Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Joe Montana was simply the best of the best. As an NFL quarterback he led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl Championships where he was named the Most Valuable Player three times. Championships were nothing new to Montana who also won the National Championship at the University of Notre Dame. What was impressive was how he won games. He did it with poise and through adversity, being known as the “Comeback Kid.” It was a worthy moniker for a player who engineered 31 fourth quarter comebacks. Needless to say, when Joe puts down on paper things he thinks are important for success, we need to take time to read them.

A few years back he wrote a book, "The Winning Spirit: 16 Timeless Principles That Drive Performance Excellence." The book was an easy read. The principles are solid and time-tested, but written in a format easy to understand. This is a great book for players to read. It was also fascinating to read the stories Montana used as examples that were based on his playing days. Here are some short samples from the 16 principles.

Principle #1: KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
It has been said that clarity is power. That’s true, but clarity put into action is ultimate power. It is impossible to strive for something until we know what it is we are pursuing. You have to know what you want.

Principle #2: LOVE WHAT YOUR DO
When you’re doing what you love, it’s not about how many points you put on the board one afternoon or how much money you can take to the bank at the end of the week. It’s about the pursuit itself.

What would a great practice look like for you? When preparing for anything meaningful in your life, what would be the most effective use of your time? In what ways can you put forth extra effort and exceed expectations?

Achieving excellence is about surpassing expectations—our own and those that others have for us—and reaching for new heights. To achieve these heights requires hard work, for which there is no substitute.

Confidence is trusting in our abilities, a feeling that our best effort will result in our intended goal. Success and confidence are symbolic: The more we have of one, the more we find of the other. The greater our trust in ourselves, the greater our ability to inspire others—co-workers, teammates, family members, friends.

Committing errors is how we learn to be better. Failure is an integral part of success...What one person defines as failure, another sees as an opportunity to improve. Successful people look at failure as temporary. They don’t give up; they keep trying. In contrast, people who don’t use setbacks as opportunities to learn tend to look at failure as permanent and personal. They become stuck.

“The heart of a team” became our saying one year on the 49ers. It was suggested by Ronnie Lott, one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs ever to play the game. Ronnie, who became the leader of our defense during our big years, kept saying we needed to embrace the attitude that we all had “only one heartbeat.” Some fifty guys were going after the same goal—to win the Super Bowl—which we could achieve only together, as a team...The mantra caught on in the locker room and on the field. Ronnie talked about it the whole year: “We all have one heartbeat,” he kept saying. “It’s not offense. It’s not defense. It’s not special teams. It’s not a coach or a bunch of coaches. It’s all of us together.

Principle #8: LEAD BY EXAMPLE
The single most potent tool for inspiring others to strive for excellence is leading by example: teaching by our actions, following our own advice, and doing whatever we would ask of others...Exceptional leadership requires integrity and respect. Effective leaders speak the truth.

Principle #9: REMEMBER THE "I" IN "TEAM"
Strong teams are composed of strong individuals...Excellent team performance is usually preceded by intense personal preparation, which is the responsibility of each individual member...I’ve heard people say, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” To be successful they argue, it must be a team effort. There is, however, an “I” smack in the middle of “win.” And to win as a team, you need individuals.

The essence of this principle and how it relates to the team comes directly from Montana when he said, “I’ll never forget the response I received when I asked, ‘Coach, what was the one quality you looked for first and foremost when recruiting a player?’ I expected he might say something like mental toughness, competitive greatness, outstanding work ethic, unwavering dedication—all essential qualities for athletic success. But his answer surprised me. ‘Consideration for others. It is the essence of teamwork.’

Learning to perform in pressure situations is often the difference between winning and losing in sports and in business. Those who handle pressure best actually thrive on it when they perform. They view pressure situations as challenges and opportunities. Pressure performers have mastered the physical and mental skills needed to execute, thus avoiding panic or loss of confidence at crunch time, the definition of choking...Performing well under pressure can be learned. First it is necessary to recognize that the pressure is created not by the game situation or a time deadline as much as it is by how we think and feel about the particular situation. The difference between a football game in midseason versus the Super Bowl is not the game itself but the mental attitude and emotional intensity of the players, coaches, staff, media, and even the fans. It’s still two teams on a field trying to score the most points.

Chris Mullin, who is now vice president of the Golden State Warriors, told me that when he evaluates players, he looks not only at how their skills, athletic ability, and personality would fit on the team, but also their level of love for the game. “I want guys who would play even if they didn’t get paid for it.” “Don’t coach and teach too much about where you want to be,” Coach Wooden said. “Coach and teach about where you are as a team right now, and what you want to do right now in order to play your best.”

There are three crucial aspects to successful visualization: concentration, imagination, and repetition. By concentrating on the image or outcome we desire, we can step into an “as if” reality, experiencing something as if it is really happening...As we hold this image in our mind’s eye and imagine it as our reality, we have begun the process of what is called “creative manifestation.” When practiced properly, confidence and trust that our dream will come true increases. We set the energy in motion, and at least in our inner word, we have experienced it as real.

