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Monday, March 23, 2009

Basketball in the Bluegrass - Best in the World

Coaches from all over the world want to live and work in a place that loves the sport of basketball. Along with that passion for the game comes high expectations and pressure that drive some coaches out of the sport. Others that have been able to maintain the course over the years have proven to be some of the most successful basketball coaches in the country. In Kentucky, basketball is not just a sport, it is more of a religion and the holy grail is playing in the state tournament at Rupp Arena. Kentucky is the last great basketball state that still competes without a class system. In almost every state, at the end of the basketball season, there are multiple state champions in basketball to be crowned. Kentucky is special because it is a winner take all event where schools like Elliot County - enrollment 167 can compete with the bigger enrollment schools for a chance at the trophy. Kentucky high school basketball is the best. While the talent pool might not be as good as many other states, the following, the tradition, the expectations, and the fan support make it a much better state to coach basketball than say Florida which has some of the most talented athletes to ever play - see Vince Carter or Amare Stoudamire - there are only about 3000 fans at the state championship. That is a generous number.

These are some pictures from the most recent state tournament in Kentucky where we had over 22,000 fans for a FIRST round game. If you have the opportunity to come to see the "Greatest Show in Hoops," it is well worth your time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Legendary Gary Williams Never Stops Teaching Basketball

Gary Williams is known in coaches circle as a brilliant strategist and motivator. Even though the role of the head coach in college basketball has evolved more from simply a disciplinarian/strategist to public realtions strategist/recruiter. Now more than ever the head coach is expected to be more than an X and O guy because he must be able to do all the other things that come with the job. Recent failures in this department include Billy Gillispie at Kentucky who is a terrific basketball coach, but in over his head with the total obligation required from UK's coach. John Calipari from Memphis is almost the total opposite in that he uses every opportunity on camera to recruit and sell his program. Earlier this season, Williams was in trouble with his athletic department and later was supported by them, but he is at his best with his back to the wall and who can argue that he hasnt done a magnificent job with his team? "Coach Williams worked so hard this year for us," forward Dave Neal said. "He knew that we could be a good team, and he did everything in his will to make this team as good as it could be. I think he really brought the best out of every one of his players," the lone senior and the one Williams credits for keeping the players together. "Everyone gave him everything. We were playing hard for him."

With less than 60 seconds to play and Duke inbounding the ball near Maryland's bench. Williams stood just a few feet away from where the play would begin, his eyes and attention focused on Landon Milbourne, who was guarding the inbound passer.

"Move! Move! Move, Landon! Move!" Williams screamed, his face turning redder than his necktie.The Terps' chances of winning were slipping away, but Williams was still teaching. He wasn't ready to stop. He knew he had more coaching to do. He has always known, in fact.

And now everyone else knows that, too.

Lessons from Pat Riley

At 37 years old, Erik Spoelstra is living a dream and coaching one the NBA's MVP candidates in Dwyane Wade. His path has been one of the most original stories of any coach in the NBA. He was not a former NBA player instead beginning his professional career as the video coordinator with Pat Riley. As a young assistant he was often seen taking notes on plays, poetry, motivational talks, or anything else he could learn from hall of famer Pat Riley. Read more on this quote from Orlando newspaper. When Riley stepped down as the Heat coach, he turned the reins over to the young assistant who had worked his way up from the bottom: Erik Spoelstra. One thing he learned from the Showtime coach is, "I loved hearing [Riley's] motivational talks," Spoelstra says. "I'd get fired up hearing them. But there's only one person who can talk like that. If I tried, it would sound false, so I don't." His talks? Full of preparation and passion. "You can motivate in different ways," he says. For coaches of all levels, we must learn to ADAPT and not ADOPT the philosophies of our mentors.

Live Your Own Life

A USA Today reporter has written an insightful and interesting article that can help many of put our problems in perspective. The title of his article is, "How cheating death can change your life" and it is worth the read.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) describe what happens when people survive near death experiences or live through the process of battling a life-threatening or terminal disease. Many people that go through this experience agree that it changes their long term perspective. Said one survivor, "Death is very likely the single-best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true." Says another: "Near-death experiences give you balance. You become more worldly. Your ideas become bigger."Many say the experience changed "them in profound ways and give them a heightened sense of purpose." As one put it: "Life becomes shinier. You should plan for the long haul, but there is a big difference in doing that and making perpetual sacrifices."

