October 2, 2009 • Basketball

Intense Situation Coaching In Basketball

Part 2, Defense

Question: How many different defensive schemes, methods, and philosophies can a basketball team absorb during a season? Since there isn’t a really right or wrong approach to the philosophy of a sport, the approach must be carefully organized, planned and then agreed upon by the coaching staff.

Following is a defensively sound scenario that will serve the basketball coaching staff well at the high school and college levels.

B.O.B./S.O.B. Philosophy:

• Does your team always use a particular type of defense in defensing Baseline Out-of-Bounds (B.O.B) plays, even if it’s not in your regular half-court defense?

• Do you zone or play man defense? If playing man, do you switch all off-the-ball screens when playing man-to-man on out-of-bounds plays?

• Does your philosophy dictate that the opposition’s “B.O.B. Trigger” be defended or not defended? 

If you play a zone, do you trap the in-bounded pass in the deep corner?

• Do you deny the reversal pass out of the corner?

• Does your team use a specific type of defense when defending the opposition’s Sideline Out-of-Bounds (S.O.B.) plays?

• Does your philosophy dictate that the opposition’s “S.O.B. Trigger” be defended or not defended?

• If it is not defended, where do you place their “Trigger’s” defender—in the lane or as a centerfielder? Are in-bounds’ receivers defended with full face-guarding or not? 

Timeout Selections

• Does the coaching staff have a philosophy on whether to call a timeout early in the game to protect the ball as they are about to fall out of bounds?

• Or do the coaches want to save those timeouts for late-game situations?

• If the coaches do not have a set philosophy and have not taught their players, will those decisions be left up to the players?

• Does the coaching staff want to leave that decision up to the players?

Delay Game at End of Season

• Is it your philosophy to change defense late in the period when the opposition is holding the ball for the last shot in the period?

• Does your team have a half-court trap defense or a half-court trapping man-to-man defense? Which defense do you prefer to use? Why?

• Does your defensive attitude become more passive, more aggressive or stay the same?

• Do you change switching on screens or trapping on ballscreens, when playing man-to-man defense 

Defense – End Of Period Defense After A Score

• When your offensive team is going for the last shot of the time period, does your team have a predetermined defense that your team should use (even if it is a defensive change) when the opposition gains possession of the ball (after your score or turnover in the last few seconds of the time period)? For example, do you have your team change to a token full court pressure defense (to burn time off of the clock), whether it is a zone press or a man-to-man press? At the half-court level, do you then utilize a man-to-man defense to prevent an uncontested three-point shot at the buzzer? Do you change your defensive screening rules during this particular scenario of the game?

End of a Period Defense After a Shot

• When your offensive team is going for the last shot of the time period does it have a predetermined defense to go into when the opponents gain possession of the ball (after you score or turn it over in the last few seconds?

Transition After Scoring

Conversely, another important decision to convey to all the players is what to do in the last seconds after scoring to tie the game or the opponents retain possession. The amount of the lead should also affect the coaching philosophy.

• What kind of defense (full-court and half-court) do you use after your team has scored to tie the game or put you into the lead in the final seconds?

• Do your players know how to defend the opposition from either the full-court or half-court levels within the various time and score situations?

Late-Game 3-Point Lead

• Does the coaching staff have a philosophy about playing man-to-man defense in late-game situations in which the primary objective is to prevent the opposition from shooting “3’s” and giving up an inside shot for “2”?

• Does the coaching staff have a philosophy for late-game situations of deliberately fouling an opponent to prevent him from shooting (and making a “3”) to ultimately tie the score? If so, has the staff thoroughly taught the players the proper way to foul that opponent?

• Do the players know when and when not to use that technique? If not, what changes in philosophy and technique are there to defend the opposition in this scenario? 

Transition After Scoring

• Does your team know what to do after you have just scored to either tie the score or put you up (by one or two or three points)?

• Does every player know what defense you expect them to be in?

• Do they know whether they are supposed to be in a full-court press and what specific half-court defense they are to go into to protect the lead and ultimately win the game?

• Do you have a set philosophy to teach your players how to be successful?

The next situation a team must recognize is the actual score and what type of shot do they have to take and what kind of shots not to take.

Don’t expect your players to read your mind and know exactly what kind of shot you want.

One line of thought is that if the score is tied or you’re down by as much as two, you must take a high percentage shot or a shot that might draw a foul, not a “three” (in the lane). Others believe in taking the “three” immediately.

Obviously if your team is down by three, you need the best possible three-point shooter to take as good of a three-point shot as he can get.

If your team is down by 4, the coaching staff must determine whether to go for a “3” or a “2” then go into a press (and ultimately a foul).

A definite philosophy should be agreed upon by the coaching staff in the preseason and then be thoroughly taught to everyone, so that there will be no doubt or hesitation in anyone’s mind on what to do during the intense situation. 

Quick Sideline & Baseline Out-of-Bounds Situations

• Do you have a philosophy and a defensive plan to guard against the opposition’s shots when they are in the same type of situation?

One defensive philosophy is not to guard the offensive “Trigger.” Another is to substitute and put in your tallest defender on their “Trigger” to help deny the in-bound pass.

Another philosophy is to trap the first pass made to the receiver in the deep corner, while another defensive thought is to remove the defender on the “Trigger” and place him either in the lane, as a centerfielder or to double-team and deny the most likely in-bounds receiver.

• Defensively, do you advocate any of these theories? If so, have you practiced those situations?

Icing the Opposing Free-Throw Shooter

• Do you have an organized plan of action against the team that is shooting the free throws?

• Do you believe in icing the opponents’ free-thrower late in a close game? If so, how do you do it?

• Do you have a specific fastbreak or play after clearing the board vs the opponents’ free throw?

• Do you have a philosophy and a value for how important “last shots” at the end of a time period are? If your team succeeds before the buzzer, do you have a “Buzzer Prevent Defense?”

When and How to Foul Your Opponents

• Do you have a defensive philosophy that stipulates the time and score to start fouling the opponents to initiate a free-throw shooting contest?

• Do you have a system that determines whom to foul?

• Are you going to foul the opponents late in a game when you’re behind and it’s essential to stop the clock and apply defensive pressure? It’s also important to know that you bring in your defensive specialists and/or “foulers” only when the opponents have the ball.

• Now, how do you get your offensive scorers back into the game when you regain possession? What techniques do you use to achieve this? And when was the last time you practiced these techniques?

You should have a plan on what players to fit these three categories.


Devising a philosophy and specific defenses for so many scenarios requires a great deal of time, effort, and creativity by the coaching staff.

This creation and development can be much more fruitful when done in the off-season rather than attempting to manufacture a hasty plan in the middle of an actual game.

Winning or losing may depend on just one call—at the right time with the right players in place. But, remember, the play—no matter what it is must be well-executed, which always requires practice.

Its creation and development can be much more fruitful when done in the off-season rather than hastily manufacturing it in the middle of a game.

Winning just two of those games that could have been losses can drastically turn around the outcome of an entire season. An 18-8 record is a lot more impressive than a 10-16 record.

Just remember: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

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