Basketball Passing Drill: Passing Lanes & Patience

Basketball Passing Drill: Passing Lanes & Patience

Developing a patient team can be one of the most difficult aspects of coaching. Young and inexperienced teams tend to rush through sets and often leave scoring opportunities unexplored. These teams need to reduce turnovers and play with more purpose. So finding the right drills and competitive practice games becomes a challenge. So here’s a look at a basketball passing drill that works on both the offense and the defense simultaneously.

Basketball Passing Drill: Passing Lanes and Patience

The Passing Lanes and Patience drill promotes multiple things. For the offense, it promotes patience and making good passes. It stresses the importance of working for great shots. It also helps build habits like crashing the offensive boards.

For the defense, this drill promotes getting into the passing lanes, blocking out, and limiting teams to one shot. It stresses toughness in taking charges and playing hard without fouling.

The Set Up

This basketball passing drill requires two even teams. The drill uses competitive 5-on-5 action that should be high intensity.

Coaches implement four 2:30 minute quarters for the drill, with a 45 second break in between each segment. The two teams split time as offense and defense, alternating after each quarter. Subs can be incorporated with each dead ball situation.

basketball passing lanes

The Rules

Coaches set a specific number of passes the offense must complete. (We do 6 passes.)

The offense “scores” 1 point if they reach that number of passes without a turnover or deflection. They also get 1 point for each offensive rebound. The offense gets 3 points for made three-pointers, but 4 points for a made two-point field goal. We stress working for great shots.

The defense “scores” 1 point for each deflection of a pass. They get 2 points for a steal, and 3 points for limiting the offense to one shot in a possession. They get 4 points for each charge drawn. The defense loses a point when a player commits a foul.

basketball passing lanes


  • Emphasize the importance of getting in passing lanes to get deflections & steals. On the line, up the line is a way of life for our program.
  • Discuss scoring with teams & ask them why they think 2’s are worth more than 3’s in this drill & ask them why they think securing a D-Board after one shot and taking a charge are worth so many points.

Kyle Brasher
Gibson Southern High School
Social Studies Teacher
Lady Titans Basketball Coach

Related: Favorite Basketball Practice Drills



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Youth Basketball: Reducing Turnovers with Gold

Youth Basketball: Reducing Turnovers with Gold

Gold. Basketball turnovers. What do these two items have in common? The answer is more than you may realize! As all coaches know, a turnover in basketball is one surefire way for your team to be defeated each and every game out. Not only do turnovers mean you do not get a field goal attempt, if the turnover is a live ball turnover, it could mean an easy bucket for your opponent. So basketball coaches seek new and innovative ways in reducing turnovers.

Gold is one of the most precious metals on earth, and an item that has monetary value. Gold is something that people want to protect and ensure that they retain. When playing the game of basketball, we like to think of the basketball as a piece of gold, We like to think of it as something that is very precious, which we hope to retain more than we lose. So using special gold basketballs to aid in reducing turnovers created a competitive practice game with stakes.

Reducing Turnovers with Gold Basketballs

As a program, we instituted gold basketballs in many of our live scrimmage segments to help encourage our players to be more focused on reducing turnovers. Players do not like the punishment of running; players will do almost anything to avoid running, so as a staff we decided to tap into that mindset and try to become a team that commits fewer turnovers.

In live scrimmage segments, we place three gold basketballs out for each team playing. (To create gold basketballs, we found three old basketballs that would not retain air and spray painted them gold.) During the scrimmage, each time a team commits a turnover, they lose one of their gold basketballs. Once a team has lost all three of their gold basketballs, we stop the scrimmage and that team gets on the line to run. After their run is complete, they only get two gold basketballs back.

It is imperative that they retain a high level of focus in not turning the ball over. Once those two balls are gone and they run again. Then, they get the last ball back. Once that final ball is gone and they run, they get all three back and we repeat the process again. The goal is for the players to understand the value of limiting our turnovers and putting ourselves in the best position possible to succeed.

Limiting Use (and Turnovers)

The Gold Basketballs are not something we use every day. As a staff, we feel they may lose their luster if we commit to doing them every practice. We utilize the balls once or twice a week. If we have a game where we just committed a lot of turnovers or an upcoming game where reducing turnovers is important, we may utilize the balls a tad more.

It has given our players a visual cue to look at and realize the importance of retaining possession and putting ourselves in the best position to succeed in all game situations.

Related: Basketball Team Building: Giving Out Game Awards

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Teaching Situational Basketball at the High School Level

Teaching Situational Basketball at the High School Level

Understanding situational basketball comes only after playing the game competitively for some time. Getting young and developing players to understand the ins and outs of different situations takes time, and experience. Coaches can carve out practice time for situational drills, but often, players won’t fully understand until they’ve experienced it in a competitive game.

Situational Basketball: The Background & Problem

Let’s start by setting a scene: low-scoring, hard fought playoff game in a loud high school gym in the first week of March. We worked for this all year long. It’s the month of the season where any coach would work for free just to have the chance to feel that utterly different, barely describable adrenaline that comes with a win to advance to the next round.

So that’s where I was as an assistant coach. Up off the bench trying to diagnose the intended action of a play before our team forced a five-second call on a sidelines out of bounds play. It’s where I was a few moments later, using what was left of my voice to remind our inbounder that we were out of timeouts. It’s where I was when his inbounds pass took our best free throw shooting guard back toward our own basket.

I exhaled as a late whistle negated a steal that would have led to our opponent tying the game. With both hands pressed behind my head, I felt a tap on my shoulder from our older and more composed assistant coach.

“We’ve got to work on late game situations tomorrow in practice,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that we still needed to make a pair of free throws to ice the game.

“I hope we have a practice tomorrow,” I shouted back to him.

