South Africa's basketball community

Come on Coach. Coach!

By on October 3, 2008 in FanZone

Coach Bobby Knight once said that basketball is not a game of great plays and shooting, but rather it is a game of mistakes and errors and the team that cuts down its mistakes has a better chance of winning.

This weekend there are many key basketball games being played throughout South Africa. All of the teams participating are preparing to win, but someone has to lose – that’s basketball. So, if your team is relatively well conditioned, motivated to play, has a good combination of players on the floor most of the time and there are few debilitating exogenous factors, and yet they still lose (or do not win convincingly), then look for mistakes in the following areas:

–        Poor defense

–        Sub par offensive execution

–        Terrible rebounding

–        Inaccurate shooting

–        Inadequate ball handling

–        Slow transitionIt is the coach’s job to eliminate as many of these loss contributing factors as possible. Easier said than done. The list of defense, offense, rebounding, shooting, ball handling and transition makes up the elusive term – basketball fundamentals. Every team, every player and every coach needs to significantly improve their executing or teaching in at least one of these areas.

As you coach and/or watch games this weekend just note the number of times that teams are slow to change from defense to offense and vice versa. I have seen many teams ultimately lose games just based on this aspect. Ball handling encompasses dribbling, passing, receiving, pivoting, handling presses without throwing the ball away, etc. Just watch the tally of turnovers due to inadequate ball handling. In fact, one of the reasons the US men’s Olympic team won the recent Beijing gold medal was a result of their taking advantage of many team’s sloppy ball handling. One of my hopes whenever I am coaching against a team with an inaccurate shooter is that he/she takes and makes their first shot or two. Inevitably that player will continue to shoot and more often than not will miss. Coach Bobby Knight challenges coaches again by saying that if a poor shooter shoots the ball or the ball ends up in the hands of a poor free throw shooter at the end of a relatively close game, then in both instances it is the coach’s fault. Coach Dean Smith, another of the greatest basketball minds, developed a practice game with his teams where the score was purely based on shot selection, irrespective of whether a basket was scored or not. This obviously worked as at one stage 24 out of 27 of his teams had a field goal shooting percentage above 50% for the entire season. The team that controls the boards (offensive and defensive) controls the key and is more likely to have a higher shooting percentage. When we first started out with our UJ men’s team (referred to a “midgets” by some coaches – as our tallest players were 1.89m, 1.85m and 1.84m) this was our Archilles heal. We worked HARD to fix that. Offensive execution in my mind is all the things that are done by a team to create high percentage shots. This involves movement without the ball, screening, spacing, cutting, tempo, etc. I remember once spending about 2 hours after a game berating my DUT team about cutting. They remembered that lesson because I tried to demonstrate what the cutter can do to the passer if the ball does not reach them after a great cut. Defense is the things done to force the other team to do things they do not like. It is taking charges, speeding up decision making, putting pressure on the ball, taking away dangerous cuts, inviting low percentage shots, etc. It is about hard work and desire.

According to Dean Oliver, an NBA statistical analyst, the keys to winning basketball games, in order of importance, are:

–        Shoot a high field goal percentage

–        Do not turn the ball over

–        Get offensive rebounds

–        Shoot lots of free throws

Do you agree with Dean Oliver? Is the order right?

I leave you with a quote by Professor Janos Starker, a world renowned cellist, talking to the Indiana basketball team when Bob Knight was still there: “This is one of the basic principles that I state: that anyone who can go through a day without wanting to be with music or hear music or make music is not supposed to be a musician. I believe that to be valid for every profession. If you can go through a day without wanting it or thinking it or living with professionalism in the profession that you are in, you are not supposed to be in it.”

Aluta continua. If you improve your team, wherever you maybe, with whatever you have, despite the conditions, we will improve basketball in SA.

Article by Molupe Thelejane

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