Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The following comes from "Dale Brown's Basketball Coaches Organizational Handbook."  I can't imagine a coach in the business that wouldn't benefit from this book.  Coach Brown covers a wide range of topics including Managers' Duties and Guidelines, Team Meetings, Motivation,  Practice Organization, Scouting, Road Trips, Game Management, Media Relations, Recruiting, Summer Basketball Camp Organization and much more. 

Here is but a small sample on his thoughts regarding team meetings:

Today's student-athletes have great demands on their time each day and coaches must do their very best to organize the team's basketball responsibilities in such a way that no time is wasted.  Proper time management is imperative. 

Above all, you should always carefully plan and prepare for each team meeting.  Many teams meet too often or their meetings are too long.  You must know what your priorities are for your meetings and use the time efficiently and effectively.  Every team has different concentration spans and you must prepare for this when speaking to your group.

In fact, you should approach your team meeting just like you would a practice.  Like most coaches, you probably spend more time putting together a day's practice as you did in actually executing that practice.  You could easily say the same for your team meetings.

First and foremost, understand the needs of your particular team.  Each year brings a new cast of characters to your team, and while some things will always be important, there will always be varying degrees of importance depending upon your team.  Proper preparation will always do a great deal in helping you get your points across to your staff and players.  Again using practice as an example, if you are unprepared, the first ones to recognize this will be your team and you will quickly lose them.


The greatest power in the world is the power to choose.  You just don't wake up and say, "I feel like having a bad day."  The word that comes to mind always is "responsibility."  Broken down, it means "response - ability."  In other words, we have the ability to "respond" to anything in any manner we so desire.  Anytime an adverse situation arises, we have the "ability" to "respond" to those circumstances in any way that we want.  We can't let them anger us, depress us, or challenge us.

In his book, "The Art of Living," Wilferd Peterson writes about the importance of talking to yourself.  "This is an absolute important phase of your decision making process.  When someone does something to your disliking, do you say, 'I'm going to get him back, just wait'? Or does your self talk say, 'He things are going too good for me now.  There is no way that I'm letting this person disrupt my life.' More important than what others say to him is what he says to himself.  A man can talk himself up or down, into happiness or unhappiness, into failure or success, into heaven or hell."  This is, without a doubt the absolute truth.

Each and every day we are faced with challenges.  Some days the challenges are gigantic, some days the challenges are minor.  However, our ability to respond to those challenges, no matter their size, lies directly in our ability to choose how we will respond.  We have the ability to use self talk to tell ourselves what kind of attitude we would like to have to face the particular circumstance that is currently facing us.  So, with that in mind, talk to yourself and have a great day!

From "A Collection of Thoughts On Life" by Dale Brown


In honor of my friend and mentor, Coach Dale Brown, who celebrates his birthday today, I will post a few blogs with things I have learned from him.  Below are some of the wise words that he has shared with so many:

"One will not find the true fiber of a man in times of prosperity or success, but only in his resiliency and attitude through times of failure and adversity."

"If you let adversity whip you it's because you allowed it."

"You can or you can't.  It's all up to you and what you think."

"The greatest power in the world is your power to choose."

"A good attitude and being honest to yourself will relieve you of your self-doubts."

"The boldness of faith gives persistence the ability to whip anything."

"Failure will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough."

"Defeat depresses some, but stimulates others to greater heights."

"Confront your fears head on.  Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen?  Failure will not kill you, but fearing it might."

"You are a success if you have done your very best."

"If you are good, be better."

"Large doses of love sprinkled with discipline is true leadership."

"The best potential of ME is WE." (my favorite)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


My friend Don Yaegar is a special writer.  He has a great ability to see past the outer layer of coaches and athletes and paint word pictures with his writing and take you places that only a few can.  Here is a recent post of his for

“You coach against perfection, not your opponent and you’ll find you win quite a few,” was the response from Saban that quickly caught my attention.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach– and my mentor– John Wooden used a similar motto 40 years ago. “Don’t focus on your opponent. Focus instead on what you are capable of doing,” was one of Wooden’s many golden lessons.

Both coaches built teams of great respect and success. Both believed that perfection should be the demand at all times. Both believed that success didn’t begin with simply trying to beat everyone else, but rather in trying to be so well-prepared that the opposition didn’t stand a chance.

Saban believes that if you focus on your personal performance on each play, you will find that the scoreboard is in your favor more times than not. Just as he eliminated his own lunch options to avoid seemingly insignificant decisions, so too has Saban eliminated the distractions of championship predictions by challenging his players to focus solely on where they will be at the end of each play. If his team perfects how they execute each play, then the sum of perfection will most likely equal victory.

Too many of us are focused strictly on the end result when each play deserves that same kind of attention. We should all strive to be extraordinary and that starts with a focus on our own capabilities instead of those of our opponents. The myriad of distractions, predictions, and feigned finish lines only create room for disappointment, failure and lack of preparation.

What “play” do you have in front of you today that deserves your full attention? Are there current decisions in your life that should require more of your focus? Join the conversation today.

