Priceless Offensive Coaching Tips and a Simple Yet Effective High/Low Offensive System

Home > Coaching > Basketball Offense > Priceless Offensive Coaching Tips and a Simple Yet Effective High/Low Offensive System

Coaches are always looking for plays. I have a playbook with over 500 plays in it. Many, I have never run, others I have run with varying degrees of success. I go to a game and see a play I like, I write it down. I go to a clinic and a speaker who draws a play I find interesting, I write it down. I speak to a coach who says, "This works for me," I write it down.

Here are a few things that I have learned while going through this process:

First, coaches are infatuated with patterns. That is not a bad thing, but it is a thing. When coaches see things that are innovative, new and involve multiple cuts, they are drawn to it.

Next, coaches talk about simplicity but like complexity. We do not believe that plays that involve 1 pass and one cut will work. We need to have multiple passes, several cuts and some misdirection for us to feel comfortable.

Neither of those things is bad. In fact, as the sophistication of scouting increases, you might need a few aces up your sleeve to foil a game plan. However, where coaches tend to make MISTAKES is when they believe that the offensive PLAY is the answer when in reality it is the offensive PLAYER. I am probably guiltier of that most in that regard. I see a play that I like, try to run it and can't figure out why it doesn't work. The Triangle Offense worked for the Bulls when they had Michael Jordan, why won't it work for me when I have Johnny Jumpshot. When evaluating an offensive play, you must evaluate whether it is right for your players.

Each player has his own skill set. Each position has its own role. Your offensive plays should reflect that. It should be precise enough to be able create the situations you need for your players to excel yet be varied enough so each particular player has a chance to succeed. Finding that offensive system is one of the true challenges of coaching.

As you put together your series of offensive plays, try to keep each aspect simple. Your system should be simple enough that all players can run it, precise enough that it produces the situations that you feel will be good for your team and diverse enough that it has something for all of your players. One thing that I learned from ex-NBA coach, Hubie Brown, was to have a game card and keep it handy during games. What is a game card? It is a card that has all of the plays that you have active in your game plan. Sometimes it is difficult to remember all of your options in the heat of the game. Having a game card to look at will help you be prepared for all situations. I organize my game card by player, plays that will get my 5 man a shot, 4 man, etc. I have found it to be very effective when we need to get someone a shot or if we need a basket.

Simple But Effective High/Low Offensive System

Below is a sample of a series of offensive plays that have been worked into a system. Each play has many of the same actions yet will provide opportunities for every position. This is not the only system there is and I don't claim it is the best. It is something I have had success with and wanted to share. Each starts from the same set and has the same entry. This makes it simple for players to remember and makes it difficult to scout. Each play has just a couple of cuts and a couple of passes to keep it simple and directed.

This is by no means the complete series. There are other plays, counters, alternate entries, etc. I am presenting these basketball plays to illustrate how versatile simplicity can be.

Below is the basic offensive action with the basic cuts extended all the way to the last option. As we go through the progressions, illustrated are scoring options for each player.

This can be run out of multiple sets, including a box, a 2-3 or a 2-2-1 based on personnel.. I have chosen to illustrate it as a 1-4.

Basic 1-4 High Offense Set

1 - point guard

2 & 3 -wing players, good shooters

4 & 5 - Post players, might step out or post up
Entry - 1 passes to 2

Scoring option - 2 is isolated on the wing. Can shoot or drive.
4 Steps up and backscreens for 1.

Scoring opportunity - 2 passes to 1 off the backscreen.
5 dives to the block

2 passes to 4

Scoring opportunity - 4 shoots
2 screens down for 1. 1 cuts off of the screen.

5 ducks in

Scoring opportunity - 4 passes to 5 for post up

This action is designed to occupy the help in the post. It also presents a good scoring opportunity for 1
4 passes to 1 off downscreen.

Scoring opportunity - 1 shoots off screen.
4 passes to 3

Scoring opportunity - 3 is isolated, can shoot or drive.
5 seals in the lane

Scoring opportunity - 3 passes to 5 for post play.

