Thursday, February 24, 2011


I love coaches like Caleb Miller and Steve Finamore.  Basketball is so very much more than just figuring out how to defend an oppoent or devise a last-second play.  It is all abour understanding the lives that we touch in so many way.  Please take the time to read this story written by Bill McLeod of

Tyler Sigmon has been in yearbook photos with the St. Johns boys varsity basketball team for the past four years, but he was always dressed in street clothes. Sigmon was the student manager.

But Sigmon, who was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy when he was a year old, has always wanted to get off the sidelines and into the game.

Friday, Sigmon finally got his chance to put on a Redwing uniform and take to the court. He didn't squander the opportunity, scoring the first two points in a game against East Lansing.

"When I started to help out with the basketball team (as manager) I never thought I would get the chance to play," he said. "It was always a dream of mine to be out on the floor."

Sigmon's cerebral palsy impairs his motor skills to the effect of limiting his mobility and the range of motion of his left arm.

But he has also been the student manager for the football and baseball teams since his freshman year.

"I've always loved sports and this is my way to get involved," he said.

Friday's East Lansing game was the last regular-season home game of Sigmon's high school career and coach Caleb Miller wanted to see that he had a chance to play. Miller and East Lansing coach Steve Finamore made an agreement that Sigmon would start and score the first basket. Afterward, East Lansing would score an uncontested basket.

The Redwings' play went as planned with teammate Johnny Thompson finding Sigmon open under the hoop, but Sigmon missed the shot. Undaunted, he rebounded his shot and scored.

Playing in front of the largest home crowd of the season, cheering erupted from both St. Johns and East Lansing fans as well. A timeout was called after East Lansing scored and St. Johns students rushed the court to congratulate their classmate. East Lansing and St. Johns players alike congratulated Sigmon.

"It made me realize what kind of a community St. Johns is," Sigmon said. "It made me feel really good to know that a lot of people cared about me and wanted to see me do well."

Sigmon, who had been practicing the play throughout the week, said the reason he missed the first shot was because they were using a Spalding basketball instead of the usual Rawlings. The ball was purchased special so Sigmon could take it home as a souvenir, but it didn't feel quite right to Sigmon.

"The grooves were wider and it was slippery," he said.

Finamore, a longtime friend of Miller, told the St. Johns coach that Sigmon was just padding his stats by getting a rebound to his credit.

"Tyler is a kid that loves sports," Miller said. "He could be a Jeopardy whiz in the sports category; he really knows and follows sports. His love and passion for sports has made him want to be involved with the teams in St. Johns."

Miller sent out a district-wide e-mail notice before the game, informing teachers and staff that Sigmon was going to get his chance to play.

"I was overwhelmed by the number of people who responded, those who had Tyler in class or those who knew Tyler," Miller said. "Everybody he meets just falls in love with him."

Here the link to the article:


"Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used."

-Richard Byrd, Explorer

Monday, February 21, 2011


"You have to prepare your team for whatever the situation calls for.  That's the fundamental goal of your teaching."

-Pete Carril


One of my daily rituals is to read from "The Maxwell Daily Reader" by John Maxwell.  It has a wonderful message for each day of the year and here is the one I ready today:

The world has never seen a great leader who lacked commitment.  If you want to be an effective leader, you have to be committed.  True commitment inspires and attracts people.  It shows them that you have conviction.  They will believe in you only if you believe in your cause.  People buy into the leader, then the vision. What is the true nature of commitment? Take a look at three observations.

1. Commitment Starts in the Heart:
I am told that in the Kentucky Derby, the winning horse effectively runs our of oxygen after the first half mile, and he goes the rest of the way on heart.  If you want to make a difference in other people's lives as a leader, look into your heart to see if you're really committed.

2. Commitment is Tested by Action:
It's one thing to talk about commitment.  it's another to do something about it.  The only real measure of commitment is action. Arthur Gordon acknowledged, "Nothing is easier than saying words.  Nothing harder than living them day after day."

3. Commitment Opens the Door to Achievement:
As a leader, you will face plenty of obstacles and opposition -- if you don't already.  And there will be times when commitment is the only thing that carries you forward.  David McNally commented, "Commitment is the enemy of resistance, for it is the serious promise to press on, to get up, no matter how many times you are knocked down."


Great stuff from Jon Gordon (

In Training Camp I wrote that every one of us is going to leave a legacy. It just depends on what kind. So what kind of legacy do you want to leave? I encourage you to think about it because knowing how you want to be remembered helps you decide how to live and work today. Consider the following ways to leave a legacy and then identify other legacies you can share.

1. A Legacy of Excellence - Saint Francis of Assisi said, "It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless your preaching is your walking." To leave a legacy of excellence, strive to be your best every day. As you strive for excellence you inspire excellence in others. You serve as a role model for your children, your friends and your colleagues. One person in pursuit of excellence raises the standards and behaviors of everyone around them. Your life is your greatest legacy and since you only have one life to give, give all you can.

