaching -- setting clear goals, letting people perform, observing, and then praising progress or redirecting efforts.

"Your game is only as
good as your practice."

-Ken Blanchard and Don Shula-


"The process for me has always been pure. It's been about leading and staying true -- authentic -- to those fundamental values that flowed downstream from my parents and Coach (Dean) Smith."

"Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I'd sloe my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it, and that usually got me going again."

I"ve never been worried about anyone's perception, one way or another. I've never allowed anyone's opinion to define me. I'm comfortable with who I am, I trust myself."

"One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games but teamwork and intelligence wins championships."

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it."

"I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me...failure always made me try harder next time."

"Anything can happen if you are willing to put in the work and remain open to the possibility. Dreams are realized by effort determination, passion and staying connected to that sense of who you are."


"A primary goal of teaching anything is the advantage that learning gives to people over their competitors who haven't been as well taught."

-Bob Knight

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


A quick reminder to the coaches who come to this blog, we also have a players' blog which is dedicated to topics that we believe should be of importance. We post once or twice a week (not nearly as much as our coaches' blog) but wanted to let you know in case you wanted to make your players aware:


Jim Boone of Tusculum College is not only an outstanding basketball coach but a dear friend. He is one of those in my inner circle that I rely greatly upon. He is also one of the nation's foremose teachers of the Pack Line Defense. Below is a list of key teaching points in Jim's system. At the end of this story is the entire link the comes from his website:

Conversion Defense
• There are two critical areas in regards to being an effective defensive team that you as the coach must be accountable. The first is conversion defense and the second is defending the low-post.

• In our Conversion Defense we are not assigned a specific player necessarily, but rather, we are defending positions on the floor in order to stop the ball and our opponents transition offense.

• Our conversion defense begins as the ball is being shot by our offense. We send two guards back on defense as the shot goes up – we feel that the benefit of having our guards back on defense to STOP the BALL, is of a far greater benefit than any advantage that may be derived by having one or both rebound the offensive glass.

We designate which guard is our “Lane Defender” and which guard is the “Ball Defender”. The lane defender sprints to paint, finds the ball and takes the lane-line on the side that the ball is being entered into play. He positions here in order to take away any cuts into the lane and will closeout to a “Gap Position” or to the ball, as soon as the lane is secured. The ball defender works to contain the ball-handler at half-court, and preferably get the ball out of the middle of the floor. Again, he must contain the ball first and foremost, and of course, his point of pick-up can change due to our opponent’s personnel.

• The remaining three players sprint back to paint as soon as our opponent gains possession of the ball. We teach their first three sprint steps to be with total disregard to vision; turn and sprint three steps, and then locate the ball as they continue to the lane. We will position toward the ball-side as deep as the ball. We cannot express enough the emphasis that we place upon our team of not giving-up transition baskets, NO LAY-UPS!

Pressure on the Ball
• We must place pressure upon the basketball, we cannot allow the ball handler to play comfortably, to easily look over the court. Offenses today will pick your defense apart if you allow them to do what they want to do with the ball. This is a great myth in the Pack Line Pressure Defense, that we do not pressure the ball – that we are all about containment. Yes, we must contain and our players must know their limitations, but we must pressure the ball.

It is much like the football quarterback; the passer that has all the time needed to drop back and throw the ball, any NFL quarterback will pick apart a defense that does not pressure – the same holds true with our game. With this being said, we cannot allow the ball to get into the PACK AREA. Our point of pick-up is at half court, in the play area it is determined by whom you are guarding – your game and his game.

As much as we want and demand pressure on the ball, we must also understand a very important axiom I our defensive game planning; “Sometimes to not guard, is to guard”. In other words, there are players that you are better served to not defend, and therefore, utilize this defender as a helper.
• We do not force the ball in a specific direction. We simply tell our players, “DO NOT GIVE-UP THE BASELINE”. We do not want them to feel that it is OK to force the ball to the middle, we just cannot get beat baseline. We will emphasize that our players must have their baseline foot positioned outside of the offensive player’s baseline foot.

• We will drill a lot of one-on-one in order for our players to learn their limitations, to understand how to keep the ball out of the PACK, and to learn how to force contested jump shots.

• We deny inside the arc and we will work on this more from a whole method standpoint more so than a 1on1 breakdown drill, but we absolutely do not want to allow the ball inside the PACK AREA (17 foot mark).

• Footwork is of paramount importance in our pressuring the ball, we want to Step (point our toe) in the direction that the ball is being dribbled, and Push with our opposite foot. We use the term, “Guarding a Yard” with our players, if we can execute two quick slides, we can arc and defend the ball. Use quick, short, steps without bringing our feet any closer than 12 inches, there is an imaginary ruler between our heels, no Heel Clicking.

• If we can force a Dribble-Used situation, we now leave the PACK area with all of our defenders, in an effort to all-out deny all four offensive players. This is a great opportunity for us to create a panicked, and hopefully a turnover situation for the offense. The player defending the ball must verbalize the dribble used situation by calling out “FIVE – FIVE – FIVE”.

Jumping to the Ball
• We do not jump to the ball per say, our first move is to jump back into the PACK AREA and then move toward the ball to preserve our Ball-You-Man relationship. Therefore, the nature of this position places our defender closer to the ball than the man who passed it.

• We assume a flat triangle position, slightly open and inside the PACK AREA when our man does not have the ball and is one pass away.

• Closing out to the ball is the key to our recovery mode, sprint the first two to three steps, with the last couple being short, choppy, steps. We must accomplish two objectives in our closeout; first we must closeout “Hard & Short” with our weight back prepared to absorb the dribble (we will not get blown away by the dribble), and secondly, we must have High Hands. We teach our players to keep their hands high, with elbows bent, for a 1001 count. We must create the illusion that there is no shot to be had. We cannot allow the offense to have rhythm jump shots.

