Build Habits First, Win Championships Second

At the start of every season I ask all my players to write down a few goals. I want to know what their personal, academic and team goals are. For many of them it’s the first time that they have been asked to put their goals down on paper.

Next, I ask them to list under each goal what are some of the actions and sacrifices that they are going to take/make in order to achieve their goals. After eight or ten minutes of writing we come together as a group to talk about their answers.

Every single year when we talk about team goals my players say theirs are to win the league championship and make the final four. This to me is not a surprise, as many come to my team with the expectation that they are going to be apart of a winning program.

However, after talking about the sacrifices and habits they are willing to make it makes me question whether or not we’ll win our league and make it to the Final Four. Today’s youth are so focused with the outcomes that they neglect the process that is going to take them there. I always end this part of the meeting with telling my players:

“Look at the goals that you wrote down. Do your actions match your goals? In other words, if you do all the things you listed under your habits will be successful in reaching your goals. If not, something needs to change. Either you can change your goals to meet your habits or change your habits to meet the goals. Your success and the team’s will depend on what you do”.

Champions Build Habits


As coaches, we have a huge responsibility to put the habits of our players into perspective for them. Many of the habits needed to win a league championship are the same habits needed to win in life.

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Competitive Cone 1v1 Drill

Let’s face it, to win a game is relatively straight forward. The team that scores the most points wins. Simple right? Wrong. So many things go into scoring points that it can be overwhelming for coaches and players.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that players typically don’t have trouble getting to the rim, they have trouble finishing at the rim.

Competitive Cone 1v1 Drill


The tough part about finishing at the rim isn’t the fact that you have a defender coming to challenge your shot, it’s the fact that the defender can come from a variety of different angles which often forces the offensive player to adjust their finish. Does the ballhandler go off one foot or two? Do they go straight up and lay it off the glass or jumpstop, pumpfake and try to draw the contact? Do they euro-step or shoot a floater? All of these could be reliable options depending on the situation.

One of the drills I use in my practice, typically with my guards in my “position work” portion of practice is the Cone 1v1 drill:

The defensive player (X1) starts under the rim and passes the ball out to the offensive player (1) standing at the free throw line. Both players sprint around their respective cones. 1 attacks the basket and X1 tries to keep him from scoring. You can either rotate offense to defense and rotate through your team or split up to different baskets and play to 5.

I always make it a point to change the positioning of the cones from practice to practice. By doing this I am essentially changing the angle and the type of finish the offense player will have to utilize. One day I’ll use the set up diagramed above, the other I might have the defensive cone closer to the baseline. One last tip, make sure you are manipulating the drill so that offensive players have to attack/finish with both their right and left hands.

Watch Here -> 3 Attributes of Great PGs 

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Retreat and Attack for Better Scoring Opportunities

I see way too many players try to attack the right only to get cut off by the defense and then either pick up their dribble or force a bad shot. As far my opinion goes, a bad shot is the same as a turnover. However, if you talk to the player afterwards most will agree that they “screwed up”. In fact, I’m willing to bet that nearly 70% of athletes will say that they either didn’t know what to do or that they panicked.

Most athletes know what they should and should not do when it comes to basic reads. Player’s who make the right reads don’t panic when something off guard happens because they have already practiced what to do in that situation. The find confidence in their preparation.

If you find that your players are guilty of consistently forcing bad shots or making the wrong read when a defender cuts off their lane of attack – spend 5 minutes of your next practice following this quick drill:


  • Step 1: Start from triple threat, use either a sweep and go or a jab and cross to begin attacking middle
  • Step 2: at the cone, pretend a defender has cut you off, instead of picking up the dribble, instruct players to use a “bounce off” or “retreat” dribble to back out and away from the defender
  • Step 3: Once separation has been created, scan the scene and then re-attack and finish with a layup. Use on both sides of the floor and from different areas on the court. (Mastering this skill will also help players avoid being trapped)

*Want to add some variation to the drill? Instead of finishing with a layup, players can either end the progression with a jump shot, euro step or up and under.

**Only have one basket to use or want to include the whole team? Start with a line of player with a ball at a wing with another line (players who will retreat and attack) on the other. The player with the ball will either drive middle or baseline, the opposite player now must read the ball handler and find the open spot. Player A passes to Player B who then performs the retreat-attack series.