We survived and advanced. I knew he was right. Teaching situational basketball was integral. But, in my career and with the coaches I had played for, worked for, or even spoken to, it’s always been the thing that got cut out of practice.

I first heard this response as a high school player when I was talking to a respected and decorated retired coach from my high school as I explained the newfangled approach of fouling in the closing seconds when up three points.

“You’d have to practice that and then hope you get it right with the same players,” he said. “And no one is going to find time to practice that.”

I next heard the response as an eager young coach, trying to offer something different to a coach in my first job.

“That’s great, Bennett,” he said. “But have you noticed that we aren’t even good enough to be in late-game situations?”

“This is why we don’t do this,” I heard another coach say as I watched a comical close to an otherwise fine practice when my situations were marred by managers not being able to run the clock and JV players incapable of handling any sort of pressure defense.

But my idea persisted. I tucked it away in a notebook until finally, called for out of complete frustration, it got its chance to make its way into a practice plan.

“Bennett,” our head coach said. “We’ve got to figure out ways to teach our players what to do in different situations.” I heard this after a weekend where we nearly choked away a double digit lead in a Friday night game. We suffered a very frustrating loss a night later when we gave up not one, not two, but three 3-point shots to close quarters.


Our Solution

So what did I propose and implement? Nothing too time consuming. Nothing too difficult. But something that has helped our players think situationally better.

Three to four times in each practice, in little short segments, we blow a whistle, gather two teams, and conduct a situation. It works as a palate cleanser for whatever else has happened to that point in practice or to what might happen next. Of course, there are also consequences. We run when we don’t achieve our stated goal for that situation.

But, above all, it’s a chance to teach, talk, and coach players through a situation that they have seen or could see. It’s the opportunity to work on that last second play, see how long it will take to get into a set and execute it. Teaching situational basketball can reaffirm a recently taught point, or test the mental mettle of your team.

Defining Situational Basketball

Too often, I think coaches envision working on situations to mean the last two minutes, holding a lead or last 45 seconds trying to come back. Those kinds of situations often do take too much time or can lead to frustration when a JV team can’t pressure or a manager doesn’t know when to stop the clock.

Our situations are often short. I think back to the idea of getting a pass inbounded with two seconds left and no time outs. After that situation, we can grade our players immediately as to whether we got what we wanted. Did the right player get the catch or was the pass thrown to a place where it would hurt us the last if it were to be intercepted?

Often our situations aren’t end game either. One of my favorites is putting 45 seconds or so on the clock, giving the ball to us on a sideline out of bounds and saying that I want to win the end of the quarter. Our players have learned to look for quick action off the sideline out of bounds and then to move into a “get the last shot” situation.

Other times, we simply talk about urgency and give the ball to the opposition with 20 or so seconds to go. Give up that last shot? Enjoy a few sprints before we move on to the next part of practice. I reiterate that the most important thing that we do is huddle again after the situation and address exactly what we thought went right and what still needs to be fixed in future situations.


What We Like Best


It’s a great way to bring some intensity to practice, even amongst coaches. I have been given free reign to coach our top varsity unit through the situations. Our other varsity assistant and JV coach, who both work in our building, often find me at lunch to try to figure out what situations we’ll be working on that day and what lineups I plan to use.

By the beginning of practice, I find that they’ve schemed to come up with sets they want to run against the top group in order to force them to have to run sprints. There’s been a healthy amount of competition while our players are also learning. As I mentioned earlier, it can also act as either a bridge to the next segment of practice or a cap on the previous portion.


How often do we say to our guys “know the time and situation” or “be aware of the situation”? Now, we have three to four chances each day to teach our basketball players situational awareness. Want to know how and when to foul up three? How about focusing on getting 2-for-1 at the end of a quarter or half? Want to practice turning a ball handler after getting a score with a few seconds left on the clock?

These are all little quizzes that you can more easily incorporate into practice. Better yet, it’s a great way to review the situations you might have failed in previous games. Finally, it even gives us a chance to fit in sets/tendencies of our upcoming opponent.


So often because of fouls, you wind up with strange groups on the floor. How often is your big on the floor at the end of the half because of foul trouble? This is a great way to try out different lineups as you envision the best or worst case that might come Friday night.

It’s also a great way to know who you can trust to do certain things. Going back to my high school’s old coach – I can pick one or two guys and teach them how to foul with a 3-point lead.


How often as coaches do we say things like “Can we do this?” “Can so-and-so run that?” “How much time do we need to do this?” So much of the intel that I try to collect and have ready for our games comes from these situations.

I have an “end of quarter” column on a sheet I have with me each game that lets me know exactly how much time each set might take us to run. That way when our head coach calls something out at the end of a quarter, I can let our point guard know exactly what time to start the action. It’s similar with lineups. I know, based often by what guys have done in the past couple weeks, who can handle what assignment or what certain guys actually know how to do.



Does this cure all situational ails? Of course not. But, what it does do is it gets players thinking throughout practice. Just the other day, we had worked on how we wanted to finish a quarter by getting a stop and then running a bit of clock before going to a closing seconds set that we call “tap.”

Toward the end of practice, we worked a simple 8-minute quarter as a scrimmage situation. A ball got batted out of bounds with about 30 seconds left on the clock. Without prompting, our shooting guard turned to me and said “You want this like we did earlier?” I nodded and he right away called out and gave direction to his teammates. Something had clearly stuck with him.

How has it helped though? I think some. And the wins and losses do show that to be the case. Going back to that frustrating weekend where our current head coach tasked me with coming up with some solutions. We were 3-12 in two possession games over the past year and a half. Since then, a sample size of a little more than a year now, we are 8-1 in two possession games.

I go back to the coach I worked for (and highly respect) who said there were so many other things that needed to be done before we worried about end game situations. He was exactly right. But, I think winning situations in the first three quarters is integral in getting a lot of teams to the fourth with a chance. Nevertheless, it is something that you can work on in practice tomorrow – if there even is a practice tomorrow.