2. A Legacy of Encouragement - You have a choice. You can lift others up or bring them down. Twenty years from now when people think of you what do you want them to remember? The way you encouraged them or discouraged them? I recently spent a few days with Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, and I had the opportunity to thank him for his support, encouragement and the difference he has made in my life. He not only inspired me by the way he lived his life but also by the way he encouraged me as a writer and speaker. Who will you encourage today? Be that person that someone will call five, ten or twenty years from now and say “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

3. A Legacy of Purpose - People are most energized when they are using their strengths and talents for a purpose beyond themselves. To leave a legacy of purpose, make your life about something bigger than you. While you’re not going to live forever you can live on through the legacy you leave and the positive impact you make in the world.

4. A Legacy of Love - I often think about my Mom, who passed away four years ago, and when I think about her I don’t recall her faults and mistakes or the disagreements we had. After all, who is perfect? But what I remember most about her was her love for me. She gave me a legacy of love that I now share with others. Share a legacy of love and it will embrace generations to come.


Here are some thoughts on being "ready."  As a player, are you ready to play when the ball is tipped off.  As a player on the bench, are you ready when your name is called.  As a team, in a close game, when circumstances arrive, are you ready to win the game.  As coaches, are we ready for all the challenges that come our way -- dealing with players, practice and game situations, adversity, and yes, even success.  A big part of excellence is being "ready" for it.

“I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.”
-Abraham Lincoln

“Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.”
-Wayne Dyer

“When the will is ready the feet are light.”

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”
-Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens

“If your're not practicing, somebody else is, somewhere, and he'll be ready to take your job.”
-Brooks Robinson

“The beautiful souls are they that are universal, open, and ready for all things”
-Michel de Montaigne

“Losing doesn't eat at me the way it used to. I just get ready for the next play, the next game, the next season.”
-Troy Aikman

“Great minds must be ready not only to take opportunities, but to make them.”
-Charles Caleb Colton

“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”
-Benjamin Disraeli

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Thanks to Phil Beckner at Weber State University for passing on this article to us written by Ian Thomsen of  It's from a few years back but is an excellent read:

Boston's Doc Rivers, New Orleans' Byron Scott and Portland's Nate McMillan are among the league's three most successful coaches from the recent generation of players. Here each offers advice on how to make the transition.

5. Above all, believe in yourself. "You can't coach to the way the GM wants you to coach, you can't coach to the way the fans want you to do it, you can't change your style because of criticism,'' Rivers said. "You've just got to stick with what you do and what you believe in, and if it's good enough, it's good enough. And if it's not, you'll find that out too.

"You learn that you change from experience. But you don't change your personality or who you are.''

4. Understand -- but don't behave like -- the players. "Once you're a coach, you're no longer one of the guys and you've got to move out of that,'' Rivers said. "I tell Sam [Cassell] that right now, because I think Sam has a chance [to become a coach] -- that nothing you've done in the past has anything to do with what you're doing in the future. No one cares that you were a good player. You can bring that up to your players as a joke, and that's what I do. I always joke about it -- 'Man, when I played I was awful,' or 'When I played I kicked your ass' -- and they know I'm joking about it. Because they couldn't care less. They want to know what you can do for them now.

"When players who want to coach ask me for advice, I say, 'You've got to work. I don't care that you worked as player. You've got to work as a coach. This is not a tour of you being a great player, so now it's residual that you can coach. It doesn't work that way. They don't care. They want to see what you can do.' "

Said Scott: "The fact that all three of us have been very successful as basketball players -- Nate and Doc and myself -- I think that gives you the respect from the start when you're talking to these guys about what it takes to be successful in this league. I have a feel for situations on the basketball court. But that's just half of it; the other half is being able to relate to these guys. I've been blessed with having a team in [New] Jersey that wanted to play for me -- at least for a couple of years -- and then I have a team here that you know these guys, they play hard for me, and that's all I can ask.

3. Manage the team. "I come in early,'' McMillan said. "I'm in the office normally between 7:30 and 8 every day. I go through film, I'll go through my practice plan or my game plan, and then I'll meet with my staff at 9. I'll give them the practice plan and then I'll listen to them. 'What do you think? This is what I want to do today.' But I really want their input. I've seen coaches who don't even talk to their assistants.''

After a morning shootaround on gameday, McMillan continues the ritual he maintained as a player.

"I sleep,'' he said. "I'm in bed, I don't take calls for a couple of hours. Then normally I'm at the arena at least two-and-a-half hours before the game. After games I go back and I watch tape that night. I get up the next morning and I'll edit the game and then, if we play the day after, I'll start to work on the next game.''

2. Be secure. Shortly after Scott arrived in New Orleans, he found himself in the middle of a skirmish between management and star point guard Baron Davis. Scott had recently been fired by the Nets amid rumors of a falling-out with Jason Kidd, yet in this new situation he stood up to Davis.