Gap Defense
• All Non-Ball Defenders are located inside the Pack Line – This is the most critical part of our defense. We do not believe that our defenders can accomplish three things: they cannot Deny, Help, and Recover. Therefore, we have eliminated the denial, and we now focus entirely on the other two factors – Help and Recovery. Because our defenders in the Gap are already positioned in Help, they are now quicker in their recovery to the ball – there is no negative movement, away from their recovery.

• We are constantly “Re-positioning” in the Pack area:

1) Position Up the Line, but Off the Line – slightly closed to the Ball

2) Vision is of the utmost, we must see both Man and Ball

3) Do not Help to Take a Charge, but rather with our Near Arm and Leg, we do not want to become Blind to our Help, by losing sight of our man

4) Bluff help as much as possible, we cannot become sterile in our positioning.

5) We must be Active & Energized in our Gap – We are Zoning the Ball

Flash Post
• We are positioned in a flat triangle with our closest foot to the ball slightly forward, therefore we are in a denial position to begin and better equipped to take away the flash.


• Upon the offensive players flash cut, we intercept it with our forearm. We teach our defender to use his forearm, to bump or force the offense away from the lane without extending the forearm, which would be a foul, in order to deny.

It is a reality that our defender will momentarily lose sight of the ball, this occurs whenever we are defending a cutter, weather a screen is involved or not.

Defending the Low Post
• You must have a very clear and concise philosophy of defending the low post. How you defend this area dictates everything else you do defensively.

• There are only two areas to be defended; the low post and the perimeter. Everything that occurs in our Post Box (Approximately two steps off the lane and below the first hash mark on the lane) is considered the low post, everything else is the perimeter.

• We ¾ Deny on the High Side of the Post, we tell our players to “Smother” the Low Post. Activity is our biggest key, WE MUST BE ACTIVE!

• We can play ¾ high because we allow no baseline penetration. This also places us in a better position to take away the “High-Low” entry into the low post.

• We must know our slip-point in the low post; it can vary from player to player, depending upon size, length, and quickness. Anytime the ball is on the side and the offense tries to move us up the lane, upon approaching the mid-lane area we must slip behind to the baseline side to avoid being pinned high.

• Anytime a player steps away form the post, we then treat him as a perimeter player and deny inside the PACK AREA.

• There can never be a feed to the low post from the top, no exceptions!

• On a catch, we tell our post that this is our time, not the offensive player’s time, but our time. We must quickly slide behind the post on “air-time” – do not reach or gamble for a steal, but work to immediately position ourselves slightly to the baseline side with a half-step of cushion between our defender and the offensive player, maintaining a position between the post and the basket.

• From our position behind the low post, we will defend the ball in one of three ways:

1) Play the post one-on-one from behind – do not give up a scoring angle forcing the offensive player to score over our defender, not through our him. Our post defender must keep his hands at shoulder height with his fingers pointed upward. We teach our post to employ a one step cut-off in this area, using his chest to level off the dribble, take the hit and force the tough shot.

2) Choke the Post – our perimeter players located on the ball-side will open to the ball as it is passed and give help to the post defender. We can dive in and out to bother the post and choke the post only if he puts the ball on the floor, or we can full-out choke the post, immediately diving to the ball and digging it out, forcing him to throw the ball out to the perimeter. Obviously, if our perimeter defender is defending a dead three or a great scorer, we may determine not to choke with his defender, but only to bluff help.

3) RED THE POST – Double the post Big to Big. This is probably our most often utilized method of defending the post, and our most effective. It is a way in which we can force the ball back out of the scoring area, while creating turnovers.
Even better, for those that live in the area, you can attend Jim's clinic and see him develop the defense with his team (while also hearing some other great speakers):


Got this link from our webmaster Todd Politz -- might be trying to send me a message! Intersting post from I'm guilty of a bout you?

10. You don't prioritize. Everything is important. When you do this, you remove your team's ability to say no to less important work and focus their efforts on critical tasks. The fix: write down all the tasks you have folks working on and FORCE yourself to assign a H, M, or L to each task (and treat it as such). Thou shalt only have 33% of all tasks in each of those three categories - you can't assign everything a "High" importance.

9. You treat them like employees. You don't know a darn thing about them as a person (which makes them feel like nothing more than a number). The fix: read this post about 7Up.

8. You don't fight for them. When is the last time you went to bat for a team member? And I mean went to bat where you had something to lose if it didn't work out? When you don't stand up for them, you lose their trust. The fix: identify something you should have gone to the mat for recently and get out there and fight. Get someone that raise they deserve. Go fight for them to get that cool new project.

7. You tell them to "have a balanced life" then set a bad example. You tell them weekends are precious and they should spend them with their family then you go and send them emails or voicemails on Sunday afternoon. The fix: either curb your bad habit of not being in balance or learn how to do delayed send in Outlook so your messages won't go out until Monday morning.

6. You never relax. You walk around like you have a potato chip wedged between your butt cheeks and you're trying not to break it. When you're uptight all the time, it makes them uptight. Negative or stressful energy transfers to others. The fix: laugh, get a remote controlled car or tricycle to drive around the office, or put on a Burger King crown. When you relax, your team knows it's okay for them to relax too.

5. You micromanage. You know every detail of what they're working on and you've become a control freak. They have no room to make decisions on their own (which means yes, they'll make a mistake or two). The fix: back off. Pick a few low risk projects and commit to not doing ANYTHING on them unless your team member asks you for assistance. It'll be uncomfortable for you. Give it a try you micromanaging control freak.

4. You're a suck-up. If your boss stopped short while walking down the hall, you'd break your neck. Your team hates seeing you do this because it demonstrates lack of spine and willingness to fight for them. It can also signal to them that you expect them to be a sycophant just like you. The fix: try kicking up and kissing down instead.