Brian Bennett is the associate boys basketball coach for Richmond (Indiana) High School. He has coached high school basketball for more than a decade in Indiana high schools. Bennett teaches composition, speech, and journalism.


Related: Basketball End of Game Situations


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Basketball Team Building: Developing a Positive Culture

Basketball Team Building: Developing a Positive Culture

Basketball team building can be a difficult task. Whether a coach is looking for bonding events or building morale through game awards, building a positive basketball culture remains integral.

Developing a Positive Basketball Culture

A positive basketball culture is the first thing you will need to build in your program.  You will need to fight for this every single day in every thing you do–from the weightroom to your open gym sessions.  When you face adversity your culture will be able to overcome any negativity if you have a strong foundation.

Jon Gordon is a master teacher on culture and I strongly recommend you check out some of my favorite books of his–The Energy Bus, The Power of a Positive Team, The Carpenter, and You Win In the Locker Room First.

When you start to establish your culture and identity as a positive team, you will then need to establish some core values for your program.  We stole ours from Alabama and Nate Oats: Max Effort, Continuous Learning, and Selfless Love.  We even tied Bible verses into these so we can reach our players spiritually.

Our program spent some money and put some cool signage up to improve our facilities with these words all around it for our players to see daily.  The important thing is, you must fight for these values daily as a coach and hold your players accountable to them!

We talk about these values daily and what it means to live them out on and off the court to develop the entire individual.  A few things we do is ask a player at the end of practice or a weight room session to name a core value.  Then we will ask them to tell us how one player on our team lived it out today and why.  This gets our kids thinking about the values constantly!


Getting Player Buy-In

When you are building your culture, you have to have players buy into your culture. One way you can do this as a coach is to have your players have some input. We asked our players to create a vision statement and standards they would like to live out daily that correlate with our core values.

One tip I got from a few experts on culture was don’t limit yourself when setting goals. For example: we want to win districts, go undefeated at home, and go to the State Tournament.

While those are great things, oftentimes everyone has those same goals.  And what happens when you lose that first game at home?  What happens when you don’t win districts but you can still advance? Or an even better question: what if your players do get complacent when they accomplish winning districts and going undefeated at home?

You can get complacent and think you achieved enough and you fall short of going even further than what you were capable of doing.  So we made a vision statement instead that has seemed to really motivate our players to the next level.

They came up with the following: The FCS basketball team is a united group of brothers here to glorify Jesus through the game of basketball while exceeding the expectations of others, with the expectation to win everytime we step on the floor.

A few standards our players came up with through guided discussion include: Accountability, CommunicationElevate, Grit, Selflessness, and Servanthood.


Avoiding Burnout

Kids have to have fun with the game of basketball and so do coaches! Basketball is a long season, and in a lot of ways it’s year round with post-season workouts, summer, pre-season, and in season.  One way to avoid any burnout is to celebrate little things.  Celebrate progress in the weight room. Celebrate winning two games in a row in season. And celebrate simple things like winning a situational segment in practice!

Another tip to have a positive basketball culture comes with making time for relationships with your players. Something I got from T.J. Rosene at Emmanuel College and PGC Basketball is to write out the names of three players on your practice plan and have a meaningful conversation with those players that day.  Mix up the names each practice and you will be able to reach all of your players consistently.


Use Your Assistant Coaches

As coaches we have to trust our assistant coaches–we hired them for a reason!  A tip I want to suggest is to delegate your work and let your assistant coaches lead in some areas of the program.  For example, in the pre- and post-season, my assistant coaches lead all my weight room and skill development days. As the head coach I serve as the manager and see the big picture.

My assistants will run everything by me and make sure it is in alignment with what we are trying to accomplish.  This allows your players to hear someone else’s voice and allows you to save yours more so for the season!  You also are helping your assistant coaches who want to move on to become a head coach one day.

I would also encourage you to write out other areas of your program you can delegate to your assistants.  I really like the defensive end of the floor, so I call one of my assistants the “offensive coordinator.”  We run a read and react/dribble drive hybrid offense, so I give him free reign out of that to come up with ways to improve our offense, drills, small sided games, etc.  This also limits my film, as he will watch everything on us offensively and I will watch everything defensively.

I hope you found some useful tips and strategies that have worked for our program.  Best of luck this season!

Jeff Long is the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, TN.


Related: Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events



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Basketball Team Building: Giving Out Game Awards

Basketball Team Building: Giving Out Game Awards

Coaches know that to win games you ultimately must score more points than your opponent. What coaches also know is that teams cannot win unless there are players willing to do all the small things that amount to winning. Small things like blocking out and getting rebounds, finding the open player for an assist, or taking a momentum-swinging charge. These are oftentimes the things that go overlooked when the local newspaper comes to write their stories about basketball teams.

Well, as a staff, we wanted to reward the players who impacted games in ways that don’t always make the paper. So, we created a system for our varsity game awards where the individual who earns that award will get recognition. We wanted to award them with an item that represents individuals who are tough, gritty people who show up every day to work hard and get the job done. We decided to go with the following three items: a Hard Hat, a Windex Bottle, and a Lunch Pail.

Lady Titan Basketball Varsity Game Awards

The Hard Hat

Our coaching staff elected to use a Hard Hat for one of our awards because construction workers are the type of people that do hard, tough, gritty work. We wanted to reward the individual who earned this award with a hard hat that has our school logo on it. We use a formula to help figure out the winner of this game award. The following stats are worth one point: Rebounds, Steals, Assists, and Deflections. Charges are worth 2 points. You add that number up and subtract turnovers, and the player who has the highest number wins the Hard Hat award.


