basketball discipline

Be Willing To Adapt

We are about to go on hiatus for a while next week so I really want to emphasize the concept of adaptability before we do. As a coach I have been stubborn early on in my career and tried to stay with things that weren’t working. My unwillingness to adapt cost me a lot of ball games.


If something is not working, change it. Nothing says that just because you spent your entire pre-season implementing something that you cannot change it. This past year, I game planned differently for every single game on my schedule. We were a zone team early on in the year and adapted into a man-to-man team because it was a better fit.

Everyday in practice and with every game look very closely at what you’re doing. If it’s not working then don’t be afraid to change things up.


Coaching Clinics

I am always a great advocate of improving ones knowledge in any field and attending coaching clinics is a great way to learn some new things and also have some fun. This past year I attended a Nike Coaching Clinic in Las Vegas with one of my assistant coaches.


My assistant coach and I learned a great deal from each of the speakers. We attended all but around two of the presentations during the weekend. Additionally, we got to spend some time talking about the upcoming season. Because it was Las Vegas we also spent some time in the casino and also went out for a couple of nice dinners.

I strongly encourage coaches to attend a clinic this year and also take their coaching staff with them.

How Much To Include In Playbook

The other question that I received from a reader was as follows, “Coach Chris, how many plays should I include in my playbook?” First of all, I really appreciate the great questions that I have received from readers this past week. The answer to this question is similar to the one that I gave yesterday.


You have to include a number of plays that your athletes can master and run efficiently. You are better off running four plays well than running twenty plays that are just average.

When I post my series on offenses and other plays after the regular season ends, you will get some ideas of what I might consider implementing but for now I will outline what I have done with two of my teams and how many plays that I had:

When at Esperanza I had players with years of club basketball experience and we ran almost thirty sets out of our playbook. At Ontario we have mostly players who are new to the game so my playbook is limited to around 10 sets.

Choosing Your Plays

Yesterday I received two more questions via e-mail and will answer one today and another tomorrow. The question that came to me was as follows, “Coach, what are the plays that I need to put in my playbook?”


The answer to this is truly dependent on the team that you have. You need to design your playbook based on the personnel that you have. My playbook changes every year based on the players that I have on my roster.

Strong Guard Play But Undersized- In these situations, I will often have a team that plays up-tempo and runs a lot of primary and secondary breaks on offense. We will also trap and get aggressive on defense.

Big Team- These teams are ones were I will slow down the game and try and pound the ball inside. We also will run a-lot of pick-and-roll action to create mismatches.

You can run any combination of the above based on what your team looks like.



Off-Season Structure

I received a question this past week about how I structure my offseason program. It’s the first e-mailed question that I have received to the blog. Here is a post outlining how I spend Spring, Summer, and Fall. First of all, unless your team is extremely talented, don’t schedule more than three tune-up scrimmages during fall. Spend time working on developing your players and learning to play offense and defense.


Here is what I do in each part of the year:


  1. Practices three days a week.
  2. Open gym scrimmages two days a week.
  3. Conditioning during 6th period three days a week.
  4. Weightlifting during 6th period two days a week.


  1. Practices three/four days a week.
  2. Skill Position bonus workouts twice a week.
  3. Weightlifting twice a week.


  1. Practices four days a week.
  2. Conditioning during 6th period three days a week.
  3. A few scrimmages.

Make Your Personnel Better

I spent my first few years at Ontario hoping for transfers and coming up with ways to make our program look more attractive to potential new players. It turns out that I wasted time that could have been spent improving the athletes that I already had at the school.


If you take the action that you want to improve your current roster, it will make you better now. Even if you are to get a transfer, the talent that is around them needs to be at a high level in order to have your team preform at the highest possible level.

Nothing can make your program better than a strong player development program both in the offseason and during the regular season. A great place to start would be to read the fundamental series that I posted over the prior few weeks.


Every year, I give athletes on my team a playbook and encourage them to study it as early as possible. Our boys basketball coach thinks that I am overdoing it by providing these playbooks to our athletes because they likely won’t really put the time into studying it. My response to him is always, “My job is to put these athletes in the best possible position to succeed and that requires me to go above and beyond what other coaches are doing”. At Ontario, the stigma has always been that basketball is not a priority and that these athletes cannot play at an elite level. My attitude is always that I will not treat an athlete at Ontario any differently than I would an athlete at a program competing for a State Championship.


In the playbooks that I hand out, they come with 5 tabs, labeled as follows:

  1. Administrative
  2. Defense
  3. Offense
  4. Out of Bounds
  5. Press Breaks

Administrative- In this section I have a copy of our team contract for the year, a list of team rules, team goals, and an expectation for each athlete at their position. Other items that fit the needs of your program can go into this section as well.

Defense- This section includes all half-court and full-court defenses that we will be running that season.

Offense- This section includes all offenses against man or zone that we will be running. I always include a transition offense in this section as well.

Out of Bounds- All baseline and sideline out-of-bounds plays are included in this section and I like to include plays for situations that put us at odd angles (ball is tipped out of bounds).

Press Breaks- This section includes my press breaks against man and zone presses.

This level of organization will not only help your players be put into a position to succeed but it will also put you in a position to have an understanding of what plays are available to you and put you in a position as a coach to succeed. It always helps me to keep a play chart with me that shows what we have available and what it will work against.

What you put into your playbook will be different based on the needs of your team and I will be posting about this at a later date.