Without the accumulated knowledge imparted by coaches and mentors through simple, direct instructions, learning new skills or improving old ones can be difficult. It is also important that we communicate back to them. Expressing our emotions and letting a coach or mentor know what is going on inside our head is crucial. We cannot assume that they know what we are thinking or understand everything we are going through.

Principle #15: WALK LIKE A CHAMP
“Champions aren’t made in gyms,” Muhammad Ali once remarked. “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have late-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.

Principle #16: APPRECIATE
In the midst of striving for excellence, we don’t want to become so preoccupied with our goals and strategies that we neglect to develop a healthy spirit of appreciation for all that is good and right in our lives. Developing an attitude of gratitude is key to a happy and successful life.


The following comes from a book that I started a few years back and have yet to finish. This is an excerpt from the chapter titled "Prepare and Compete."


The fifth and final rung of the ladder is GOALS and understanding their importance. We have already spoken of being cautious about your goals. Statistical goals can sometimes be difficult to obtain for a variety of reasons but it may not necessarily mean that you failed in reaching your potential as a player. An easy example would be the player who goes into an important game and decides that her goal for that night is to score 20 points. Yet when the ball is tossed up she finds out the opposing team has chose to double team her at every opportunity. She has a couple of choices. She can obviously try to force up some shots against the double team to try and reach her goal of scoring 20. The better choice would be to stay in the framework of the offense making those two players work hard to guard her while an open teammate scores some easy baskets. Maybe her role that night shifts to become a passer, looking for the open teammate. What is important is that she finds a way for her team to win – not score 20 points.

Numerical goals become more important in drill work by pushing yourself to high repetitions in some of the drills. Certainly you can look to set a statistical goal in a shooting drill. We keep track of all misses and makes in our shooting drills with our players and chart them each day so they know if they are improving or not. The same can be said with conditioning drills. We obviously keep time of our sprint work with our team so they know how well they are running. Again, this is another area where you can utilize numbers to chart a player’s growth.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include dreaming as part of goals. The art of envisioning the invisible is extremely important to your growth as a basketball player or anything else that you desire to achieve. On days when you don’t feel like working or things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d like, it is your dream that will motivate you to push forward. We have long had a mantra in our program that simply says: “Dream Big…Work Hard!” In fact, we have those words in big letters on a wall that our players see everyday as they walk into our locker room.

"It may be that those who do most, dream most."
-Stephen Butler Leacock

“Only dreamers can teach us to soar."
-Anne Marie Pierce

"Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be."
-Karen Raven

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

"Nothing happens unless first a dream."
-Carl Sandburg

Those are the five rungs of our Success Ladder that can help any athlete at any level work towards becoming a better player. Sometimes the game of basketball can be overcoached and undertaught. But by following the Success Ladder, you can fundamentally improve a player as well as a team. Without question, the common denominator of all great teams is not a type of defense or a style of offense, but the ability to execute fundamentally. And as we refer back to the construction workers, it must be remembered that whether it’s a building, a player or a team, the final product will only be as strong as the initial foundation that is laid. Fundamentals provide the proper foundation in reaching one’s potential.


This is a series of thoughts from "Competitive Leadership: 12 Principles for Success" by Brian Billick. Part X deals with being a team builder:

A number of core features of an effective work team have been identified, including the following:

-a clearly defined and shared sense of purpose

-a list of mutually created and agreed-upon objectives

-well-defined roles and role relationships

-an environment that encourages shared ideas and feelings

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, and a civilization work.”
-Vince Lombardi

“You are only as good as the people you hire."
-Ray Kroc

Over and above any particular skill set, knowledge, or experience that may be required, leaders should look for individuals who place their highest goals and aspirations in a team context.
...ultimately our success is going to come down to the personnel that we have.

Though I am the first to acknowledge that talent is a major key to a team’s success, how could I continue in my profession if I didn’t feel that my coaching could have a significant impact when I was surrounded by great talent?

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
-George S. Patton, Jr.

“Ten strong horses couldn't pull an empty baby carriage if they worked independently of each other.”
-John Wooden

Another factor that can affect teamwork is familiarity. In this instance, familiarity refers to how much knowledge team members have of their teammates jobs, and the work environment. All factors considered, the more team members get to know each other and become familiar with the workplace, the more likely they are to be bound emotionally to the group.

“When individuals have team spirit, they want the team to succeed and will hold themselves — and every other member of the team — personally accountable for pursuing individual excellence.”
-Vince Lombardi

Developing a sense of mutual accountability is another step that can help cultivate team spirit. Team members should be given frequent feedback concerning how their behavior and actions are contributing to team goals and team productivity.

“Too many rules get in the way of leadership...people set rules to keep from making decisions.”
-Mike Krzyzewski

When I took over the Ravens, I had two clear-cut premises that I wanted to establish: passion and accountability. step I took to help players become accountable for themselves was to do away with bed checks during training camp and the night before games. We maintained curfews, but the players were expected to adhere to those curfews without having to be tucked in like children...I promised my players at our first meeting that if they acted like men, I would treat them as such.

In his book Leading with the Heart, Mike Krzyzewski states that he has one rule for his players: “Don’t do anything detrimental to yourself.” This rule is elegant in its simplicity.

If you’re not sure whether a certain behavior is appropriate or not, it probably isn’t.