Windex Bottle

As we all know, the team that wins the rebounding battle is oftentimes the team that wins the basketball game. We reward the player who leads our team in rebounding with the Windex Bottle as the person who did the best job “cleaning the glass.” Rebounding is something that is a tough,gritty skill to teach young players, and this is such a winning part of the formula that we wanted to reward it.


Lunch Pail

While the first 2 awards are very objective, the Lunch Pail is something that is very subjective. There is no formula or stat we look at for the winner of the Lunch Pail. The person who wins the Lunch Pail is going to be someone who makes a major impact on the game. This impact could be taking a momentum-changing charge, playing great defense on the opposing team’s best player, or being a supporting teammate on the bench. The player who earns this award represents all the people who pack up their lunch everyday and head to work, hence why we found a dingy old lunchbox.


These game awards have become a huge part of the identity of our program, and these awards are something our players want to achieve. They understand we can only pass these awards out for games that are victories, and on those victories the coaching staff will walk in with these players having already laid out the awards in anticipation of learning who earned the awards for the night. Those players then get their name on the board and a group picture taken for social media. This stat tracking method brings great life to our program and basketball team.

Kyle Brasher
Gibson Southern High School
Social Studies Teacher
Lady Titans Basketball Coach

Related: Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events


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Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events

Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events

Any team that has hopes and aspirations of a great season needs to ensure that the team chemistry is very solid. An extremely talented team that lacks in the chemistry department could easily fail to meet its ceiling. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a team that is not as talented but has great team chemistry could exceed their expectations. This is where basketball team building comes in.

While the players in and of themselves play a huge role in developing chemistry, I think the coaching staff plays a huge role in that department as well. The staff needs to provide opportunities for the team to develop this culture. Because it cannot be done in your normal practice time. The staff needs to look for ways to create this culture through different activities. Below are some things we have done as a staff to help develop, in our opinion, strong culture through team building.

Basketball Team Building

Lead ‘Em Up

This has been hands down one of the best investments our program has made. Lead ‘Em Up is a leadership-based program run by Adam Bradley It teaches and encourages leadership habits that bring groups closer together. It is a positive-based program with fun activities that teach selflessness, encouragement, and a “green” mindset. This helps propel athletes into leadership roles as they continue to go through life. It’s a program that we run weekly and something our players look forward to weekly.

Dance Routine

We took our athletes to a local dance studio a few years ago for an opportunity to learn a choreographed dance routine to the High School Musical song “Get your Head in the Game.” It started where our girls stretched for a bit and then it was time to learn the routine. From a coach’s standpoint, it was a lot of fun to see our athletes in new situations to see how they would respond. It is safe to say it was a day filled with laughs and memories that will last a lifetime.

Great Basketball Cookoff

This is a new event we are trying this season and it centers around something our coaching staff and program loves: FOOD! Food seems to bring people together, and nothing brings a team together like a great team meal. We will break the athletes into teams, and each team will create the same dish. In addition, we will have a panel of judges who will then judge which group made the meal the best. The team that is judged to be the winner will receive the glory on social media, but at the end of the day what is really important is the team bonding aspect of the event.

These are just a few of a wide variety of ideas that we have implemented over the years. We have had lots of discussions on other ideas and there are other things we have done. The challenge is for every coaching staff to foster a culture and environment where the athletes want to come and work hard every day. We cannot always make everything centered around basketball. I believe that will burn the athletes out very quickly. The athletes need to realize we want to get to know them on a personal level. These fun-filled team bonding activities can go a long way to helping establish that type of positive, team mindset culture.

Kyle Brasher
Gibson Southern High School
Social Studies Teacher
Lady Titans Basketball Coach


Related: Building a Basketball Brand, Culture and Program


Coach Unplugged Podcast

Ep: 407 Team Building ( The 3 H’s)


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Why High School Basketball Is Failing

Why High School Basketball Is Failing

Here is the good news: AAU is not killing high school basketball. The bad news is that schools are themselves killing it, or, more accurately, school boards are killing it.

Reasons Why High School Basketball is Failing

No-one to hire. Coaches historically were teachers who taught to coach, or who coached to teach. It was easy to schedule practices after school, Mon-FRI, 2:30pm-4:00pm, plus be away from family 2 evenings per week, and on weekends. You only had to do it 3-4 months. The aim was to win. How you handled players came second, and parents a distant third. Coaching was fun, relatively easy to do, families were intact, and expectations clear.

It is impossible to hire competent non-teachers to coach who can do so mid-afternoon, and put parents first, players second, school boards third, ADs fourth, and, finally, still win enough games to keep your job based on merit. Who can do it, and who will do it for a stipend of $2.000.00-5,000.00?

As for teachers coaching, there is a joke: “The fastest way to unemployment as a teacher–is to coach.” The money has never been worth it; today the risk of coaching outweighs its benefit. Have you calculated recently how dangerous it is to show taught love to kids, so as to make a difference in their lives?

Standardized tests are the sole determiner today of the continued employability of teachers, and principals alike. Test scores, not Game scores, matter in both the long term and short term teaching calculus. Principals are never pressured today on how well their coaches coach, or if their teams win the conference. Teachers get meager annual appraisal points for “making a difference” in lives of players coached. I think it fair to say, of all parent feedback principals receive about coaches, 90% of it is negative.

So while the personal risk to teachers is skyrocketing, to be responsible to coach others’ kids, schools have completely de-incentivized coaching in the name of test scores and US News & World Report rankings.

High School Basketball Isn’t a Movie

Schools drift in nostalgia, in a sort of basketball movie Hoosiers-mode, where kids of mediocre talent come together once per year, in the Fall, to play for their high school to earn a letter jacket, under a wise teacher-coach. In reality, no serious basketball player 16YOA and up waits till October to dribble, and begins to condition only on the first day of practice in running line-drills.

