Quick Update

So the three different schools we practice at all were closed over the break but I did get us two days at another so we had our first practice since the Tuesday before last yesterday. I feel like the kids already have a real good understanding of our offense which is great cause I’m almost as new to it as they are. They’re getting much better at attacking the rim hard and finishing strong, some are coming along nicely with their left hand but some still need some work. Outside shooting is probably our biggest weakness but most everyone is capable of making a 15 footer and like I said we have some guys who can get to the hoop as well as our big man who can do work so if we move and move the ball we should be at least ok in the half court. Defensively I think we’ll be pretty solid but some guys are still reaching in a lot so I’m trying to beat that out of them.

Our new kid, Cody is actually pretty athletic but due to his inexperience he’s still really developing his offense and defense. He doesn’t seem like a real confident kid overall but he’s humble and brings a good attitude. We played some 2 on 2 king on the mountain at the end and I felt like he was getting a little discouraged cause he didn’t really score any. So at the end of practice I talked to the team and asked them if they understood what it meant to fill a role. I didn’t break them down one by one and explain to them what I wanted out of them but just told them that it’s important to understand you don’t need to go out and score 30 points a game to help the team but rather you just need to do what you do well. I read something awhile back that Bruce Bowen, a man I have incredible disdain for, said. He was asked why have you had so much success in San Antonio whereas in Orlando you were pretty much an unknown. His response was something like, “In Orlando they were always telling me that I had to improve at this and this but here they tell me to focus on what I do best.”
That’s what being a coach is all about in my opinion. Yeah you want to help your players to improve their skill but some guys just simply aren’t ever going to be great shooters or ball handlers or defenders. If a player wants to really improve at a certain skill it’s on them to do that. Coaches should help them along but when it comes down to it a coach’s job is to evaluate his players and put them in the best position to be successful. From an outsiders perspective just looking at the stat sheet one would think Bowen was a terrible player playing 30 minutes a game only scoring 6 or 7 points but he was as valuable as anyone to those Spurs teams apart from Duncan. So I just told Cody you can’t measure your impact on the game on how many points you score that’s not what we need from you we need you to give us good defense, rebound and then if given the opportunity look to score at the rim, which is exactly the truth.

Where’s the Dedication At?

So Tuesday practice we only got an hour but we were able to begin working on the third layer of our 4-out offense the attack drive. I like calling it the attack drive as opposed to the traditional drive and kick because I think that insinuates that you’re looking to drive to pass as opposed to look to drive and score and then pass if that’s not available. We also worked on basic shell defense in terms of being in the passing lane one pass away and in help position two passes away.

Friday practice then rolls around and three kids show up. One told me he would be gone at a birthday party but the other 3 gave me no inclination, I guess there was a dance at school. I can’t believe 7th grade boys would rather go hang out with a bunch of pretty girls instead of run and get yelled at for 90 minutes, kids these days. I’m not really mad about them not coming but more that they didn’t give me a heads-up as I had planned on having the other six so I’ll have to talk about that at the next practice. I don’t mind when kids take off a practice here or there to attend a social engagement but I think it’s only fair to treat the kids that give basketball a priority over other things more playing time so I told the three that showed up they would start the first game.

I don’t like messing with kids’ shots too much because I don’t think I have great shooting form myself but I have been working with some of the less experienced kids. Our newest kid, Cody has never played organized basketball before. His shot isn’t terrible but his footwork is bad and I feel like he should slow his shot down and shoot a more accurate, but slower shot as opposed to a less accurate, quicker one. When he was at the free throw line he would stand like 18 inches behind the line because he “shoots better from far away,” so I definitely changed that right quick, told him to develop some kind of a routine and exhale before he shoots. Basically I slowed his whole process down and I really feel like it helped him a lot not only was he getting a much softer touch but it just looked better overall.

I haven’t really delved into the “and other assorted musings” part of my blog since starting it but a couple things in the news been weighing on my mind so thought I’d remark on them.

First thing being the whole story behind this Ethan Couch kid. A great saying I heard once is it’s your parents fault for you being the person you are but it’s your fault if you stay that way. Now at 16 you’re still pretty immature and probably don’t spend too much time in self-reflection but the idea that this boy had no concept of right or wrong is absolutely ridiculous. I’m no lawyer but I don’t see how the defense could just make up a word, affluenza, and expect the judge to buy it. There is a term for people who show a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others, it’s called Antisocial Personality Disorder and unless this boy was clinically diagnosed of having that I think it’s complete bs to let him off easy. Now again I’m no lawyer or judge so I don’t know what a fair punishment would be in this case but anyone with half a brain would agree a child of different color from a broken home would’ve received a much harsher sentence.