3. You treat them like mushrooms. Translation: they're kept in the dark and fed a bunch of crap. Do you ration information? Do you withhold "important" things from them because it's "need to know" only? All you're doing is creating gossip and fear. The fix: stop acting like 007 and spill some beans.

2. You're above getting your hands dirty. You're great at assigning work. Doing work? Not so much. They hate watching you preside (and they hate it even more when you take credit for what they slaved over). The fix: get dirty. Climb under the proverbial tank and turn a wrench. Roll up your sleeves and pick a smaller project you can handle in addition to your other responsibilities and DO THE PROJECT YOURSELF.

1. You're indecisive. Maybe. Or not. But possibly. Yeah. No. I don't know. OH MY GOSH MAKE A DECISION ALREADY! That's what you get paid to do as the leader. You drive them crazy with your incessant flip-flopping or waffling (mmmm waffles... oh. Sorry... still writing). The fix: DO SOMETHING! Acknowledge you might make a mistake but do something. A team is much more likely to follow a leader who makes decisions (even some bad ones) than a leader who makes no decisions at all.


"We all want progress, but if you’re on
the wrong road, progress means
doing an about-turn and walking back to
the right road; in that case, the man who
turns back soonest is the most progressive."
-C.S. Lewis-

"If there are flaws, they are in ourselves,
and our task therefore must be one not of redesign
but of renewal and reaffirmation."
-Elliot Richardson-

"I really think that’s the key, part of the
spiritual renewal that America needs to have,
the notion that we really can have
confidence in a better tomorrow."
-Carol Moseley Braun-

"In all things that are purely social,
we can be as separate as the fingers
yet one as the hand in all things
essential to mutual progress."
-Booker T. Washington-


Monday, September 28, 2009


I worked for one of the great motivators in the coaching business in Dale Brown. I also was mentored by one of the great motivators in college baseball in Skip Bertman. I am a firm believer in the importance of motivation. John Maxwell believes the same thing and made this points in his book "25 Ways to Win With People."

Never underestimate the power of motivation:
--Motivation helps people who know what they should do… to do it!
--Motivation helps people who know what commitment they should make… to make it!
--Motivation helps people who know what habit they should break…to break it!
--Motivation helps people who know what path they should take… to take it!
--Motivation makes it possible to accomplish what you should accomplish.


From "Talent if Overrated" by Geoff Colvin we see that not only did Jerry Rice work extremely hard but is was tremendously intelligent in his approach to his workouts:

With regard to most players, that kind of question usually guarantees an argument among sports fans, but in Rice’s case the answer is completely noncontroversial. Everyone in the football world seems to agree that Rice was the greatest because he worked harder in practice and in the off-season than anyone else.

In team workouts he was famous for his hustle; while many receivers will trot back to the quarterback after catching a pass, Rice would sprint to the end zone after each reception. He would typically continue practicing long after the rest of the team had gone home. Most remarkable were his six-days-a-week off-season workouts, which he conducted entirely on his own. Mornings were devoted to cardiovascular work, running a hilly five-mile trail; he would reportedly run ten forty-meter wind sprints up the steepest part. In the afternoons he did equally strenuous weight training. These workouts became legendary as the most demanding in the league, and other players would sometimes join Rice just to see what it was like. Some of them got sick before the day was over.

He spent very little time playing football. Of all the work Rice did to make himself a great player, practically none of it was playing football games. His independent off-season workouts consisted of conditioning, and his team workouts were classroom study, reviewing of game films, conditioning, and lots of work with other players on specific plays. But the 49ers and eventually the other teams for which Rice played almost never ran full-contact scrimmages because they didn’t want to risk injuring players. That means that of the total time Rice spent actually playing the game for which he became famous, nearly all of it was in the weekly games themselves.

He designed his practice to work on his specific needs. Rice didn’t need to do everything well, just certain things. He had to run precise patters; he had to evade the defenders, sometimes two or three, who were assigned to cover him; he had to out jump them to catch the ball and outmuscle them when they tried to strip it away; then he had to outrun tacklers. So he focused his practice work on exactly those requirements. Not being the fastest receiver in the league turned out not to matter. He became famous for the precision of his patters. His weight training gave him tremendous strength. His trail running gave him control so he could change directions suddenly without signaling his move. The uphill wind sprints game him explosive accelerations. Most of all, his endurance training – not something that a speed-focused athlete would normally concentrate on – gave him a giant advantage in the fourth quarter, when his opponents were tired and weak, and he seemed as fresh as he was in the first minute. Time and again, that’s when he put the game away.

It was fun. There’s nothing enjoyable about running to the point of exhaustion or lifting weights to the point of muscle failure. But these were centrally important activities.

He defied the conventional limits of age. The average NFL player leaves the league in his twenties; playing at age thirty-five is an unusual achievement. The widely accepted view is that even if a player avoids injury, deterioration of the body is inevitable, and a player in his late thirties can no longer prevail when facing an opponent fifteen years younger. The few players who have remained starters into their forties have overwhelmingly been quarterbacks, who don’t block and don’t run much on most plays, or kickers and punters, who are in for only a few plays per game and are rarely even touched by the opponents. Wide receivers, who run like hell on most plays and frequently crushed by tacklers, aren’t supposed to last twenty seasons or play until age forty-two. None but Rice has ever done so.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


We take great pride in our program of having what we believe is a sound system of play. It is based on core beliefs in how the game should be played and anchored by a commitment to teach the fundamentals. But a big part of our overall system of play is flexibility.

You can find flexibility in our motion offense by allowing our players to make reads and cuts a opposed to holding them back with predeterimined movement. Motion alignments allow us to play a big line up or a small line up. Our defensive system allows us to adjust through scouting reports as to how we will play. It is the same man-to-man defense but the flexibility affords us the the opportunity to defense a ball screen three different ways depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of who are are playing.