"I never thought I was in a vulnerable position,'' Scott said. "I know from the outside people probably said, 'This is either going to make or break him, it's going to go back to the whole Jason Kidd thing.' But I never thought of it that way.

"I just thought we're going to do it my way, this is how we're going to do it. I just came off going to the Finals two straight years [with the Nets], and I won three championships [as a player in the 1980s with the Lakers], and I've got a pretty good idea of what it takes to win. And so you're either on board or you're not. And luckily for me as well, I had the backing of my GM and my owner, and we saw fit to make some changes, and you see where we are today.''

1. Commit to the job at hand today, even if it may not lead to a championship tomorrow. "The networking,'' McMillan said. "I don't network. Not that it's anything against that, or that you are preparing for the day that you don't have a job. But or me, I'm not afraid to lose my job. And while I'm here I'm not going to be working toward my next job. I have an opportunity right here: You've got me. I'm not thinking about going anywhere else. I came here to make this work. I tried to do it in Seattle, and I was able to stay there for 19 years [as a player, assistant coach and head coach] by not ever assuming that I would have my job tomorrow.''

McMillan acknowledges that others in his position are looking for better opportunities elsewhere.

"It happens all the time and I see it a lot,'' he said. "But I've just been one who, I don't know -- talking to the competition or your peers and all of that, I've never been one to do that on the court as a coach. I respect them, I respect my friends, but I'm not a big phone guy. I don't do a lot of calling. I think about it and I know I should, but I've never been one to call other coaches, even coaches I've worked with. I focus on the group I'm working with and how can we get better.''

The key to winning a championship -- and this is echoed by Rivers, Scott and other coaches -- is to do the hard work of trying to win every day regardless of whether the team is capable of winning or not.

"I've asked our coaches, 'Would you take a championship ring, or would you take the career of Coach [Jerry] Sloan?' '' McMillan said in reference to the league's longest-serving coach. Sloan is in his 21st year as Jazz coach, and he has suffered but one losing season. But he has also never won a championship.

"I would take the career of Coach Sloan,'' McMillan said, "because he is consistent with what he does. They've won and they continue to consistently win.

Read the entire article:

Friday, February 18, 2011


Here's another good one from Coach Creighton Burns that he attributes to John Mason.  This one will be a passout for our team next week.

Thomas Edison Was Afraid of the Dark...yet he overcame that obstacle in a big way and invented the light bulb. The door to opportunity swings on the hinges of adversity. Problems are the price of progress. The obstacles of life are intended to make us better, not bitter. Adversity has advantages!

The truth is, if you like things easy, you will have difficulties. If you like problems, you will succeed. The biggest successes are the ones who solve the biggest problems. Ann Giminez says, "Between you and anything significant will be giants in your path." You cannot bring about change without confrontation.

The problem you face is simply an opportunity for you to do your best. Have the attitude of Louisa May Alcott: "I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship." Don't let your problems take the lead. You take the lead.

The Chinese have a proverb that says, "The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials." It seems that great trials are the necessary preparation for greatness. Consider what Jesus said: "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world."

Every problem introduces a person to himself. Challenges make you stretch-they make you go beyond the norm. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Turning an obstacle to your advantage is the first step towards victory.

Life is as uncertain as a grapefruit's squirt. Consider what Sydney Harris said, "When I hear somebody say that 'Life is hard', I am always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?'" We might as well face our problems. We can't run fast or far enough to get away from them all. Rather, we should have the attitude of Stan Musial, the famous Hall of Fame baseball player. Commenting on how to handle a spit ball, he said, "I'll just hit the dry side of the ball." Charles Kettering said, "No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm."

The breakfast of champions is not cereal;
   --it's obstacles.


Some great quotes on Discipline via Coach Creighton Burns:

"The only competition you will ever have is the competition between your disciplined and undisciplined mind."
 -- James A. Ray

"The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it."
-- General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."
-- Stephen King

"When the morning's freshness has been replaced by the weariness of midday, whenthe leg muscles give under the strain, the climb seems endless, and suddenly nothing will go quite as you wish-it is then that you must not hesitate."
-- Dag Hammarskjold


Some more great stuff from Brian Tracy.  Be sure to check out When I read this particular post, I came away thinking it is some really great guidelines to improve and grow as an assistant coach:

Get Better Results than Ever Before
There are several principles of military strategy that you can apply to your business, every single day. These can help you to think better and get better results than ever before.

Do the Unexpected
One really helpful military principle that can be applied to business is the Principle of Surprise. The principle of surprise says, "do the unexpected!" In sales and marketing, this means to be continually seeking ways to out-flank or upset your competition.

Do the Opposite of Before
Sometimes doing exactly the opposite of what you have been doing up till now can turn out to be the perfect solution. The natural tendency for a person, when they find themselves in a hole, is to dig deeper. In many cases, the solution is to go and dig somewhere else. Remember, the first law of holes is, "When you find yourself in one, stop digging."