I have established a speakers bureau to address my team during the course of our training camp and the regular season. This group consists of a cross section of lawyers, law-enforcement professionals, and qualified counselors who have expertise in areas such as anger management, male-female issues, crisis intervention, and motivational speaking.

Peer pressure is an excellent way to help “suspend” self-interest.

Finally, teamwork and team spirit are fostered when a leader takes specific steps to enable groups to lead themselves. In this regard, one of the most effective actions the leader can undertake is to empower the group to make decisions that affect the team.

“The secret of winning football games is working more as a team, less as individuals. I play not my 11 best, but my best 11.”
-Knute Rockne


Great stuff from Jon Gordon that goes to the heart of coaching and especially teaching:

I believe in tough love.

If you are a leader, manager, coach, teacher or parent, caring about someone often requires you to challenge and push them to improve, grow and reach their full potential.

Even the best athletes in the world have a coach to push them.

But for tough love to work, love must come first.

We must love tough to bring out the best in those we lead!

If people know you care about them they will be more receptive to you pushing them.

On the other hand if you put tough before love you're more likely to face resistance.

As Andy Stanley says, "Rules without relationship leads to rebellion."

The old dictator tough, without love, style of leadership no longer works.

Having spent time with a number of professional and college sports teams it's clear that even athletes who seem to have it all want to know that their coach cares about them. The best coaches love their players and their players know it and play harder and are more loyal to that coach.

The same is true for education and business.

Research shows that test scores go up when students have a relationship with their teacher.

Numerous engagement surveys show that people are more engaged at work when they know their manager / boss cares about them.

So keep pushing your people to be their best. If you are parent like me, keep pushing your kids to reach their full potential.

Your team needs your toughness to grow!

But remember to put love first. Make relationships a priority.

Your love will create the right conditions for growth to happen!

Love + Tough = Growth


What success does to you.  It is like a habit-forming drug that, in victory, saps your elation and, in defeat, deepens your despair.  Once you have sampled it you are hooked, and now I lie in bed, not sleeping the sleep of the victor but wide awake, seeing the other people who are coming in next Sunday.

From "Run To Daylight" by Vince Lombardi


We just recently completed a five-day road trip in which I took the time to re-read "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," by Stephen Covey.  Obviously there are a lot of great books out there, but when I speak at clinics or two groups I tell them if I could recommend but one book, this one would be it.  The excerpt to follow is about Covey's thoughts on the "Emotional Bank Account" that we develop with people that surround us.  As you are reading through this -- if you are a coach, translate it to how it would effect players, staff members, administrators -- all those that have an importance in your program.  Of course, I think it is just as valuable for those that are parents, those in the work place elsewhere, and those involved in strengthening their relationships in general:

Let me suggest six major deposits that build the Emotional Bank Account.


Really seeking to understand another person is probably one of the most important deposits you can make, and it is the key to every other deposit.  You simply don't know what constitutes a deposit to another person until you understand that individual.

One person's mission is another person's minutia.  To make deposits, what is important to another person must be as important to you as the other person is to you.

I have a friend whose son developed an avid interest in baseball.  My friend wasn't interest in baseball at all.  But one summer, he took his son to see every major league team play one game.  The trip took over six weeks and cost a great deal of money, but it became a powerful bonding experience in their relationship.

My friend was asked on his return, "Do you like baseball that much?"

"No," he replied, "but I like my son that much."

Our tendency is to project out of our own autobiographies what we think other people want or need.  We project our intentions on the behavior of others.


The little kindnesses and courtesies are so important.  Small discourtesies, little unkindness, little forms of disrespect make large withdrawals.  In relationships, the big things are the little things.


Keeping a commitment or a promise is a major deposit; breaking one is a major withdrawal.  In fact, there's probably not a more massive withdrawal than to make a promise that's important to someone and then not come through.  The next time a promise is made, they won't believe it.  people tend to build their hopes around promises, particularly promises about their basic livelihood.

I believe that if you cultivate the habit of always keeping the promises you make, you build bridges of trust that span the gaps of understanding between you and your child.


The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations and roles and goals.

Clarifying expectations sometimes takes a great deal of courage.  It seems easier to act as thought difference don't exist and to hope things will work out than it is to face the difference and work together to arrive at a mutually agreeable set of expectation.


Personal integrity generates trust and is the basis of many different kinds of deposits.

Lack of integrity can undermine almost any other effort to create high trust accounts.  People can seek to understand, remember the little things, keep their promises, clarify and fulfill expectations, and still fail to build reserves of trust if they are inwardly duplicitous.

Integrity includes but goes beyond honesty.  Honesty is telling the truth -- in other words, conforming our words to reality.  Integrity is conforming words to reality -- in other words, keeping promises and fulfilling expectations.  This requires an integrated character, a oneness, primarily with self but also with life.

One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present.  In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present.  When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present. 


When we make withdrawals from the Emotional Bank Account, we need to apologize and we need to do it sincerely.  Great deposits come in the sincere words:

"I was wrong."

"That was unkind of me."

"I showed you no respect."

"I gave you no dignity, and I'm deeply sorry."

"I embarrassed you in front of your friends (teammates) and I had no call to do that.  Even though I wanted to make a point, I never should have done that.  I apologize."