Schools do not care about the other 8 months of a player’s basketball development. That is not the school’s problem. If you ever read a basketball coach’s contract, it generally says you will coach 6th grade, and Coach Joe will coach 7th grade, and Bill JV, James Varsity, etc.

None in the school track the overall, cross-year development of any player. This omission is from elementary school (95% of states do not have school-based basketball in elementary schools) to middle school to high school. As far as the school system is concerned, the first time a basketball player shows up on its duty-radar screen is 7th grade. Can you imagine any player in college today starting to play in 7th grade?


No one in the school system (even the Athletic Director of that system), “owns” the responsibility to create and run a basketball development program reaching across grades and ages, and skill levels, of players who want to grow in the game. No one manages transitions of players from year to year, and no trains them longitudinally. Further, no one in the school district is responsible to recruit out-of-school season coaches, and build valuable relations with adults in the community to staff a basketball development feeder program. No one coordinates between schools and, say, AAU or travel teams, from March to the next October.

The school sees, and contracts, only in parts. Most school coaches sign contracts just a few weeks before season begins, then wait to see who shows up for tryouts. Some are cut, others kept, then 10 practices are held before the first game. In most states HSB varsity coaches are precluded from coaching AAU, Elite and travel teams during the off-season. And below varsity coaches, few school coaches also coach in these venues. Similarly, very few coaches hold pre-season workouts or post-season player improvement trainings. Few hold camps, clinics or one-on-one trainings, at any time of year.

School System Difficulties

Schools are inherently political. They must satisfy the constituents they serve, who all vote, complain, and run to social media whenever the pettiest slight is felt, or perceived. It is impossible to believe how many people complain to a school principal on a given day.

The problem is not that parents complain (they do in AAU and travel as well). The problem is that no school board, and very few superintendents, will defend you, or hold warpath-parents accountable for their unfounded attacks on you. You get no protection from any quarter. In my experience, not one person above you will say anything good about you on the record, or to the newspaper, once an allegation is raised against you. Instead, you will meet a haunting silence that will fill the space around you.

Internal school system are also difficult. The principal’s daughter will make the team; the coach’s daughter will start, and; the son or daughter of a school board member will get to take the final shot in a close game! Children of fellow teachers also generally make the team, out of solidarity for all that teachers have to put up with to stay in the profession.

Athletic Department Difficulties

Athletic Directors are schizophrenic. Historically coaches had to do 2 things to keep their jobs: win 60% of games, and not hit players. Today the list of expectations is growing, and non-sustainable. Now yelling at is akin to battery. To be “mean” or to “talk down to” players is sister to abuse. To not respond to a player’s every need is to “negate their self-esteem.”

High School basketball coaches today are expected to: 1) Start each parent’s child; 2) Validate them in every way, and; as far as the AD is concerned, 3) Generate copious amounts of money to pay for all the other unsuccessful sports programs in the school. Win 70% of games, and be a “nice guy” 100% in practices, games, interviews, and in all conversations with members of the public.

As for ADs, 75% are full of pride, and the other 25% failed when they were coaches. They are men (almost all are males) who cannot coach, and who do not want to teach. Most see themselves as above principals, and many in fact do report direct to the school system superintendent.There is a clear dichotomy today inside schools: principals hire the teachers, and ADs hire the coaches. ADs function in perpetual plausible deniability.

Social Media Difficulties

In this social media age, every aspect of you as a teacher-coach is under direct, constant scrutiny. The problem is you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, personal security guard, and public relations specialist to defend you. There are no rules of ethics or legal procedures to limit how anyone may attack you. You do not get to argue merits. You can bet that each night while you stay awake to ready the team for the next day’s big event, someone, somewhere is posting something about you on social media that is harmful and not true. If it should go viral, you are dead before morning. I bet a parent is already taping you at games, to edit later, and use however they wish. It does not take long to get from a hostile parent facebook page to your school superintendent. In fact, just two “Shares” will do it.

When you coach kids from 2-parent homes there is a good chance you can reach agreement on what are the goals for the season, and how they define success, and fun, for their child. But with our totally messed up “family” structures today, 70 percent of the friction you face during the season will be caused by those who are not even related to those you coach. Most you will never meet, know or have any dealings with. Yet all can harpoon you in moments, so as to “stand up” in protecting “their” child.

For the reasons above, good coaches regularly leave schools after 2-3 seasons. The reason is because a rolling stone gathers no moss. Nothing sticks to the one who moves. So since 90 percent of high school basketball coaching positions are part-time, if you want to move up to coach full-time, you simply have to move. And move. And move. For coaches to survive today, move in 3, or perish, is the reality.

Mr. Terry Boesch is a Gold-level Certified Youth Basketball Coach with USA Basketball. He is a US Army veteran, and former senior leader in the US Federal Government in Washington, DC. He is a licensed public school teacher, and previously taught in the hometown of his basketball hero, John Wooden, in Martinsville, IN. Contact: terryboesch@gmail.com Website: TexasExpress.org

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Ernest Blood: Basketball’s First Wizard

Ernest Blood: Basketball’s First Wizard

John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, is the coach by whom modern-day coaches are measured.  Winning ten of twelve NCAA Championships has immortalized his place in basketball history.  History, on the other hand, has not been as kind to another basketball wizard.  Ernest Blood, who dominated his peers to an even greater degree a few generations earlier in New Jersey, was called the Grey Thatched Wizard.

Ernest Blood, the Grey Thatched Wizard

ernest blood basketballFew basketball purists in California are aware of this first wizard of the hardwood.  “Prof” was a shortened version of Professor. It was the name his players and students called him, but they spoke it reverently.  Passaic High School’s Grey Thatched Wizard was known for his all-around coaching acumen.  His teams enjoyed six undefeated seasons, and during another season, his team lost one game. His truncated stay at Passaic High School was a nonpareil 188-1. Furthermore, his teams would have undoubtedly won many more if jealous administrators and school board members hadn’t interfered.

