What You Want Out of
An Offense & How To Get It
by Sidney Goldstein
Copyright © 2001
Martin Luther King once said, "I have
a dream," and so do I, and so should you. My dream involves
players being trained to play basketball like you have rarely
Let's dream about the type of offense you want. What about a
fast break offense: everyone running, passes leading cutters,
players moving at the right speed in the right place (filling
the lanes). Passes are so quick that the defense has no chance
to react. Think also of an Olympic or division 1 volleyball game:
the passes are bang, bang, bang. The timing must be exact on
net plays. Players even fake cuts to the net to through off the
Translate this to a half court offense. One, no one holds the
ball or dribbles in place. Two, the periphery players, left and
right of the ball, cut and fake so the ball has at least two
outlets if the inside is not open. Three, the two inside players
cut and fake to receive a pass as close to the basket as possible.
At no time does any player retire while on the court. Each player
is constantly trying to set up and beat the defense. Only a half
step is needed, only 1/4 of a second. Of course you can add a
simple in and out pattern of movement and you must deal with
scoring, rebounding and transition separately.
So, if this type of offense is effective, why do we accept less.
I'll tell you why:
1. You need to dream.
2. You need to learn how to train players.
Now the dream is vitally important, especially to experienced
coaches who have long ago given up. They write poor performance
off to players lack of ability and instead dream of recruiting
players that play their type of game. In other words, they are
looking for players that know how to play, that do not need instruction!
(What is the coach for?!)
Beginning coaches do not want to fall into the contagious hypnotic
spell of denial of their elders. You are here to train players,
to give, not to take. Your players do not serve you, you serve
them. To serve them you need to learn effective training methods.
What's going to make our above offensive dream work? Now we are
getting to the Nitty-Gritty of the game. Let's make a list:
1. Players must learn to effectively cut and fake.
There are at least 3 types of fakes to learn. Cutting to the
open space or to the ball is not as easy as you think. Again
there are at least 3 to learn. Even pros rarely execute these
2. Passing with defense in your face. Passing is the most difficult
ball skill to learn. Passes are just flicks of the wrist, the
arms must not move or the pass is telegraphed. The old chest
pass is worthless because 1) it's an arm pass that telegraphs
the play to the defense; 2) it can only be thrown to the side,
left or right, of a defender, not through a defender.
3. Looking is a skill which needs to be taught. How many times
have you seen players open in a game, that the person with the
ball did not see. This is the main reason that plays do not work.
Players must look everywhere all the time, not focus looking
in one place, like a play forces players to do. The purpose of
running 10 offensive patterns is to get players looking everywhere,
not necessarily to learn the pattern. Ten year olds can learn
any pattern in 10 minutes. unfortunately this won't help
the offense because they need skills.
4. Communication is another skill that depends on looking. Offensive
players must instinctively know what teammates will do
in any situation. This can be practiced many ways, the best is
in groups of two, rather than a team set up.
5. Timing is the key or rather Achilles Heel of most offenses.
After players learn skills, split second timing
beats defenses almost every time. Like communication, timing
takes a long time to master. We rarely see good timing, but when
we do, on an alioope (spelling) pass or a fast break, it brings
up a smile and a "wow."
The exercises needed to master these offensive skills number
in the hundreds. So, if you still wonder why your plays don't
work, the answer is simple: you skipped everything players need
to know to run the offense! Start dreaming and learning.
To learn more about the hundreds of drills on offensive skills read The Basketball Coach's Bible and view Videos 1 covering
individual skills and Video 2 covering team skills. Videos 12-14 cover offensive skills. Video 13 covers timing, looking, and communication.
Your comments are welcome.
Sidney Goldstein, author of
The Basketball Coach's Bible and The Basketball Player's Bible,
has successfully coached both men's and women's teams over a
period of 15 years.