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Surviving Your Second Year as a Basketball Coach

Chapter 8 - Good Ole Common Horse Sense
by Ed Riley

Ever had an idea tug at you, but you can't quite put your finger on it? I always feel that if I don't deal with these ideas right away, I am going to lose something important. It's kind of like when you are shutting your car door, and your know you have forgotten something. You can go ahead and close and lock the door to your car, and then find out that you left your car keys in the car, or you can stop everything you are doing and try to remember what it is that's nagging at you.

That's where I am at the moment, so bear with me while I try to verbalize this current idea. Because I myself am so simple, I like to boil things down to their simplest form. I believe that this one chapter, if I do it right, can help you and me more than anything else I have ever written. Of course, I also invented the laser, penicillin, and coached the winning team in the NCAA tourney for the last 10 years in a row, ar, ar!!!!!

Ever heard of good ole common horse sense? How about common sense? Well, I am going to talk about basketball sense, and lack there of. The biggest problem I see with today's teams is lack of good ole fashioned basketball sense. Let's not restrict this just to the teams, let's include most of the youth coaches in this group as well. So what is basketball sense?

  1. If common sense is bringing water with you on your trek in the desert, then basketball sense is having your players bring a water bottle with them to the game. Why? Ever try talking to your players at half-time when they are all standing in line at the water fountain? As they say in the country, "That dawg just won't hunt!"
  2. If common sense is coming in out of the rain, then basketball sense is yelling for the ball when you are open under the basket. Ever had a player wide open under the basket and quietly wait, hoping their fellow player with the ball would see them? Yeah, me too!
  3. If common sense is looking before you cross the road, basketball sense is dribbling with your head up. How can your player make sure their boyfriend or girlfriend isn't flirting in the stands with some else, if they dribble with their head down. Besides, as a coach I'm sure you check the gym floor for potholes before every game, don't you? No? You always want to check for potholes just so your team won't have to worry about falling into one, JUST IN CASE  they try dribbling with their head up.
  4. If common sense tells you to wear a coat when it's cold outside, basketball sense tells you that you have to move to get open for a pass when you want the ball. Well OK, if your player takes their invisible pill, maybe they don't have to move. But, I heard that one of the side effects of the invisible pills is that they make you belch. If that is indeed the case, then maybe you would still have to move to get open.
  5. If common sense tells you not to dive headfirst into 2 feet of water, then basketball sense tells you that on offense, you shouldn't bring your sleeping bag, tent, barbecue grill, and CD player, and pitch camp in the 3 second area, the paint. Heck, it's hard enough to get that tent set up in the paint in just 3 seconds, let alone cook the shrimp on the Barbie in that time frame.
  6. If common sense tells you not to run that red light while driving, then basketball sense tells you not to try to dribble through 3 defensive players. Unless......you really need to use the restroom that badly.
  7. If common sense tells you not to stick your hand into the fire, then basketball sense tells you that reaching in to steal a ball normally gets your wrist slapped, or at least a foul. Wanna have some fun? Teach your team not to slap, hack, or reach in to try to steal the ball. Instead, teach them to time the offensive player's dribble and try to slap the ball up. It's hard to foul when you slap the ball upward into the dribbler. And watch what happens to the dribbler, talk about throwing a player totally out of their rhythm, it can be quite humorous.
  8. If common sense tells you not to jump off of the bridge, basketball sense tells you that when throwing the ball in bounds, don't you step in bounds until you do throw it in.
  9. If common sense tells you not to pick on a giant who is 2 feet taller than you and outweighs you by 100 pounds, basketball sense tells you not to have your shortest player guard their tallest player.
  10. I can't resist, I have to tell you a short story related to #9. My point guard is only about 4'10. It is not totally unheard of for her to end up guarding another team's forward for a few moments, due to switching of players because of screens.

    In a game, my PG - point guard, was screened by a 6'3" center. Our other player yelled switch, so now 4'10" PG had to guard 6'3" Giant . Off course, the other team just had to pass it to Giant, who was about 12' from the basket.

    It was obvious that Giant didn't feel comfortable dribbling or shooting from that distance, so she just held the ball above her head.

    All PG could see was the ball, so she jumped up trying to knock the ball out of Giant's hands. With the height difference, PG couldn't jump any higher than Giant's shoulders. Now PG never would admit she was short, and because of this - she played tall. At 4'10", she was still my best 3 point shooter on the team.

    Anyway, here Giant is holding the ball above her head and PG is just jumping and jumping, trying to get high enough to get the ball. It was so absurd a sight, that everyone started chuckling.

    Finally, PG stopped jumping, stared at Giant, and hauled off and kicked the Giant in the shin as hard as she could. The ref immediately blew his whistle for the foul. PG raised her hand in the air admitting guilt. Then she turned to the ref and said, "If you'd called a 5 second call like you should of, I wouldn't have kicked her." With that, she stormed back to the bench.

    No, I don't condone this behavior, but it was kinda funny. All right, let's get back to work.

  11. If common sense tells you not to spit into the wind, then basketball sense tells you not to scream at or curse out a ref, for too long. Remember, most games are won or lost on the free throw line.
  12. Basketball sense tells you to pass slightly in front of the person running down the court on the fast break. Have you ever wondered what your passer is thinking, when they pass the ball and it hits the receiver in the back of their ankle, and trips them? I've wondered this on several different occasions.
  13. This is personally one of my favorites. Basketball sense says not to get hit in the back of the head with the ball, when guarding a player on a fast break. Rather, you should look to intercept the pass.

Have you ever watched the other team rebound under your basket and throw a long baseball pass down the court on a fast break? All the time, right? Well, how about when your defensive player is right behind the intended receiver, and never looks at anything except their player. Then WHAM, the baseball pass hits your player in the back of the head.

Or, even worse, your player can tell the pass is coming, so they stop and cover their head with both hands. In the meantime, the other player catches the pass and goes for a lay-up before your player uncovers their head. If you have never seen this, wait a while, you will!

In an effort to make these chapters short enough for easy reading, (and because my daughter is calling), I'll end this chapter here. Remember there are more chapters to come, so keep check this site for the next installment.

Our thanks to Human Kinetics for sending us some excellent coaching books. You can't beat the discounted price, less than $20 including shipping.

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