It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one's heart rather than out of pity.  A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize.

Sincere apologies make deposits; repeated apologies interpreted as insincere make withdrawals.  And the quality of the relationship reflects it.

It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another thing not to admit it.  People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgment.  But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


From Seeds of Success by comes a nice piece on how we can better ourselves:

One way to improve yourself is to learn from someone who already is living an extraordinary life. Here, one of the nation's greatest leaders, Colin Powell, offers his insights into how to lead an exemplary life:

Inspire others
"I do try to inspire," and inspiring goes beyond motivating. People must feel that their efforts matter.

Don't be afraid
"We all make mistakes. What you do with a failure is study it and see what you did wrong, what you did to fail in the situation. Once you've analyzed it and learned from it, roll that mistake up and throw it over your shoulder [and move on]."

Be honest
Colin Powell demanded honesty from his subordinates and encouraged their opinions whether they agreed or dissented, according to Soldier, Karen DeYoung's biography. But when the decision was made, he expected his team members to embrace it as if it had been their own.

Exercise empathy
"I try to be empathetic, trying to see the other person's point of view. In the military, I tried to understand soldiers. In diplomatic life, when I was trying to work on a problem with a foreign minister, I would try to see what he wanted, not just what I wanted. I tried to see what we both would need" to make progress to benefit both sides.

Go with your gut. "We do not have the luxury of collecting information indefinitely. At some point, before we can have every possible fact in hand, we have to decide," Powell writes, saying that he goes with his gut feeling when he has acquired 40 to 70 percent of the information about a situation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Buzz Williams is known as "relentless" in many areas of coaching -- here is an example of that attitutde that landed him his first job from an article written by Howie Magner:

It was Lewis Orr – head men’s hoops coach at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas – who gave Williams his first collegiate coaching role, making him a student assistant in 1990. Orr also coined the “Buzz” nickname because of how he buzzed through every aspect of the job, be it sweeping floors or absorbing every spare bit of coaching expertise. “We wanted you to work like you were being paid a million dollars,” Orr says. “And he did.”

Still, it was just a student gig, which was followed by a similar job at Oklahoma City University. And there, as an OCU senior in 1994, he devised a plan to get a real, paying job in the business.

Williams once did an impromptu 10-minute soliloquy explaining the plan, leaving a room full of cynical NCAA tournament media slack-jawed at his tenacity. Just 21, he finagled a $1,200 emergency student loan, using the cash for two things: a suit and an airplane ticket to Charlotte, N.C., for the NCAA’s Final Four weekend.

Camped out in the lobby of the NCAA’s main hotel, Williams passed out résumés to everyone. He had no money left for food and bummed whatever snacks he could from bartenders. One coach mentioned an opening at the University of Texas-Arlington, so Williams left hourly phone messages for the school’s coach, Eddie McCarter. Eventually, Williams got his face-to-face with the coach, but it was a brief, perfunctory encounter. So, after flying back home to Oklahoma City on Monday, he promptly drove overnight to Texas to camp out in front of McCarter’s house, just to re-emphasize his interest in person.

Problem was, Williams didn’t know where McCarter’s house was. So when he got to Arlington, he stopped at a gas station, looked up McCarter in the phone book, fortunately found that he was listed, and asked the attendant for directions. A few more stops for directions at other stores finally got him to the right home. He waited in his car for hours until McCarter drove up that Tuesday night. Williams exited his vehicle, said hello, and told McCarter again how much he wanted the job. McCarter said he was crazy, but invited him inside his house nonetheless.

And Williams got the job. It’s a story, he often says, “Only God could author.”

Read the entire article:


Each at-bat is a new day.

We don’t just have the opportunity to start fresh each day. We have the opportunity to start fresh each moment.

We can learn from past failures and mistakes, but we shouldn’t get stuck there. We can keep future goals in mind, but we shouldn’t get stuck there, either. The only way to reach our potential is to focus on what we must do now – this moment, the day – to perform effectively and to win.

In baseball, a hitter mired in a slump can belt a home run on any pitch. A team on a prolonged losing streak can always win that day’s game.

From "Ground Rules for Winners" by Joe Torre


A strong defensive system should have an overriding principle — a theme in which the defense is built around. While at LSU, that overriding principle was: “stop the basketball.” It is very simply stated, but within that concept is a challenging goal for any defensive team. By making this our primary principle it gives us a reference point for all other guidelines and rules in our defensive system. As we go through all of the areas of our base defense, you will see that the reason for much of what we do defensively will rely on putting our players in position to stop the basketball.

All good defensive systems must start with the stance. This is relative regardless of how you play defensively, whether you are a man-to-man coach, a zone coach, or choose to play a multiple defensive system. If you are going to be solid defensively, you must first teach your players the proper stance and, more importantly, condition them to stay in that stance.

For us, the stance begins at the bottom where we want the feet a little wider than shoulders width. The body should be low, bent at the knees (not at the back) with the head up. We like our elbows tucked and tight to the body with hands extended and palms up.