Follow-up and Follow-Through
A second military principle that applies to business is the Principle of Exploitation. The principle of exploitation emphasizes the importance of follow-up and follow-through. In business, this means that, when you get an opportunity, you exploit it to the fullest extent possible. If you have a great promotional idea or product or service, you sell all you can. You take advantage of your idea or breakthrough and use every opportunity to capitalize on it.

Work Harmoniously With Others
The third principle of military strategy that applies to personal and corporate thinking is the Principle of Cooperation. In business, this is often called the principle of synergy. In military terms, this is often called the principle of "concerted action." In business terms, your ability to work effectively and harmoniously with other individuals and groups is more responsible for your success than any other quality.

Win the Cooperation of Key People
A key part of strategic thinking is for you to identify the individuals, groups and organizations whose cooperation you will require to achieve your goals. Make a list of them and then organize the list in order of importance. Then ask yourself, "How am I going to win their cooperation?"

Answer Everyone's Favorite Question
Everybody wants to know, "what's in it for me?" The effective executive is always looking for ways to help or assist others knowing that this is the only sure way to create within them a desire to help you to achieve your goals.

By doing the unexpected, by following up and following through, and by constantly looking for ways to get other people to cooperate with you, you will accomplish more in a shorter time than you might ever have imagined.

Action Exercises

Here are two things you can do immediately to apply these ideas in your business and in your work:

First, look at your job, especially the areas where you are experiencing frustration, and question whether or not there is a completely different way of approaching your problem or situation. Do the unexpected. Perhaps you should be doing exactly the opposite of what you are doing today. All success in business comes from surprising the competition in some way.

Second, identify the people, groups and organizations whose assistance you will need to achieve your goal. Continually look for ways to earn their support and cooperation by thinking in terms of what is in it for them.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Recently Pete Gaudet sent me a few items including his book "Practical Post Play."  The book is as good as anything I've read on post play development.  It is both detailed and simplistic which is often lost in teaching.  Coach Gaudet is one of the handfull of coaches who has has a tremendous impact in both the men's and women's game.

In the book, Coach Gaudet breaks post play into R-R-R-R-R-R-R:

Run the court
Root out in the post

He breaks down each segment in terms of how to be best execute and develop each.  All throughout the book is also short writing from Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe on various post players in the NBA (many of which will make for great passouts for our post players).  The book closes with over 50 pages of drills for post play development.

I can't imagine a coach on any level not getting a great deal from Coach Guadet's book and wished I had come across it earlier as well.  I was absolutely shocked to see that you could purchase the book for only $5!

Here is a link to purchase your own copy:

Here is a short excerpt from the book with Coach Gaudet talking about rebounding:

Coaches: Heap plenty of praise on each player who consistently rebounds.  All players want to please their coach.  Let your team see the passion you have for this crucial aspect of the game.  make sure that in your game-like execution of drills, all defensive sequences are completed with a rebound.  keep rebounding statistics, and make this part of the game an important segment of your practices.  That ratio of attempts to opportunities for rebounds for all your 5-on-5 drills and scrimmages might be a bit more more work for a manager, but may prove critical in your practice evaluations.  That statistic, rebounds you should have gotten, can be reviewed in film sessions to show players where they could improve rebounding with more effort, a better technique, or increased physical strength.

For effective offensive rebounding, the players need to stay active.  I have heard Pete Newell identify the qualities of a good offensive rebounder as a player who uses movement, creativity, energy and competitiveness.  This bit of knowledge might encourage (or scare) some of your players.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Another tremendous post from the Boston Celtics Kevin Eastman.  Please find time to check out:

We have all heard many times over the years that coaching and leadership are about relationships.  As I think back to our fortunate run to the 2008 NBA World Championship and our run to the Finals last year, I can’t help but recall the importance of relationships to our success.

In particular, I want to call to your attention to four important relationships that I feel exist in all successful teams.  For us, all four of these involved a respect by and for both parties, a trust of each other, and also a genuine like for each other.

RELATIONSHIP #1:  Our players liked, respected, and trusted the coaches.

RELATIONSHIP #2:  Our players liked, respected, and trusted each other.

RELATIONSHIP #3:  Our coaching staff liked, respected, and trusted the players.

RELATIONSHIP #4:  Our coaches liked, respected, and trusted the other coaches.

I believe this last one is the one relationship, from a coaching perspective, that doesn't get enough attention.  It's almost never talked about or evaluated, but it can be a real killer of a team’s success.  I know of coaches that backstab each other and are only in it for their own advancement, showing no loyalty to each other.  If this is going on, particularly when you're going through a difficult time, you may be on a crash course with your season.

As coaches we have to make sure that our relationship is healthy and strong.  The players can sense and see a divided staff.  They can sense and hear a staff that is not loyal to its Head Coach.  Players also are pulled in different directions -- what coach or coaches should they listen to, believe, support?

