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By Burton Uwarow

Use these concepts in your playbooks or in team chalk talks to help educate your team on how the game should be played.

Coaching Essentials List

  1. Have a jump-ball play. (Make the opposing coach start coaching from the beginning.)
  2. Your first possession should go inside. (Try to get the opposing big man in foul trouble early.)
  3. Zone all baseline out-of-bounds.
  4. Take a timeout after three straight scores by an opponent.
  5. Get to the bonus first.
  6. Don’t foul.
  7. Make as many free throws as your opponent’s attempt.
  8. If a player gets his second foul in the first quarter, sub him, and bring him back with 6 min. to go in the second quarter.
  9. 45 sec. or less hold for the last shot of the quarter.
  10. Change defenses every timeout.
  11. Have 3 CARDINAL RULES on offense and on defense that match your philosophy.
  12. Have a set play on every opponent’s score. (Assure yourself of a great shot.)
  13. On made field goals use a soft press.
  14. On missed field goals match up man-to-man full-court.
  15. On any violation use a 1-3-1 trap.
  16. On made free throws 1-2-1-1 press.
  17. On missed free throws 2-2-1 press.
  18. Know opponent’s post player’s preferred shoulder.
  19. Know opponent’s guard’s weak hand.
  20. Know opponent’s offensive tendencies.
  21. Know opponent’s defensive weaknesses.
  22. Come out of a timeout running a play.
  23. When playing great guards use junk defenses or extension zones. (Examples would be a 1-3-1 extended or a box-N-1)
  24. When playing against great big man use a sagging man or zone.
  25. Show man play zone and vice-versa. (Make the opposing team think it makes them slow.)
  26. When playing a crazy team, play conservative; do not extend the floor. Make sure to walk the ball up the floor.
  27. Be inside oriented. You can do this with post-ups, drives, passing and cutting, offensive rebounds and pick and roll.
  28. Look to get multiples in the steal and lay-up department. Man who makes the lay-up pressures the ball.
  29. When playing a team that sends five to the offensive glass, send a rabbit or cherry picker deep.
  30. Use a match-up zone to confuse opponents.
  31. Swing the ball with a purpose on offense. Don’t just whip the ball around and go nowhere.
  32. Clear out against all man-to-man pressure and against a run and jump. You may want to have a big man bring the ball up the floor.
  33. Your set plays should be for:
    • Lay-ups
    • Jumpers
    • Backdoors
    • Drives
  34. Have conditions of play. They serve as a traffic light. You gain the ability to control situations without a timeout.
    • Red – Danger, must increase tempo, in trouble
    • White – Normal style of play (your philosophy)
    • Blue – Blue skies everything is fine, no fouls no 3’s, limit to one shot
  35. During timeouts keep it simple. Mention 1 offensive idea and 2 defensive ideas at the most.
  36. Chart the games within the game.
    • Score first in each quarter.
    • Timeout situations, do we score or do they
    • Do we effectively score on offensive out-of-bounds plays and do we defend them effectively.
  37. Have designated spot ups for players and situations and work on them during practice.
  38. Have an organized offensive rebounding system.
  39. Rebound, REBound, REBOUND!!!
  40. On all defensive rebounding situations for free throws have 5 guys on the line.
  41. During offensive free throws have at least two guys back.
  42. Tip out all offensive rebounds when you can’t get two hands on the ball.
  43. Have a saving location. Everyone on your team should know that if someone jumps out-of-bounds that they are going to save the ball to the same spot.
  44. Look to find and utilize mismatches.
  45. Sub and change strategy on free throw. situations.
  46. If you are below average play only 7 players, if you are average play 8 players, if you are above average play nine, and if you are outstanding play 10.
  47. Know how to play at three speeds, slow, medium and fast.
  48. Have 2-3 control games.
  49. Develop a balanced offense.
  50. 3-point shots should come after post entry.
  51. Early in the season institute a 6-pass rule.
  52. Look to bomb twice a game on opponents made field goals.