Read Don's entire article:


Here is some food for thought from Boston Celtic assistant coach Kevin Eastman.

"How hard are your cuts in the tempo of your offense?  This is what matters.  Cut with purpose and cut hard for 40 minutes.  How hard are your cuts the last seven or eight minutes?  You wear people down this way."

As a coach, you must demand that your players cut hard at all times.  The majority of players will cut hard when they think they are the primary receiver and a touch is possible.  But cutting hard all the time creates other advantages for an offensive team.

Kevin eluded that it wears the defense down -- but only if you consistently cut hard.  If you pick your spots to cut hard then the defense can also pick their spots as well.  Be the type of player in practice that constantly cuts hard -- so hard, so consistently, that your teammates will grumble when they are told to defend you.

The other advantage of hard, sharp cuts is that it creates opportunity for your teammates.  We refer to this as "cutting to create help."  Quite often when you make a hard, sharp cut, you will force another defender to leave his/her assignment to help on you and this will allow them to be open for a shot. 

Occupying the defense is a great advantage of hard cuts to occupy a defender (or two).  Often when you see a penetrating dribble to the basket, it is because of cutting away from the ball.

As a coach, demand it of your players.  Even if you work on dummy offense -- all cuts must be hard and sharp.


"There only three rules of sound administration: Pick good men, tell them not to cut corners, and back them to the limit; and picking good men is the most important."

-Adlai E. Stevenson


For me, the starting point for everything -- before strategy, tactics, theories, managing, organizing, philosophy, methodology, talent, or experience -- is the work ethic.  Without one of significant magnitude you're dead in the water, finished.

Among other things, I knew the example I set as head coach would be what others in the organization would recognize as the standard they needed to match (at least most of them would recognize it).  If there is such a thing as a trickle-down effect, that's it.  Your staff sees your devotion to work, their people see them, and on through the the organization.

Obviously, it's not enough for you alone to work hard; there must be a similar organizational work ethic for anything of significance to occur.  You -- the one in charge -- are the reference point for what that means.

What does total effort and 100 percent commitment and sacrifice look like?  The leader -- head coach in my case -- is the one who answers that question by example for the entire team; you demonstrate in your behavior what it looks like.  Just talking about it, exhorting those in your organization to "give it all you've got" is close to meaningless.  They've got to see it to know it.  Same thing with a voracious appetite for work.  Most people don't have it;  many people can achieve it; one person is charged with setting the standard and demonstrating what it means: you.

During my years as head coach both at Stanford University and with the San Francisco 49ers, I believe it is safe to say there was no single individual in the organization -- player, assistant coach, trainer, staff member, groundskeeper, or anyone else -- who could accurately say he or she outworked me.  Not one.  I can state that with no fear of contradiction.  Some worked as hard -- nobody worked harder.

I never asked anyone to do more than I was willing to do, nor what I wasn't willing to do.  Nobody could ever -- not once -- point at me and say "Walsh sits on his ass in his office all day while we do the work."  When that sentiment spreads through an organization, you have signaled that "sitting on your ass all day" is an accepted standard of performance.

From "The Score Takes Care of Itself" by Bill Walsh, Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh


The following information is equally important to coaches and athletes.  The revolution of social media has so much potential for helping us to grow personally and professionally but it also has pitfalls.  The same must be noted for student-athletes.  One of the areas of our coaching umbrella is to help our student-athletes understand this and point them in the right direction.

Yesterday our staff met on social media and how it relates to our team.  We wanted to take some time to educate our team fully on the positives and negatives that come from Tweeting and Facebooking. We will actually have a team meeting today just for that subject.

A recent article on the Internet pointed to the fact that 91% of employers are using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as methods of screening possibly employees -- 91%.  Even more staggering is that fact that of those businesses polled, 69% say they have rejected an applicant based on the content of their social media pages.

Here are more stats:

47% of employees check social media sites immediately after receiving a job application

Facebook is checked by 76% or employers and Twitter by 53%

The positive: 68% of employees have hired a candidate because of something they saw on a social network site.

We have blogged before about this but what we teach our student-athletes off the court is far more important than what we teach them on the court.  If we are just worried about jump shots and ball handling we are cheating them in the worse possible way.  Social media has exploded with this generation.  Take the time to monitor your players.  Don't be nosey but find the time to help them to best represent them as young people as well as brand your program.

I would also add that this effect coaches, especially young ones who don't realize the impact of a quick yet improper tweet.  How do you want to present yourself to your next head coach if you are working your way up the professional ladder.  If you want that next head coaching opportunity, how will you be viewed by the Athletic Director that will make the call.

As a coach, you should have a social media strategy.  Certainly you want to show your personal side while branding your program but I would always caution about a quick post or tweet.  As a coach, you are not just representing yourself with a tweet but your program -- whether you like it or not or agree with it or not.  Take some time and give thought to the picture you want to paint.  The adage is as old as time but you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.  If a person is reading your tweet or post for the first time, what are they going to think?