We were (and are) fortunate in that all four of these relationships were strong.  But it doesn't always just happen.  We invested a lot of time in each of these relationships to make sure they worked.  It definitely takes time to build all of these, but it is time you will be rewarded for in the long run.  For us that reward was the 2008 Championship trophy!

These same strong relationships will enhance any corporate environment as well.  As the African philosophy of "Ubuntu" (which our team has adopted)states: "people are people because of other people."  Whether it's the corporate world, your team, or the Boston Celtics, relationships are a major ingredient to execution, performance, and ultimately...success!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I think one of the faults of a young coach is to watch a play work successfully on television and automatically think that it will work for their team. 

Vince Lombardi once said that has never been successful running another coach's plays.  And of course the reason are somewhat obvious.  The first being that he didn't have the other coach's players -- and their particular strengths and weaknesses.  The other being a different philosophy could mean the difference in a play's success with each particular coach.  We have utlized a set of guidelines in the past in create our entries that we use for motion and I will post those in a later blog.  For now here 16 steps that give you a good foundation for developing and executing players. Thanks to the Xavier Basketball staff's newsletter for sharing this from:

Tip #1 - Stress execution
The reason that set plays work so well is that you have the opportunity to practice them ahead of time. However, if you don’t stress execution and make sure your players are doing things correctly, then your plays will be lack luster. You’ll need to make sure that your players are setting solid screens, rubbing off screens shoulder to shoulder, setting up their man before the screen, cutting quickly to the basket, and soon.

Tip #2 - Stress concentration
Again, the reason set plays can be effective is because they can be practiced and executed to near perfection. This means your players really need to concentrate to run it correctly. The concentration starts in your practices and continues into games.

Tip #3 - Make sure players know their roles
If the key to a certain play is to have a screener that jab steps to set up their man and set a solid back screen, make sure they know their job. It takes five players all working together to make the play successful. As always, communicating with your players and letting them know their roles makes you more successful. This gets your players to take ownership, feel more involved, and improve the execution of your plays.

Tip #4 - Timing
Timing is critical in order to run plays effectively. It can also be one of the trickiest things for coaches and players to master. If your screener leaves too early, then your shooter will be open before the ball gets to them. And by the times the ball arrives, the defense has already recovered and the open shot is gone! You’ll need to constantly monitor and be aware of your timing.

Tip #5 - Practice
The recurring theme to all these tips revolves around practice. Practice is where points are scored. You should continually practice and refine your plays so your players know their roles, fundamentals, and everything so they can run the play in their sleep. Repetition, repetition, repetition!

Tip #6 - Run your plays for the right people
Great coaches get the ball in the hands of the players at the right time so they can succeed. At the end of the game, you might want to get the ball in the hands of your best player. Or perhaps you’ll want to position your players on their favorite side of the floor. Bottom line, your plays have to fit your players.

Tip #7 - Maintain good spacing
Plenty of spacing between your players is important because it keeps the defense honest and spread out – so your offense has more room to cut and drive to the basket. It’s much easier to play good defense against a team that has their players bunched together because there’s less ground to cover. That’s why almost all the successful coaches stress good spacing. Not only does it give you more scoring opportunities, but it prevents defenses from easily trapping your team.
Tip #8 - Design your plays to flow into the offense
In a perfect world, all your plays finish in the same formation of your primary offense. This allows you to immediately flow into your offense without hesitating. This means the defense doesn’t have a chance to recover and can also reduce your team’s turnovers (because they won’t have to scramble to reset the offense).

Tip #9 - Put your players in good position to get the rebound
Coaches often overlook offensive rebounding when designing plays and this could increase your scoring significantly. Can you get a second or third shot if a miss occurs? Where are your best rebounders located when the shot is taken? Make sure to position your players appropriately to set them up for success. If a particular play does not provide you with good rebounding position, you might want to re-evaluate the play.

Tip #10 - Teach players to react to the defense
Even though you want your players to know all the plays, you never want them to become mechanical within the plays. When defenses overplay a pass, the player should recognize this and execute a backdoor cut. Teaching your players how to read the defense and react does take time, but it’s time well spent! This pays off late in the season and in the playoffs. Almost all good teams will play this style in the playoffs and into championship games because no coach in his right mind is going to let you get into your set plays. Why not teach from day one how to make proper cuts and screens based on how the defense is playing? That will make your plays even more difficult to defend.

Tip #11 - Teach the fundamentals
No matter what type of offense or plays you use, you must teach your players the fundamentals. To get the most from your team, you should teach and emphasize the basics of passing, cutting, screening, setting up the defender, reading the defense, and so on. This is before you even begin running your plays. They need to know how to dribble and shoot. They need to understand how to do a pivot. They need to understand when to do a back-door cut versus a v-cut. They need to understand when to slip a screen on a screen and roll. It doesn’t matter what level of play you are at, you cannot get away from the basics.

Tip #12 - Have big players screen for smaller guards
If the defense chooses to switch on screens, then this creates mismatches and problems for the defense. You can clear out the lane for your post player or you could clear a wing so your guard can take the bigger, slower post player to the basket. Make sure to try this during scrimmages and practices to make sure your players recognize the switches and mismatches.

