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Surviving Your Second Year as a Basketball Coach

Chapter 6 - Junk man, Junk bonds, Junk mail, ... Junk Defenses??

by Ed Riley

Conventional...Traditional...Status Quo...Regular...Normal...these are all words that describe the defenses that most experienced coaches use. These defenses' names read like something a rocket scientist might use, or that James Bond might use as a secret code: 1-3-1, 2-1-2, 1-2-2, 1-2-1-1, see what I mean?

In the last 20 years there's been a new phenomena occurring. Remember when you first started coaching, how hard it was to find material that actually helps the first year coach? Because of this, a lot of younger coaches started making up their own defenses. So what do the older more experienced coaches call these defenses, JUNK DEFENSES. And what do the older coaches tend to think of these defenses? That they live up to their name, of course.

I fit right in with a lot of the older coaches, (no ole fart jokes now), because I preach that you need to stay with man-2-man 99% of the time. I'm not a big advocate of using junk defenses a lot. But, there is a time and a place for everything, even junk defenses. And ...... wouldn't today's traditional defenses be considered junk defenses when they first came on the scene?

Here's a little story to illustrate my point, and it may not be exactly correct, but it will be close enough. There once was a college coach who wanted to win the NCAA tournament. He was going to be playing some teams that each had an almost unstoppable superstar on their team. If he went m-2-m, his players weren't good enough to stop them. If he went with a zone, his team would get beat because of the great outside shooting on these superstars. The situation seemed hopeless.

So what did the coach do? He went into his little red office, grabbed his little red notebook, and started drawing junk defenses with his little red pen. After 40 days and 40 knights, (only kidding)! he came up with a new defense, it was dubbed the Box-and-1. And with that brand new "Junk" defense, Coach Bobby Knight won a national championship tournament. Coach Knight, if I totally screwed up the story, please don't see red, because that was how it was described to me, sort of!

The point is that the Box-and-1 is now considered a traditional defense, to a point. You don't use it every game, you use it when you come up against a team that has a player that you just can't stop. Just as there is a place for the Box-and-1, I'm sure that the rest of these "Junk" defenses may have merit as well. So guess what Ima gonna do? Ima gonna give you my version of my own junk defense, I call it the Diamond-and-1. I liked the idea of the Box-and-1, but it just didn't work well for my team, so I changed it slightly. For me to explain it to you, I have to give you an over view of the Box-and-1 first.


  1. Put a forward on each block
  2. Put 2 of your remaining players on each elbow = on each corner of the free-throw line
  3. These four players play a zone, each covering a five foot or so area around where they are standing.
  4. Take your best defensive player, and they cover the other team's superstar, man-2-man.

The purpose of this defense is that no matter where the superstar goes, they are guarded by the one player who is playing m-2-m against them. And, they are also guarded by the person whose zone they invade. So whenever they are playing half court offense, they effectively have 2 people guarding them.

Now my problem with this is that with a person on each block and one on each elbow, someone can drive right down the middle into the paint and shoot. So I took the Box-and-1 and changed it a little, and it works for me.


  1. Place a guard in the middle of the free throw line.
  2. Place a forward halfway between the block and the elbow, on each side of the paint.
  3. Place a forward in the middle of the paint about 3 feet in front of the basket.
  4. When these four players are in the proper position, they form a diamond, and play their zone.
  5. Make your best defensive player play m-2-m against the other team's superstar.

With this defense, you accomplish the same as you do with a Box-and-1, except now someone has to go through 2 of your players in order to drive down the middle of the paint. Folks, pay attention now, only use this defense when it is obvious your team cannot stop an opposing player from scoring. So there you have it, my favorite junk defense.

Remember there are more chapters to come.

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