A recently published book investigates the life of Prof Blood from his precocious athletic youth to the development of his avant-garde system of coaching.  In Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, California coaches learn how and why this man was a generation ahead of his peers.  His methods and philosophies, which are not always followed today, are still very much worth learning and implementing.

Winning streaks followed these two coaching wizards.  Wooden’s UCLA teams once compiled 88 consecutive victories. While a couple of generations earlier, Blood’s boys went five seasons in a row without a loss, 159 straight, topping the latter-day wizard’s mark by 71 games. Besides the length of their winning steaks, these two coaching wizards had much in common.

Basketball Lifers: Blood & John Wooden

For starters, Blood and Wooden were astrological Libras.  Their birth dates were October 5, 1872, and October 14, 1910, respectively.  If self-confidence is an essential ingredient to be a successful coach, then that explains the reason for their success. And their confidence was reflected in their teams’ demeanor.

Other similarities of these two Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers include:

  • Excellent, accomplished athletes—one of Wooden’s two inductions into the hall of fame was for his accomplishments as a player
  • Great free throw shooters–Wooden once made 134 straight in professional game competition with the Kautsky Athletic Club, while Blood at age seventy-four, calmly sank 484 out of 500 after a practice session
  • Physical conditioning enthusiasts. With Wooden, it was an obsession
  • Adherence to clean living was a must
  • Adamantly stressed the importance of teamwork
  • Recognized the importance of speed and quickness as essentials
  • Strange eating habits
  • Proponents of a controlled offense, fastbreak, and full court pressing defense. Blood pioneered these innovations and referred to his full court defense as “offensive defense”
  • Shy in social situations
  • Honest to a fault
  • Far ahead of their time as basketball tacticians
  • The only enemies they had were people who were jealous of their success
  • Neither believed in charging a team up before a game. They wanted a calm assurance in the dressing room and in the pre-game warm-ups.

Prof Blood often said: “I train boys for the game of life—not to win basketball games.  If I succeed in that, I have accomplished something worthwhile.” In Prof’s way of thinking, winning remained incidental.

The Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach: Ernest Blood

Before little John Wooden was a twinkle in Joshua Hugh Wooden’s eye, Prof was equating basketball to the more important game of life.  While reading John Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach, you could insert Blood’s name for Wooden’s. You would be accurately describing Blood’s philosophy as well.

The major differences between the two behemoths of the game were their eras of dominance (’20s and ’60s) and their arenas (high school and college).  They had their priorities straight; they were teachers of the game of life.  The differences between the two lay in society’s memory.  Wooden has become a household name synonymous with basketball coaching excellence while Blood’s story has never accurately been told until now.  His accomplishments, contributions to the game and tribulations that have been lost in the annals of basketball have been resurrected in Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach.

There isn’t a basketball coach who knows an X from an O who wouldn’t benefit from becoming more familiar with basketball’s first great coach.  Prof’s biography should be required reading for all high school coaches and fans.


Chic Hess, Ed. D. is the author of Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, available at www.profblood.com.  Hess is a former NAIA College District and NABC-Kodak National Junior College Coach of the Year.

Related: John Wooden’s First Lesson

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Using The Funnel Down Defense

Using The Funnel Down Defense

Scheming the right defensive system for your team remains one of the most important parts of preseason preparation for any basketball coach. While defensive principles may largely be the same from year to year, the athletes on the team might not be. Coaches must gear their strategies and approaches to fit the capabilities of their players. That makes systems like the Funnel Down Defense so valuable. Funnel Down stands as a versatile defensive weapon for any team, no matter the level.

The Funnel Down Defense

funnel down defenseThe basic principle of this defensive set up is to prevent opposing offenses from comfortably using the middle of the floor. Funnel Down creates “gutters” outside the volleyball lines, which are present on most high school and even college courts. Defenders force dribblers into these gutters and funnel them down the line to the next man. The ball is pushed down to the baseline and toward “strike zones,” or trap areas in the short corner.

Ideally, the offense never centers the ball, or swings the ball to the weak side of the floor. This defense focuses on shrinking the court for opposing offenses. Funnel Down tries to prevent offenses from effectively using 60 percent of the court.

Funnel Down is purposefully built to get opposing offenses out of their normal rhythm and flow, resulting in turnovers, and bad or rushed shots. When deployed in games that feature a shot clock, the effectiveness of this strategy is further amplified because the offense must spend time getting out of the trap zones.

Why Use Funnel Down?

This defensive system provides coaches with a versatile set up, adaptable to almost any talent level. Funnel Down can be paired with any base defense. It doesn’t matter if a team normally runs man-to-man or zone, funnel down can work either way.

When used correctly, this system disrupts any offense by keeping the ball on one side of the floor. Funnel Down seeks to “pin” opposing offenses to the sidelines and forcing them into traps. This creates an urgency in dribblers that often speeds them up to a point where they are uncomfortable. By speeding up the dribbler, the offense becomes more mistake prone, leading to game-changing turnovers.

And this defense can be taught by any coach, to basically any team. The lesson linked below provides all of the video tutorials, drills and practice plans needed to implement this system. Funnel Down might be the only defense a team needs!

The versatility of this set up allows for any type of athlete to be used on the floor. The defense creates difficult angles for passing and shooting, especially once the ball handler enters that baseline trap area. Funnel Down uses the sideline and the baseline as extra defenders to leverage pressure on the floor.

Incorporating this system into your routine forces opposing teams to spend extra time preparing. That ultimately robs opponents of time to prep for other parts of their game plans.

For more on how to implement this game-changing defensive system, Click Below for the Limited Time Offer!

Click Here for More about the Funnel Down Defense! 

