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.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

I am a true believer in being honest with the athletes on your team. Other coaches at my school think that I take this a bit far and find my commitment to honesty controversial. The reason that they do not like my stance is because I am very realistic going into games. We have had games where we are playing against teams that are far superior to us in every facet of the game. In these types of games some coaches might be tempted to tell their athletes that they can win if they play well and work hard. I have no problem telling my players that their is a very strong chance that we will lose that game.

honest abe

Many might say that I am being pessimistic and showing no trust in my team by telling them that their is a strong likelihood that we will lose. I believe that the opposite is true and players will respect my candor and honesty. By being honest with them and their chances going into a game it gets them to buy in to everything I tell them. When I tell them that harder work in defense in practice will give us a shot to beat a top three team in our league, they know that I am not lying to motivate them.

This is not to say that I don’t set goals for games that seem insurmountable. In these difficult games I lay out goals that I believe are attainable and would show an excellent effort from us. These goals can include the following examples:

  1. Holding opponent to a certain number of points.
  2. Limiting turnovers to a certain number.
  3. Meeting a rebounding goal.
  4. Executing an offensive set successfully a certain number of times.

It may be difficult to tell your teams the truth but in the end it will instill a trust in what you are doing. If you want the trust of your athletes and them to believe what you are teaching, you need to be 100% honest with them.