If stopping the ball is the overriding principle to our defense, then ball pressure becomes one of the most critical elements. We want to be able to control the basketball and dictate where it will be dribbled. Our point of pick up on the basketball will start at half court at which time we want to influence the ball to one side of the floor. We believe it is advantageous to the offense to have the ball in the middle of the court as our defense is unable to distinguish ballside and helpside. Once the ball is on the side we want to influence the ball to the corner. The terminology we will use is “influence” rather than “force.” This is somewhat of an alteration of our past philosophy. In the past, our defense has gotten up on the top foot of the ball handler almost inviting her to drive baseline. Influencing to the corner will give us a better chance to take away the direct penetration to the block. This is a slight change in philosophy when in the past we have taught forcing the ball to the baseline. We believe by influencing to the corner, we are keeping the ball on the side with less allowance for baseline dribble penetration. Because we’re influencing and not forcing, there will be an occasion when the ball handler will bring the ball back to the middle. This is allowable as long as the ball is on an angle going away from the basket.

In terms of ball defense, we have adopted a very simple yet strongly felt phrase that we use with our team: HAND ON THE BALL.

If the ball handler has the ball but has not used her dribble, we want to be down in our stance with one hand “mirroring” the basketball at all times.

If the ball handler is dribbling, we want to be down in our stance with our outside hand pressuring the basketball.

If the ball handler picks up her dribble, we want to get as close to her without fouling as possible and have both hands aggressively “mirroring” the basketball.

If the ball handler is attempting to pass, we want to have our outside hand extended in the passing lane, attempting to alter the pass or deflect it.

If the ball handler attempts to shoot, we want to get a hand up on the ball in an attempt to block or alter the shot. This is an aggressive maneuver, but we want to challenge every shot taken by an opponent. We do not believe that a hand in the face will effect a good shooter — we want to make her change her shot.

Pressuring the shot is something that many defenses do not talk about or work on enough. A great way to gauge the value of this is to take a couple of game videos and chart shots against a contesting hand and shots that were totally uncontested. The difference in shooting percentage will greatly differ the majority of the time.

The importance of your opponent’s field goal percentage can not be overstated. Roy Williams of North Carolina says: “The most important stat to us is what our opponents shoot from the field.” Echoing that thought is Rick Majerus: “The first and most important stat we look at after a game is our opponent’s field goal percentage.” Our goal is to make sure that our team is more attuned to what our opponents are shooting from the field. This will start in practice with our scrimmage sessions. Sometimes its not necessarily what you teach, but what you emphasize.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I would imagine that I've posted this before through the years but as I was taught by Skip Bertman, the Hall of Fame baseball coach at LSU -- "repetition is good."  This is a list of traits that are important to good press offense that I got from Coach Sue Gunter.  Regardless of the alignment or action of your press offense, I think these are a great set of guidelines to follo:

#1 Remember the biggest key is to always maintain good spacing. With good spacing, it leaves more room for the defense to cover, and longer distances for them to run before making a trap or steal attempt.

#2 Make all your cuts hard and sharp. If you are not cutting as quickly as possible, you are helping the defense to defend you. Cut to create help. The same holds true if you don’t cut properly, rounding off your cuts instead of cutting in straight lines.

#3 We must always keep someone behind the basketball. We don’t want that player “on top of the basketball.” Stay behind the basketball as a release valve, but maintain proper spacing.

#4 Always come back to meet a pass made to you. This one is critical. If you wait for the pass, someone near you can beat you to the pass and get an interception. Come back for the ball and catch it with both feet in the air to land with a jump stop for pivoting.

#5 If at all possible, we don’t want to receive the entry pass to close to the inbound baseline. Again, this is poor spacing. Try to catch the ball as deep as possible to give you more room to operate.

#6 Utilize pass fakes at every opportunity. Almost all full-court pressure is based on active, gambling-aggressiveness and therefore is prone to pass fakes. A good pass fake will get the defense in the air and allow you a chance to put the ball on the floor or give you an opportunity to make an easier, more effective pass — “fake a pass to make a pass.”

#7 Don’t waste your dribble. Catch the ball, pivot, and look ahead for a possible pass as well as to read the defense. If you pick up your dribble without looking ahead or reading the defense, you become an easy target to be trapped with very few options.
#8 Always remember, once you beat the pressure, the good press defense teams like to come from behind and try to knock the ball away. You must always stay alert.

#9 At the end of the press offense, always look for a good shot. If we execute properly, we can get lay ups, short jumpers, and wide open three-pointers. We want to make a team pay a heavy price for pressing us. Always remember that a forced or bad shot is the same as a turnover for a pressing team.

#10 If we don’t get a shot from our press offense, get directly into our man-to-man or zone offense. Often teams that press, especially zone presses or run and jump presses, have a difficult time recovering to their proper defensive assignments in their half-court defense.


Mike Krzyzewski on goal setting at Duke:

"I’ve never set goals of wins and losses. After we went to a couple of Final Fours, I’ve always talked to my players about the possibility of a winning national championship. The reason I don’t do the wins and losses is we approach every game like we can win. If I set 20 wins and getting to the second round of the NCAAs or something like that, my feeling is that once you attain those goals, you might have a certain sense of satisfaction that would stop you from attaining a higher goal...on the other hand, you might have injuries that occur or different things that might happen, and a team that could have won 24 games maybe won 17, but that’s the best that that team could have gotten. I guess that what I’m trying to say is, I would rather define success for my team than to have a goal or other people define it for us."