I have two books that I read from daily -- they are both written by John Maxwell.  The first one is "The Maxwell Daily Reader."  The second one is "Go For Gold" which is created with each page as a daily reading.  Here is what I read today:

Most people fight against change, especially when it affects them personally.  As novelist Leo Tolstoy said, "Everyone things of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."  The ironic thing is that change is inevitably.  Everybody has to deal with it.  On the other hand, growth is optional.  You can choose to grow or fight it.  But know this: people unwilling to grow will never reach their potential.

In one of his books, my friend Howard Hendricks asks the question, "How have you changed...lately?  In the last week, let's say? Or the last month? The last year? Can you be very specific?

Most people don't realise that successful and unsuccessful people do not differ substantially in their abilities.  They vary in their desires to reach their potential.  And nothing is more effective when it comes to reaching potential than commitment to personal growth.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Big thanks to Indiana assistant coach Tim Buckley for passing on these Jeff Van Gundy notes that he took during Coaching U Live this summer in Indianapolis:

-You have to know what loses before you know what wins. –Bill Parcells

- Expect your players to repeat what you believe in.

- On the line pop quiz to start practice.

- Pat Riley always developed coaching confidence.

-Are you confident, sincere, reliable, trustworthy? If you have these anyone will allow you to coach them. Great players don’t want you to waste their time. Just give them the plan.

- Don’t be intimidated by any players or situation.

- Do your players understand the concept of team?

- Best players have to unite and inspire the group. They are thinking about one thing winning. Inspire with passion, energy and preparedness.

- You got to know who you can coach well and who you can’t coach well. –Larry Brown.

- Can’t coach soft, selfish, and stupid. I could deal with 1 of the 3.

- I love hungry scorers. Cannot have a team full of willful scorers.

- Basketball IQ vs. Personal IQ- Smart play is a talent. We do not value this enough. How do you win if you don’t know when to pass or shoot?


Winners already understand you.

Middle-of-the-Row guys will understand you when you turn the corner.

Dogs never buy in...never understand you...a dog has never played big for you in a big game.


Here is a great article written by Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune.  It speaks to the never ending role of a college coach that greatly cares about his players long after they are playing for him.  It also speaks of why Peyton Manning is such a great player -- because of his amazing commitment to be just that -- regardless of any and all adversities.

Duke was the perfect gridiron sanctuary for Manning to launch his comeback. In basketball-crazy Durham, N.C., he'd have the run of the training facilities while working in relative obscurity.

"I was in rehab state where I needed a quarterbacks coach," Peyton Manning said Wednesday, four days before his key Sunday night game against the New Orleans Saints. "I needed a weight room. I needed physical therapy. But a big part of rehab was on the field. There's only so much a physical therapist can know as far as quarterback work on the field. It's one of those deals where you kind of decided, 'Why don't I go back to somebody that knows me best.'"

Manning needed to start from scratch. He hadn't practiced or thrown a football since having a spinal fusion to repair a damaged nerve in his neck Sept. 8. It was Manning's third neck surgery in 19 months and the most risky and complicated of the three.

Manning made the first of a handful of trips to Duke in late December. With Manning's every move being monitored by a breathless media, David Cutcliffe kept his arrival under wraps. Manning stayed in the guest room of Cutcliffe's house and traveled to and from campus in a black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows. Workouts were conducted in private at Duke's indoor facility and almost always at night. Cutcliffe was so intent on protecting Manning's privacy he didn't even tell his coaching staff the star quarterback was around.

"Our equipment people knew he was there," Cutcliffe said, "and that was it."

The work intensified when Manning returned after the holidays. Cutcliffe sent Manning through hour after hour of tedious drills, catching shotgun snaps, taking snaps from center, footwork and hand drills. Day by day, throw by throw, Manning gradually started to regain his form.

"It was unbelievable how quickly it happened," said Cooper Helfet, a Duke tight end who had just finished his senior season and jumped at the chance to work with Manning throughout his time in Durham. "In early January, some balls he didn't have the strength yet so he had to kind of float them in. By the end, he was slinging the ball, fitting it into windows like you see on TV. I couldn't imagine playing with a better quarterback."

The final exam came March 3. Cutcliffe ran Manning through the ultimate test: A play-by-play simulation of the Colts' 30-17 win against the New York Jets in the 2009 AFC championship game.

To authenticate the simulation, Manning flew in Colts teammates Jeff Saturday, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, former Colts receiver Brandon Stokley and former Colts offense coordinator Tom Moore.

Using the play clock in Duke's indoor practice facility, Manning mimicked his 26-of-39, 377-yard, three-touchdown performance play by play, pass for pass, second by second.

As he'd done for the previous 13 seasons in Indianapolis, Saturday handled the center snaps. Collie and Clark played themselves. Depending on the play, Stokley was either Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon. Helfet was second tight end Jacob Tamme or H-back Gijon Robinson. Former Duke running back Jay Hollingsworth played running back Joseph Addai. Cutliffe charted the plays and called out the defenses.

