March Madness is like Christmas and New Year's for me. With the Nike Championship Basketball Clinic at the Al McGuire Center on April 22-24, the holidays were extended for me. The director of the clinic, Ed Janka, who is a Marquette alumnus, put together an impressive group of coaches, and picked topics in which the speakers either seemed to excel, especially, this year.
The only things that I regret, are the seat I picked and my sore behind. If I would have chosen to sit anywhere else, I would have been happy. However, I found myself to be next to the only chatting ladies, who were eating popcorn, and wondering why Roy Williams was taking so long. And I sat behind Canadians who were also talking, not from their mouths, but the other side. They might have eaten too much La Perla's. I don't know. Also, I do not think the seats at the Al, were made to sit in for 12 hours a day.
Anyway, here are the speakers:
"Georgia's Four Out One In High-Low Offense" - Dennis Felton, Georgia
"Our Zone Defense And Running Game" - Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
"The Tar Heel Man To Man Offensive Concepts" - Roy Williams, UNC
"Attacking Pressure At The Full and Half Court Levels With Proper Spacing" - Dave Odom, South Carolina
"Man and Zone Quick Hitters" - Ernie Kent, Oregon
"Half Court Defensive Philosophy" - Dick Bennett, Washington State
"Princeton's Practice/Offense" - Joe Scott, Princeton
"My Favorite Individual And Team Drills" - Tom Crean, Marquette
"Our Pressing Defensive Philosophy" - Gary Williams, Maryland
"Intangibles To Win A National Championship And A Zone Attack Made Simple" - Jack Bennett, Wisconsin-Stevens Point
"1-1-3 Defense with Trapping Philosophy" - Terri Mitchell, Marquette
"Attacking Half Court Zone Defenses" - Bruce Weber, Illinois
Unfortunately, I did not attend Coach Mitchell and Coach Weber's sessions due to prior commitments, but I already know the Marquette women's matchup zone, inside and out. I am disappointed I was not able to attend the last two, not just because I learned alot of new sets and philosophies this past weekend, but it was more illuminating to witness what concepts were important to the coaches, their personalities, and how that translated to the manner in which they taught.
Because of that, instead of talking about X's and O's, I will discuss messages that I found to be important. Also, it became apparent to me that if you are a college coach and even most high school coaches, sets, plays, offenses, traps, presses, defenses, do not really make the difference. You need talent, you have to believe in what you are doing, and your players have to believe in what you are doing. If anyone has any specific questions about their topics or sets, feel free to ask me on the board.
Coach Felton uses a 4 out/1 in set and uses 1 post player as one of the perimeter players. He believes in a pure motion offense. However, he found success with this offense, which he got from Bill Self. It is easy to teach since the rules are straight forward, and he has developed a good vocabulary, in which it is easy for the coaches and players to communicate. It still allows for motion concepts, such as screening the screener, or staggered screens.
In his offense, all of the guards are interchangeable, which was a common theme at the clinic, and in basketball today. Many people have been excited about Coach Crean's change to a 3 guard offense. However, most coaches including Crean,already do this. In other words, there really are only 3 positions in basketball. You have a point guard, guards, and posts.
I really like his offense as I am also a believer in motion. However, it is tough to teach kids who do not have enough basketball knowledge and be successful. In contrast, the team used for demonstrations, Cardinal Stritch was able to pick up this one in a short time. Even though it does not offer alot of imagination it allows and encourages something that I value most when you have the ball, which is dribble penetration. That does not happen in other continuity offenses such as the Swing.
Everyone already knows that Syracuse is famous for their 2-3 zone. What surprised me about his speech is that they only play it for the last 15 minutes of practice. For the rest of it, they play man to man defense.
After listening to him talk, this made perfect sense to me. By doing this, it allows them to focus on their offense. When I am coaching, it is sometimes difficult to focus on both the offense and the defense. Since they only play their defense for the last part of practice, the rest of the time, they can stress their offense. Also, it is easier to run out of a zone, since players are already in their lanes.
