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PostPosted: 21 Dec 2014, 21:30 

Posts: 157
Hi Everyone!

I was reviewing Hubie Brown talking about winning with less talent.

He opined that he essentially wanted to do 3 things:

1) Fast break (up-tempo) to get easier looks at the basket and avoid going into the teeth of your opponents best defensive set-up.

2.) Pressure: overplaying passing lanes, creating more possessions via turnovers, giving you more opportunities to score and score in transition

3.) Offensive Rebounding; hitting the offensive board to create second and third shot opportunities to give yourself more chances to score.

Basically he was mandating playing a higher number of possessions in order to compete with more skilled, better opponents.

I love Hubie Brown, and I've learned and developed a lot of my own philosophies listening to him speak on the game. I'll purposefully watch a game he is doing color for and listen to the Finals on the radio just to get his call on the game.

But I have been thinking about this and just experience a bit of a disconnect with trying to compete with a team through playing a high possession, high opportunity game.

Wouldn't a high possession game have your opponent shooting the ball more too? Wouldn't their superior skill make them more likely to shoot a higher percentage with those greater shot opportunities?

I'm trying to get to the root of the rationale for this. Pressing I know is mandated by several coaches as a way to compete with lesser talent (Pitino when he was first starting at Kentucky I believe was from the Hubie Brown tree),
But I tend to agree with Bob Knight that you can press bad teams, but you can't press good ones.

Has anyone through experience found these methods for competing with more talented teams to hold true? I'm very curious how the numbers work out in all this, as well as the tactics of playing a higher pressure, faster paced game to your advantage when your opponent has more talent than you and is working just as hard.

Thanks everyone,

Brian Sass


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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2014, 14:19 
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I have tried pressing with less talented (poor shooting teams) and it often results in embarrassing losses against the better teams. The score really gets inflated because they shoot a high percent and you shoot so low. The extra possessions just inflate the score and also allow the more talented team to get out and run and just play against your less talented team.

Now this obviously depends on how much the difference is in talent level.

I would totally agree with Hubie's point about getting more FG attempts than your opponent by getting rebounds and trying to create turnovers in the half or 3/4 court. But I would disagree about the fast break. I don't think you want a fast pace when you don't have a lot of talent. You want incredible defense and rebounding to give your team a chance to win. Keep the score down, get lucky and pop a couple threes, you might end up getting lucky winning a game you have no business winning.

With less talent, I like the idea of pressure half court defense so you can pick off passes and get lay ups. But I would not press and create more tempo. That is just my experience. I'm sure everyone has different experiences depending on the situation.

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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2015, 08:44 

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I've always felt that with less talent you want to try to shorten the game by slowing things down and minimizing the number of possessions in a game. You can do this by playing pressure defense in the halfcourt and playing smart and patient on offense, but taking advantage of opportunities to push the ball for a quick look when they present themselves.

I also believe that you should really only employ a full court, fast paced style if you truly have the horses to run that race. To me that means talent, athleticism, bball iq and unselfishness. Playing fast seems to increase the odds for mistakes, bad passes, turnovers, etc. Better teams can overcome that stuff easier than weak teams. And you better have players that are worried about more than just scoring in transition. Meaning they better defend sideline to sideline and baseline to baseline with tremendous effort. Something that maybe gets overlooked when thinking about high tempo teams and seeing their high point totals is that the truly great high tempo teams play defense with amazing ability and that's where they create their tempo.

Again, this is just my experience and opinion, so take that for what it's worth (or not worth! haha).


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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2015, 09:26 
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Not disagreeing with anything said here.

Some of this depends on other aspects though.

If I have a team of great shooters but lack athleticism and ballhandling skills, I might want to run and jack up shots. That way they get their shots up before turning it over from poor ballhandling skills.

I had a group of terrible decision makers in regards to passing a few years back. I didn't mind if they ran down the court and shot quick threes. At least it had a chance to go in and we could rebound for a second shot. If they pass the ball around, it resulted in a turnover more times than not... are there was zero chance for the ball to go in the basket.

Not saying I like playing that way. But at the same time, those kids needed to win a few games for their confidence.

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PostPosted: 06 Jan 2015, 17:20 

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The concept probably works well if your players have the basic fundamentals down, but if they don't, I think running a fast paced game can be chaotic at best. It also depends upon how you define "less talented". In the 13+ basketball world, if "less talented" means weaker ball handling skills, weaker defense or slower than the other team (which are key ingredients to a faster paced game) I wouldn't run a faster paced game.

