Cynical Thoughts on the Dribble Drive Motion Offense

By Don Kelbick

Just a couple of cynical thoughts as I watched Memphis wipe the floor with Texas. As, they run their “Dribble Drive Motion,” you can’t tell me that the type of offense they run will make any difference with how good they are. They are great athletes with terrific skills and any offense they run will not only be successful but due to their skills set, no matter what they run, it will turn into a “Dribble Drive” because they are all very good at that. Somewhere, in northern New Hampshire or western Idaho, or eastern Montana, some coach is sitting in his living room, taking notes and planning to install it with his program of 5’10″ rural farmers and will be genuinely surprised when he doesn’t get the same results as Memphis. Once again, it’s not the x’s and the o’s, it’s the Jimmys and the Joes.   
Picture by shundaroni

Way back when, in the 70′s and early 80′s, there was no shot clock in college basketball. Dean Smith had an offense called the “4 Corners.” He used it to isolate his great guards (Larry Brown, Charlie Scott, Phil Ford, etc) and to run the clock. One of the games that precipitated the use of the shot clock was a UNC game against Virginia with Ralph Sampson. UNC held the ball with the 4 Corners and the half-time score was 7-0. I believe the final score was something like 16-9. After that game, people started calling for the shot clock.

My first real job was at a Div. III school called Longwood College (now a Div. I school). Our Head Coach ran the same 4 Corners as UNC, except we called it “4 to Score.” We ran it with exactly the same rotations and cuts, except to we tried to get the ball handler to penetrate instead hold the ball. The result was that the same exact offense that produ ced the 7-0 half-time score allowed us to average 91 ppg. You know what? It looked EXACTLY like the “Dribble, Drive, Motion.” That was 30 years ago. We just called it something else. And in reality, it wasn’t new even when we ran, we took it from someone else. Old coaching saying, “Nothing new has been invented in basketball since the jump shot.”


  1. steve dement — May 12, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

    bingo!! I have called it “spread” for years, and run my version by keeping the post players in the short corners (unless I am playing with 5 perimeter players). same basic cuts, lots of variations off of this and can really be a problem for a team that doesn’t rotate well on defense.

  2. Ron Jess — August 1, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

    I would agree with the author and commenter, I have been running this with high school girls for quite some time. I believe the three point shot has made this much more effective in recent years. One thing I did right away when we had a 23-1 season was try to understand how to effectively defend it, because I knew it was going to start showing up against us. We have found against real athletic teams “good” teams you want to try zone early to see how they well the opponent can handle a sagging type 2-3 or 1-2-2 (maybe even an old style box and one defense so you at least have the top of the 3 point circle covered)Many times high school teams can’t shoot well enough to really play it effectively. I don’t really like to play a strait up zone defense unless I’m ahead in a game, but against a good driving team who is running this offense you can do better in a zone even when behind. Many times we get ahead by 10 or so points and they feel they need to apply pressure to get in the game, it just ends up opening up more lanes to the basket. As a final comment I would say as a high school coach it has made me look more at speed and conditioning when we have tryouts, it pretty hard to run this offense with the slower big kids, or kids who are not in shape.

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