At the beginning of his talk, Coach Boeheim offered a story about Coach McGuire. On Boeheim's first assistant coaching job, he had to scout the number 5 team in the nation, which was Tennessee who was playing #1 Marquette. He called up Al, who said he would show him around Milwaukee and take him out to dinner when he got in.
Boeheim responded that he didn't really want to bother Al on game day, but he it didn't bother him at all. So they went out to dinner, and it lasted a long time. With the game being at 7pm, Boeheim was getting a little nervous because it was his first scouting trip ever, but he saw how calm the legendary coach was and thought,"Well, he's the one who is coaching. I only have to scout. I can make it."
Around 5:45, Al said,"Wow, that was a great meal. Hey Jim, let's go get a steam." Boeheim thought, he was crazy and responded,"Don't you have to prepare your team?"
"Naww. Don't worry about that."
So they went to get a steam, and while it was getting later, and later, Boeheim was getting more and more excitable. He spoke up and asked, "Does warm-ups start at 7 or does the game start at 7?"
"The game starts at 7."
Finally, around 6:30, Al looked up and said,"Well, we better get going."
They drove to the Mecca and got to the locker room around 6:40. Boeheim looked into the door, and the only person who was dressed was some white guy in the corner. Meanwhile, the rest of the players were walking in the locker at the same time as Coach McGuire in street clothes.
Even more anxious about the team he had to scout, Boeheim ran out to the court, and quickly scribbled down all of the players and numbers. At that time, the Tennessee coach was very strict and regimented. Half of his team would take two shots and methodically pass to the next guy. The other half were at half court doing two handed chess passes. On the sideline, the coach would look at the empty side of the court and check his watch.
Finally, at 6:55, Marquette ran out and started warming up. Then, Al came out, and waved to the crowd as the noise level rose. The ball tipped at 7 pm, and the game started. Time out, Tennessee. MU 13 Tenn 0. Game resumes. Timeout, Tennessee. MU 22 Tenn 0. True Story
This was one of my favorite sessions. After listening to Coach Williams speak, I came away knowing that he is an offensive genius. What impresses me the most about him, is that he has never written down any of his sets. It was created and has cultivated in his brain.
His offense is based on running the basketball on fast breaks, and on secondary breaks. He has 16 secondaries!!! Most of them are based just on what the point guard does so that they do not have to call out any plays.
What touches me the most about Coach Williams is that his road to his championship was not easy. His first season as a coach, which was in high school, he was 2-19. His only 2 wins were against the same team. Because of this, he genuinely cared about teaching to everyone that was in attendance, because he had been in those shoes before.
For the final question, one coach asked him what he said to his team at halftime of the Michigan State game. He said that he couldn't believe a guy wouldn't get on the floor for a loose ball in the Final Four. He couldn't believe a guy wouldn't hustle down the court. Needless to say, he got on their case. But, it was clean because he never swears.
Coach Odom talked about beating pressure in an individual sense, and as a team. Especially since he followed Roy Williams, and also because it was getting late, the energy in the gym left. In addition, he was pretty somber because he had just flown in after attending "Big House" Gaines funeral. The biggest message that I received, and that our Warriors also know, is if you do not attack pressure from which it is applied, it will keep coming after you.
This was another favorite session of mine. Coach Kent had another tough road. But, his connections in the coaching world are impressive. His best friend is Stu Jackson. He has coached with people like Mike Montgomery and Jim O'Brien, who coaches the Sixers. Also, Oregon is the only other school besides Duke and Arizona, that has a 1st round pick in the last three years. Do you think he uses that line while recruiting?
In his first job, he was let go, since the NCAA cut down on how many recruiters you could have, and he was lowest on the totem pole. So, he ended up coaching in Saudi Arabia for 7 years before coming back to beg the Colorado St coach to hire him, even though they had never met.
