Saturday, April 9, 2011

Systematic debate

This past season has been one that has garnered many awards and recognitions both individually and for our team. We really tried to put an emphasis on doing something special. I think this is important because you may not always win a championship but you can definitely look back and point to being part of something special. One special accomplishment that I am especially proud of is our scoring output. We averaged nearly 65 points per game as a team. Adjusted to an NBA game this would be the equivalent of scoring about 98 points per game without the virtue of a shot clock to speed up our opponents along with not playing a single overtime game. To put further describe this acheivement, this is better than 12 current NBA teams. We had four 80 point games and one game in Kanab where we scored 91. The scoring total is exciting. Even more exciting is the fact that I did not call out a single play. I've detailed my love for the triangle offense, however I will go into more detail here regarding how we were able to accomplish this and also what it has helped me accomplish individually in my house and with my family.
I grew up in a basketball program where each possession we had, we would turn and look at our coach who would call out a play and we would run it. It was highly successful and very interesting to watch my high school coach dictate what could only be described as an epic chess match with his opponent. We would get three and four page scouting reports that our coach had spent hours writing and probably three times more scouting and watching game film. I remember practices where our coach would skip out of conditioning at the end of practice to leave and watch one of our upcoming opponents play. We were well prepared because he was. Each game we had a new set of plays or package of plays that we knew would break down our opponent. I was impressed with my coach's preparation and always felt like he knew our opponents better than the opposing coach did.
Fast forward to my first year as a head coach. I was doing my student teaching, which can only be described as indentured servitud. It was forty hours of free labor per week. I worked my other job, mostly graves, and due in large part to only having one functional gym, we were practicing late. One sunday I left for work at 2:30 pm and finally returned home around 10 pm the next tuesday. I was doing as my coach did, trading game film and driving when possible as far as two hours one way to scout out an opponent while typing up three and four page scouting reports at 2 am on a grave on my blackberry. While much of this was necessary, I decided that I needed to prioritize my time a little better because I felt I was missing out on my family while making sure to not miss a single region opponent within a 100 mile radius. One game I missed out on drafting a scouting report. In my defense I was sleep deprived, over worked and I hadn't slept in my own bed since the Reagan administration. I was nervous that my players would lose confidence in me, lose confidence in our game plan but mostly I worried we'd lose the game. In an effort to salvage what I thought was my young coaching credibility, I jotted down a paper that included 3 offensive keys 3 defensive keys and the phrase "trust yourself, trust your teammates, trust your system." This was by no means brought about by inspiration but more persperation. Regardless, the result was our most lopsided victory of the season. After this game, as most of us coahes do, I adopted this as a superstition and junked the four page scouting reports. We won 9 of our last 11 games.
While there were many factors into our season's turn around, not the least of which was the development of a point guard who finally allowed everyone to play more natural positions, I am convinced this change of philosophy has something to do with it. In th off-season I was able to sit and think of what I wanted to change. Number 1 on my list was to be able to spend more time with my family. The only way this was possible was by cutting down my scouting and game preparation. I knew this would have to be counterbalanced with an improved emphasis on improving ourselves and belief in our system both defensively and offensively.
While in the first year we used the triangle most the time, we had a few plays and sets that we used to get into our offense. I decided to junk these and rely %100 on the triangle. Against man or zone: triangle offense. Against half-court traps and full court presses: triangle concepts. This forced me to really start to understand the concepts and ideas within the offense. Rather than entry sets, we started teaching our point guards to simply count how many players were on each side and to form our offense in 7 seconds or less, an idea stolen from Mike D'Antoni. What resulted this season was a 19-6 record with 13 of those 19 victories being by 20 or more. We did not run a single play or set, I did not call out any sets. Occaisionally we would call a timeout or during a quarter break, put certain players in certain spots to utilize talents but never called out a single play.
I have become a firm believer in systems rather than sets. My weapon of choice is the high post offense, while others choose motion or flex whic can be debated in another forum. Incorporating a system of play provides:
1. Less time scouting. If you can teach players to read the defense and break the game down into "if/then" statements, scouting becomes less involved.
2. Teaches kids to make basketball plays rather than run basketball plays. Systems will help kids to be able to play beyond the current level and adapt to other styles.
4. It allows less time for teaching plays and more time to teach skills and improve individual ability.
5. Teaches players to improve decision making. I don't know how many times I have seen a kid miss an open teammate, because that's not part of the play. Even worse is when kids make the right read and having the coach chew them out for not running the play. Both of these instances stymie team and individual development.
6. Having a system that is based on reads eliminates calling plays for a specific player which in turn eliminates jealousy. I have seen in my program and in others this happen frequently. Kids aren't stupid and parents aren't stupid. They know that when coach says box, then johnny gets a double screen for a 3 or when coach pats his head, johnny gets an iso at the top of the key. What follows is the inevitable conversation with each of johnny's teammate's parents wondering why their son doesn't get plays ran for each other. A system eliminates this problem. 7. Along those same lines this has eliminated my need to define roles. This is a huge debate in basketball where coaches have argued over the best way to tell their worst players to stop shooting. I honestly haven't had that issue and I attribute that to both having great parents in my program but also to having a system that dictates whoever is open should shoot. Now this is not to say that I allow my worst 3 point shooter to hoist up 3's. We use practice as well as timeouts to dictate who we want in each spot in our offense. I know that whatever specific team we are playing runs a style of defense that opens up a certain aspect of our offense and I can game plan accordingly by putting our best players in spots where they will get open. While some may say I am arguing semantics, this small difference means the world to being able to manufacture chemisty and squash jealousy.
This has been a long post buy I believe in this very strongly.