I'm with coachmt on this one, you need the horses to enter that higher paced game. I always had better success slowing things down against more talented teams because they usually wanted to ramp things up and get quick points. It seemed to frustrate them when we controlled the tempo and slowed things down. On the other hand, if the other team was more methodical in their approach, setting up plays, better shooters, taller post players, tight zone defense, I'd probably pick up the pace to disrupt their flow. I'm more in the camp of assess the situation and adjust accordingly.

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PostPosted: 07 Jan 2015, 09:43 

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Just a thought, for clarification purposes....the original post talks about having less talent and the title of the thread says "weaker team". Is this to mean that your team is just less talented than the other team, but still has some pretty decent talent? Or are we saying that the team is weak without comparison to anybody else, lacking in all of the general skill areas?

I think this makes a difference. If I have a talented team that maybe just isn't quite as talented as the other team then yeah, I might still consider playing a high tempo game because we still have the skills for it and maybe we can make less mistakes than the other guy and be successful. On the other hand, if my team just isn't good to begin with, then we're probably not going to try to get into a track meet with a much better team.

And I agree with Coach Rob. Many times you kind of need to play these things out and assess things as the game goes along.

I'm coaching a pretty talented team of 5th grade girls right now and we've been able to play high tempo games against pretty good teams. We've played a pretty bad team twice and they've gone to a zone D both games and it really messed with us because it slowed us down and our girls hated it LOL. We still won handily both times, but when they slowed us down and made us have to play a halfcourt game it affected us. If they had tried to speed us up and play up tempo I'm almost certain we would have beaten them by 30.


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PostPosted: 07 Jan 2015, 10:00 

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I guess there is an important distinction to make between coaching a weak team and a less talented team. When I said "weaker" I was referring to being weaker relative to your opponent, not generally weaker.

I can relate to both sides of the slow down argument. Like Joe, I've had teams where it would have been to our benefit to work the ball around looking for a good shot. Problem was that pass 1, 2, and maybe 3 were ok but pass 4 would go to either our opponent or into the 3rd row of the stands. So we were better off taking shots as soon as they were open.

It is the interesting part that I struggle with though is the fast break portion of the argument. It makes sense to me that you don't want to go against a superior teams best defense, that you'd want to get an early transition look before they get a chance to set up. I'd hate to be playing a team that was physically and basketball-wise superior to mine and have to go into the teeth of their best defense every time down the court.

At the same time, it doesn't make sense to increase the tempo, because they would get an increased number of opportunities and probably convert more of their chances than my guys would.


I agree with Joe too about pressing too. I follow along on the Bob Knight philosophy that you can press and trap a bad team but not a good team.

But I've seen slow-down/ back-up presses used effectively and wonder if that may be something that could work. Like coach Sartini's 70/80 1-2-2 press or Don Kelbick's 2-2-1 match-up press, where you are actually punishing a team for trying to pitch ahead and play fast, instead making them patiently work the ball up the court.

I've always felt more comfortable with a slower more controlled tempo anyway. Anytime I've played fast-break ball, I've always had to bite my tongue. And I've had middle school teams that couldn't make an outlet pass up the court without it getting picked off (obviously decision making wasn't a strong suit), so playing up tempo with my really weak teams was truly out of the question.

Just some thoughts.


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PostPosted: 14 Jan 2015, 15:29 

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A slower pace for your team makes sense tactically, for keeping games closer and may be stealing a few from more talented teams......but if you are looking at longer term development of your team and each player individually, playing at a faster pace may be better. It's a fast-paced game and I've always felt that playing it as much as possible that way is the best way to develop players over the long-haul in terms of their skills, reactive time, athleticism and decision-making.


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PostPosted: 14 Jan 2015, 18:05 

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I've never really bought into that one style "teaches kids better" than another style. If you are teaching kids to pass, shoot, catch, move without the ball, screen on ball and screen off the ball, and read screens, then they are being taught well regardless of whether the tempo is fast or slow.


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PostPosted: 14 Jan 2015, 20:27 
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I have certainly seen teams that do extremely well when running. But when they play against really good defenses that get back, they struggle. I have actually seen a number of teams have this problem.... they struggle executing in half court and make shots when playing a half court game. The really good high school defense will get back and get set 95% of the time, regardless of how good you are at running.

So I think uptempo youth coaches need to be conscious about taking the time to teach their kids how to execute half court offense and defense. They may not need it at the youth or middle school level, but if they don't develop this skill they will have trouble once reaching high school.

I have seen more than one team excel at the youth level running and gunning. Then had quite a bit more trouble when they reached high school and it became more of a half court game.

I think that ideally you teach young players to run in transition and also teach them how to slow things down and execute a half court game. Easier said than done... but I think ideally that's what you do.

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