Thursday, May 28, 2009


I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.
-Charles Maurice deTalleyrand

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
-John C. Maxwell

Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus. I would rather be a man of conviction than a man of conformity.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Great leaders are never satisfied with current levels of performance. They are relentlessly driven by possibilities and potential achievements.
-Donna Harrison

There are really four types of people: 1) Cop-outs - People who have no goals and do not commit, 2) Hold-outs - People who don't know if they can reach their goals, so they are afraid to commit, 3) Dropouts - People who start toward a goal but quit when the going gets tough, and 4) All-outs - People who set goals, commit to them, and pay the price to meet them.
-John C. Maxwell

Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But conscience asks the question, "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have seen that in any great undertaking, it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.
-Lone Man

We shall all hang together or we shall certainly hang separately.
-Benjamin Franklin

Success Factors

Keeping your fellow staff members motivated and on the same page is vital to your team's success on the court. The following is something I have used in the past to assist with staff cohesion, direction, and inspiration.

FOCUS - Maintaining a successful oriented level of concentration on what we are trying to accomplish, understanding that it will take personal and collective sacrifices physically, mentally, and socially at times when we feel we can't.

PUSH - Redefining what we once thought was our optimum work capacity, and reaching this new level when we feel there is no way we can.

CONSISTENCY - Our ability to reach our "push level" day in and day out, and knowing this is necessary to become successful.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lanny Bassham and the Directive Affirmation

My good friend and head golf coach at Concordia turned me on to this great book. Lanny Bassham outlines the mental approaches he took in order to become a world class rifle shooter. The book is a very easy read, but extremely valuable in content.

I remember going to summer basketball camp and watching a Bob Knight video where Coach Knight says, "The mental is to the physical as four is to one." If this is true, we as coaches do not spend enough time on the most important part of the game: The Mental Game.

Bassham outlines the Directive Affirmation in his book. I implemented the Directive Affirmation with my post players this past season. The result was increased self confidence and performance. Here are the steps in the Directive Affirmation:

STEP 1: Define the goal.
STEP 2: Set a time limit; best results in 21 days and 9 days off.
STEP 3: List the personal pay-value of reaching this goal.
STEP 4: Outline the plan to achieve the goal.
STEP 5: Write a Directive Affirmation in the first person present tense, beginning with the word "I". State the goal as if you already are in possession of it. List the pay-value and the plan outline. Restate the goal. Date the paragraph with the target date.
STEP 6: In your own handwriting, make five copies on note cards.
STEP 7: Place the cards in five prominent places such as bathroom mirrors, refrigerators, computer screens, etc... (These locations are what Bassham calls Key Points).
STEP 8: Read and visualize your Directive Affirmation each time you come to a Key Point

An example of a Directive Affirmation for a player wanting to be a better free-throw shooter would look something like this:
11/1/09. I am the best free-throw shooter on my team. I start each game and enjoy the chance to help my team win by making free-throws. I always run a mental program before each shot and reinforce each successful basket by saying, "That's like me!" Also, I record my performance analysis and read and visualize my Directive Affirmation daily. I am the best free-throw shooter on my team.

Transition Offense


I don't call it a "fast break" because I want my players thinking "SPRINT", not just run.

The goal is to get a lay-up so I always want the point guard to pass ahead. I want a pass break not a dribble break. Because I want to pass ahead, it is critical to our success that the wings sprint the floor and fill lanes!

On missed baskets, after the initial break, I want to run more structured set stuff and capitalize on the defense not being set. This is not to say we back it out and run time off the clock. What I am referring to is a set pattern that my players know and can easily execute during the confusion of the opponents transition to defense.

On made baskets, when the defense is allowed to get sets, I want to run more random movement, motion style where the defense cannot predict our offense.

No matter what we run (either made of missed basket), once we get through our initial cuts I want the next pass or two to be very quick. Quick ball reversal to an attack on the other side of the floor is very difficult to defend.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Winning Responsibility List

1. Out-prepare all opponents.
2. Series of pressure releases if shots aren't falling.
3. Mix up defenses and make opponents think.
4. Teach sound fundamental basketball.
5. Prepare for easy baskets ie: out of bounds plays, free throws, special situations defensive system.

1. Play harder than your opponent in practice AND the game.
2. Shot selection on offense (individual; time and score).
3. Allow no easy baskets (fast breaks, second shots, uncontested shots).
4. Play sound fundamental basketball.
5. Execution to score easy baskets.