"Our tempo and the amount of energy we expended was identical," Saturday said. "Everybody went down there knowing we were going to work. We knew he (Manning) was taking this very serious."

Manning called plays in huddle and made checks and hot reads at the line. When the script called for a run, they ran it. When it called for four wides out of the shotgun in no-huddle, they did likewise.

No detail was overlooked during the three-hour workout. Each play was run at full sped from the exact yard line and hash mark as the real game. The receivers ran the same route trees and Manning completed the passes to the same targets. When the script called for the Jets to be on offense, Manning and company retreated to the sideline and waited for the exact time of possession to expire on the play clock before retaking the field. They even scripted a 12-minute break for halftime. The only thing they didn't have were defenders.   "It was the exact replica of the game," Helfet said.

"It was pretty impressive," Stokley said. "It showed you exactly what kind of detail Peyton went to in trying to get back. Most people would never even think about doing something like that."

In addition to providing a prime evaluation tool of Manning's mechanics and fundamentals, Cutcliffe said the game was a crucial physical conditioning test. It'd been more than 14 months since Manning had played a real NFL game and this was the closest he could come to simulating a real experience.

"Afterward, he was sweaty and worn out, but he had a big ole smile on his face," Cutcliffe said of Manning.

The Duke video crew recorded the game from both sideline and end zone angles. Cutcliffe and Manning then evaluated the game film from the workout and compared it side by side with the 2009 game, gauging his footwork, the velocity and trajectory of his throws and the speed of his drop-back and release.

Read the entire article (it's excellent) -

Saturday, October 27, 2012


What sets disciplined people apart? Here is what I’ve seen:

The capacity to get past distractions. There are players who get thrown by less than optimal conditions; they need perfect weather, a perfect playing surface, perfect health. There are other players who can’t be distracted. They can play on grass, turf, or the parking-lot blacktop—the only thing they focus on is the competition.

The willingness to condition mind and body for the task at hand. After a leader supplies the needed direction and knowledge base, it comes down to that old cliché: Who wants it more? Which side is prepared to push itself forward and seize the day?

The ability to keep your poise when those around you are losing theirs. Mature players will absorb these excesses in stride, even when they’re out-and-out flagrant. I tell my players to put their emotions on hold, to stone-face their opponents. Once the opposition knows what you’re thinking, it gains an advantage.

From "Finding A Way To Win" by Bill Parcells

Friday, October 26, 2012


The following is part of an article written by Chris Herring for the Wall Street Journal:

Some evidence suggests that shooting coaches can help. The three clubs that have employed shooting coaches for multiple years—the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers—have made at least slight improvements in shooting rates. Since hiring shooting coach Gary Boren in 1997, the Mavs have gone from 25th in free-throw shooting and 27th in three-point shooting to first and third, respectively.

Shooting ability is becoming more valuable as NBA defenses grow stingier thanks to more-sophisticated film study. Teams last season averaged just 96.3 points per regular-season contest, the lowest figure since 2003.

For players, a soft shooting touch can actually lengthen careers. The league's top 25 retired three-point shooters, on average, walked away from the game at 34 years old and played nearly 14 seasons. On average, players retire at 28 years old after five seasons.

Many of the sport's top athletes are paying thousands for private off-season shooting workouts, raising the profile of shooting instructors. "The players working with us in the off-season strengthens the argument that there should be more of us with the teams," the Pacers' Keller says.

But most teams remain unconvinced. So basic is shooting that hiring a coach to teach it would be akin, some veterans suggest, to employing an expert to tie their shoes. As an assistant coach, the veteran Bob Hill recalls feeling briefly threatened by the idea of a shooting coach. "I can teach all that stuff myself," Hill recalls thinking.

Some executives say the idea best applies to young teams, such as the 2007 Portland club whose average player was younger than 24. "The younger they are, the more likely they are to take it," said Tom Penn, a former Blazers executive who hired a shooting coach that year and who now serves as an ESPN analyst.

Then there are the New York Knicks, the oldest team in NBA history, who last month hired shooting coach Dave Hopla. Jason Kidd, who recently signed with New York, is an advocate of the instructors. He attributes a significant late-career jump in his three-point shooting percentage to help from the shooting coach in Dallas, along with a personal shooting coach Kidd hired.

"These guys are breaking down film of your shot, seeing it on tape," said Kidd. "When you have a guy who knows your shot and sees your tendencies and can say, 'Hey, you're dropping your left hand—that's why you're not making them'—that's valuable."

Read the entire article here:


I think this is a critical thought for coaches to understand -- it is the essence of player development. It is especially important for young coaches to grasp:

“Be careful that you don’t work too much on making your plays better rather than making your players better”

It also reminds me of one of Coach Don Meyer's favorite thoughts: "Would you rather have better players in March or better plays?"


"If you think that your half-court defense wins your games, you don’t understand the game. If you take film and break it down, you will find out that only 30% of your points are coming out of your set plays and the other 70% are coming in transition, second shots, and foul shots. So the transition game is what it is all about."