Tip #13 - Make sure the help side defense is occupied
Whether you’re using one of our plays or designing your own, be sure that the help side of the defense is occupied. What’s happening away from the ball? Are your players standing or moving to keep their defenders out of the play? Some players don’t take their part seriously because the ball is away from them. But they need to know their role is just as important, even though they are simply a decoy to keep the defense occupied. As a coach, be sure to keep an eye this.

Tip #14 - Make sure you get the type of shot you want
Your plays should always have a purpose and don’t let yourself or your players lose sight. Do you want a lay up out of the inbounds? Do you want to get to the free throw line? Do you want a quick post up? Sometimes it’s really easy for players to force things because they anticipate a certain shot will be open. So be sure your players understand the type of shot you want.

Tip #15 - Run plays from the same initial set
You should use plays that run off your initial offensive sets. For example, if you run a 1-2-2 set, you should use this same set with your plays. It provides simplicity for the players and the defense gets confused more easily. If the defense knows that you run a certain play out of a certain set, they’ll know what to look for. If your plays occur in the same set, they won’t know what play comes next.

Tip #16 - Have visual and verbal cues to let your team know which play to run
It’s best to have both verbal and visual cues for your players so you can make sure your players get the message. There’s nothing worse than having four players run the play to perfection and one guy has no idea what’s happening. Sometimes the crowd is noisy and your players can’t hear you. And other times your players have their back to you. So have both types of cues ready for any situation.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Thanks to Coach Steve Finamore for bringing this to our attention.  Those of us that know Coach Finamore know that he is an avid supporter of Michigan State basketball and a big believer in Coach Tom Izzo -- with great reason!  Of course, even the best of teams, coaches, and programs hit a snag every now and then and it has been a difficult season for Michigan State. 

As Coach Finamore wrote on his facebook page: Michigan State men's basketball team is struggling this season. Here's an open letter to the team from a former Spartan player, Tim Bograkos. Great read coming from a guy who gave everything he had to the Green and White!

Here is that open letter:

As a former player at Michigan State and part of what I consider the greatest program in all of college basketball, I have had the chance to play, talk, laugh and grow with the players from all different generations and teams. I have spent countless hours telling and listening to old stories from men who have been here from the beginning. Guys who laid the first brick at the beginning of the MSU basketball journey, when nothing about the program was elite. Players who shed their blood, sweat and tears to put the green and white in the position it is today and who take tremendous pride in the fact that we laced our shoes up every day as a SPARTAN and left it all on the court.

That’s what makes this season so difficult for everyone both physically and emotionally. I must first clarify that I will always have unwavering support for Coach Izzo and you guys. I know the amount of work that has gone into the off-season workouts and the countless hours of practice and film work that you guys and the coaches are continuing to put in. No one in the country is going to outwork the MSU basketball program and that has been proven over the years. I feel a sort of defense mechanism when it comes to the constant criticism that this team is getting. I feel an overwhelming urge to defend our program and the players. It’s like listening to someone talk about your little brother, you want to stand up and fight to defend your family.

At this point I find myself straddling a very difficult fence. On one side, I am extremely proud alum of Michigan State and our basketball program. On the other side I’m very disappointed in some of the things that seem to be happening this year. It appears that, in some sense, this team has forgotten what kind of program they signed up to play for. I prided myself as a player who protected the core values that our program stands for every time I stepped on the court. At this point, I’m far less concerned with wins and losses and all I can hope is that we finish the season with the same intensity as Scotty Skiles, with the swagger of Steve Smith, and the true grit of Antonio Smith and Mateen Cleaves.

I hope you all realize that you have a group of former players who will always be there through thick and thin, who have gone through tough seasons, dealt with the relentless media scrutiny and will never turn our backs. This program is bigger than any one player and bigger than any one season. Remember, as this quote says, you are the men in the arena… just make sure when you feel triumph or failure, you have done so with your face marred by dust and sweat and blood due to your unwavering EFFORT.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt


Defense is not a variable.  It's a constant.  Defense has to be deeply embedded in your attitude.  It is something you can do well every time -- both the individual and the team.

The first principle of teaching defense is to recognize what your players can do defensively.  Not all are equally good in all phases of defense, and a coach has to see what differences are.

The second principle is: There is no single absolute.  The result counts no matter how you do it.  Any defense is good regardless of what it is if it's effective.  If the principle is good, it will hold true 85 percent of the time.

The third principle is for the coach to recognize that the faster a team is, the more pressure it can apply defensively.  Speed narrows the court, makes it less long.  The court is larger to a slower team.

The fourth principle is that whatever you emphasize, and to the degree that you do, you get better at it up to the level of your talent.

The first principle is that the force of the coach determines the quality and the intensity of the defense.

Principle s alone do not get the job done.  Others might know more about defense but don't have the same strength of personality.  Knowledge alone is not enough.

