December 4, 2018 • From the BenchWinning Hoops

Don Meyer’s 7 ways coaches lose games

Don Meyer is among college basketball’s winningest coaches, but he also knew a thing or two about losing.

In 2010, Winning Hoops spoke with Meyer and he shared his seven thoughts on how teams can lose a game. By recognizing the factors that contribute to losing, squads have something to build upon at the next practice or leading into the next game. Here are Meyer’s thoughts.

1. Not playing hard.

Meyer wanted people to associate his program with hard work. He said talent and intelligence only take players and a team so far. Demand your players go all out, all the time.

2. Not playing smart.

First, engrain in your squad the mantra of hard work, then teach them how to play smart. Work with them to improve their basketball IQ, and be certain they buy into your system and style of coaching.

“At Northern, we say, ‘You can have all the intensity of a mad dog in a meat house, but without technique, you’ll end up with a bullet between the eyes,’” Meyer said. This is where Meyer’s insistence of players carrying notebooks at all times would come into play. He didn’t want them to miss a potential opportunity to learn.

3. Not playing together.

After playing hard and smart, now the players must work together to achieve success. Basketball isn’t a one-person show; you need everyone on the same page pushing toward the same goal.

don meyer coaching
Photos courtesy of Northern State University.

4. Not having a delay game.

If your team has a lead late, Meyer stressed that you must have a delay game in place. He said it doesn’t mean your players become passive and afraid to shoot. But it does mean there are restrictions, such as only shooting wide-open layups or making a minimum number of passes prior to shooting.

5. Not having a delay-game defense.

When trailing late in the game, and the opposition is bleeding the clock, move into a secondary defense that forces the offense to speed up and take bad shots. Even if you aren’t a pressing or trapping team by nature, they should be worked on in practices. You must find a way to increase possessions.

6. Not having a comeback game.

Once again, you find your squad trailing late in the second half. Have you prepared quick-hitting plays?

   » ALSO SEE: Don Meyer’s shooting games & free-throw drills

Meyer suggested having substitution patterns in place to maximize the talent on the floor, such as substituting offense for defense on alternating possessions when possible. Also, if you’re shooting a free throw, have a player at the scorer’s desk ready to enter the game. If the second free throw is made, the action stops when your player enters the court, which allows you to set your defense.

“It’s kind of like having a timeout without using a timeout,” Meyer said.

7. Not simplifying the game.

Meyer stressed keeping the game simple for your players. Too much thinking leads to not enough reacting on the court, according to the legendary coach.

“A great coach teaches his or her players a few simple principles from which the program is known by, and then, that coach lets the players play the game,” he said. “Jerry Tarkanian always said, ‘The more players think, the slower their feet get.’”