Thursday, October 25, 2012


This came from University of Kentucky head women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell at SEC Media Day in Birmingham today.  He makes an important point that creating a "team" -- working on "chemistry" is an everyday job:

We think we have a good group of players and so right now the challenge is just try to become a team and don’t take that for granted. That’s not something that we think just happens automatically. So right now we’re just in a position of trying to every day do the things necessary to come together as a team, so they’re practicing hard, and we have our sights on having a really good year this year and we think we can do that.

On what he does to foster a team:
Well, I just think it’s a daily process. I don’t think you can just do it when fall practice starts and I don’t think you can start thinking about it when the season starts or, I think it just really goes back to when you first start forming the team, and for us that starts in June when the kids arrive for summer school, and so we just do a lot of team building activities from the standpoint of just try to be together, talk about what success looks like, how we get there, and so it’s just really a daily process. It’s not any one certain thing. I think it’s something you have to be working at each and every day.


Your people need to see your dedication to become dedicated.

Your people need to see you enthusiasm to become your enthusiasm.

Your people need to see your belief to become believers.

Your people need to see your hard work to maximize hard work.

From "Little Book of Leadership" by Jeffrey Gitomer


So many of the great coaches in all sports are often misunderstood.  So many people think that coaching is about yelling and screaming at players to do what they're supposed to do.  But the great ones know how to laugh, hug and make their players know they are also loves.  Here is a great example from the book "Lombardi and Me" written by Paul Hornung.  This particular passage comes from Packer Hall of Famer Willie Davis (#87 in photo above):

I played for three Hall of Fame Coaches – Eddie Robinson at Grambling, Paul Brown at Cleveland, and Vince Lombardi with Green Bay – and they were all great. But one of the things Coach Lombardi could do better than the others was motivate. He could chew you out one minute, but the next minute he’d say something to make you feel loved and ready to run through a brick wall for him.

I still think his ability to analyze and diagnose an opponent was unbelievable. … It was almost as if he had written the other team’s game plan.

Lombardi did more individual coaching than anybody I’ve ever seen. He really got tot know his players and what made the tick. Once he called me in and he said, “Willie, I know what makes you play the way you do.” And then he related my being black and him being Italian and coming up the hard way. He said, “It’s very important to me, because of my background, that people recognize me as being a great coach.” He knew just how to get me involved.

I would have gone through hellfire for that man.

Lombardi put purpose behind what you were doing. You knew what you were doing and why, and you didn’t want to make a mistake. I still think his ability to analyze and diagnose an opponent was unbelievable. He’d come up to you and say, “You’ve got to be ready for this or that,” and he was always right. It was almost as it he had written the other team’s game plan.

In many ways, he challenged me every week. Before a game, he’s say, “When you walk off that field today, I want people to say they’ve seen the finest defensive end in the league.” He made me believe I could do anything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


 There's a myth about highly talented people -- it's that they are simply born that way.  But the truth is that no people reach their potential unless they are willing to practice their way there.  Recently I was traveling with Tom Mullins, a former football coach who wrote "The Leadership Game," which contains successful leadership principles he gleaned from interviewing eight college national champion football coaches.  As I talked about the idea of practice with him, he nearly leaped out of his seat.  When Tom talked about anything related to leadership, it's like he's back in the locker room talking to his team at halftime when they're losing.  I mean he gets excited.

"Let me tell you, John," he said, "all the national champion coaches told me the key to going from good to great came in two areas: the preparation of the team and the practice of the players.  They were forever upgrading their preparation and sharpening their practice."

From "Talent Is Never Enough" by John Maxwell


"So many kids think they're great competitors because they growl the loudest or cuss the loudest.  I define a competitor as the person who is most often ready to play and win the next play.  You've got to get the last play out of your mind, expect the part that educates you.  The person who consistently is most ready to win the next play, is the person I want on my side of the net...not the growler."

-John Dunning
Stanford Volleyball Head Coach
3-Time National Champion

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


1. Do expect defeat. It's a given when the stakes are high and the competition is working ferociously to beat you.  If you're surprised when it happens, you're dreaming; dreamers don't last long.

2. Do force yourself to stop looking backward and dwelling on the professional "train wreck" you have just been in. It's mental quicksand.

3. Do allow yourself appropriate recovery -- grieving -- time.  You've been knocked senseless; give yourself a little time to recuperate.  A keyword here is "little."  Don't let it drag on.

4. Do tell yourself, "I am going to stand and fight again," with the knowledge that often when things are their worse you're closer than you can imagine to success. Our Super Bowl victory arrived lass than sixteen months after my "train wreck" in Miami.

5. Do begin planning for your nest serious encounter.  The smallest steps -- plans -- move you forward on the road to recovery.  Focus on the fix.

1. Don't ask, "Why me?"
2. Don't expect sympathy.
3. Don't bellyache.
4. Don't keep accepting condolences.
5. Don't blame others.