Retreat DibbleRetreat and Attack

Check out my Ball Handling video called the “Diamond Series”. Perfect for coaches wanting to help their players improve their ability to change speeds/change direction!


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Tim Miles: 8 Rules of Effective Rebounding

Rebounding is one of the lost arts of today’s games. Its tough, its physical and its HARD WORK. Combing these three things with the fact that you might not even get rewarded with the rebound after all your efforts is leaving players and teams unmotivated to crash the glass.


Picture Credit: Northridge Alumni

However, as Tim Miles, Head Coach of Nebraska, alludes in his DVD presentation, Creating a Culture of Toughness, all great teams understand the importance of rebounding in relation to the outcome of the game.

Coach Miles’ shares with us his 8 rules for effective rebounding:
Rule #1: No Time Off
Rule #2: Contest on all Shots
Rule #3: No Unnecessary Gambling
Rule #4: Call Shot
Rule #5: Box Anyone Out Within 15’
Rule #6: Outside of 15’ Pursue the Ball
Rule #7: 2 Hand Rebounds
Rule #8: Finish With a Strong Outlet
Do you apply these same rules with your team? If not what are you doing differently? Is it working?
Here is a video detailing what I call the 5 Absolutes of Rebounding. Enjoy!!

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[Blog] Shooting Drill – “Half Back”

All coaches struggle with coming up with drills where the entire team can participate at once. Here is a shooting drill, where no matter position or size, everyone can participate (given that you have enough baskets). More importantly, players not only get game shots but they get to work on their conditioning as well.

Post Shooting Drill

1. Player starts around wing/short corner area, catches and shoots 15 footer
2. Sprints and touches half-court and then sprints down to the block where he receives a pass from a coach or manager and executes a post move
3. Drill is repeated to the spots shown above

Once a player has taken all 5 shots he can sprint back to half-court and then work his way back around the perimeter. Or after he makes his first post move the next player in line can start the drill so you can work multiple players at the same time. This is a GREAT drill that can be either used at the beginning of practice to warm up, before water breaks or at the end of practice to improve shot making and conditioning.

[Video] Want a few other partner shooting ideas?

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Walt Disney: The “Plus” Factor

NBA executive and author Patt Williams has always been open about his fascination with Walt Disney. In his book How to Be Like Walt, Williams gives the reader not only an account of Walt’s life but also of what he did that made him so special and so successful.

One of the things that stood out to me was what Walt called “plussing”. Plussing or the Plus Factor as Williams calls it, is all about adding more value to the product or experience than what the customer expects. Walt would plus everything! From his motion pictures, cartoons, theme parks, merchandise and even his employees – he was all about looking for ways that added more value.

Walt Disney

Photo take by: Josh Hallet

While Walt might have coined the phrase, you can see this mindset practiced in nearly every industry from business to sports. For example, as coaches we often ask athletes to give 110% effort, that extra 10% is the result of plussing.

As a coach, what are you plussing in your program? In what areas are you going over and beyond to make sure that your players are having a better playing experience?

Here are some examples of things that I have done throughout the years to plus my team’s experience:

  • Rebound before/after practice for players
  • Giving an athlete a ride either to or from practice
  • Helping them move into their apartment
  • Making extra recruiting calls to four-year coaches trying to get them more recognition
  • Taking the time to get to know them off the court (we have Monday Meetings)

As you probably noticed, all of these things take very little extra time on my end to do. BUT they make a big difference in the eyes of my players. As soon as you adopt the “giving more than what is expected mindset” you will notice that there are plussing opportunities in everything that you do!

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Jack Welch: 6 Principles of Leadership

Jack Welch, was one of the most successful business leaders of the 90’s and early 2000’s. He led General Electric (GE) to unprecedented success during his reign as CEO and now dabbles in advising, speaking and teaching. In his book, Straight from the Gut, Welch outline his 6 rules for successful leadership.

  1. Face reality as it is; not as it was or as you wish it were
  2. Be candid with everyone
  3. Don’t manage, lead.
  4. Change before you have to.
  5. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
  6. Control your destiny, or someone else will.

While I could elaborate on all 6 and how they each apply to coaching I want only address 3.

Leadership Principles

picture via

#2 Be Candid With Everyone: Be open and honest with your players, coaches, trainers, administrators and well everyone who is involved with your team. While honesty might sting initially, it is going to get you far more respect than simply trying to make face.

