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.


One of the first things that you can do to help improve your athletes skills is to emphasize footwork. In my first few seasons at Ontario, I jumped right into basic skills like ball handling, passing, defense, shooting, and rebounding. These are all great skills but without proper footwork, your teams will not have the building blocks necessary to compete at their best. This past offseason, with all of my athletes including those with years of experience, we committed to spending part of each practice learning and improving our footwork.


The result of my offseason emphasis has shown on the court and we improved greatly over the summer in virtually every statistical category. Most noticeably, we lowered our number of turnovers per game which I see as a result of our new found understanding of footwork.

Some coaches might wonder how I can spend an entire post talking about footwork as it only applies to one or two aspects of the game. I counter with the fact that footwork plays a key role in every basic fundamental as I will outline below:

Ball Handling- When dribbling the ball at full speed in a game, I am sure that most coaches have told their players to jump stop. Teaching players how to jump stop and pivot will help reduce the number of turnovers on a fast break. Additionally, learning how to jab step and use fakes with footwork will help players become better scorers.

Passing- Many player will turn the ball over because they do not step into passes on the outside. Step right to throw right and step left to throw left. When trying to get a pass into the paint, you need to be able to step through with your opposite foot to protect the ball and create a passing angle.

Shooting- I have coached a lot of players who do not set their feet before they shoot. When working on jump shots I like to teach players to keep a back foot down and step in with their lead foot to power into a shot. Also, footwork on lay-ups (a euro-step is an excellent move to teach starting in high school) also plays a role in player skill development.

Defense- Pushing off the back foot when sliding is a basic technique when discussing footwork but I also point out the fact that you want to teach your athletes to keep their toe pointing forward and not out to the side because you want to use big muscles like glutes and hamstrings to power your slide. Sticking your toe out to the side works the adductors which do not have as much power and ability to provide you with a quick slide.

Rebounding-Using your feet to seal someone on  a box-out is a great technique to teach when rebounding on defense. On offense you can teach a jab and spin to help improve your offensive rebounding as well.

As you can see from the above that using attention to detail when going over footwork will help your teams get better and also further develop the skills of your athletes. I incorporate footwork into every practice and see it as a huge benefit to us.