Pancreatic cancer almost claimed the life of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He put it into perspective at a commencement speech he gave at Stanford in 2005:

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." As basketball coaches we sometimes take our jobs as life and death when after reading this article we understand that is the legacy we leave when we touch others' lives that is the reason we coach, not for the thrill of winning the championship. (Although that helps!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Muggsy Bogues Stands Tall Among His Peers

Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues is the shortest player ever to play in the NBA at 5'3" and there was a reason he was able to transcend the usual height requirements for professional players. He had 3 attributes that made him successful despite his size:

  1. He had unreal heart and mental toughness. Need an example? Take a look at this picture. He was one of the few NBA players not to back down to the toughest player ever to play - Michael Jordan. There are many stories of players wilting under the pressure that Jordan would put on them during the game as he scored on them at will. Bogues was tough enough to realize that he might not be able to stop MJ, but he was going to make it as tough as possible on him.

  2. Competitive Spirit - Bogues was competitive enough that his friends said that if you challenged him in a race on the street, he would challenge you back to just say 'go'. This is something that most professional athletes are born with and Bogues would not let his size diminish his spirit.

He was an unbelieveable athlete. Despite being mentally tough and competitive, Bogues was obviously a tremendous talent at 5'3" and one of the best athletes to ever play in the NBA. At that size, he had to generate enormous power and speed to compete on the court with players that were much taller and stronger. He was able to do that with his God given talent and even though size was not one of them, he proved that size is not everything and you can compete with the best athletes in the world if you have the heart of a champion.

Purchase an eBook on Toughness Drills and Competitive Practice Drills

You must play with effort to play in the NBA

According to Kenny Natt, head coach of the Sacramento Kings, the guys that will play over the next 20 games are going to be the effort guys. "What I need to do is pull guys out of the game that don't want to play. Guys who don't play with effort, that's who I'll start pulling out of the game. I've made it very clear to them that that's where we're going from now on. You can't stay in a basketball game if (they're) not going to play. If you think that you're going to stay in the game (without playing hard), you're going to be sitting over there with me." The NBA has trouble with young players in the league that sometimes act like they are too good to work hard while NBA vets understand the value of hard work. They know it is the perserverance and work that will keep them employed in the league.

Defense is about Desire and Focus on Fundamentals

NBA head coach of the New Orleans Hornets Byron Scott reminded his team recently about the basics of defense and the importance of focusing on defensive fundamentals. "Defense is all about desire and wanting to do it. It has nothing to do with skill. So we've just got to get back to our defensive principles and understanding what we need to do on every play. We were trying to rely too much on our offense, trying to outscore people. There's going to be nights when we're not going to be able to make shots or throw it in the ocean. We've got to be able to rely on our defense a lot more.Right now, we're having a lot of trouble on the defensive end. Specifically, guarding guys off the dribble, number one, and protecting that paint, number two. The third thing is when we're getting beat, we're fouling too much. We've got to do a better job, maybe go back to the drawing board, think about some of the things on our defensive concepts that we talked about and get better at it.The focus on that end has to be better. As far as us understanding what our principles are, I think we understand them. We've just got to get back to doing them on a day-to-day basis. This is not the time to lose desire to play defense; this is the times we've got to pick it back up." Perhaps no one on this team understands the importance of this focus like Scott who played on NBA championship teams during his tenure on the LA Lakers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Toughness on Display in UCONN and Syracuse Record Breaking Big East Game

Amazing Toughness and Heart on Display in the Big East Quarterfinal

It is 1:10 am and I was just about to go to sleep - oh 2 hours ago - and I thought I would catch the end of this game. It goes to OT, so I thought good this is exciting, I will be in bed soon. Now it is going into the 6th OT and these kids have played almost an entire second game. Syracuse just hit a three point basket to take their first lead of any of the overtimes. The toughest kid in the game has to be Johnny Flynn who has just completed his 50-some odd minute of play and making free throws. He is 10-10 right now and always seems to find a way to explode to the basket with no legs. How could he have legs? Trying to guard some of the quickest guards for UCONN in a future #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The walkon for Syracuse - Justin Thomas - has been huge with his rebounding in this game. He just got his first rebound of the season...after watching Harris unable to finish inside all night with the future lottery pick Hasheem Thabeet in the middle, it was odd to see him miss from 3' with no shot blocker in the paint. He just now completed a 3 point play to take an 8 point lead for UCONN.

Well, UCONN just scrapped together to cut the lead to 6. All these things going on and I cant help but be impressed with the toughness and resolve of both teams. Neither of these teams deserve to lose. Devendorff hit a buzzerbeater '3' in regulation, but with one-tenth of a second, the ball was still in his hands, and it sent the game into OT. The crowd and both teams thought the game was over. Most teams aren't tough enough to overcome a setback where something has been taken from them - or so they think - to come out and compete. Syracuse had not taken a lead in the first five overtimes and just took the lead in this 6th overtime. The difference in the game has been the attacking nature of Johnny Flynn who came down with his team down 2 points and instead of settling for the jumpshot, he attacked the rim and was hammered. Then he stepped up to make the 2 free throws to force the 6th overtime.

