Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pete Newell - Component Parts Of An Offense

As some of you know, I recently moved to Dallas. Most of you can agree that after a move things get shuffled around an you end up finding treasures you forgot you have. I just so happened to come across one of these treasures in the form of the 1975 Medalist Flashback Notebook that was given to me by my dad, who in 1975 was coaching himself. (A total random thought, but some of you are "seasoned" enough to remember that Medalist was the company that created Sand Knit uniforms that would rub your skin raw and should have been more accurately called sandpaper knit)

The two contributors in the Medalist book really stood out to me: Pete Newell and John Wooden. Their thoughts and ideas are timeless; still very much relevant to today's game. In future posts, I will incorporate Coach Wooden's thoughts, but this week is all about Coach Newell. I know that this will make a couple of coaching colleagues very happy: Herb Welling and the new head boys basketball coach at East Lansing High School, Steve Finamore! (Coach Fin, I hope that you will be able to use some or all of this on the Newell blog you started: So without further ramblings, I hope you enjoy and find something useful!


Before you can actually run an offense, obviously you have to prepare for it. Although you are fully aware of these things, I would like to review them with you.

1. Conditioning - Founded upon sound training habits - prime requisite for team efficiency. Your physical reserve is the determinant in many close games. You should never be beaten because your team was not in better condition than your opponent. Often, superior conditioning can offset slightly better ability. Conditioning drills should be differentiated from fundamental individual and team drills. Each is distinct in its purpose. Fundamental drills are for the purposes of conditioning the individual's reflex, increasing his skills, and achieving a unity of team play. The objective of the conditioning program is to increase stamina and endurance through prolonged physical exercise that taxes the reserve of each player. It has been my experience that the least popular conditioning drills are the most effective.

2. Drills
a. Fundamental - Must know not only how, but why you are doing a drill. This must be carefully explained.
b. Repetitive - Habits are the results of repetitive acts. They will be somewhat boring to players, but they are essential to improvement.
c. Progressive - Break down offense to simple part method teaching.

3. Balance
a. Shooting Balance - Every player wants to score - that's the name of the game. Some possess more natural skill than other, but this should include the opportunity for every player to get free for a shot. Players won't develop their skills to the fullest extent without encouragement and opportunity. Besides individual shooting balance, it is necessary to be sure that the offense is not limited to certain areas of the court - opponents would overplay you.
b. Team Balance - All 5 men must be included in the offensive system. Every player must feel he is an integral part of the offense. Even the exceptional player needs the ball to score or needs court room to operate.
c. Floor Balance - Most systems initiate offensive movement from some form of floor balance. It is important that a pattern of play maintain some semblance of floor balance throughout. If a player knows where the other 4 men are to be and what their next move might be, then he is more prepared to anticipate the play option without chance of running into a teammate or his defensive man.
d. Rebound Balance - Can be done only through rebound responsibilities - hard to have responsibilities if the players have no idea when a shot is going to occur - or where they might be when a shot is taken. Rebounding depends upon individual initiative, but it also depends upon numbers. If a system of offense always ends up with a triangle of rebounding, percentages will take care of the rest.Sometimes individual initiative can be a detriment if the men become overloaded in one area. They often get in each other's way causing a fast break by opponents. Must learn how to judge both long and short rebounds. A team which has good rebounding balance will always be considered a strong board team regardless of its individual jumping ability.
e. Defensive Balance - Synonymous with rebounding balance - possible to have strong individual rebounding without having good defensive balance. - a team should revert to defense as soon as a shot is attempted. This does not mean we concede the ball to opponents - but we must be prepared to make the adjustment. Defensive balance will add advantages to a team's chance for success - may give rebounders more liberty to rebound aggressively and to play the ball even after opponents gain control of rebound. When lack of balance is difference between winning and losing a game - best to check system and see if responsibilities are clearly defined.

4. Elements of Offense
a. Simplicity - Execution vs. surprise - some coaches in their eagerness to win do not have the patience to work toward the refinement of their inherited theories and will switch to a system of play which has brought success to others. This way brings initial success, but there is no guarantee for lasting success.
b. Flexibility - Must have ability to adjust during that game. Here is where sound fundamentals will help. A set offense is considered flexible when it can meet demands of the defense without losing its effectiveness. That means a flexible offense can be "fluid" against a man-to-man defense as well as a switching defense without altering its basic pattern. It can operate against most zones. It must be able to work against pressure. The fewer things a player must learn to do, the better he will do them.
c. Continuity - Important in case a certain play situation does not present a reasonable shot attempt. In actuality, continuity is nothing more than a series of plays including two-man play (guard-forward), a three-man play (guard-forward and post), and another three-man play (post and two forwards). Movement must be done with a purpose and successive play situations should develop with each motion of the player and the ball. Continuity should incorporate rebounding balance, floor balance, and defensive organization in its execution. A continuous pattern will often eliminate chance for defense to anticipate more than the initial move.
d. Tempo - The team that controls the tempo of the game will most likely emerge as the victor. There are contrasting tempos. Some teams run all the time - they have practiced that way and their habits have been created under such conditions. Others are content to move cautiously - hoping to eliminate most mistakes. Others strive for a balance somewhere between those. It is necessary not to attempt to control the speed of the game, but also to be prepared to play at more than one speed. Many teams cannot adapt when forced out of their tempo and become ineffective and disorganized.
e. Correlation to Defense - Offensive system must be correlated to the type of defense used - one compliments the other. Generally, a zone and fast break go hand in hand - men are in same positions all the time and prepared to run the same pattern after a rebound. Each man's responsibilities are limited and defined. The switching defense compliments a fast breaking offense for the same reasons. A team which may want to depend more upon its set offense to score and which wants to be set up before it begins it's operation may spend more time and manpower securing defensive rebounds. A strong man-to-man with switching options may match defensive men against offensive men for this purpose. They may hold-in all 5 defensive men - thus eliminating a fast break.

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