The following comes from Ari Fisher who has coach on the collegiate and high school levels and now teaches Basketball Coaching Concepts at Louisiana State University:

Having coached at every level of basketball with the exception of professional; I have concluded that there are four fundamental precepts of effective offensive play. These precepts are necessary regardless of the offensive scheme or the pace at which you might play.

BALL MOVEMENT: Any offense automatically has a built-in advantage because they know the play, pattern or concept while defense must react to the unknown. When offensive players hold the ball or dribble in place; that eliminates the advantage. In any offensive system; the ball should only be held for a count of two. A player should catch the ball and square up to the goal; but should not dribble the ball unnecessarily. A dribble is most effective when used to: attack the rim, improve a passing angle, or to get out of trouble. Efficient ball movement involves getting touches in the post/paint area in addition to the perimeter. Middle penetration is one of the most effective ways to destroy a defense. The ball should never ‘stop’ with one player. When the ball is reversed side to side it forces the defense to shift. If the defense has to shift continuously; the chances of a slow shift or breakdown becomes greater.

PLAYER MOVEMENT: Closely related to ball movement is player movement. A stationary player is easy to guard. In offensive basketball, players should be ‘hard to guard’. However, players must move with a purpose. Activity does not equal achievement. Cuts should be precise and players should wait if they are receiving a screen so they can take full advantage of the screen. Cuts should be fast and hard as to ‘create help’ which can further isolate a defender.

SPACING: Chuck Daly said “Offense is spacing and spacing is offense”. Effective spacing requires players to be anywhere from 12-18 feet apart at all times unless someone is setting a screen. Good spacing allows for better penetration lanes and execution of 1-1 moves. Even when employing a pattern offense (flex, UCLA High Post, Princeton), set plays (NBA sets), or running the various types of motion offense- solid spacing is paramount.

HANDLING THE BALL WITHOUT MISTAKES: For every offensive turnover, potentially four points are left off the scoreboard. In regard to offensive basketball, basic fundamentals of passing, catching, dribbling, cutting, pivoting, screening, and shooting should be practiced daily at game speed. Victory favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes. Less turnovers means more shooting attempts. I have always thought that the team that takes the most shooting attempts in a game has a higher chance at victory. Turnovers should not make up more than 10% of total possessions in a game.

Monday, October 22, 2012


It is a fact: you play at the level at which you practice.  Consistently good practice leads to consistently good play.  It sharpens your talent.  Successful people understand this.  They value practice and develop the discipline to do it.  If you want to sum up what lifts most successful individuals above the crowd, you could do it with four little words, a little bit more.  Successful people pay their dues and do all that is expected of them -- plus a little more.

From "Talent Is Never Enough" by John Maxwell


Thanks to my friend Lason Perkins for passing on a post from another friend Sefu Bernard:

Allow me to preface this post by saying that I’m not (yet) masterful at applying this concept. Far from it. I am, though, stretching myself into new possibilities as a teacher-coach. And, great coaching matters. That’s what theLLaBB is all about: experimenting with excellence.

So, I know, my last post was on praise too. That one is different. It tackles coaching communication styles from the perspective of developing a growth mindset in athletes based on how we praise them. With this one, we’re on the same highway… just in a different lane. These are complimentary concepts though.

Precision: Good Enough Is The Enemy Of Great

All good coaches, as I’ve come to learn, have a ridiculous attention to detail. In fact, they sweat the small stuff. That’s their habit. Yet, what separates good (enough) from great, is in the art of coaching. It’s the subtleties in how they communicate that allows them to get the most out of their teams. Enlivened by this notion, I stumbled across these videos that will help each of us become more effective communicators with our athletes.

Acknowledgement vs. Praise

Precise Praise

Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A Champion (TLAC) does a *fantastic* job of taking a deeper dive on the differences between praise and acknowledgement. (This book, by the way, is a MUST-HAVE for all basketball coaches! It’s become a ‘coaching bible’ of sorts for me.)

Let me do my best to paraphrase…


Acknowledgement comes when an athlete meets expectations. They deserve to have it noticed. In these instances, a brief description of what the athlete did or a simple “Thank You” is enough:

—”Chad, you held your follow through just like we worked on all week.”

— “Rowan, you tracked your shots taken and your shots made every day this summer as asked.”

— “Bria, you set up the locker room just the way we discussed. Thank you.”


When an athlete does something exceptional, it warrants praise. Praising is different because it carries a judgment. It’s more than a straightforward description. Praise involves information combined with judgment or value:

— “Kai, great job staying fully invested in the team today although you were injured. I could hear you giving specific reminders and encouragement to your teammates the whole practice.”

— “TJ, what makes you stand out is not only do you give me great eye contact, but you nod when I’m done speaking. That lets me know you understand the instructions and builds my trust in you. You make me want to coach you better.”

— “Rena, you showed consistent hustle all week being the first in when I blew the whistle.”

As stated, use acknowledgement for compliance [expectations being met] and praise for value judgments.

Remember: You can get away with praising athletes early in a season as you’re redefining your team’s culture. BUT… in the long run, praising for doing what is expected is, according to TLAC, “not just ineffective but destructive.”

