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Surviving Your Second Year as a Basketball Coach


Chapter 5 - A Simple Little Offense to Beat The Zone


by Ed Riley

Now that you understand more about tryouts, and moving without the ball, it's time we gave you what some of you readers of the last book cried for - OFFENSE!! Basketball is more than just X's and O's, or plays. You will spend just as much energy and time dealing with the personal and emotional side of the game, like tryouts. But it is basketball season and right now you might need a little OFFENSE in your life. So we will have a chapter or two on the people side. Then, out of nowhere, faster than a speeding bullet, WHAM....the next chapter might give you an offense or a defense that you can teach your players in their next LS. Is this book disjointed? No! We just want to keep you on your toes. So let's talk a little O = OFFENSE.

I have to keep reminding myself that this book is for 2nd year coaches. When you have a child that plays ball, and you coach their team, you tend to think in terms of that particular age group. So if I seem like I'm going too fast, that's why.

As most of you found out in your first year of coaching, most of your opponents played some form of a zone defense, right? Right! So this is where I am going to help you gut the next team that throws a zone at you. And ... it's too simple!

Have you taught your players how to set a solid screen that seals? If you have, then move on because this offense is for you. If your team's not good at it yet, then hold off on this offense until they are good at setting screens that seal. OK, let's move on.

If you have one of those diagram boards that you can use with a dry erase marker, then go get it. If you don't have one, then grab paper and pen. Now draw a halfcourt with the paint, the free throw line, the blocks, and the hash marks all on it.

I'm going to have you draw a little play. When I tell you where a forward goes, just write a big "F" in that spot. When I tell you where a guard goes, just place a big "G" in that spot. Use the letter X for the defensive players.

  1. Set up your defensive X's in a 2-3 zone. Put an X on each elbow where the free  thow line meets the sides of the paint. Now put an X on each block, and an X in between the X's on each block. This should look like a 2-3 zone. If it doesn't, then rearrange your X's until they do line up this way.
  2. Place an F outside of the X that is on the right block. The X should be between the F and the basket. Now you have their defensive player right in front of your forward.
  3. Place another F right beside your first F. Now you have 2 forwards facing their one defensive player.
  4. Place a FS in back of your first two F's. It should look like two linebackers guarding the quarterback from the defensive player.
  5. Place a G on the right hand side of the court between the freethrow line and the 3 point line. This guard has the ball.
  6. Place a G on the left side of the court directly opposite where you put the other guard on the right side of the court.
  7. Your guard with the ball passes to your FS = forward shooter. The 2 forwards in front of your FS screens the defensive player and your FS has a free shot from about 10' out.

    TIMEOUT......Plays are not designed to put the ball in the hole. Plays are designed to get you player open for a clean shot. Your player still has to make the basket in order to score. Alright, back to the offense.


  8. Once the defensive player figures this out, and sometimes that takes a long while, then they will try to fight through your double screen to get to the shooter. When they do get through, have your FS lob a 4' pass over the defender's head to one of your two F's. The F with the ball then pivots and takes the 6' shot. Sometimes have your 2 F's let the defender through so you can lob it for an even closer shot.
  9. Once the defense figures this out, then switch sides and now do it on the opposite side of the basket. The defender on that side will go through the same slow learning process that the last defender went through. You will get 5 to 8 shots off before they finally figure it out.
  10. Once both defensive sides have it figured out, then you go with your next option. Remember the guard who never had the ball, who was on the opposite side of the court as the ball? Now they come into play. When the defense finally figures out you are overloading a side, the other 2 defensive forwards will move toward your overload to help cover that little lob pass of yours. When they do this, your FS throws the ball to the open guard on the other side of the court, and they will normally have a nice 10' shot waiting for them.
  11. Once the defense figures out your passing to the open guard, then they won't move to help against the lob pass. This let's you go back to your original overload or lob pass.
  12. Younger teams have such a hard time with this offense, that it's flat out scary. In fact, my girls just got back from playing a tournament in Las Vegas. This was our major offense every time the other teams played a zone against us. Guess what? Most of the teams we played against played a zone, and we won the tournament with this offense. So it is an offense you can use against older teams as well.
  13. Don't quite understand it? Draw your diagram and use dimes as your guards and quarters as your forwards and nickles as your defenders. Keep reading this while you are moving your players into their designated spots. Now keep moving your players until it makes sense.

Let's call this offense The Overload. Let's remember, the overload is only to be played against zone offenses.

by Steve Jordan

Just a few comments to add to Ed's discussion on zone offense:

  1. Learning complicated patterns will consume a huge chunk of precious practice time.
  2. Inexperienced players will have trouble concentrating on patterns during the game.
  3. Complex plays break down easily. Sometimes one mistake by one player can throw the entire team into confusion or disarray.
  4. If the offensive play is too difficult, the kids will just stop trying to run it.
  5. When trying to run a complex pattern, the kids work so hard at following the play, they miss the open shots that are created during the process.

You are welcome to any of the diagrammed, basic plays in the Coach's Notebook. These plays were designed when I coached 6th-8th grade team in YMCA ball and I find they still work well in 9th-10th grade high school competition. There is nothing wrong with simplicity. In fact, there is far greater value in performing simple skills well rather than complicated skills poorly. Choose plays that can be learned and mastered quickly. The players will be more successful and have alot more fun.



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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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"My son's high school coach gave him a copy of the book and he read it in two days. Now he is leading the effort to get himself a scholarship. The book is inspiring and effective for high school athletes."
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