It’s disappointing to me to read Pau Gasol talk so much lately about how his role in Dantoni’s offense is not most fitting to his skill set. I’m a big Gasol fan and I know he deals with a bunch of crap playing in LA alongside Kobe but I think you need to keep that in house and if you don’t like how your coach reacts to your appeals of change then you have the option to leave next year, which I think he will.

NBA Open Court, which is a great show btw, recently did a segment “what would you change if you were commissioner of the NBA”. Some guys gave some weird, hilarious answers but here’s two things I would change. First off get rid of the conferences. This has been discussed before as basically since MJ retired the West has quite frequently been the superior conference. If the playoffs started today 5 teams in the Eastern Conference would get in with losing records, and the 3 seed would be half a game over .500. In the West two teams with winning records would not get in. Memphis made it to the final four last season, have basically the same team coming back, I know Gasol’s been hurt but he should be back for the last 2/3 of the season, and they’ll be lucky to get a 7 or 8 seed. It’s completely unfair that all these great teams in the West will have to kill themselves to just get to the Finals while Indiana and Miami will strut through the first 2 rounds. Secondly I would change all-star voting. I know this will never happen cause it’s a cheap way for Stern to keep fans interested and it really doesn’t determine anything in terms of real games but lets take a look at some discrepancies in the voting. Kevin Garnett, one of my favorite players ever, is playing on a team that’s 8-15, is averaging 6 points a game on 37% shooting and is 6th in front court voting. Derrick Rose, who’s been hurt since like the 11th game of the season, is 3rd in back court votes. Rondo hasn’t played a game all season and he’s 6th. In the West Kobe is 1st after three games back. Lamarcus Aldridge, the best power forward in the game is not even gonna make the team as it stands now. Jeremy Lin is 4th in back court voting. Don’t get me wrong he’s quietly had a great season coming off the bench for the Rockets but there’s no way he should be up there over Westbrook, Parker or Lillard. The flip side to all this is that if the fans didn’t vote we wouldn’t have had the greatest moment in All-Star history ever when Magic returned in 1992 so maybe let the fans be heard.

Emotions and Additions

So we were short Isaiah today but some new kid who’s friends with one of my players showed up and sounds like he’s gonna play. He’s not super skilled but he is ok athletically, can make a lay-in and has some size so I’m pretty stoked it’s basically the one player I was looking for.

I introduced a second layer to our 4-out which is backdoor cuts. I felt like they got the idea pretty well but they were really struggling to finish their lay-ins off the pass so we just did a drill where they passed then cut from the wing and baseline and worked on finishing and they definitely showed some improvement most of them were scoring almost every time by the end.

We then worked on some free throws. Couldn’t make much so we still need to work on that but the new kid actually isn’t a terrible shooter so I’m debating whether to give him the green light on open mid-range jumpers or not. We finished with 2 on 2 king on the mountain. The one player I’ve had since I started coaching, Jake, is a point of concern for me. He had a couple moments last year where he lost his cool and got real emotional. That’s something that happens, as I can most certainly attest to, but he just gets frustrated way too easily, he needs to just be easier on himself. It’s tough for him too because he’s not as athletic or developed physically as some of the other kids so he does struggle a bit more than them but I love having him because he’s easily the smartest player on the team. I do my best to boost his confidence and I’ve tried talking to him one on one about some stuff to help him along but he’s so sensitive I feel like the more I talk to him about it the more self-aware he becomes. I might try talking to his dad but I think he might be just as helpless about it as I am.

Attack Attack Skip Attack Attack

So I made the decision to go with 4-out as our offense. I feel it benefits us for a number of reasons. First off, the personnel we have. Like I said I’ve basically got 1 big and 5 guards who have decent but somewhat comparable skill sets. This offense gives the guys equal opportunities to make plays but ultimately your players will begin to understand their roles and play within them. Not only that but it’s a read and react offense. The players will learn on the fly basic basketball moves like give and go, backdoor and the two-man game as well as being given a chance to use and improve their shooting, finishing and passing abilities.

I was watching this video where this high school coach who has ran this offense the last three years talks about it. He says he believes the best way to teach it is to go layer by layer starting with the basic passes and cuts then moving on from there. There’s actually a lot of different ways to run this offense and admittedly I’m still not sure on what exactly we will do. All the players are extremely coach-able though, and are bringing good attitudes so the blind shepherd hasn’t lost his herd yet.