Friday, April 8, 2011


I am a terrible blogger. Ok, confessions out of the way, I thought I would take the opportunity to detail a little bit about my season that past. At Parowan, we were lucky enough to finish the season at 19-6, undefeated region champions and 5th place in the state. We had a rough quarter-final game and were a little out-matched, however we rebounded well for the final two games and were able to exercise a few demons along the way. Zack Wood finished 1st team all-state, while Weston Robb received 2nd team and Gary Hamilton Honorable Mention. Zack also received Region MVP and had all five of our starters receive region honors.
It was a blast!
This is me, picking up our consolation championship trophy at the annual UHSBCA All-Star game, where I also received the honor of region XIII coach of the year. Forgive the sloppy hoodie. Our fearless point guard "assisted" in putting gum on my backseat on the drive up and I had to wear the hoodie to cover up the gum on my shirt. Great teammate!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Offensive Rebounding

I recently came to a conclusion that I consider to being a game changer. It's obviously nothing new to many other people, but for me it has become something that has changed my thoughts on offense. Last year in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns led the league in Field Goal Percentage. They shot a blistering %49.7 from the field. This was 7 percentage points higher than the last team in the league (New Jersey). This tells me one thing, In the highest level of the sport I love, not one team made more shots than they took. This is even more apparent in College Basketball. There are 347 Division I teams. Out of those teams, only 2 shot above %50 (IUPUI at %50.4 and Syracuse at %51.6). Just to put that in perspective, that is less than %0.6 of all DI teams make more shots than they miss. This is by no means an attack at the percentage of shooting in College or the NBA or even an indictment on shot selection. What I take away from this statistic is that no matter what level you are coaching at, your opponent and your team will most likely miss more shots than they take.
Now comes the application to our season last year. Though not championship by any stretch, we got into the Utah state record book twice last year. Both of these were in the rebounding category. Against Milford in our season opener, we had 57 rebounds as a team. 25 of these rebounds were offensive. We had 3 players get 10 or more rebounds and our entire starting 5 had at least 7. Initial thoughts was that we were playing against St. Mary's school for the vertically Challenged. Milford's Center was a very skilled 6'7 and though not a huge guard line, their front court was as big, if not bigger than the one we put on the floor.
In a similar game later against Maple Mountain, we tallied 53. We had 7 games of 45 rebounds or more and averaged 35. We as a team averaged 12 offensive rebounds per game.
Great Coaching, right? Actually, as much as I would like to take responsibility for this, we never once worked on rebounding. And this is not to say that my assistant coaches who were in charge of our big men didn't work on rebounding, but we definitely did not spend time on it. I was recently watching a clinic involving some legendary coaches at the University of Florida. Their topic was "What I wish I had known and what I should have done." Del Harris brought up an interesting thought. He said that if teams miss more than they make that offensive rebounding should be a huge part of our game plan. So much so that we as coaches design offenses and plays to get great shots, why don't we design offenses and plays to get great rebounding positioning. He said he wished he would have built in offensive rebounding in every set or offense he ran.
I took some time and began to look at the triangle and found that this definitely existed. To my left you see the ball at the "key spot." If it is shot at this spot there is a built in rebounder on the backside block. Understanding that %70 of all shots missed are rebounded long, that player needs to simply step in an seal his defender to get a rebound. With most defenses using a weakside helper to the middle of the floor, this man's defender, as I studied game film, camped right under the hoop. After a shot is taken, this defender is only in a good position to rebound it out of the net.
To the Right, the ball is in the hands of the point. There is a strongside double screen, however if the ball is shot, there is a %33 chance that it will go left, right and middle. Again, with the ball at the top, most defenses will be toward the ball, between their man and the ball. If the ball is shot, the weakside post player and strongside post player need only to step in and box out their defender for a rebound seeing as they are already naturally between their defender and the basket. Adding those percentages, you will make roughly %40 of those shots. of the %60 left you will have a 2/3 chance of getting the rebound on the miss. This raises your percentage of getting a basket or the ball back to %80. This percentage, obviously idealistic, is pretty impressive.
I have this diagrammed in all situations, however suffice it to say, positioning in your offense needs to be taken into consideration. There is a reason that Dennis Rodman led the league in rebounding at 6'9. Yes he pursued the ball and yes he was physical, however the Bulls would play him on the weakside in the triangle which, I learned last year, is the optimal spot for offensive rebounding. Now with the Lakers and their length, within the triangl, you are picking your poison as an opposing teams defense. Not so much Kobe or Pau, but Even if Kobe shoots a high volume of shots, there is built in rebounding spots that are being filled by Gasol and Bynum who simply have to keep the ball high and finish.
With that in mind I would like to say, I am not a Lakers fan at all. In fact my cross to bear has been my love of the Denver Nuggets. But, I still do not see how the Miami Thrice has been able to create a group that will rival the Size WITHIN THE APPROPRIATE SYSTEM that the Lakers Possess.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Triangle