*When 5 ducks in on pass to 4 and the defense plays it over the top, a good seal will open up the 3-5 pass to the baseline.

As you can see, there are scoring opportunities on each cut and on each pass. Using this as a basis, below are some plays off of this basic offense to provide scoring opportunities for specific players.

Play for Point Guard shooter and Wing Shooter

Basic 1-4 Set

1 - Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 - Post Players
1 enters to 2

5 dives to the block
4 Backscreens for 1

1 cuts off backscreen

2 looks to 1 for score
4 ballscreens for 2

3 dives to double screen with 5

2 drives off ball screen
4 pops after screen. 2 looks to 4 for pick and pop.
As 2 drives off screen, 1 comes off weakside 5/3 double screen
2 passes to 1 for shot.
If 1 is not open for a shot

4 screens in

3 cuts off screen by 4

2 passes to 3 for shot.

Play for Wing Shooter

Basic 1-4 Set

1 - Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 - Post Players
1 dribbles at 2

2 cuts backdoor

Scoring Opportunity - 2 backdoor pass
2 stops at the block

4 steps up

5 dives to block
1 passes out to 4
3 steps up

4 passes to 3

1 screens down
4 steps down to screen

1 & 4 become a stagger screen
2 cuts off stagger

3 passes to 2 for shot.

Play for Weakside Post

Basic 1-4 Set

1 - Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 - Post Players
1 enters to 2
4 steps up to backscreen for 1

1 cuts off backscreen by 4

5 dives to block
1 cross screens for 5

5 cuts off screen by 1

Big/small screen not only will clear 5 but will create a mismatch on a switch.
2 passes to 5 for post play
4 downscreens for 1

1 cuts off downscreen by 4

2 passes to 1 for shot

Primary purpose for 4/1 screen is to create action to clear the low post. This action is an excellent secondary option.

Play for Strongside Post

Basic 1-4 Set

1 - Point Guard Shooter

2 & 3 Wing Shooters

4 & 5 - Post Players
1 enters to 2
4 steps up to backscreen for 1
1 "pushes" 4 to the low post

2 looks to 4 for low post scoring option

* A "push" occurs when 4's defender steps to defend 1's cut or when 4's defender relaxes. 1 actually "pushes" 4 to the low post with his hands.
1 pops back up

2 passes to 1

5 pops up

1 passes to 5
2 runs a "rub cut" off of 4

4 steps off 2's cut

1 steps wider

5 passes to 4

*A "rub cut" is designed to strip the top side defense on the low post. 2 MUST go over the top and makes contact, on his chest, with 4's defender and makes the defender step backward into the lane. Done properly, this opens up the 5-4 passing lane.
5 Passes to 1

4 seals

1 passes to 4 for post play.

*This is a secondary option. If a 5-4 pass cannot be made it is because the "rub cut" did not contact the defender and he is still over the top. If the defense is over the top, a proper seal by 4 will hold the defender on the top side and open a passing lane to the baseline by 1.
5 & 3 step down to stagger screen.

2 cuts off the stagger

1 passes to 2 for shot.

*This is a secondary action designed to strip the weakside post help. It also presents an excellent scoring opportunity

Again, these are just a few plays that fit nicely with one another to make an offensive system. It is not the whole system, by any means, but a creative coach can add and adapt to his personnel. They have enough in common to be easy to play and enough variation to present scoring opportunities when the defense adjusts.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

Coach Montes says:
11/22/2017 at 4:37:46 AM

In over 20 years of coaching basketball, I have never used the 1-4 set. We're trying it this year so thank you for the ideas. I really like the idea of "letting the ball talk to you". It eliminates confusion. In case, they can't hear or misunderstand the called play. Any other thoughts on how to teach the plays this way? For example, should we run specific entries for specific passes such as guards cross underneath before passing to the wing?