Flexibility is a critical part of our success formula. It also carries over into all faces of our program. Recruiting is another area where you must be extremely flexibile to realize results. Dealing with young people today requires flexibility. This does not mean (as with our offense and defense) that we steer from our "core beliefs" or forget our commitment to fundamental principles.

But being flexible allows you options and options are good! There was no one more tunneled vision towards fundmentals and a way of doing things than Vince Lombardi. But in his famous Packer Sweep, the ball carrier was not told he had to hit a particular hole. He was told to "run to daylight." As the runner got the ball he would read the defense. He had "flexibility" to look for the best hole to hit and than run towards it -- and thru it.

The same is true of technology. The excuse of being "old school" doesn't work when being inflexible to new ways of improving yourself and your team. Bill Parcells is another "Lombardi-like" coach that has a strong belief in how the game should be played. But he also said that if you were using yellow legal pads and your opponents were using computers that they were going to pass you by.

To improve -- to grow -- you must be open minded to new advancements. Flexibility is good! In today's email newsletter, Brian Tracy spoke of flexibility:

The Menninger Institute of Kansas City conducted a study not long ago to determine what qualities would be most important for success and happiness in the twenty-first century. They concluded after extensive research, that the most important single quality that you can develop, in a time of rapid change, is flexibility.

The Speed of Change
Today, perhaps the most important factor affecting your life is the speed of change. We are living in an age where change is taking place at a faster rate than ever before in human history. And if anything, the rate is increasing, year by year. Change today is not only faster, but it is also discontinuous, not following a straight line but starting, stopping, and moving in unpredictable directions. Change is coming at us from all sides and in so many different ways that it is often impossible to anticipate what might happen next.

A Major Cause of Stress
Change causes enormous stress for people who are fixed or rigid in their beliefs about how things “should be.” They fall in love with what they are doing, with their current methods and processes, and are unwilling to change, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Don't let this happen to you.

Be Open to New Information
To remain flexible, you must constantly be open, alert to new ideas, information, and knowledge that can help you or hurt you in your business or in the achievement of your goals. One new idea can be enough to make or lose you a fortune. One idea can start you on the road to riches or knock you off of it.

The Tide of New Technology
The second factor driving change is the rapid growth and development of new technology. Every new piece of scientific or technical knowledge leads to an advance in technology aimed at helping people and companies get things done faster, better, cheaper, or easier. And the speed of technological change is increasing every day.

Playing Leapfrog
Being in business is like playing an endless game of leapfrog. You look for a way to leapfrog over your competitor and serve your customers, better, faster, and cheaper. Your competitor then leapfrogs over you with a new or better product or service. You quickly regroup and leap over your competitor with a new innovation or improvement. Your competitor then leaps over you, and the game goes on without end.


Samford assistant Katherine Katz came by yesterday to spend a day talking basketball. She was specifically interested in screening and scouting. We spend a lot of times talking about screening here are some brief notes:

Communicate screen with cutter early (both verbally and by pointing)
Set up with a v-cut (make them take away the basket cut first)
Sprint to screen (headhunter mentality)
Proper screening angle (back to the ball)
Proper stance (knees bent, feet shoulder's width, wrists crossed at chest)
Utilize a "1-2 Quickstop" (as opposed to a pure jump stop) *
Hold screen (give cutter time to use it)
Screener must read defenders for slip possibility
Screener must read the cutter (to initiate the proper 2nd cut)

Post up first (be a threat -- be hard to guard)
Communicate screen with cutter early (both verbally and by pointing)
Sprint to screen (headhunter mentality)
Proper screening angle (back to the ball)
Proper stance (knees bent, feed shoulder's width, wrists crossed at chest)
Utilize a "1-2 Quickstop" (as opposed to a pure jump stop) *
Hold screen (give cutter time to use it)
Know your role...some players we want to look to pop, others we want to look to go back and re-screen for the cutter.

Allow cutter to get the basket (we want cutter to put her "head in the basket")
Communicate screen with cutter (both verbally and by pointing)
Sprint to screen (headhunter mentality)
Proper screening angle (back to the sideline)
Proper stance (knees bent, feet shoulder's width, wrists crossed at chest)
Utilize a "1-2 Quickstop" (as opposed to a pure jump stop) *
Hold screen (give cutter time to use it)
Screener must read defenders to slip possibility
Screener must read cutter (to initiate 2nd cut)

Communicate screen with cutter (both verbally and by pointing)
Set up with short v-cut (to help with angle)
Sprint to screen (headhunter mentality)
Screening angle (back to the corner)
Proper stance (knees bent, feet shoulder's width, wrists crossed at chest)
Utilize a "1-2 Quickstop" (as opposed to a pure jump stop) *
Hold screen (give cutter time to use it)
Screener must read defenders (for slip possibility)
Screener must read cutter (to initiate 2nd cut)

* We teach a "1-2 Quickstop" as opposed to a pure jump stop. We started doing this seven years ago while working with our trainer in regard to ACL prevention. We teach our players to land softly, knees bent with 1 foot landing right before the other. We also work with our players in terms of landing with knees bent.


Don't relish conflict, but don't fear it. Conflict is one of the most misunderstood parts of our existence. It is often unpleasant; many people try to avoid it. Others seem to thrive on the stress of it. I think some even use it to overpower others. Maybe that's why they look for opportunities to bully people.

However, conflict is best seen as an opportunity to understand our differences, since that's when conflict usually arises: where we see something differently.

When a problem does come up, think constructively. You are not attacking the other person, and hopefully he is not attacking you, either. If he is, redirect him to the problem. That is what you both should be focused on: the principle, not the person.

Stay focused on solutions and communication. Admit when you're wrong, but stand your ground when you're right.