While coaching 3 years of JV ball, I came to a couple of conclusions. First, JV coaching is the worst coaching gig in the world. This is a topic for another blog. Second, and the beginning of my current offensive philosophies, is that at a JV level you never have an offense in, or plays in that suit your personnel. It could be that your Varsity program has an incredible shooting guard and your off guard is your weak link however every play that you work on in practice is suited for the off-guard. It could simply be that your JV team has been running a different offense as younger players and the new offense is simply new to them. Either way, I spent 3 years trying to simplify every aspect of our offensive catalog to allow our teams to be successful and so I didn't have to waste all my timeouts to draw up a play that fit my players.
When I got the chance to coach at the Varsity level, I went out looking for an offense that followed 3 philosophical rules.
  1. Intricate enough that it engaged my older players yet simple enough that my younger players could run it.
  2. It had to be able to feature specific players and be ran no matter the personnel, that way each age group could learn it and be successful in it and not have any continuity problems from year to year and it would not matter who the "best offensive player" was from year to year.
  3. It taught players how to play basketball through concepts rather than teaching a player how to run a play.
Enter Tex Winters. Actually, check that, enter Courtney Brooks. Coach Brooks is the Head Coach at Southwest Christian School in Georgia. He coached, among many others, Javaris Crittenton and Dwight Howard. He put a video out detailing the triangle offense for high school. I had always heard of the triangle but had no idea what it entailed. It was associated with Phil Jackson and anything involved with him seemed too cerebral for me and definitely for high school kids. That being said, I gave the video a shot and It met each of the things I was looking for.
I am sure I will detail more of this in future posts about how it has fit in with everything I was requiring.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