After presenting his continuity offense, and quick cutters, it is easy to recognize why his teams are so efficient on offense. But, what caught my attention the most was his message at the end. In contrast to the energy and humor that he displayed, he carefully spoke about the new generation of kids today. It is a scary generation. Faith is no longer as prevalent in society. Also, so many of kids, are being raised by one parent, which is usually a female. Because they are taught by the more emotional sex, they probably will not respond to yelling, and screaming, and toughness, and character building. He went on to explain how important it is to make sure these kids grow up to be responsible adults. It touched me, because I completely agree with him. Anyone can teach X's and O's. Coaching is teaching the kids about life.
Obviously, Coach Bennett is a defensive mastermind. He puts a premium on defensive field goal percentage, and defensive 3 pt percentage. Also, two areas that he feels that coaches are responsible for are that teams should not get transition baskets on you, and teams should not get beat by a good post player.
What I didn't know about Coach Bennett, is that he has a good sense of humor. He likes to pick on himself and his team alot. Also, I didn't know that seems to be a devout Catholic.
I didn't know anything about Coach Scott, and he was a pleasant surprise. I mention earlier, that there are really only 3 positions in basketball. Coach Scott believes that there is one. Everyone should be able to shoot, pass, and dribble.
After listening to him, I realize why the Princeton offense has revolutionized basketball recently. Many people watch them play and immediately think, Old School. However, it is just the opposite. Today's players do not play one position. Guards post up. Posts face the basket, shoot the three, and dribble penetrate. This is exactly what Princeton believes in.
Also, he talked about players who hold the ball. When this happen, it could mean two things. Either, they are selfish, or they are blind. Selfishness is very easy to correct. Blindness is a bit tougher. But, you can teach them to get better and make them efficient. Perhaps they won't be creative, but they will know what to do next.
This year, many Marquette players were blind, simply because they were playing out of position. They were receiving a crash course on what to do, and it was tough on them.
I will not spend too much time talking about our coach, because so many people already know who he is and what makes him tick. However, I will offer two things. First of all, he created an environment in his session that had more energy, by far, than any other coach. I have been very lucky to have watch many of his practices in the past, so I knew what was coming. However, all the other coaches that I talked to were extremely impressed with his demeanor.
Second, Ed Janka called him one of the greatest teachers around the game. He chose the topic of individual workouts, so that the coaches in attendance can learn from Coach Crean's drills. Through his constant motivations, and insightful tips, it is clear that players improve tremendously under his watch.
Finally, Todd Townsend, Marcus Jackson, and Travis Diener were present for his demonstrations. They were allowed to be present since they have already graduated. They workout he put them through would be their last as a class.
Even though he was not able to do it for the past 5 years or so, Coach Williams loves to press. He believes that it is a easy system to recruit. Also, with a pressure defense, the coach is able to see who wants to play, and who is in shape. Usually, he presses at the end of every practice, instead of sprints, so that they can work on basketball while conditioning.
What enlightened me the most, is the responsibility and the rules that he gives to each player on the floor in the press. He taught it using more discipline and order on his traps than any other coach that I have seen.
Ed Janka called this one of the best demonstrations that he has seen in his 32 years of doing these clinics. You can truly see the passion for basketball in this family. However, his philosophies are different from his brother.
He expressed that he never hopes to answer this again. However, he does use zone defenses. In fact, he thought it was important to have a zone, so that you can change the momentum of the game. This is essential, in order to win a championship.
Besides the obvious passion in the tone of his voice, what made his speech so great, was his final message. He stated that people will probably disagree with him. Some will be very cynical. However, in order to achieve your dream, you need to have faith, because, "with Him, all things are possible."
On a final note, they are having this clinic in Milwaukee again next year. All of the coaches were very impressed by our practice facilities. I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in finding Christmas in March to attend this event. If you do not have a school that will pay for you, your own pocket money will be well spent.
McGuire Center Hosts Nike Clinic
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