From "The Smart Take from the Strong" by Pete Carril with Dan White


Here is an outstanding list from Ernie Woods and Bob Kloppenburg at

Not protecting a hard earned lead

When ahead late in the game the game clock becomes your ally. However, you must use it wisely. Keep it running and do not stop it (unless in very serious trouble). Coaches may elect to spread the court on offense to take time off the clock and cut down on the number of opponent's offensive possessions.

However, in doing so, be sure to continue to make basket cuts and attack the basket. Holding the ball for the sake of trying to run time off the clock will allow the defense to get more aggressive and disruptive. You must attack the basket. If the opponent tries to trap or double team, assume a 2-1-2 alignment and move the ball.

Watching the ball and not boxing out on a last shot
On last shot situations, more games are won on putbacks than on made shots. Therefore, on last shot situations, it is imperative that all defenders aggressively box out and prevent any offensive rebound instead of watching the flight of the ball to see if it is going to be made or not.

Giving up an offensive rebound on a missed free throw
Defensively, teams should work hard to never give up an offensive rebound off a missed free throw situation during a game. Many of championships are lost because of a failure to box out on free throws. Players should be well drilled in boxing out on all free throw situations. Players must also communicate to make sure that the shooter is boxed out. Pinch or double team against a really good offensive rebounder. Be determined to rebound the ball.

Allowing precious time to run off the clock before fouling
Hopefully, you are well prepared and in control of the game so that you will not need to resort to clock management. However, if you ever fall behind late in the game don't give up! By using time outs and fouls, the last few minutes of a game can be an eternity. At this point in the game, the clock is your worst enemy, not the opponents, so every second counts. Therefore, do not let precious time run off the clock before fouling. If you need to foul, foul right away.

Not substituting for key players in must foul situations
When fouling to the stop the clock at the end of the game, during a timeout or free throw or defensive out of bounds situation, substitute players into the game that can afford to foul instead of losing their best players because of disqualification. Also, key players in foul trouble are reluctant to foul, allowing precious time to run off the game clock.  Once a foul has been committed, stopping the clock, players in foul trouble can be reinserted back into the game.

Not teaching and practicing how to foul
Most coaches assume players know how to foul. However, in reality, when a coach tell the players to foul, they will simply go out and just push or grab an opponent resulting in an intentional foul. Since the opponent gets to shoot free throws and retains ball possession, this is disastrous.

CAUTION: There is no room in the game of basketball for hard fouls (even in the NBA) especially on lay ups when shooters are most vulnerable to injury. Play hard but play fair. Basketball carries more than enough injury risk without a player intentionally or unintentionally injuring another player when fouling.

Fouling a shooter
Eliminate the three point play. Giving up a three point play by fouling a player in the act of shooting is a RBP (Really Big Play). Instead of fouling a shooter and giving up a three point play, it is better to just concede the shot and let them score. All you have to do is to score on the next possession to "erase" or cancel it. However, if you foul the shooter and give up a three point play, you will then have to not only score on your next possession, but also come up with a defensive stop and score a second time to erase or cancel it.

Not saving timeouts
Save your timeouts. You will need at least two at the end of a closely fought game. Force the opponent to use their time outs especially early in the game. Early in the game, use substitutes to make changes and adjustments rather than taking a valuable time out. Play through adversity. Do not ever call a timeout in reaction or frustration to bad call or play. It will only waste one of your valuable time outs! Having time outs at the end of the game will definitely increase your chances of winning.

Not knowing the time out situation
Coming out of time outs, make sure every player must knows the number of time outs remaining along with the team foul situation. This is extremely important at the end of a close game. Games and national titles have been lost by players taking a timeout after a team has used their last timeout.

Not knowing and taking advantage of the team foul situation
All too often games are lost on last second shots because a players are unaware that they had a foul(s) to give. After timeouts all players should be aware of the team foul situation and if they have any fouls to give. Keeping an opponent out of the bonus free throw situation is a real advantage.

Not avoiding the opponent's intentional foul
Do not allow the opponent to foul in order to stop the clock. Move the ball and run as much precious time off the clock as possible  before the opponent can foul. Also, be sure to have your best free throw shooters in the game.

Not prepared for intentionally missing a free throw
Chances are good that an end of game situation will be encountered that requires intentionally missing of a free throw. Therefore, teams must be prepared for it. Intentionally missing a free throw must be taught and practiced. Players must recognize and know what their assignments are on an "intentionally" missed free throw situation. Shooters must not only practice the intentional miss, they also need to be aware of the rule that the ball must hit the rim on the attempt.

Not prepared for last shot situations
End of game situations really become paramount when a single shot can make the difference of winning and losing along with determining a team's playoff hopes and fate. Therefore, to be successful, teams must be prepare for last shot situations. A last shot situation is not just a simple matter of drawing up a play. There are numerous last shot situations to address dependent on court location and time on the clock. Be sure to get the ball into the hands of your best player, and let them hit the open shot or pass to an open teammate. Keep the play simple and execute. The more complex the action, the greater chance that a breakdown will occur.