First Post

This is my first blog post and it seems fitting that, because I am doing this for purely cathartic reasons, there be no followers as of yet. I guess my first post, since I view this as a personal business venture, should contain my personal mission statement and or philosophy. To be able to do so, I must be able to give a little background.
I played basketball for quite possibly one of the greatest basketball coaches if not the high school ranks, definitely our fine beehive state: Steve Hodson. Pictured to the left. He taught me discipline and a love for the game for which I am eternally grateful. As many know, Coach Hodson was a defensive guru teaching a pack-line helpside man-to-man. We worked as a unit to protect the paint and to help each other on any dribble penetration. We never gambled or took chances, but we followed our rules as dictated by our leader. We all believed in him and knew that he was teaching us the right way to play. On Offense we were similar. Very deliberate. Passing up a good shot for a great shot and a great shot for an even better shot for a teammate. I learned how to be unselfish and to value the basketball. In life these on court lessons transferred over into a mindset of wanting to help each other. Even to this day, my wife accuses me of being taken advantage of or trying to help too much. This is a direct result of (on top of my parents of course) the lesson of a helpside man-to-man and also knowing that if I were to make a mistake, there is always a contingency plan in place where my teammates will pick me up and save me. We learned to value the effort put forth in a task and to make sure it is done right, no matter the length of time it may take.
Coach Hodson exhibited those traits off the court as well, as he would willing do anything to help any of us, no matter the situation.
Coach "Hod" passed away a little over a year ago. He was a great help for me leading into my coaching career and as I was coaching younger age groups. It was an extremely hard thing to not have him around as I took over the program at Parowan High School. I've never told anyone this but I still have his phone number on my phone. I can't force myself to delete it.
After returning from a mission (a few years after college) I got an opportunity to coach Shawn MacQueen, who had recently been named as the Head Coach at Cedar High School. He brought a completely different style of basketball to my world. I heard him talk about pressure defense and denying passing lanes. He spoke about an uptempo style of offense that was a complete 180 from what I knew. In all honesty, I had a hard time at first. I liken it to changing religions. I personally have never done that, but I have been part of lives of people who have. Trying to change a mindset, though it may seem like something so small, was hard. I really decided though, after my first year with Coach MacQueen, that I wanted to really listen to him and hear what it was all about. Coach Mac got me hooked on Coaching clinics (which I still go to every year in Vegas) and improving my craft. I learned from him that there are more ways to skin the proverbial cat. I learned that you can teach the same principles of trusting your teammates through a ball-denial man-to-man. I learned many small tricks and tips on ways to help give your team a chance to win. And this may sound like a small thing, but it is something I am very passionate about, he taught me about the value of assistant coaches and the time-out. I am sure will write about the timeouts and how he molded that part of my philosophy. Suffice it to say, off the court, I learned that a "well timed" time out can help avoid problems as well as provide a fighting chance for yourself. He would, at the beginning of each timeout, grab us assistants and ask us for our opinions, giving the players time to sort things out themselves. An invaluable lesson. I am incredibly grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me and the friendship I still have with him. We play each other this season. I won't take it easy on him nor will we run many of the things offensively nor defensively of which he taught me (and the same can be said of Coach Hodson in this matter) but I can definitely thank Shawn for him directing me to the world of basketball knowledge where I have been able to figure out who I am and what I do. Inadvertently through Coach MacQueen, I learned probably the most important lesson thus far: "Know thyself".
Coach MacQueen left and took a head coaching position at Rowland Hall in Salt Lake and it left me to a kind of crossroads. I had been going to school to be an accountant and with the new Coach offering me a spot on his staff, I decided that I needed to either keep going in one direction or the other. Either Accounting, or coaching and... *GASP*... teaching. I switched my major and joined Craig Cardon on the new Cedar High School coaching staff where I served there as a Sophomore team coach and subsequently the JV team coach for 3 seasons.
Coach Cardon was my freshman basketball coach in high shcool so there was a level of familiarity there. Coach Cardon put me in charge of guard development and I began to "bone-up" on individual skill. It was through these years that I really truly gained a love for player development. It became my mantra over those years that it only took 20 min every other day to get better. I kind of felt like the Tony Horton of basketball doing personal trainer sessions on my afternoons and the summers. I also began to solidify my feelings on summer and off-season development. It became apparent that those who spent extra time... got better. I got the chance to watch my little brother Joel go through the program those years and witness someone with a work ethic that has been unmatched so far. It inspired me to do the same in my classes and other areas to get to where I wanted to. I grew so much over the course of those years and learned from Coach Cardon an incredibly important lesson about a program and a coach's relationship with a program. It had always been a year to year thing for me. Each team with a different identity. Coach Cardon began to run alumni tournaments and inviting past players in to speak to the players as well as being "guest assistant coaches". I realized that we were all links on a very long chain that existed prior to our time and will exist after we've left and as he would say "We are merely caretakers of something that is bigger than us."
I left Cedar High to pursue the opportunity to coach at Parowan High School. Last year was my first year. In the future I will detail this year in many of my lessons learned at tips as well as asking for opinions, but suffice it to say, it was the most growing experience of my coaching career and I loved every minute of it. I am literally counting down the days to November 8th which is the first day of tryouts.