From "Why We Win" by Billy Packer


It is hard to believe there has been a more thorough job done regarding a video project on one specific phase of basketball than Rick Majerus has done with The Encyclopedia of the 4-Out 1-In Motion Offense.

First, let’s start with the fact that 4-Out 1-In Motion has nearly been perfected by Majerus during his tenure at the University of Utah. He has a reputation of being truly one of the game’s best teachers when it comes to this motion offense alignment. He not only understands the nuances of 4-Out 1-In but is the consummate teacher in the individual development of each position and how it should be played.

Second, this is not your ordinary 30 minute video with a coach standing at a lectern with an overhead projector. It is in fact, a three DVD set with over four hours of Majerus delving into every detail of his motion philosophy. It is all done on the court with a team to demonstrate all the inside pointers that has made Majerus a master of this phase of motion.

An important note in regard to this DVD series is that you don’t have to be a motion coach to benefit from Majerus and his philosophy. He talks a great deal about individual details that can be utilized with your team regardless of what offense you use. In fact, one of the motion alignments we utilize at LSU is the 4-Out 1-In (we refer to it as Regular).

We don’t run it exactly like Majerus. In fact, we have several differences but you can bet that we were able to take a great deal from this video and incorporate it into our execution methods.

While this review is far too short to even begin listing the key points brought out by Majerus, we thought we’d list a few that we will take and involve in our offensive system.

Spacing is critical. Not just early in the possession but after the ball has been reversed a few times. Majerus refers to this as “spacing maintenance.” In fact, he says the key to being a good offensive coach is teaching offense so that you finish with good spacing, not just start with it.

Spacing goals:

-Too high

-Too wide

-Too far apart

-Too spread apart

Offensive philosophy should center around:

-Who am I?

-Who are my teammates?

-Who is covering me?

-Who is covering my teammates?

Be decisive against the closeout.

-Majerus wants “economy of motion” (less is more)

Complete your cut to the front of the rim.

-Great passers feed you at the rim

-Don’t pass to a cutter who broke their cut off

Essence of good basketball

-Personnel recognition

-Role recognition

-Know who your best player is

-Get your best players the most shots

On the double staggered screen, make sure the two screeners are not in the same plane. The second screener should be inside the 1st screener’s hip if the defense jumps to the lane. The second screener should be outside the 1st screener’s hip if the defense is tagging.

All screens should finish outside the NBA 3.

Continue your cut based on your momentum.

Post feeder cuts to the basket in the direction opposite of his/her defenders head turn.

These are just a few of the things we got from this three DVD set. Majerus is a great teacher and there is a reason this is called Encyclopedia of 4-Out 1-In Motion.

Monday, February 20, 2012


An important concept that successful people understand is that you are never stuck. You just keep re-creating the same experience over and over by thinking the same thoughts, maintaining the same beliefs, speaking the same words, and doing the same things.

As long as you keep complaining about your present circumstances, your mind will focus on it. By continually talking about, thinking about, and writing about the way things are, you are continually reinforcing those very same neural pathways in your brain that got you where you are today.

To change this cycle, you must focus instead on thinking, talking, and writing about the reality you want to create. You must flood your unconscious with thoughts and images of this new reality.

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” -Albert Einstein

From "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield


The following comes from "Coaching the Mental Game" by H. A. Dorfman:

Major league manager Tony LaRussa is a learner. He’s credited with being a “a smart manager” and his law degree is often a point of reference. But for me, while working in the Oakland Athletics organization, he illustrated his “smarts” by being so open to learning.

Tony and I were discussing a point of view he had about a player, in particular, and people in general. He asked me what I thought of his viewpoint and I told him I didn’t agree with what he had expressed. I also told him why. He was not pleased with my emphatically contrarian belief. That much I could see in the expression on his face. What I couldn’t see were the gears operating in his head. He turned moments later and went to another area of spring training.

The next day, a catchers’ meeting was held. The pitching coach, the catchers at the came, and I found a quiet place to conduct the meeting: Tony’s office. My eyes happened to move across the front of Tony’s open locker during a lull in the meeting. There on the top shelf were three books relating to the topic we had briefly discussed the previous day. They were library book. Tony had gone to the Scottsdale, Arizona public library and checked them out, open to the possibility that he had something to learn beyond and/or in contradiction to what he felt he already knew.

To this day, he continues to express his inquisitiveness about matters of mutual concern/involvement. His questions indicate as much about his smarts as his answers. Sometimes more. Tony LaRussa knows this; Socrates knew it 2,500 years ago.

Learning is part of preparation. For athletic competition; for life itself.


Came across this article via a tweet from Jay Bilas.  It comes from and is titled "The Nick Collison Guest Blog, Vol. 4: How To Survive in the NBA When You're Not a Superstar."

Here are some excerpts from Nick Collison and his thoughts on roles:

The players who can consistently help their teams win games are the ones who stick around, so every player has to figure out what it is he does well enough to help a team win. Otherwise, the new crop of young players who enter the league every year will replace them.

The guys who have success in the league and stick around are the ones who understand how to make themselves valuable to an organization.