Jeff says:
12/15/2015 at 8:23:33 AM

How old are these players? I recommend a simple 5 out pass and cut. In basketball you need spacing, ball movement, player movement, and skilled players. A 5 out pass and cut is one of the easiest ways to do that.

As far as pressure goes, spend lots of time on dribbling, passing, footwork, and competitive 1v1 drills:

1v1 daily is probably the best thing you can do. Teach players to protect when needed, retreat dribble when in bad spots, change speeds, and change directions to bear defenders.

  1 person liked this.  

Steve says:
12/14/2015 at 10:00:38 PM

I cannot get the ball closer to the basket. 1-2-3 are my best ball handlers and 4-5 usually doesn't even know they're playing a game of basketball. What can I run to get the ball closer for a better shot. The girls seem to be afraid to shoot it even when they're open. No matter whom I put at the point they are afraid to drive and as soon as the defense puts any pressure on them they fall apart. PLEASE HELP!


JH says:
10/13/2015 at 4:01:14 PM

There is also a quick hitter option if you have an athletic 4 or 5 that can cut. We ran this in high school scored 3-4 times a game. After the first pass goes to the 4 or 5 a few times and the defense starts to try and deny the pass to the high post, the 4/5 can cut backdoor to the hoop for an easy layup. Sometimes, just the eye contact between the 1 and the 4/5 is enough for them to spin back door and catch an alley-oop or backdoor pass.


Renee says:
6/24/2015 at 8:11:10 AM

I coach high school girls. I have some decent post players and a girl who can handle the ball but she is more of a 3 or power forward. She can drive and also shoot if she needs to. I have one post player is very physical and gets good position but is small and can't play long. My other one is about 6'0 and she plays like she is 5'0. She scores when she needs too but isn't physical. She gets pushed around quite a bit.


Renee says:
6/8/2015 at 8:09:26 AM

I am a new coach. I have been coaching for 3 years but this is the first year as head coach. I don't have a strong ball handler. It's a rebuilding year and I need an offense basic, simple, and effective enough for the girls to run. Any suggestions?

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
6/23/2015 at 9:32:05 AM

Renee, what ages are you coaching? And what are your strengths?


kurry says:
3/6/2015 at 6:45:21 PM

Don great stuff!! What about a simple set that starts with an elbow pass rather than a wing entry. Then you could teach the players that "the ball talks to you" if it goes to wing do this....if it goes to elbow do this. Would really like to your opinion on elbow entry


Coach TC says:
11/23/2014 at 3:05:03 PM

We've been running a 5-out motion offense for the last three seasons (the kids are now 8th-graders). The motion offense has been very helpful in developing basic offensive skills such as passing, cutting, screening - and some of the kids even have started to be able to read the game and make good decisions. However, our problem was that most of the action was mainly in the backcourt, with the forwards often kind of detached.

This is where I found the 1-4 high-low (which we've been working on for a few weeks) extremely useful. We've started with a few simple rules (e.g. wings cut backdoor whenever the ball hits the post on their side), which have made the transition from the motion rather easy, slowly increasing the complexity of the variations. The high-low has become a good alternative whenever the motion offense got stuck.

A funny observation: Contrary to what I expected, at this level, the post players' size doesn't matter that much, compared to agility and a good eye for the pass. Actually, I tend to put my big guys on the wings as they often are much more likely to be hit with the ball in the lane.


10/29/2014 at 11:02:23 PM

what.,BASKETBALL CONDITIONG TO ALL PLAYERS who are going out for basketball this year.


Chase says:
10/15/2012 at 11:59:58 AM

I always loved basketball, and played in the Army and Church Leagues, while stationed in Saudi Arabia I ref and really enjoyed it now I''m a High School license ref and volunteer ref a church league with boys 5th - 8th grade, some day I would like to coach the same grade level. I appreciate this website and I made my own scrapbook for when that day come of me becoming a coach. Thank You, Chase


Show More

Leave a Comment
Email (not published)
Eighteen plus seven is equal to?  (Prevents Spam)
 Load New Question
Leave this Blank