From "Uncommon" by Tony Dungy


You have to love your adversaries. They make you better. They force you to improve, to stretch your capabilities. Competitors respond to a challenge from their opponents, and to negative motivation as well as to positive. Competitors seek revenge for losses. They crave a compliment if they haven't gotten one. Competitors want to prove everyone else wrong. They want to show skeptics "I am better than this. I am a winner."

You competition makes you better. Having worthy adversaries stimulates your work ethic, and brings out qualities you may not have known you had. So don't resent them.

You should love your competition. And you should thank them.

From "Reach for the Summit" by Pat Summit with Sally Jenkins


From “Fundamentals of Coaching Basketball,” by Coach Glenn Wilkes.

Why is it really necessary to plan and organize practice sessions? A coach — particularly an experienced one — should be able to take the floor and, using his or her judgment, work on the phases of the game particularly needed by the team. Unfortunately this is not always possible. Disorganization can result and interior learning situations can occur when a coach has not organized a complete practice session.

It assures maximum use of the time available.

It ensures coverage of all phases of the game. Without thorough planning, you might inadvertently neglect some important phase of the game, which would result in costly mistakes on game nights.

It eliminates over-emphasis on any one phase of the game. The natural tendency to overemphasize the offensive side can be curbed and equal time devoted to defense and the other components of the game.

It maintains better player interest. Shorter drills are more effective than lengthy ones. Unless practice time is preplanned, drills may become somewhat long and boring to players, and learning may be reduced.

It allows for evaluation oat the end of the season and aids in planning future seasons. A composite total of time devoted to each phase of the game can be invaluable in determining the reason for individual and team weaknesses. You can make adjustments in practice plans for future seasons to correct these weaknesses.

It enables planning drills for maximum results for each participating player. Without proper planning, a drill might have two players playing one-on-one and 8 or 9 players waiting in line for their turn. A well-organized practice has all players working simultaneously.

It enables maximum use of assistant coaches.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Rummaging through an old book and a small card fell out. It was one sent to me from Coach Don Meyer that read:

"The greatest teacher makes a few simple points. The powerful teacher leaves one or two fundamental truths. And the memorable makes the point not by telling, but by helping their students discover on their own. Learning takes place through discovery, not when you're told something, but when you figure it out for yourself. All a really fine teacher does is to make suggestions, point out problems, above all, ask questions, and more questions and more questions...teaching encourages not only discovery but initiative."

From "Lend Me Your Ears," by William Safire


You beat 50 percent of the people in America by working hard," says A. L. Williams. "You beat another 40 percent by being a person honesty and integrity and standing for something. The last 10 percent is a dogfight in the free enterprise system."

To improve your tenacity:
Work hard and/or smarter. If you tent to be a clock-watcher who never works beyond quitting time no matter what, then you need to change your habits. Put in an additional sixty to ninety minutes of work every day by arriving at work thirty to forty-five minutes early and staying an equal amount of time after your normal hours. If you are someone who already puts in an inordinate number of hours, then spend some more tie planning to make your working hours more efficient.

Stand for something. To succeed, you must act with absolute integrity. However, if you can add to that the power of purpose, you will possess an additional edge. Write on an index card how your day-to-day work relates to your overall purpose. Then review that card daily to keep your emotional fires burning.

Make your work a game. Nothing feeds tenacity like our natural competitive nature. Try to harness that by making your work a game. Find others in your organization who have similar goals and create a friendly competition with them to motivate you and them.

From "The Maxwell Daily Reader," by John Maxwell

Friday, September 25, 2009


From "The Winner's Manual" by Jim Tressel

"Success is an everyday proposition. It isn’t defined by a championship game or the day you get your diploma, get drafted by an NFL team, make the big sale, land the account of a lifetime, or get your law degree. But the key to a successful life is in the journey and the process. It’s that emphasis on the journey to success that we work on each day, step by step.

To me, the process is what’s most fun in football, and I’m sure it’s that way for any profession. The process of going full bore into the season and balancing your purpose with your goals and the family you love and all the things you try to accomplish—it’s a daily adventure.

It’s important to let our goals spring from our purpose. It makes sense that if we’re going to do the best we can do, our best should come from who we really are."


“It’s a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men… There is something in good men that really yearns for, needs, discipline and the harsh reality of head-to-head combat. I don’t say those things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of man or that man must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. Bit I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear – is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious.”

- Coach Vince Lombardi


From, "Ground Rules for Winners," by Joe Torre:

Success and winning are not always one and the same. Success is playing – or working – to the best of your ability. And winning is a by-product of living up to your highest standards for yourself, getting the most out of your natural talents, reaching down and rooting out your own drive, courage, and commitment.

You can win every day, but you can succeed in fulfilling your potential as an individual and a team member.

If you’re a player who focuses on realizing your abilities, or a manager who focuses on helping your team players to realize their abilities, you’ve got your priorities straight.

Some players can’t look back at you, which tells you a lot about them. Not that they’re bad players or lousy people who’ll never come through in the clutch. Rather, they may be uncertain about themselves, and you need to take that into account. Such players often need more attention, and if you support them their confidence may blossom.

One-on-One: Make Time for Team Players

Firstly, making time for team players enables you to appreciate them as individuals, which can definitely help you to get the most of their abilities. Secondly, it gives you opportunities to (1) let players know what you expect of them; (2) bolster their confidence; (3) answer their questions; and (4) offer support.

While relaxing is often the key to optimal performance, it’s never enough to tell someone to “just relax.” Managers must create conditions in which team players can relax, and the best way is to offer ongoing guidance and reassurance.

Here’s my motto: Every employee must feel useful. In order to build teamwork, you must acknowledge each individual’s worth, letting him know that his role, no matter how seemingly minor, is a vital cog in the team’s efforts.