You do this by embracing your role and focusing on things other than scoring. Sure, you've spent your whole basketball life developing and displaying your offensive game, but suddenly you aren't getting those scoring opportunities in games. You take thousands of shots in the offseason, you work on your shot before and after practice, yet you may go weeks without taking a jumper in a game. But you can't dwell on it, because there is so much else you can do out there to help the team win. If you can become really good at things like screening, passing, defending pick and rolls, communicating, boxing out and rotating defensively, you can have a huge affect on your team winning a game. If those parts of your game become a habit and you develop consistency, you are going to be valuable to your team and have a long career.

The hard part is being able to have the focus to do it over and over again, knowing you aren't going to get a lot of credit. Doing a great job of talking on defense won't get you any high-paying endorsement deals. Nobody is making a YouTube mix of all your badass screens with a Rick Ross track playing over it. (I'm not saying I would complain if someone did this for me.)

A lot of guys can't or won't do these things because they don't see the value in it. Some people look at it as sacrificing your own game for the greater good. This is true to an extent, but you don't just play this way because you are a nice guy and you are willing to let other guys shine. You do it because you want to win, to be a part of a championship team, and you do it because you want to create value for yourself. If you are a bench guy and you start to take more shots, to take your scoring average from six points a game up to eight points a game, not many people are going to notice. You are doing the same things, just in a more inefficient way.

On the other hand, if you average only five points a game but defensively you can blow up every pick and roll and take that option away from the opponent, you are going to be able to play for a long time and make a lot of money over your career. At the same time, your play will have more of an effect on winning than it would otherwise. The goal is to try to make it very difficult for your team to replace you, so that they have to do what it takes to keep you around. That's how a player creates value for himself.

Sometimes it's difficult to take a back seat when you know you are capable of showing more than what your role allows. It can be frustrating to play without getting the shots you want, and to see your numbers dip. Most fans won't appreciate the things you do well. This is where a little perspective and being secure in yourself can go a long way. If you have perspective, you will realize that your job totally rules. You get paid a huge salary to play basketball. You will be part of the 1 percent. You will get your summers off. You will be encouraged to take naps most days.

Read the entire article (it's worth it):

Sunday, February 19, 2012


This is a series of thoughts from "Competitive Leadership: 12 Principles for Success" by Brian Billick. Part IX deals with being a solver:

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”
-John Foster Dulles

...good leaders anticipate problems.

“The most important thing to do in solving a problem is to begin."
-Frank Tyger

At this, the final step in the problem-solving process, the leader must determine whether the problem has actually been solved.

“Why do we fear adversity when we know it is the only way to truly get better?”

I can honestly say I have never known a writer that truly understands the concept of “team.”

The final theme I focused on during the (winning) streak was maintaining a consistent routine. Of all the things I have confidence in, the structure of our routine heads the list. Everything we do is with the idea of keeping our players fresh and healthy, all the while providing them with the information and guidance they need to do their job. should not become so recalcitrant that you don’t leave room for adaptation. However, that too can be a part of our basic routine. The players can be taught that certain aspects of their preparation will be dictated as needed by the success or failure of a particular part of our situational offensive, defensive or special teams.

“The only thing wrong with doing nothing is that you never know when you are finished.”

...the best way to deal with a problem is to take steps to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. Not only is it less costly, but it also enables an organization to avoid negative circumstances that might otherwise be a byproduct of the problem.

Preventing a problem, however, usually requires that a leader has superior planning skills.

We devote a considerable amount of time and resources during our summer training camp to address issues that might become a problem during the season. Such issues involve personal, as well as professional circumstances. Along with the structure of handling a losing streak or a prolonged period on the road, we address such personal issues as spousal abuse, drunken driving, and parental responsibilities. Handling these potential problems in a proactive way serves two purposes. First, it provides the players with a resource to draw on should the problems arise. Second, it gives the players a sense that management is well organized and has a plan for every contingency.

“The world is full of thorns and thistles. It’s all in how you grasp them.”
-Arnold Glasow

...leaders should learn to trust their intuition and to consider their gut feelings as one factor in developing and evaluating potential solutions.

Leaders should keep in mind that procrastination only deepens a crisis.

The best organizational structure for dealing with a crisis is one in which responsibility for leading the organization out of the crisis is assigned to one individual.
There are three perspectives that must be maintained in handling any crisis: dealing with the crisis itself, dealing with the effects on the organization, and finally, dealing with the ensuing media and its effect on the first two concerns.

“The reward for being a good problem solver is to be heaped with more and more difficult problems to solve.”
-Buckminister Fuller

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing is the wrong thing; and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

According to John Maxwell in The 21 indispensable Qualities of a Leader, there are three basic kinds of competent people in the world:

-Those who can see what needs to happen
-Those who can make it happen
-Those who can make it happen when it really counts

Saturday, February 18, 2012


The following comes from a book that I started a few years back and have yet to finish. This is an excerpt from the chapter titled "Prepare and Compete."