[I'd agree. I'm very intentional about weaning the athletes I work with off of an addiction to acknowledgements. My reasoning is twofold: (1) I want them to (re-)learn how to self-assess, and (2), I don't want to develop a coach-dependent athlete. Last, when I do provide feedback or praise, I want them to know it's meaningful andgenuine. I think that builds trust—for the athletes in themselves and in me.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


At the end of the 1985 season in a game against the Cowboys, Ronnie Lott, then in his glory days with the 49ers, mangled his left pinky in a brutal collision with running back Timmy Newsome. Bone fragments and parts of Lott's finger lay somewhere in the turf. Lott came out of the game briefly -- a game his team won to gain a wild-card berth in the NFC playoffs. He bore the agony of his dismembered member in the manner of all Top Guns and Terminators of sports. Enduring the pain was a religion -- or at least a line-item entry in the game's Iliad of make-believe war.

The next week, Lott had his fingers taped so he could play -- in a loss to the Giants. Over that winter, he remained in excruciating pain. He faced the next season with an awful choice: a complicated and delicate operation in which bone and skin grafting and the placement of pins in his hand might restore full use of his hand -- or, he could have the top of his finger amputated. Choice No. 1 meant missing playing time and risking reinjury. Choice No. 2 meant missing some finger but being ready -- like Arnold Schwarzenegger -- for more. Most football fans know how this came out. Lott chose to have the top of his finger chopped off and then went on to his third Pro Bowl season with the 49ers, leading the team to yet another playoff appearance.

(It should be noted that Lott won four Super Bowls and was selected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2000)

From an article in The Sporting News (Oct 24, 1994) by David Falkner


Your Real Goal
Your goal is to become a transformational leader, the kind of person that motivates and inspires people to perform at levels far beyond anything that they had previously thought possible.

Keep People In the Know
Transformational leaders empower others by keeping them "in the know," by keeping them fully informed on everything that effects their jobs. People want and need to feel that they are "insiders," that they are aware of everything that is going on. There is nothing so demoralizing to a staff member than to be kept in the dark about their work and what is going on in the company.

Give Regular Feedback
One empowering behavior practiced by transformational leaders is regular feedback on performance and results. People need to know how they're doing so they can improve if performance is below standards and so that they can be proud of their successes. The more feedback you give to people, the better it is, as long as the feedback is objective and not critical. My friend, Ken Blanchard, says that, "Positive feedback is the breakfast of champions."

Be Generous With Praise
Be generous with your praise and encouragement. Remember, people are the only asset that can be made to appreciate in value by giving them warmth, respect, approval and by creating a climate of positive expectations.

Create An Exciting Future
What companies and countries and institutions need today are courageous visionary leaders who are committed to creating an exciting future for themselves and others. You have within yourself the ability to evolve and grow as a leader and to make a real difference in the world around you. And the one thing you can know for sure about yourself is that, no matter what you've accomplished up to now, there is far more that you can do.

As you practice the behaviors of effective leaders, you will grow more and more toward the realization of your full potential. It's completely up to you.

Action Exercises
Here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action in your work.

First, hold regular meetings with your staff and tell them everything that is going on. Invite their comments, questions and concerns. Make everybody feel as if he or she was an insider in the organization.

Second, continually look for opportunities to give positive feedback, praise and encouragement. People need praise and encouragement like roses need rain and sunshine. Take every opportunity to make people feel better about themselves and their work.


"Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers."
~ Voltaire

The willingness to ask questions coupled with the discipline to seek out answers separates leaders from followers. Influencers question assumptions, inquire about the environment around them, and probe into the future. They have an insatiable appetite to learn, and they convert their knowledge to action at light speed.

The Value of Questions

While leaders constantly investigate their surroundings, the most important questions they ask are the ones they pose to themselves. By routinely questioning their goals, motives, and purpose leaders renew their self-identity along with their sense of perspective. Consider the following benefits of examining yourself as a leader.

1) Quality Questions Create a Quality Life

You only get answers to the questions you ask. If you won't dare to wrestle with the tough dilemmas in life, then you'll live small.

2) Focused Questions Stimulates Creative Thinking

A well-considered question penetrates to the heart of the matter and triggers new ideas and insights.

3) Honest Questions Lead to Solid Convictions

Inquisitiveness clarifies morals and beliefs. Values are shaped when you force yourself to be truthful in answering tough questions about where you stand on key issues.

4) Correct Questions Help Us Find Ourselves and Our Mission

Tackling life's biggest questions brings direction and meaning to life's journey. Bob Buford captures this thought in his book, The Second Half.

What is your passion? What have you achieved? What have you done uncommonly well? How are you wired? Where do you belong? What are the ‘shoulds' that have trailed you during the first half? These and other questions like them will direct you toward the self your heart longs for; they will help you discover the task for which you were especially made. Throughout your years in leadership, if you know the right questions then you will ultimately gain the right answers.

Questions I Ask Myself as a Leader

1) Am I Investing in Myself?