  53. Have a FREAK defense.
  54. Use fouls at the end of a ball game to stop clock and lengthen the game.
  55. Have offensive and defensive subs at the end of the ball game.
  56. Huddle on all free throws.
  57. Save all great set plays for the end of the game.
  58. Develop a hierarchy of scorers.
  59. Develop a spark plug or sixth man. (Have a man for instant offense and instant defense.)
  60. Your Point Guard should be coaching on all dead ball situations.
  61. Use non-verbal communication.
  62. Listen to your players. (Your learning should never stop)
  63. No technical fouls. Leave the refs alone and coach your kids.
  64. Always be thinking ahead.
  65. Play possession by possession; always make the quarters like CBA games. (This can also be charted in the games within the games.)
  66. Foul hard on drivers and post players early in the game to set the tone.
  67. Be physical, bump cutters, screen hard, go hard through screens, always box out, take charges and dive for loose balls.
  68. When defending a star:
    • Deny him the ball
    • Trap him occasionally to make him give up the ball.
    • Be physical and attack him on offense
    • Make him run through a lot of screens
    • Try to draw charges.
  69. Be positive tough and challenging with your team.
  70. Do not be afraid of your players.
  71. Whenever you are up or down big at the end of a ball game, do not stop coaching.
  72. Always practice game ending situations.
  73. Give your team a chance to win every night, no matter what the style.
  74. No talking before the game, make things tense.
  75. Save the Knute Rockne stuff for the big games when you really need it.
  76. Anytime a teammate is subbed he should exchange a towel and tell his teammate who he is guarding. (The bench should also rise and clap.)
  77. Have a bench captain.
  78. At halftime talk about these things
    • Shooting %
    • Rebound totals
    • Turnovers
    • Trips to the foul line
    • Adjustments
    • Deflections
  79. Three most important times of a ball game are:
    • First 2 minutes of the game
    • Last 2 minutes of the half
    • First 2 minutes of the 3rd quarter
  80. Know opponent’s poor foul shooters.
  81. Know your poor foul shooters.
  82. Know the floor conditions and the basket conditions.
  83. When you’re an obvious underdog shorten the game as much as possible.
  84. Know the opposing coaches strengths and weaknesses.
  85. Have a 4-minute 4th quarter plan.
  86. Have a 2-minute 4th quarter plan.
  87. Your post scorer should get a touch every time in half court offense.
  88. Have your assistants watch the weak side on offense and defense.
  89. Use a soft press to control tempo.
  90. Use a shot chart during the game.
  91. Do not give up lay-ups.
  92. Force opponents out of zones when you’re ahead.
  93. Games are won or lost in mini-runs. 6-0, 6-2, 4-0. Understand these runs and they lead to major runs.
  94. Remember this is just a game.
  95. Keep it fun for the kids. Get them to work hard and understand the effort needed but stress the essential ingredient—fun.
  96. Practice free throw. situations offensively and defensively.
  97. Spend 15 min. daily on pressure offense. 5 min. against full court zone press. 5 min against 3/4 court zone press. 5 min. against half court trapping defense.
  98. Have one assistant on the bench in charge of match-up’s.
  99. When you have fouls to give in the 4th quarter, foul to run down the clock.
  100. Special Situations:
    • Up 3 and lees than eight seconds remaining. Foul. Trust your player’s ability to defense rebound all free throws. Practice this.
    • Anytime it is a 2-possession game, look to score with a quick 2. Attack the rim, they do not want to foul. Then follow with a quick timeout.
    • When up or down in the last 2-min. switch all screens. When tied play it within your philosophy.
    • On the road, down by 2. Best two offensive scorers are on the bench. Go for the win.
  101. Chart your opponent’s last 3 games and take away all their shooting locations.


Coaches, remember it’s the consistent execution of the little things over and over which result in both improvement in your teams performance and leads to winning games. Do not overlook the importance of educating your players to many of the ideas in today’s clinic.