The word fundamental is a very basic and simple word that means “essential.” With this definition, players often come to think of fundamentals as unimportant, too trivial and even boring…but without it, we cannot reach our potential. Within this framework, we have developed the Fundamental C’s. The secret to the Fundamental C’s is that you only have to work on the first one and the other three will fall into place for you.

The first C, the one you are responsible for is concentration. It involves you blocking everything out of your mind when it comes time to practice. You cannot be thinking about shopping, or heading to the movies, or playing with your friends while you are practicing. You have to dedicate yourself to focusing in on that which you are presently doing. Concentration is one of the most difficult things for a player on even the highest level to obtain and then to maintain.

“Concentrate...for the greatest achievements are reserved for the man of single aim, in whom no rival powers divide the empire of the soul.”
-Orison Swett Marden-

Concentration makes it possible for a good one hour workout with maximum results. Without concentration, you could be out on the court with a basketball for the entire day and not achieve as much.

A great story on concentration is told of golfing legend Ben Hogan. Of course Hogan is considered one of golfing’s all-time greatest. He is one of only five golfers to capture the Grand Slam of golfing while winning PGA Golfer of the Year four times. Hogan was in the middle of a key putt when in the background a loud train whistle sounded. Without any problem, Hogan sank the putt. A member of the group which Hogan was golfing with asked him if the whistle had bothered him. His reply: “What whistle?” He was so focused and concentrated on the immediate task at hand that he had blocked out all possible distractions.

With proper concentration comes control. You can control the basketball, you can control your body, and most importantly, you can control your thought process. By concentrating on doing everything you do as well as you possibly can do it, and within the fundamental guidelines, you will find that you will be able to have control over situations that you couldn’t before. It is difficult to improve greatly on foot quickness but if you work on concentration during your drill work you will seem quicker. Yes, you will be a little quicker but the majority of it will come from being in complete control on the court.

By adding both concentration and control, we arrive at confidence. I have never seen a great player that didn’t have confidence in herself. Let me take that one step further and say that I have never seen a great player that didn’t do the things necessary to gain the proper confidence. You see, players aren’t born with confidence and they can’t go out to the mall and buy it. There are some athletes out there that show false confidence by bragging, but the truly great ones, the ones who reach their maximum potential know that they gained confidence from proper work habits day in and day out.

The final Fundamental C is consistency. That means doing what you do as well as you do it and doing it that way all the time. Working hard is not a sometime thing. Concentrating is not a part-time job. You want to be consistent in your approach in everything you do. It takes mental toughness to come to practice everyday and consistently give it your best mental and physical effort regardless of everything else going on. Hall-of-Fame baseball player Willie Mays summed it up perfectly when he said:

“In sports, it isn’t hard to be good from time to time. What’s tough is being good every day.”

A simple formula is:

What is important to understand about confidence is that it is a result of the Ladder of Success along with the Fundamental C’s. One of the key factors in confidence is that key component of preparation. In other words, if you do your homework, you don’t have to worry about your test score.
“Confidence comes from planning and practicing well. You get ready during the week and the confidence will be there on Sunday. This confidence is a difficult thing to explain. But you do get it and the team gets it if you have prepared properly.”
-Vince Lombardi-
NFL Hall-of-Fame Coach

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation. Complete mental and physical preparation has to do with sacrifice and self-discipline. And that comes from within.”
-Arthur Ashe-
Legendary Tennis Player

“Confidence comes from preparation and the only way to be fully prepared is to practice something until you have it down so well that you know it will work.”
-John Havlicek-
NBA Hall-of-Fame Player

One final thought on the intangibles needed to become your absolute best is simply to maintain a good attitude. Attitude affects everything that you do on the court, in the classroom and in life. You must learn to be proactive in approaching your workouts. Our attitude is our greatest possession because it is something we completely control regardless of any and all outside benefactors. The power we have to choose our own personal attitude is tremendously important in our success. As President Thomas Jefferson said:

“Nothing can stop the person with the right mental attitude from achieving their goal; nothing on earth can help the person with the wrong mental attitude.”


Thursday, September 24, 2009


One of my best friends in the profession is Jim Boone, head coach at Tusculum College. He is someone who cares greatly about teaching the game of basketball and sharing those concepts with other coaches. Each year he puts on a coaching clinic and this year he may have outdone himself. Besides hearing Jim speak and seeing him take his team through a practice, he has three other speakers worth the trip. Dean Lockwood, the women's assistant at the University of Tennessee, and another friend of mine will speak about "Building a Team Culture." Mike Roller, who I have heard on numerous occasions will speak on "Post Play" and he is one of the best in this area. Coach Murray Bartow will speak about "Offensive Basketball."

My only regret is that we will be knee deep in practice this weekend and I won't be able to get there for this clinic. If you are in driving distance, I wouldn't miss this one!

October 24-25

Jim Boone - Head Coach
Tusculum College

"Pressure Pack Line Defensive Drills"

Jim Boone is entering his fifth season as the head men’s basketball coach at Tusculum College after leading the Pioneers to one of its most successful campaigns in school history. Boone has over quarter of a century of collegiate coaching experience, including the last 23 years as a head coach. He has recorded nearly 400 victories, including over 20 wins per year at the NCAA Division II level. This past year, he guided the Pioneers to its first 20-win season as a NCAA Division II member. Tusculum made it’s second ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The trip marked Boone’s 7th trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament, including two Final Fours.

Murray Bartow - Head Coach
East Tennessee State University
"ETSU Offensive Basketball"

Murray Bartow became the 15th head coach in the 81-year history of East Tennessee State University men’s basketball on April 22, 2003, and he wasted little time making a place for himself in the tradition-rich history of Buccaneer hoops. Since joining the ETSU family, Bartow has posted the school’s best winning percentage by a coach with five or more years of service. During his time at ETSU, his teams have averaged 19 wins a year, won the Southern Conference championship in 2004 and the Atlantic Sun Conference title in 2007. He guided the Bucs back to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 after capturing the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament title.