This question probes your commitment to personal growth. An empty glass won't refresh anyone. Before you can influence others, you need to contain something worth offering to others.

Don't be content to stockpile knowledge. Once you've ascertained a new insight or developed a skill, pass on what you've discovered. A learner builds reservoir of learning, whereas a leader becomes a river of learning for others.

2) Am I Genuinely Interested In Others?

This question delves into motives. As J.P. Morgan cynically observed, "A man always has two reasons for doing anything - a good reason and the real reason." Since leaders are inclined to figure out situations before anyone else, they have capacity to take advantage of others. For this reason, it's essential to regularly question your motives. There's a fine line between manipulation and motivation. The former moves people for personal benefit, while the latter moves people for mutual gain.

3) Am I Doing What I Love and Loving What I Do?

This question determines passion. You will never find your passion doing work you despise. If you go to work only to fulfill processes and functions then you're in jeopardy of losing your humanity and turning into a machine. "Find your passion and follow it," is all the career advice you'll ever need. Passion gives you the edge by endowing you with more energy than others have.

4) Am I Taking Others to a Higher Level?

This question has to do with mission. Regardless of your industry, as a leader, you're in the people development business. Fulfilling your mission depends upon lifting the performance of those you lead. As Zig Ziglar says, "You can get everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." By adding value to those you lead, you're investing in men and women with the potential to multiply your influence exponentially.

5) Am I Taking Care of Today?

How you treat today speaks volumes about your likelihood of success. In fact, if I spent one day observing your priorities, behaviors, and interactions with people, then, with about 90% accuracy, I could let you know your leadership potential. Why would I be so certain in my judgment? Because I've learned that the secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.


The great artist, Pablo Picasso, once remarked, "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." I tend to agree, and I think Picasso's observation carries truth for leaders as well. Regardless of your technical skill or relational charm, you'll be inhibited as a leader until you learn the art of asking questions. Knowing how has merit, but influencers will always be the men and women who understand why.



It is also about getting the best results from your work effort. When we are creating a team we have to apply the same quality as a fine Swiss watchmaker. Craftsmanship comes out of intelligent hard work.

I hated practice. I never minimized, however, the importance of repetition in getting ready for a season. Your craftsmanship comes out of your dedication to your practice.

Success is a result of consistent practice of winning skills and actions. There is nothing miraculous about the process. There is no luck involved. Amateurs hope, professionals work The three Russell Rules for Craftsmanship are as important to winning as any of the other rules in this book. Let me introduce them to you:


Rule One: Learning is a daily experience and a lifetime mission. I truly believe in the saying "We work to become, not to acquire." The more I learned, the more I knew I had to learn. In fact, as part of your daily experience I think it is critical to understand why you are succeeding and build on it. For example, I never watched film of what I did wrong. I always watched films of games where I played well so I could learn more about what I did to help the team win that game. In college, K.C. Jones and I worked on not only being the best in the country, we worked on being as astute as we could possibly be. The basketball court became our classroom, workroom, and laboratory. Whether it was learning how to force a certain shot that would result in a certain rebound angle, or how certain players would likely act in game situations, we wanted to understand the game at a level other players before-and I am not sure since-never approached.

Rule Two: Craftsmanship and quality are never an accident. Craftsmanship is the result of sincere effort, principled intentions, intelligent direction, and skillful execution. It could be said that craftsmanship represents the highest choice of many alternatives.

Rule Three: Make craftsmanship contagious. Players on great teams learn from each other. The lifetime of experiences we bring to each relationship is a gift to be shared. An entire team working to be the best will be the best.

What, precisely, is it in craftsmanship that is so valuable as a leadership skill? Why should doing something well necessarily put you one step ahead of your competitors or allow you to feel that your life is somehow better for it?

Personally, I found a great thrill in using my craft as fully as I could. But it was always about winning. I loved those times when a situation looked absolutely hopeless and yet I could still do something to turn things around. I probably broke up thirty-five to forty three-on-one breaks in my career, for instance. The feeling of joy and accomplishment I felt after each one of those defensive gems was contagious. I wanted to do it again. I remember once that we were a single point down in a regular-season game against Philadelphia with twelve seconds left. Archie Clark of the Sixers had the ball in the frontcourt and was dribbling out the clock. I was the only player near him. I knew I had no chance to take the ball from him. He had so much room he could have just stood still with the ball. So I stared at him-and he stared back at me, smiling. What followed happened so quickly it deadens out in the writing. My mind flashed on this player; I told myself, "Archie Clark is a scorer who is more inclined to take a layup than a jump shot. If he had a shot, he would be more comfortable taking a layup ... so what I'm going to do is turn my back and start to walk off the floor like I've given up." I did this-and he did exactly what I hoped he would do. He drove to the basket for an easy layup. But there I was, waiting for him! I blocked the ball, called time-out. There were three seconds left. We took the ball out in frontcourt. Havlicek passed in to me down low; I dunked. We won in regulation.

From "Russell Rules" by Bill Russell and David Falkner