Coaching Frosh Basketball 2.0 – Philosophy and Assistant Coaches

With two assistant coaches onboard this season, I feel like I need to prepare them for how I coach and the things that I believe so that we can be on the same page.

Therefore, here is the start of a list (stream of conscious) of things that I believe or emphasize, especially regarding freshmen basketball. 

  1. Development over wins: Everyone plays.
  2. Random drills: SSGs over more conventional drills.
  3. Everything has a purpose: No time wasting drills like three-man weaves and zigzags.
  4. Conditioning through the pace and intensity of practice not running sprints.
  5. Reduced feedback: Give players a chance to learn from their mistakes first.
  6. Mistakes of a lack of skill are not punished.
  7. Mistakes of a lack of understanding are the coaches’ fault.
  8. Mistakes of lack of effort are punished: the Bench.
  9. Defensively, force them to play 5v5 every possession and limit to one shot.
  10. Offensively, disorganize the defense and use the advantage: Try to create 2v1s.
  11. Simple is better than complex.
  12. There are no positions: Anyone can handle the ball, anyone can post, and anyone can shoot (provided ORB).
  13. ORB – a good shot is one that is open, within the shooter’s range, and the shooter is on balance. The only qualification to this is time and score, especially late in the game.
  14. A quiet gym is a loser’s gym.
  15. Transition offense and defense is the building block for everything else: half-court spacing, zone offenses, press offenses, etc.
  16. WIN – What’s important now. Forget the mistake and focus on the present.
  17. Adjust and adapt. There is no perfect play. Make the best possible play or decision at any given time regardless of situation.
  18. There is no such thing as a long closeout: Run at a shooter or contain the drive. Know who you are guarding.
  19. Protect the key.
  20. Always have to have a shooter (or three) on the floor.
  21. Practices are competitive. Winners and losers.

This is not the right way to coach or the only way to coach, but these are the general things that I believe. The hardest thing for other coaches is to adjust to the amount of freedom that I give players, the lack of immediate feedback, and the lack of punishment. I believe that the 12-15 players who make the team want to be there, want to play hard, and want to improve. I also know that, as freshmen, few of them are going to know what going hard all the time means. That’s our job as coaches to teach them, as opposed to punishing them because of this lack of knowledge.

Most coaches (at least those that I have watched closely and worked for) want to correct mistakes immediately. I saw a quote on twitter yesterday that said, “Parents yelling at players from the stands and telling them what to do is like parents doing homework; it may work in the short term, but what are the long-term consequences?” The same is true of coaching. I don’t want to solve the players’ problems or fix their mistakes. This is, I think, a hard adjustment for many coaches. I want to create problems for players to solve. When they struggle, I want to give them time to struggle. I want to step in right at the point where their struggle may turn to frustration. If I see a frequent error that is easily solved, like pivoting to square to the basket, I step in (or use the rules to create the positive habit).

Bigger issues, like where to cut or where to pass, I want to teach through questions: What did you see? Where was the defender? Who else was open? What was the better decision? Open-ended questions force an answer; I am not trying to trick players (which I have to explain to them), but trying to help them learn. This takes longer than giving them my answer right away. In the long run, however, I believe this helps the player more.

Anyway, just an idea of the types of things that I am planning to talk about with my assistants to prepare them for coaching with me because I know I am different in many ways than most coaches and probably hard to work with for that reason.


By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

6 thoughts on “Coaching Frosh Basketball 2.0 – Philosophy and Assistant Coaches

  • When I first began assisting I made a lot of mistakes. Not so much in Xs and Os but in terms of communication (you know: yelling = good coaching. Traditions die hard)
    Nobody ever gave me guidelines or a role.
    Nice to see a blueprint

  • Brendan:
    Thanks. I don’t know if this is a blueprint. I’m certainly different than many in terms of how I coach and how I want coaches to interact. But, if it helps, I’m glad.

    When I was an assistant, nobody told me what to do either. I just did what I thought was right. I was young and didn’t have a huge filter. I see experienced coaches now who have far less input than I had as a 21-year-old college student mainly because I spoke up, whether by taking players on the side or asking the coach if I could add something, or whatever. In 2/3 jobs before I was 24, I completely changed the offense of experienced, championship high school and college head coaches; I see veteran assistants who aren’t able to get their head coaches to change a drill! I never realized how lucky I was to work for coaches who listened; I assumed all coaches wanted what was best for their teams. Now, I observe situations where protecting one’s ego appears more important than doing what’s best for the team. I’m fortunate not to be in any of those situations, but feel for the players and assistants involved.

  • Hi Brian, great piece. Question about punishing lack of effort. Isn’t that also the coaches fault? Motivation is influenced mostly by mistakes or interference by significant others.

  • Gavin:
    I’m not sure that I understand completely. If a player does not sprint back on defense, it is a result of interference by a significant other? I’m not a big motivation guy; I agree that a coach can detract from a player’s motivation, but I’m not sure how much a coach can motivate a player to do something. I tend to believe that has to come from within. FWIW, in my last three years of coaching high school, I can count on one hand the number of times that I have had to punish lack of effort. Mostly, it stems from laziness and/or poor habits, I believe.

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