This limited time offer includes teaching sessions and video drills, PDF diagrams, practices plans, a cheat sheet, and a coaching community!

Related: What is the Funnel Down Defense?


Coach Unplugged Podcast:

Ep: 1142. Funnel Down Defense

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What is the Funnel Down Defense?

What is the Funnel Down Defense?

Basketball coaches often find themselves scheming for different ways to defeat the best team on their schedule. Many of those schemes are oriented around the defense. Coaches searching for ways to streamline their practices and become more efficient in their instruction need to look no further than the Funnel Down Defense. This approach provides coaches with a tried and true defense system that dictates pace and generates turnovers.

The Funnel Down Defense

Funnel Down uses something most basketball courts feature and many coaches dismiss: the volleyball lines. This defense focuses on shrinking the court for opposing offenses by pushes ball handlers outside of that key stretch of the floor. Funnel Down tries to prevent offenses from effectively using 60 percent of the court. Instead, it forces them to the perimeter, operating on just 40 percent of the floor.

This approach attempts to keep the ball on one side of the floor. It speeds up opposing offenses to the point where they become mistake-prone. It also shrinks the usable floor space for the offense.

Funnel Down is purposefully built to get opposing offenses out of their normal rhythm and flow, resulting in turnovers, and bad or rushed shots. When deployed in games that feature a shot clock, the effectiveness of this strategy is further amplified because the offense must spend time getting out of the trap zones.

Three Key Concepts of the Funnel Down Defense

Funnel Down Defense1. Pin the ball on the sideline

2. Funnel the ball to the baseline

3. Trap and Rotate in the short corner

The design of this defense borrows its terminology from bowling. The task of the defense remains to “funnel” the ball along the “gutter” of the court to the baseline, where a trap awaits in the “strike zone.” Funnel Down seeks to keep the ball out of the “alley,” which is the main stretch of center court inside the volleyball lines. The traps occur in “strike zones” positioned at the short corners.

Ideally, defenders pressure the ball into the gutters, avoiding the centering pass. This is called a “pin.” This tactic overplays the ball handler away from the middle so that the ball can’t be swung.  Defenders stay ahead of the ball handlers by sprinting, not sliding, trying to stay half a body width ahead of the dribbler. This discourages penetration and funnels the ball toward the trap areas.

The defender “up the line” covers a man below the ball level on the court. This defender needs to remain between his man and the ball in order to help. The defenders continue to “funnel” the ball along the sideline, encouraging the dribblers to head toward the baseline. Once the ball enters the “strike zone” in the short corner, that triggers a trap and weak side rotation.

For more on how to implement this game-changing defensive system, Click Below for the Limited Time Funnel Down Defense Offer!

Click Here for More about the Funnel Down Defense! 

This limited time offer includes teaching sessions and video drills, PDF diagrams, practices plans, a cheat sheet, and a coaching community!



High School Hoops Podcast

Ep: 161. Funnel Down Defense


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Coaching in a Pandemic

Coaching in a Pandemic

I think it is safe to say that there has never been a course created or an experience a coach could pull from on how to plan for and attack this situation. This has been a trying time for sure. But ultimately, this has been a time where, if done correctly, players and teams could still have improved. At Gibson Southern High School in Fort Branch, Indiana, the Lady Titans basketball program, like everyone else, has experienced our share of challenges and has taken many steps to combat the challenges of coaching in a pandemic

Challenge 1: Coaching with Masks On

Like all coaches, this has been a change for our staff. The biggest part of this is the difficulty in communicating and talking in a loud gym and the inability to show emotion in our facial expressions. There are many coaches, just like the great Pat Summit, who used emotion in their facial expressions to help coach their players. This is something that we have had to adjust in our practices to ensure we are able to continue the teaching of the game that is necessary to improve as a program.

Challenge 2: Keeping Everyone Healthy

It is imperative to emphasize the importance of masking up and putting ourselves in positions to remain healthy. We have consistently talked to our players about avoiding situations where they could be compromised and possibly contract COVID or become a close contact.

Challenge 3: Volatility in Schedule

We had arguably the best schedule our program has seen in over a decade scheduled for this season. Then we had received an invitation to play in an 8-team holiday tournament with seven schools more than double our size, many of which routinely play for sectional championships. Due to our county COVID status, we were forced to drop out of that tournament. Luckily, we were able to get in a shootout with two other quality teams to partially make up for the games lost in the holiday tournament. We have had multiple other games rescheduled or dropped within 24-48 hours of tip off. This volatility of scheduling has been very difficult to coach through. Needless to say, our Athletic Director has earned his money this season.

Challenge 4: Inability to conduct Team Gatherings

One of the things we pride ourselves in as a program and staff is developing a strong team culture/bond. One way we do this is through team gatherings and give-backs. We were unable to host our annual holiday giveback, where we’ll volunteer time to ring bells for the Salvation Army and/or donate gifts and time at our local YWCA. Unfortunately, we were unable to have our annual team Christmas Party as well. We have had to become more creative to help develop these strong bonds.

Challenge 5: Ticket Guidelines

In Indiana, every county has different ticket guidelines. Some counties allow two tickets per player. Others allow two tickets per player but can only be parents. Some allow six tickets per player. Others tickets are sold at gates, while others sell online. It can be a major challenge to stay on top of the various ticket guidelines from game to game.

Related: Best Face Mask for Basketball

Steps to Overcome Challenges Coaching in a Pandemic

Step 1: Daily COVID/Temperature Checks

One step our athletic department has established to help keep everyone healthy is a daily COVID and temperature check. We record everyone’s temperatures and ask a series of questions to check everyone’s health status. Then we file these away in case an issue arises in the future.

Step 2: Networking

With the volatility in our game schedule, it has become that much more important to network around the state with other coaches. I talked to a veteran coach this past week and one thing he mentioned he will miss when he retires is the camaraderie of the coaching fraternity. Every coach can understand and relate to the difficulty of fulfilling a schedule during these trying times. This season has shown the needed importance of developing those relationships with coaches around the state.