Mike Roller
David Lipscomb High School

"Post Play"
Coach Mike Roller has coached basketball at both the high school and collegiate levels for over thirty years. His overall record as a head coach is 501-89 and he currently holds the second longest winning streak in the history of boys high school basketball at 125 consecutive wins. Coach Roller has taken thirteen teams to the state tournament, winning four state championships. Post Play is his specialty having coached seven First Team All-State High School Post Players and Three First Team All-American College Post Players.

Dean Lockwood - Asst. Coach
University of Tennessee

"Building a Team Culture"
Dean Lockwood became just the ninth assistant coach ever to serve under Hall of Fame Coach Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee when he was named to the staff on July 2, 2004.
Lockwood is instrumental in all aspects of the Lady Vol basketball program, but his primary responsibilities include player development, recruiting and scouting. The 2004-05 season was his first in Knoxville since serving as an assistant coach with the Tennessee men's program from 1986-91.

Saturday, October 24th
6:00 Registration in Concourse of Pioneer Arena
7:00 Murray Bartow
8:30 Mike Roller
10:00 Q & A

Sunday, October 25th
9:00 Late Registration & Continental Breakfast
9:30 Dean Lockwood
11:00 Mike Roller on the Court
12:15 Coaches Social
1:00 Jim Boone on the Court
2:15 Tusculum College Practice
3:45 Q & A

Cost: $10 per coach Advance Registration (Postmarked by October 19th) $20 per coach after the 19th.

Hotel Accommodations available at the Hampton Inn in Greeneville (423-638-3735) * Ask for the special Tusculum College clinic rate of $79.

If you have any questions regarding the clinic please contact Coach Mike McBride at: 423-470-2905 or


In the off-season, Dick Vermeil visited his old friend, Bill Walsh, who had been pulled out of the pro ranks and hired to coach at Stanford. Vermeil asked a lot of questions about the passing game. Walsh, of course, was an offensive genius. Vermeil listened intently to Walsh in their chat sessions, jotting down notes. This was his custom, dating back to the years when he attended clinics as a high school coach, driving to all corners of California.

From "Dick Vermeil: Whistle in His Mouth, heart on His Sleeve"
By Gordon Forbes


The qualities that make Lance a great champion are a mysterious blend of genetics, background, attitude, and behavior molded by years of life experience.

There is simply nothing that can compromise Lance’s positive attitude and total focus on his goals.

One thing that becomes clear when you learn about Lance’s story is his total refusal to consider any alternative but the best: survival, perfect preparation, victory, good sportsmanship, total honesty, and giving to something bigger than himself in the cancer community.

Success Factor 1: Positive Attitude
Lance has an intensely positive attitude about life, the key to overcoming difficult circumstances like cancer and winning the toughest bike race in the world seven years in a row. He constantly maintains a winning environment for himself and everyone around him by choosing to interpret his past experiences and present circumstances in a positive manner.

Success Factor 2: Clarity of Purpose
Lance had a deep conviction and commitment to realize his potential as a cyclist, which resulted in his winning the Tour de France every year from 1999 through 2005. He was motivated by his love of cycling and desire to give his absolute best effort after surviving cancer and being given a second chance in life. In daily life, Lance consistently displayed the work ethic, focus, and prioritization skills that matched his clear life purpose every day. He was willing to make the tremendous sacrifices necessary to become a champion and prevent outside influences (competitors, the distractions of celebrity life, and so on) from impeding him.

Success Factor 3: Specialized Intelligence
Lance has extremely high intelligence narrowly applied and perfectly suited to his chosen endeavor as a pro cyclist. He developed his specialized intelligence by learning and improving from mistakes, cultivating an intuitive approach to training and life decisions, and adopting a big-picture perspective about his athletic goals to account for all performance variables.

Success Factor 4: Pure Confidence
Lance’s greatest source of confidence was “doing the work”—preparing fully and competing in high-pressure situations. He was focused on achieving peak performance and was not afraid to lose. This pure confidence transcends external variables that cause many to succumb to the negative influences of competitive pressure and the expectation of others.

From "How Lance Does It" by Brad Kearns

Wednesday, September 23, 2009



I'm in my first season as head coach. I am teaching motion to our players, as you know very difficult to do. We have come a long way since last spring, but still I find us doing a few things that we need to get better on: 1- playing way too fast; 2-not waiting for screens; 3-not looking at their man to read the defense (we want to watch the ball).

We do pretty well at 2 on 2 drills, but when we go 3 on 3 or 4 on 4 and definitely when we play open gym, the pace goes way too fast for them to make correct reads.

Any quick suggestions you could send my way would be appreciated.

My reply:

Dear Coach:

Your problems with motion are extremely common -- even on the collegiate level.

1. Playing too fast

We make our receivers hold the ball for a 2 count and if we are playing too fast in practice we make them count it out loud

We tell our players we have three rules for the cutter.

Rule #1 is "wait"...Rule #2 is "wait"...Rule #3 is "wait."

Restrictions is another way to help. If in playing too fast you are missing the screen the passer action (because you are reversing the ball) then we will add the restriction that you can only score off a screen the passer action. We do the same thing when we don't reverse the ball enough. We will tell them they must reverse the ball twice before a jump shot. In all restriction drills we never take away the dribble.

2. Not waiting for screens

We have our cutters hesitate at the screen to read the defender and this helps them to wait...still we will have a few that want to "hurry" before the screen is set. For repeat defenders, we will add a penalty of a sprint if they can't concentrate long enough for the screener to get set.