Third Practice

So three practices in I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news is I’m up to 6 kids for sure, bad news is I only have 6 kids and it’s looking like it’s gonna stay that way. Sounds like the kid from my first practice who wasn’t too good is gonna play school ball but one kid who I actually coached my first two seasons decided he is gonna play.

After doing some basic fundamental stuff like we typically do at the start of each practice I had my assistant and a couple parents step in and we did some 2-3 half court scrimmage. I felt it really went well we hit a good amount of jumpers, something you have to be able to do against a zone and something we couldn’t do last year, but defensively I felt like we were alright too considering 2 kids had no idea what a 2-3 zone was at the start of practice. With our only one big man I think it’s a natural fit so we’ll probably play it mixed in with some man to man.

My assistant is like 40 years old and his kid plays on the team, he’s coached some varsity at the 2a level and he’s pretty damn intense. He asked me if I wanted him to help out again this year I said I did but I told him I felt like we were a little too tough on the team and that overall we needed to bring it down a level. He agreed and we discussed some things from last year that we liked and didn’t like and had a good talk.

My star, Isaiah is an absolute coach’s dream. Not only is he skilled and athletic but he also plays super hard going for rebounds and protecting the paint. In the 15 or so minutes I had the kids be on offense he nailed about 6 out of 9 jumpers being the baseline runner and even hit a nice floater between me and another parent. Despite his hot shooting he kept taking good shots and routinely gave up the ball, finding his teammates for some nice cuts toward the hoop. He was even playing hurt but he didn’t complain about it at all and did everything the other kids did. Suffice to say if he already didn’t have a mom and dad I would adopt him.

Season Outlook and First Practices

Pardon my grammar if you would.

So it’s my 3rd year coaching SWISH youth basketball. First year was 4th/5th grade second was 6th and now 7th. None of my kids from my first year team are still with me, a couple moved away and the rest were a year younger. Only one remains from last year, one made AAU and a few decided they didn’t want to do school and rec league basketball so they chose school since it’s cheaper. So that being said I’m interested to see who I’ve got. It’s weird that a kid would wait till he was in 7th grade to begin playing basketball, usually the numbers start to thin out at this point as like I said above they play school ball instead so I’m interested to see where they’ve come from.

So first practice is over and 2 kids showed up. Honestly though, I’m not even mad because one of them is hands down the best kid I’ve ever coached. My first year I actually had a 6th grader on my team playing out of his age group who was pretty much like Lebron James in his second season. He led our team in every statistical category and carried us to an 11-3 season. He wasn’t really super skilled though, he just dominated because he was a real natural athlete and all the kids were physically inferior to him because they were younger. Last year I had a kid who was a pretty good combo guard but he wasn’t very coach-able and he didn’t really give maximum effort either. The kid I have this year is athletic, physical and even has some moves down low. He’s not the most refined post player, as most kids his age aren’t, but I had him go to work on me a couple times and I felt like if we had played one on one to 10 he could’ve possibly scored on me once or twice which is definitely something no other kid I’ve had yet could do. He also seems to have a good attitude and is definitely coach-able. I know it’s only one practice and a lot can change but I have to admit I’m pretty giddy at the prospect of having him as our anchor.

Second practice and only 4 kids show up. An improvement, but now I only have 5 total so I’m getting a little worried. I would absolutely have to have at least 7 to field a team but 8 or 9 would be best. Evaluating what I’ve got right now I have one kid who’s hardly ever played any basketball at all and it shows, he showed some improvement from just one practice but it’s gonna be hard to go on runs with him on the floor. I’ve got 3 sort of combo guards who are all pretty much the same size and all have the relative same skill set, they’re ok mid range shooters, poor long range shooters but have shown an ability to take a ball end to end and finish in traffic and they all look decent defensively. Then lastly I have my Kevin Garnett who is basically gonna be asked to go to war every game having to defend guys bigger than him for almost the entire game as well as protect the paint and lead our team in points and rebounds. I think he’s up for it but with him being our only semi-legitimate big man so far if I don’t get another he’s basically gonna have to play from start to finish. I think my little guys can give us some scoring punch if I run the right stuff for them but our lack of ranged shooting will present some problems if teams decide to load up on our big man. Overall we look like a pretty good ball handling team so we should be able to handle presses well, which is a big point of emphasis being that this is the first year teams can press all game. I feel better about my team this year than last but I would love to have a kid who can hit a set-foot three pointer and/or another big man to take some of the load of our star but we’ll make do.