Step 3: Ornament Party

In an attempt to keep some semblance of normalcy for our players and do some form of team-building activity, we held a socially-distanced ornament party with our players. We got the players soft drinks and individually packaged snacks. With Christmas music playing, the girls paint their own ornaments. We then took the ornaments and had them “fired up” at a local pottery store that finished the ornaments. Many of the girls commented on how fun this activity was and we feel it met the important goal of team-building and improving our culture.

Step 4: Ticket Sales

One piece of advice: Try to have your athletic director conduct ticket sales online. This could take the collection of money and distribution of tickets out of your hands. It is important to be organized and have a system in place to ensure all money is collected and all tickets are distributed. As much as can be done online or via mobile sales, the better.

In conclusion, while this time is difficult, it is important to look at it through the lens of we still have a great opportunity to coach this great game and see young people grow. If we view this time as a positive, our players and those around us will view it the same way. Good luck and coach them up!

Related: Building a Basketball Brand, Culture and Program


Coach Unplugged Podcast:

Ep: 802. Covid, Coaching, Sacrifices, Opinions and the WIAA

Ep: 584 Basketball Coaching NOW with Coronavirus, Covid-19 and Quarantines


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Dr. Dish Back to School Campaign

Dr. Dish Back to School Campaign

The team over at Dr. Dish has released their newest Back to School Campaign designed to help any team develop Championship mindsets and habits.

The free campaign download includes access to:

  • A 35-page Championship Guide PDF including coaching tips, practice plans, and more!
  • Custom interviews from the best programs across the country, including Baylor’s Alvin Brooks, Louisville’s Sam Purcell, and more discussing what goes in to building and maintaining a championship program and championship culture.
  • Planning templates designed to help coaches and players set goals and run effective practices.

In addition, anyone who downloads the guide will get exclusive discounts on any new Dr. Dish machine, as well as early access to our 2021 Ultimate Giveaway where we’ll be giving one lucky program a new Dr. Dish completely free!

Our goal is to add value to as many coaches, parents, and players as possible  within the basketball community. The link to the campaign is below for you to access.

Free 2021 Championship Guide 

Please use the general outline above to formulate a message, but if you would like us to send you a script or specific verbiage, please let us know and we’ll be happy to get that over to you.

Thanks so much for your continued support of Dr. Dish!

Dr. Dish Back to School Campaign

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What Everyone Gets Wrong About The Princeton Offense

What Everyone Gets Wrong About The Princeton Offense

When I was in college I would get through some of the most tedious lectures by drawing out basketball plays within my notes. And that evolved into designing offensive sets that would seamlessly flow from one right into another. At the time I didn’t have a big picture in mind but I was being creative and I was trying to solve a problem.

Little did I know the problem was already being solved. And the journey through the rabbit hole began.

Concerns About The Princeton Offense

The Princeton Offense is more often than not a polarizing topic for offensive basketball discussion. Coaches seem to either love it or they will say, “you’ll never catch me running that offense!”

There are three main reasons coaches will not entertain running Princeton and these are the actual words they say to me:

1) The Offense is too much. It is too hard to learn. It’s a slow down offense… and even if I wanted to run it, I don’t even know where to start.

2) The Offense is too complicated, too hard to break down, and takes too much time to install in practice.

3) I just don’t have smart enough or skilled enough players to run it. And my best players won’t buy in. It will bog them down.

And on the surface… these concerns ARE valid.

Simplifying the Offense

1) Yes the offense can be overwhelming and yes most teams run it as a slow down offense. But did you ask “why” those teams slow the game down? For example: Princeton University vs any Tournament Program. Northwestern vs The Big Ten. The Air Force Academy vs The Mountain West.

The teams we typically see run the offense slow it down because of who the can recruit and more importantly who they compete with. Have you seen Chris Mooney’s Richmond teams play lately?

2) Sure Princeton looks like an extremely complicated offense. It has many moving parts and an unorthodox philosophy. But have you actually seen a good coach break it down “correctly” in a practice situation?

One thing I have done is I’ve completely abandoned the “Whole-Part-Whole” philosophy of teaching. Sure that is a little controversial. But what I’ve learned is teaching (especially Princeton) in a progression based manner which I am calling The Progression Method, is much more efficient at getting reps and covering every scoring action and counter action. And it is simple because it addresses them step by step.

3) Having less than skilled or instinctual players is something we all battle with. But I am going to repeat some of the best advice i’ve ever received as a coach, “So you’re players aren’t good… Well, Coach Em Coach!”

The Princeton Offense: Helping the Role Players

The Princeton Offense will actually do MORE for your role players because it has the ability to “manufacture” shots that they cannot create on their own. So the advantage of running an offense like that versus one where you hide your role players is this. Now the defense has to stay honest and they cannot as easily target your best player with double teams and stopper defensive philosophies. I actually argue Princeton can actually “FREE” up your best player(s) rather than coup them up.

The Princeton Offense is designed to take the tension out of the game and to help even the playing field especially for the underdogs. And it might be the championship game but eventually we will all be the underdog. How will you compete to win that game?

And when you do have players, alright who wants to lace them up now!!!


By: John Wheeler


If you want to learn more about The Princeton Offense go to www.teachhoopsprinceton.com for a free training. Coach John Wheeler has 20 years experience with The Princeton Offense in both girls and boys programs and has a unique ability to simplify what is complicated and emphasizes the details of the game that elevates a players’ ability to execute under pressure.


Related: How to Break the Princeton Offense Down


Princeton Simplicity Diagram PDF



Coach Unplugged Podcast

Ep: 705 How to Breakdown and Teach the Princeton Offense

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