CAUTION: Don't ever expect players to execute anything they have not practiced. The chances of drawing up a last shot play during a timeout and having it be successful is very minimal.

Taking the last shot too soon
Taking the last shot too soon, even if it is made, provides the opponent with an opportunity to tie or win the game. When holding for the last shot in a game, players should be in position with 10 seconds and initate the play with 8 seconds remaining. This will allow enough time to take the shot and go to the offensive boards for a second effort. If the opponent should rebound, they will not have enough time to advanced the ball down the court for a shot.

Failure to inbound the ball
Many championships have been lost because teams were not able to inbound ball at end of game. It is not easy to inbound the ball under pressure. In making an inbounds pass, the passer is facing a five against four defensive advantage and only has five (5) seconds in which to locate a receiver and make a successful inbounds pass. In addition, to this numerical disadvantage, by rule the inbounder cannot move, except after a made shot. This provides the defense with the opportunity to jam or smother the passer very effectively with an active defender on ball. Also, on baseline out of bound situations, the backboard comes into play and becomes a real obstacle which the inbounds passer has to contend. Good inbounds passers are vital, and a team will not win a championship without one.


My dear friend Dena Evans of Point Guard College just reminded me that today is Dick DeVenzio's birthday (1952-2001).  Dick was a tremendous mentor for Dena as he was to countless others in our profression.

In honor of his birthday, here's a few great thoughts from Dick:

"People who can renew themselves—quickly and fully and consistently—are going to be more successful in life just as they will be more successful in sports."

"The best way to improve is to compete ferociously against your perfectly matched competitor."

"Every champion carries with him the normal athlete’s fear that you can always lose."

"Frowns aren’t just down-turned facial muscles. They are devices that destroy teams, tear down positive atmospheres, and create ill feeling. Scientifically, frowns are supposed to use a lot of extra muscles and energy and perhaps even bring about the flow of some kinds of harmful chemicals in the body. I don’t doubt it, because they bring about toxic thoughts and situations all the time."

"If you aren’t trying to improve your communication skills and trying to have more of an impact on the atmosphere you are playing in, you are neglecting a big part of sport."

"Education is a series of seemingly meaningless challenges aimed at preparing you for an unknown future."

 Check out PGC's site:


A leader has to be ahead of his men. You’ve got to know what is going on all the time. You cannot swim without being in the water! You cannot ice skate without being on the ice. Take the map with you and get up front!

Qualities of a Great General
1. Tactically aggressive (loves a fight)
2. Strength of character
3. Steadiness of purpose
4. Acceptance of responsibility
5. Energy
6. Good health

Never use the words, “In my opinion, I believe, I think or I guess,” and never say “I don’t think!” You can be wrong, but never be in doubt when you speak!
You need to establish the authority of your directives and instructions. You need to ensure that what you want done gets done.

"Patton never launches a campaign without first thoroughly exploring it with his senior commanders. He never jammed an operation down their throats. It was his practice to assemble the corps commanders in the War Room, have the planning group outline a proposed operation, and then invite the former to 'work it over.' He encouraged free and frank discussion."    -Robert S. Allen

Know the limits of what you can expect from yourself and your subordinates. Be willing to push to those limits, but understand that pushing beyond them is subject to one of the few absolute laws that govern business and other human endeavor: the law of diminishing returns. Pushed beyond their limits, people work inefficiently, poorly, even counter productively or destructively.
Everything that interested [Patton] was painstakingly typed on note cards and suitable annotated with additional ideas and comments.

"All this talk about super weapons and push-button warfare is a pile of junk. Man is the only war machine… Always remember that man is the only machine that can win the war… It’s nice to have good equipment,… but man is the key. Get a determined bunch of men and women and they will win the battles no matter what the odds or what kind of equipment they use."   -Patton

"You got to drive the body to the last inch of energy and then go on! You gain nothing by just going up to where your body says you are tired and exhausted. The body will build and grow only to fit the demands which the mind makes upon the lazy body. If all you do is exercise until the body is tired, the body will get lazy and stop a bit shorter every time. You have to go to the point of exhaustion and go on. That way the body will figure out, “We got to build up more body strength if that crazy mind is going to drive this hard.” If you always quit when you are merely tired, you will never gain. Once you let the body tell the mind when to quit, you are whipped for sure. You cannot gain by listening to the body. We can become much stronger if we drive the body. We use about one-tenth of the available strength of our bodies and less than that of our minds!”   -Patton
From  by Alan Axelrod

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Vince Lombardi to Bart Starr: "Your consistent unwillingness to settle for anything less than excellence will always serve as an inspirational beacon for all of us who played for you. If you settle for nothing less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your life. I have always believed that every man’s personal commitment ought to be toward excellence."

From" The Essential Vince Lombardi" by Vince Lombardi, Jr.