I just found out that Johnny Flynn in the last two games has played 100 minutes combined in the two games. The coaches are looking tired, the players are looking tired...the referees are wishing they would have just counted the Devendorff shot in regulation. Flynn is a kid that any coach would love as he keeps encouraging his players, making shots, and - maybe most impressive - he WANTS the ball in crunch time. He would not be denied. The game started at 9:36 pm ET and it is now 1:20 as Syracuse has just taken a ten point lead with a minute and a half to go. Game over and the record has been broken for most overtime games in Big East History - regular season or tournament. This has just been mental toughness all game long from both teams as cramps, foul trouble, battling inside with Big East post men, and just diving on the floor from 7 foot lottery picks...just an amazing game.

There can't be a winner or a loser in this game. I think there is just going to be a SURVIVOR. West Virginia and Bob Huggins is waiting in the wings for the winner later on today. The walk on just had a blocked shot - yes, his first of the season. The crowd is rising to its feet to celebrate the great courage on both sides. Only one game in the history of the sport at the major college level has been longer than this marathon. Both teams have laid it on the line and are totally spent in their love of the game. Two hall of fame coaches with NBA players on both teams have just competed in the greatest game I have ever been a witness to...this was an instant classic.

Jim Boeheim said immediately after the game, "We had nothing. Connecticut had their best players. The heart we showed. I have never been prouder of a team. I cant say enough about them. This kid next to you has the biggest heart I have ever seen. I dont know how he could last that long. Where did he get it from? These kids were unbelieveable tonight."

Johnny Flynn, playing 67 minutes this morning, had 34 points 11 assists and 17 pts in the OTs....responded with, ""First and foremost I want to give the glory to God. I told my teammates, we have played this long and this hard, we might as well get the win."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Princeton DVD

Coaches, we have a new Princeton Offense DVD available from Championship Productions. Winning with the Princeton Offense is a DVD our team put together with the help of Championship Productions that outlines the 6 interchangeable sets that comprise the Princeton Offense. We felt it was important to put this DVD out since NONE of the current DVDs available show a coach how to run the offense. Most of them show you parts of it like the CHIN set and act like the rest of the offense is a pure motion based offense. Nothing could be further from the truth and they are all sets based on the pass/dribble/cut that the player with the ball makes. We show all the sets and more importantly how the sets progress from one to another. We also include the teaching progression because while the sets are important to learn, knowing how to put the offense in with your team in invaluable. We will show you all the sets and diagram the offense here in this Princeton Offense eBook. Let me know if you have questions on the DVD and continue to ask me for requests.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Download Boston Celtics, Spurs, Hubie Brown, Mike D'Antoni, and Princeton Offense

Free Download of Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Hubie Brown, Mike D'Antoni Coaching Notes

As the NBA season comes to a close, I wanted to offer some special sets and coaching notes from the NBA's best coaches. You can download any and all of these notes for free.

Boston Celtics Pre-Draft Workout & Practice Notes -

Spurs and Poppovich Favorite Sets and Drills -

Hubie Brown Coaching eBook - Download this coaching legend's playbook and gameplan for success.

Mike D'Antoni Coaching Offensive Sets - These are some of his favorite sets that he runs with the NY Knicks in his uptempo European style offense. Download the notes for free:

How to Coach The Princeton Offense eBook

The mystery of the Princeton Offense is unveiled in this masterful eBook! The star of the offense is the "back door cut," which Princeton has used for years to slay bigger opponents. The eBook shares the key drills that the Princeton team works on, every day, to perfect the offense and also teaches concepts such as the dribble handoff, fake handoff, weak side exchange, freeze dribble, butt screens, pick and roll and many more. How to execute the offense using the Point to Wing Series, the High Post Scissors, the Chin Series and the UCLA Series are all diagrammed and dissected.
Each series contains a number of options to maximize versatility, including combo plays such as Chin Series to UCLA Series. Never again will the Princeton Offense be seen as an intricate system! This eBook shows how to incorporate the game''s finest fundamentals into an exciting, potent offense. Piece by piece you will see why this offense has struck panic into teams for years.

Once you have mastered the building blocks of Princeton's offensive system, you will be able to create easy scoring opportunities for your team! This eBook gives you the insider's view of how practice is structured to develop individual and team skills, discipline, court-vision, and court-awareness.

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