We will also play 4/4 or 5/5 and keep score by something other than points. For instance, we might play 4/4 and give a point for each good screen. Of course this must mean the screener sprints to screen and has the proper angle and the cutter must set up the defender and use it properly before we will give them a point. Play to 15 points or a set time and losers run. Putting a point value on a good screen and cut (along with running for losing) will greatly help their concentration level!

3. Watching the ball

Most difficult thing to teach offensive players on any level is to read the defender and not worry about the basketball...we tell our players to read the defense properly and "the ball will find you."

We do a lot of cutting/screening drills early without the ball. For instance, we might do 2/1 or 2/2 Down Screening and lay the ball on the court at the opposite wing. We want them to execute the down screen, the cut, and the screeners 2nd cut.

We will also work on this 1/0 in shooting drills. We will have a coach as a passer and a player as a cutter. We will use a chair as a screen. We will place a coach on the baseline below the chair and as the player nears the screen (chair), she must turn and look at the coach on the baseline who will be holding up fingers...1 finger = curl cut, 2 fingers = straight cut, 3 fingers = flair, and 4 fingers = back cut. We also demand our players to always verbally call out their cuts in every drill that we do.

Hope this helps!


"If each of you makes every effort to develop to the best of your ability, follow the proper rules of conduct and activity most conducive to good physical condition, subordinate individual acclaim for the welfare of the team, and permit no personality clashes or differences of opinion with teammates or coaches to interfere with you or a teammate's efforts, it will be a very rewarding year."

-July 23, 1971
From "The Essential Wooden" by John Wooden and Steve Jamison



Bill Walsh has long been known for his "Standard of Performance" which is a series of guidelines that held everyone in his organization accountable. Not just players, but equipment managers, trainers, assistant coaches, secretaries, media relations people -- anyone involved with his program. At LSU, we refer to this as "The Lady Tiger Way." It is something that must be emphasized every single day to maintain. You must be quick to point out any time a player or team member veers from the ideal of these standards and you must celebrate when they are in point in representing your program in the way you deem necessary. The "Standard of Performance" ("The Lady Tiger Way") go far beyond just how we we practice -- it is about how we go about EVERYTHING.

In his most recent book, Coach Walsh talks about establishing those standards. His book, "The Score Takes Care of Itself," by Coach Walsh with Steve Jamison and his son Craig Walsh is a tremendous book along the lines of Coach Walsh's book "Finding the Winning Edge."

In quantifying and implementing your own version of the Standard of Performance, the following guidelines are a good reference point:

1. Start with a comprehensive recognition of, reverence for, and identification of the specific actions and attitudes relevant to your team’s performance and production.
2. Be clarion clear in communicating your expectation of high effort and execution of your Standard of Performance. Like water, many decent individuals will seek lower ground if left to their own inclinations. In most cases you are the one who inspires and demand they go upward rather than settle for the comfort of doing what comes easily. Push them beyond their comfort zone; expect them to give extra effort.
3. Let all know that you expect them to possess the highest level of expertise in their area of responsibility.
4. Beyond standards and methodology, teach your beliefs, values, and philosophy. An organization is not an inanimate object. It is a living organism that you must nurture, guide and strengthen.
5. Teach “connection and extension.” An organization filled with individuals who are “independent contractors’ unattached to one another is a team with little interior cohesion and strength.
6. Make the expectations and metrics of competence that you demand inaction and attitudes from personnel the new reality of your organization. You must provide the model for that new standard in your own actions and attitude.


From "The Winner's Manual" by Jim Tressel: The Journey of Success

1. Decide your purpose, set your goals: If you do the things you need to do when you need to do them, someday you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them!
2. Developing vision: the first step in creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it.

· Vision will ignite the fire of passion, which fuels our commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence.

· Vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action.

· Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. "Our vision is what we become in life.
Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else." (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
"Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying." (Romans 12:12)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I received an email yesterday that read:

Coach Starkey,

How do you and the staff "chart screens." I remember reading one of your blog entries about approaches to emphasize screening. Our men's team has always been just a good screening team. We are thirsty for some coaching techniques that might take our screening game to the next level.

My reply was as follows:

Coach, from the Don Meyer school of coaching, we are big believers in “it’s not just what you teach, it’s what you emphasize.” We make a big deal out of screening with our team.

1. We spend time teaching screening – techniques, timing and angles…we will work on screening in some form every day in practice (as a motion team you have to)…I am attaching a chapter from my motion book (that hasn’t been released yet) that has our screening philosophy in it.

2. We chart screens each and every day in practice and in games…first, as a staff we want to know who is screening, how often and are they doing a good job…to do this properly, I chart the screens myself off of video…after practice, I pop it in and utilize the chart that I have also attached. We chart number of screens set. We also, however, chart if the screen was set properly – did they sprint to screen, did they get the right angle…we also chart whether or not we got a score off of it – which is the ultimate screen. We also chart illegal screens (even if the official did not call it). We set a lot of screens and very few of them are illegal and I think it’s because we chart it and talk about.

3. We make sure that each day in video session that we have clips off good screens as well as screening opportunities missed or poorly executed from the previous practice or games…we talk about how the screen created a scoring opportunity either directly or indirectly. For instance, it’s easy to see that a cutter that cuts off a back screen for a lay-up can thank the screener in part for the score. But we also point out that a down screen on the opposite side of the floor “occupies the help” when we drive the ball and score. That’s just as important.

We make sure that we point out as much as possible to our team, the fans and the media who our best screeners are…a few years ago we had a player on our team Wendlyn Jones who was a great screener. She actually went to Kinko’s and had some business cards made that said “Wendlyn Jones: Professional Screener.” It was funny but it also showed that we were getting our message across. It is a common occurrence for a player to acknowledge a screener the same way some players do a passer.

Most everyone has seen our stat package but if you'd like a copy of our "Screening Stat Sheet" email me at: