The Easy Way to Teach Basketball Offense

By Don Kelbick

Coaches constantly complain that they can’t get their players to remember their plays. They want an easy basketball offense.

Over and over again I hear, “My guys are thick. I can’t get them to remember anything.” Once in a while I might hear, “How can I teach my offense better?”, but I don’t hear it often enough.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have an opinion. Since this is my space, here is my opinion.

Lack of Background

First and foremost, if you continuously have trouble getting your team to remember their offense, the first thing you should think is that it is too complex or you have TOO MANY PLAYS. I know that it is difficult for a coach to look at himself that way, but he has to.

You have to remember two things…

First, your players don’t have the background that you do. Your past experience will allow you to be much more adaptable than your players.

The second thing is that you came up with the basketball plays. They have to be second nature to you before you bring it to the court. You will know all the positions and all the adjustments long before your players are comfortable with even one aspect.

To draw an analogy, I teach players that a “good pass” is a pass that your teammate can catch. It doesn’t matter where or how you throw a pass if your teammate can’t catch it. Passes that one player can catch, another one can’t. You have to make allowances for that when you pass the ball. When you teach a basketball offense, it doesn’t matter how simple you think it is. If your players don’t get it, it is too complex. It is not important what you think, it is important if they get it.

Drills, Progressions, Dummy

These are the three magic words of teaching offenses…

Drills

When you decide on the drill you are going to use in practice, what criteria do you use?  Do you run drills that you think are expected of you (such as three-man weave) that really have no purpose — or do you select drills that have relevance to your team?

TIP:  I believe that the best way to construct basketball drills for your team is to take pieces of your offense and turn those one or two passes and one or two cuts and make them drills. If you are running the “Flex,” the back screen is one drill, the lane duck-in is another drill, and the weakside down screen is another drill. You can work these every day. It will not only make your players’ skills better but it will help them recognize situations.

Progressions

Before you run, you have to know how to walk. Before you walk, you have to know how to crawl. Those are progressions. As you construct your drills as pieces of your offense you drill first cut, second cut, third cut. Once you are comfortable with how your team runs the drills, start putting the drills together. Your first drill is now first cut, second cut. The next drill is third cut, fourth cut. When you are comfortable with that. Your first drill becomes first cut, second cut, and third cut. Before you know it, you’ve practiced your offense.

That doesn’t mean you can’t run single cut drills as well, but players learn better in pieces.

Dummy

No, I don’t mean your players. Dummy refers to running your offense without defense. Again I ask you, “what do you do to get your players warmed up?” Do you just run up and down in a useless drill or do you do something relevant?

TIP:  Might I suggest that you run “dummy offense” as a warm-up drill instead of 3-man weave and lay-up drills? And I don’t mean just the half court stuff either. Dummy your fastbreak and your press breakers as well. You will work up a sweat, get in some relevant shooting, some ball handling, conditioning and most importantly, you will be running your offense and reinforcing its principles and philosophy over and over again.

I am a firm believer that you have to remove competition from teaching. When in competition, players’ thoughts are to perform and survive, not learn. Remove the competition, people learn better. Once you are comfortable that your players know what is expected of them, you can introduce competition. They can then go back to their drills, progressions and dummy for reinforcement.

In order to learn more about teaching the motion offense, Don Kelbick also authored Basketball Motion Offense – How to Develop a High Scoring Motion Offense.