PROGRESSION is the fourth rung on the ladder. Progression refers to the level on which we are playing and practicing and the importance of working on one area before moving on to the next. “Level” does not have to refer to going from the junior high school level to the high school level. It means the level of play that you are on within yourself. That sounds a little dramatic but the competitive athlete understands even the importance of playing at a certain level. It is competing and finding out that the once difficult fundamental has now become an easy part of your game that you can execute naturally. By working with progressive teaching ideas in fundamentals, we are actually putting parts together to form the whole. As young players learn to master one level of the teaching, they can then move on to the next level. As they increase their skill level, they graduate on to more difficult drills or perhaps try to raise their repetitions in certain drills. It is working in a progressive manner that will allow each youngster to move towards the basketball potential.

We often use the example of the farmer with our players at LSU. There are a lot of fundamental steps that the farmer must go through before he/she can harvest their crop. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time, but it is the only way for their crops to succeed. They cannot pass up any steps or skip one phase. They must tend to the soil, properly plant the seeds, and then work each day to water and fertilize in order to have the harvest they desire. A basketball player must understand that either she or her team will not have the opportunity to cut down the nets if they are going to try and take short cuts. It is the law of the harvest!

The same is true of our coaching philosophy at LSU. We utilize a Part/Whole Method in all phases of how we play. What this means is that regardless of the offense or defense that we are utilizing, we are going to break it down in to simple parts to teach a more concise level. In recent years, our team at LSU has gained a reputation for being very good on the defensive end of the floor. Our base defense is man-to-man. Each day we break that defense down into smaller parts for teaching reasons and to help simplify the habit-forming process for our players. We will work 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 on various parts of our man-to-man before we advance to the 5-on-5 that players probably enjoy the most. However, our team defense (the 5-on-5) would suffer if we did not spend the time that do breaking the defense down into smaller parts.


Here’s a “no-brainer’ that a coach must always remember: leaders affect the behavior of the world-be/should/be followers. Let me express is another way; players follow the coach’s lead. If the leadership is misguided, the “followers” will be lost — in a variety of ways. Or they will choose not to follow.

Make no mistake about it, athletes not only need effective leadership, they also desire it. Young people want consistent parameters, direction, order, structure, organization, and discipline. They need it, whether they know it or not. It gives them security, and that, in turn, helps them to be more confident.

A leader who knows how to manage athletes can direct their mental and behavioral efforts toward a common goal — a goal established by the leader. This becomes the organizational/team credo. “What we stand for” is the way I put it with players. “What we want and how we go about pursuing it.”

The credo should be one of the first expressions of position power. I have light-heartedly told teams at initial meetings, “We are a controlled democracy here. You have the freedom to do whatever you want — as long as I approve.”

From "Coaching the Mental Game" by H. A. Dorfman

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The following comes from Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson:

Above all, there are two things that we look for at every position: shooting and quickness. Shooting is the key to anything you’re trying to put together. It’s the great equalizer. I try to impress upon my assistants not to talk to me about a kid who has great hang time or can really take it to the hole if he’s a lousy shooter. In the end, if a guy can’t shoot he’s going to keep you from getting where you want to go.

We don’t want a non-shooter. You can help people with their shooting but if they’re not shooters there’s only so much that can be done. Sometimes a bad shooter can improve to a fair shooter, fair shooters to decent shooters, but you are not going to see guys go from bad shooters to great shooters.

Quickness is critical at the three perimeter spots, especially in regards to defense. You can teach a lot of guys defense but if they don’t’ have good feet they’re always going to be limited in how good they can be defensively.

Specifically, with a point guard, we’re looking for the kind of quickness that can break down defenses. We like a point guard who can shoot because it opens up so many other opportunities. A point guard must also possess strong character traits. For instance, is he the kind of guy who’s going to lead by example as well as being vocal?

When we look at wing players we want guys who can run the floor. The same is true for the interior players we recruit.

With big guys it comes down to how well they run the floor. Also, an inside player needs to have good hands. Does he have soft hands? Does he catch the ball well? In my experience in dealing with inside guys, if they don’t’ catch the ball well you’re going to have restrictions on how good you can become. We want the kids with the best hands we can find. Aggressiveness is also an important qualification for our inside guys. Are they aggressive to the ball? Are they quick to the ball? There may be some guys who can jump real high but they have to gather themselves. By the time they do, the quick jumper has the ball.


The following is a passout from Coach Don Meyer.


Win on the road -- Not since 1980 has a collegiate team won a championship with a less than .500 winning percentage on the road. Tough teams win in tough places.

Never get blown out – Only 1 team over the past 25 years has suffered a loss by more than 25 points and gone on to win a championship. Tough teams always give themselves a chance to win.

Set the tone – Tough teams determine how games are played. Tough teams execute and control the tempo.

Always show toughness – When tough teams are down, they do not show frustration. If tough teams are hurt, they do not show pain. The opponent cannot read a tough team.

Are Consistent – Tough teams always show up to play every time they step on the floor. Practice is tougher than games so games become easy.

Respect every opponent – Tough teams understand that every game is important. Tough teams understand that every opponent, no matter what their record or reputation is, can beat them.

Dominate the boards – No team with a negative rebounding margin has won a NCAA Title in the post John Wooden era.

Are identified with toughness – Tough teams play great defense and take pride in it.

Tough teams take charges – Tough teams get on the floor. Tough teams do not turn the ball over. Tough teams believe in the little things.