Jeff Janssen on Team Leaders

Those of you that don't know about Jeff Janssen, you really need to explore some of his techniques. Those of you who know about Jeff have already discovered that he is a great source for team building and leadership ideas. The following is Jeff Janssen's Six R's of Respected Team Leaders.

Being a leader is a big privilege, challenge, and responsibility. To do your job effectively, you must bring out the best in your teammates and be able to deal with them when they are at their worst. Your success depends on your ability to develop and master the Six "R's" of Respected Team Leaders. As you read through them below, honestly evaluate yourself on how well you fulfill each of the six important responsibilities.

All leadership begins with self leadership. People will respect you as a leader only if you can walk your own talk and lead yourself effectively. You must model the commitment and work ethic you expect from your teammates. You must have confidence that you can achieve your team's goals. You must maintain your composure when the inevitable storms of adversity strike. And you must do the right thing even when it isn't the popular or convenient choice to make. You must continually model the attitudes and actions you want to see from your teammates.

As a team leader, you must frequently remind your teammates about what is important - your common goal, your game plan, going to class, and making smart choices. Remind your teammates that all of the commitments and sacrifices they are making now are really investments in your team's success and their future. Remind them that the time they spend practicing, studying, getting involved in internships, and doing community service will pay off immeasurably in the long run.

You'll also spend a lot of time reinforcing the positive strides your teammates make. Be sure to compliment them often to build their confidence and fuel a positive momentum and environment on your team. It's surprising how fragile confidence can be for some of your teammates. It's amazing what a simple word of encouragement can do for them coming from you. As Mother Theresa once said, "Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." Acknowledge and appreciate your teammates often as a way to reinforce the positive things they do.

Because there are so many obstacles, setbacks, and adversities involved in every season and school year, you will need to reassure your teammates when they feel nervous, scared, frustrated, helpless, and hopeless. Give them a sense of hope and optimism even if your team has lost three in a row. Let them know with the right amount of rehab and rest that they can recover from that frustrating injury. As your mom once told you, you need to reassure your teammates that the sun will come up tomorrow.

Your teammates will get distracted often over their careers. With the countless temptations and distractions available to college student-athletes like alcohol, computer games, parties, television, cell phones, gambling, etc., its no wonder that some people lose their focus. It is easy for your teammates to get their priorities out of whack. A leader's primary job is to establish a vision for the team and then continually refocus the team back on the vision when they get distracted. Put simply, your job is to keep "the main thing" the main thing. For their sakes and yours, help your teammates refocus back on what's important when they begin to stray athletically, academically, and socially.

Last but not least, you must be willing to constructively confront and reprimand your teammates when necessary. You must hold them accountable to live up to and maintain your team's and athletic department's rules and standards. Confronting your less disciplined teammates is often an uncomfortable and sometimes scary task for most student-athlete leaders but one that must be done if your team and athletic department are going to be successful. Part of being a leader is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. You must have the courage to constructively confront your teammates who aren't willing to do the right thing. You may not be liked all the time when you hold your teammates accountable, but you will be respected, which is more important anyway.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Loyalty, Accountability, and Work Ethic

I mentioned previously about three keys to my philosophy. Three is a very powerful number, which we'll explore in a future post. The three elements I am referring to are the cornerstones to my philosophical triangle: Loyalty, Accountability, and Work Ethic.

- We must understand that relationships are #1!
*The object of coaching is people
*Players will remember the bonds they create with each other more than any wins and losses.

- Cultivate a family atmosphere
*An "Us against the world" attitude
*Individuals must know that they are not alone in any endeavor

- We must know how to handle success and failure
*Know the differences between success and excellence
*Celebrate successes as a team
*Create a safe environment where failure to try is the only failure

- Players must understand when they are competing with others or themselves

- Demonstrate the difference between desire and commitment

- Demonstrate poise and self-control

- Reflect responsibility and character

-Responsibly manage time

- Understand that perception is reality

- Learn and practice leadership
*Know the difference between serving and controlling
*Everyone has the opportunity to lead in some capacity

- Play Hard, Play Smart, Play Together (Dean Smith)

- Set and meet goals
*Dream big - step by step
*Directive Affirmation - Individual statement of growth and improvement

Stay focused
*Composure and emotional control
*Assist to turnover ratio
*Personal fouls ratio

- Become "coachable"
*Develop a teaching strategy that will engage various learning styles
*Players need to develop an attitude that allows one to be coached and/or taught
*Listen to what is said; don't just hear (Bob Knight)
*See what is being taught; don't just look (Bob Knight)
*Understand the concepts; don't just know (Grant Wiggins)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why use a full court press?