#4 Change Before You Have to: It shouldn’t be a surprise that people are changing. Athletes today don’t always have the same values and beliefs of athletes five, ten or twenty years ago. Heck, even how the game of basketball is being played is changing. Successful leaders are people who are not only open to change but are willing to adopt change in their own program and culture.

#5 If You Don’t Have a Competitive Advantage, Don’t Compete: This point in particular has been taken differently by people throughout different industries. How I view this point is that you should be realistic in what your team can and cannot do. If you are a team comprised of fast, quick, three point shooting guards don’t try to walk the ball up the court and pound it inside. Understand what your team’s strengths are and find a way to maximize them come game time.

Want to up your coaching level? Want to win more games? Develop better players? If so, you are going to want to watch this short video!


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4 Ways to Have a More Successful Season Next Year

As soon as the final buzzer goes off at the last game of the season, coaches everywhere almost instinctively start looking forward to next season. The competitive nature in us all drives us to want to win more games, compete at a higher level and ultimately reach our goals. In order to have a more successful season next year, we need a combination of four things to happen.

Successful Season

#1: Hope You Get Better Players

Perhaps easier said then done, but the quickest ways to become better is to get better players. Typically, you see this take its course at the college, club and professional levels because they often have the luxury of hand selecting and recruiting the players they want on their squad. If you need proof just look at all the “super teams” and “Big 3’s” that are in the NBA.

#2: Improve Your Players

A little more realistic than hoping to land a big recruit or transfer is to spend time helping improve your players. The ability to improve your players will not only help the athletes but you will develop a reputation for doing so with athletes and their parents in the community. Who knows, this reputation might land you a transfer or two down the road.

#3: Become a Better Coach

Third, is to become a better coach. Invest in yourself and improve your own ability. Find your biggest weakness in X’s and O’s as well as your biggest “leadership” weakness and spend time improving them. Don’t know where to start – consider Basketball Classroom’s 6 month coaching program!

#4: Hope Other Teams Are Worse

The strong programs are consistently competitive year after year. However, for the majority of teams, their success tends to come and go. While this is certainly not something that I would want to bet my season on, it is something that everyone should have a realistic view about. You can win more games IF everyone else your competing against suddenly becomes worse than you.

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8 Keys to Executing Quick Hitters – Fran Fraschilla

8 Keys to Executing Quick Hitters

Fran Fraschilla is not a new name in the coaching world. Between holding previous head coaching jobs at Manhattan College, University of New Mexico, St Johns University and his position as a commentator for ESPN, its safe to say that he knows what he is talking about.

During a coaches’ clinic, Fran presented his 8 Keys to Successful Quick Hitters:

  1. Run several plays out of the exact same set
  2. Get the ball into the hands of your best player
  3. Take the first great shot available
  4. Utilize misdirection
  5. Have the option of using either a dribble entry or a pass entry
  6. Use “big on little” screens
  7. Assign designated offensive rebounding responsibilities
  8. Finish the play with a drive and kick mentality if all else fails
Dirk Nowitzki, Basketballprofi,Arena Trier ,D 29.7. 2004

Photo via Heinnews

I want to expand on three of Coach Fraschilla’s 8 Keys to Successful Quick Hitters.

#1: The higher the level of competition the better athletes, the better coaches and the more prepared the team will be come game time. High school and almost every college team has a scouting report of the opposing team’s quick hitters. Defenders will most likely know what the offense is going to do, before they actually do it, because the offense’s alignment is usually a big give away to what play is going to be ran. By running several plays out of the exact same set (say out of the 1-4) OR with the same initial movement (PG pass to the wing and cuts to opposite corner) you can keep the defense playing “honest”.

#5: One of the ways opposing coaches will try to interfere with your half court offense is to strongly deny the wings. Coaches know that 90% of plays start with the point guard passing to the wing to initiate the offense. If they can deny the wing, the can essentially stop 90% of your sets. It is important that you have a plan B. If you wings cannot get open, you must have a dribble entry in place. This is where the point guard would dribble to the wing’s spot, the wing player would fill the point guard’s original role, and then the set would initiate.

#6: By using big on little screens you are making the defense play you honest and fight through all screens. If defenders were to say switch screens, now your offense has a huge mismatch that it can exploit. Because defenders will be forced to fight through, the screeners defender will be tempted to hedge (especially for a shooter) the screen which could open up for a screen and slip opportunity.

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