A great article from the New Yorker magazine by Malcolm Gladwell explores the use of full court pressure. In the article, Gladwell states:

"The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.
...What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”

Gladwell uses the 1971 Dr. J led UMass team's loss to Digger Phelp's Fordham Rams:
“We jumped out to a thirteen-to-six lead, and it was a war the rest of the way,” Digger Phelps, the Fordham coach at the time, recalls. “These were tough city kids. We played you ninety-four feet. We knew that sooner or later we were going to make you crack.”

"Pitino trains his players to look for what he calls the “rush state” in their opponents—that moment when the player with the ball is shaken out of his tempo..."

The rest of the article can be found HERE.

Defensive Philosophy

We pride ourselves on working hard at the defensive end of the floor. Any success we will have as a team will derive from our work ethic and intensity on the defensive side of the ball. We take the right attitude that, although we may have good and bad shooting nights, we will still be able to win games if we can give a greater defensive effort than our opponents. To get this tremendous effort on a consistent basis, the players must BELIEVE totally in the system. There are several things that we can do X-and-O-wise to prepare, however, no component is more crucial to defense than BELIEF!!

The foundation for this belief is a derivative of the three things that I teach each and every student athlete in our program: LOYALTY, WORK ETHIC, and ACCOUNTABILITY. From the first meeting with the team at the beginning of the year, I stress the importance of each of the aforementioned ideals in every aspect of their lives. I want my student athletes to understand the positive impact these ideals will have not only in the athletic realm, but also their academic, personal, and spiritual realms. I want my players and staff to feel, act, and interact like family. If I can cultivate an understanding of these ideals within my basketball family, I have a better chance of getting my players to believe in themselves, their teammates, and the staff.

If the players believe in the staff, it stands to reason that they will believe in the system that is taught. When this point is reached, it becomes easier to sell the players on the absolute necessity of the all out effort and intensity that will allow them to outwork their opponents. This same intensity and work ethic must also be brought to the gym on a daily basis by me and the rest of the staff. If I want my players to be excited and go hard each day in practice, then I must be totally prepared, organized, and very intense myself.

The foundation for defensive intensity and hard work begins the first day of workouts. I demand an all out effort. I communicate to the new players that in order to be a part of our basketball family, they must be willing to give us everything they have in the way of LOYALTY, WORK ETHIC, and ACCOUNTABILITY. I am upbeat, intense, and organized. My team and I don't go half speed in anything we do. If practice time is cut down (ie: mid to late season) we don't cut down the intensity. I want my players to understand that if they are on the floor for five minutes or five hours (obviously I would never keep a team for five hours!), the intensity level will remain the same.

Leaders will assert themselves throughout the course of the season. However, it is my hope that the seniors will have matured to the point of providing solid leadership. I remind the players that if they want to lead they must understand that they live in the proverbial "glass house". In our world this means that they must be the ones working the hardest both in the classroom and on the basketball court. Once the players understand what is expected, belief and intensity begin to perpetuate themselves. The veteran leadership sets a level of intensity that forces those new to the basketball family to keep pace. Players begin to expect giving the type of effort needed to be successful on the defensive end of the floor. Once this point is reached, practices become more productive because coaches can focus more attention to the specifics of what is being drilled, rather than about the effort being put into the drill.

Once this level is attained, the pressure shifts to me as a coach. I must know each drill and every component of the defensive system to a "T". Nothing will break things down quicker than a player asking me a question and I can't answer it or I give the wrong answer. If I am ever running a drill, I make sure I stop and give the right answer if there is ever any question about something we are doing. This has allowed me to develop a great deal of trust with the players. I often tell the players, "You can ask a question about the philosophy, but don't ever question the philosophy." I encourage the players to ask questions if they are unsure about something. Being prepared always allows me to have the right answer and this cements the trust factor. Once I have secured the trust of my players, I know they will never question the philosophy. It only stands to reason that if they don't question the philosophy, they must BELIEVE in it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Welcome to My Basketball Coaching Blog

Thank you! By coming to this blog, it means that you are dedicated to the craft and art of coaching basketball. My goal is to provide insights, motivational tools, teaching points, drills, and strategies to other coaches that love this game as much as I do.

I am certainly looking forward to sharing what knowledge I have. Like Coach Wooden said, "There is no area of basketball in which I am a genius." I am no basketball genius or guru either, but I am constantly working to improve. What I find useful, I will share for others to improve their coaching as well.

Please feel free to contact me if you have unique ideas or wish to comment on my posts. Please enjoy!

In Hoops,
Coach G