The Seven Essential Roles of a Basketball Coach

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Just as you have segments of the game that you must cover in practice such as offense, defense, shooting, special situations, conditioning, etc… there are also seven segments that you need to perform to effectively lead and develop your basketball team.

  1. Philosophy and Leadership—Define and instill your program’s ideals.
  2. Organization and Management—maximizing the resources at your disposal.
  3. Individual Participant Development–Develop your players’ skills and attitudes within your system.
  4. Team Development– Develop, implement, and teach systems for team play that fit your players’ abilities and strengths.
  5. Role Definition–Assign roles that best fit each players within the system, work to keep them in those roles, and redefine roles as players change or the needs of the team change.
  6. Coaching Staff Development—Intentional professional development for the entire coaching staff.
  7. Service, Promotion, and Public Relations. Promoting the basketball program as a whole and the players individually.

#1: Philosophy and Leadership Define and Instill Your Program’s Ideals

My first priority is to make sure that I have (in writing) a clear direction and philosophy on which to build every aspect of our program around. You also need to update that document annually to make sure that it keeps up with your current thinking and beliefs about your job.  A huge part of your job as the coach is to develop it, present it, and embody it so that our assistant coaches, players, and managers not only “buy in,” but that they believe in it, support it, and feel that it is essential to our success.

Player development (Area #3 in my seven areas of focus) has the biggest impact on winning and losing.  Having your philosophy entrenched as #1 provides direction for your player development efforts within the scope of your overall system.

If a coach doesn’t have a clearly defined and written vision, it is impossible to achieve the consistency, unity, and intangibles a program needs to succeed from year to year as players and assistant coaches change.

#2 Organization and Management Maximizing the Resources at Your Disposal

For a business, this are would fall under “Operations.”  It is not the most enjoyable part of coaching, but it has to be handled well.

Even if your athletic administrator does the purchasing, facility maintenance, and scheduling for your program, you still need to stay on top of each of those areas and offer input.  Taking care of organizational items is not the most exciting part of coaching, however it is definitely important. It is a responsibility that is better handled proactively rather than re-actively.  Often the best way to deal with administrative items is to delegate them to a trusted staff member.

Have a long term plan for funding and purchasing big ticket items such as a shooting gun, or similar items.  Those projects require more planning and possibly even fundraising, so it is important to keep those items on your to do list and in front of the administration. The only way to do that is to give it some thought and review on a continual basis. Even smaller “extra” items such as practice gear, shooting shirts, shoes, travel bags, team meals may require fundraising, donations, or budgeting.

Keep a file of the officials who work your games both at home and on the road. That way you can make recommendations to your Athletic Administrator as far as who to hire at home. You will also be prepared when it comes time to turn in evaluations to your state association.

The more efficiently you can handle these types of items that need to be done, the less they become urgent “in your face” tasks when you are more focused on coaching basketball.

#3: Individual Participant Development of your players’ skills and attitudes within your system

In most games, the team with the best players usually wins. Granted, there is a certain amount of talent and attitude that is natural.  Our most important job in terms of winning games is to develop our players’ on-court abilities and skills so that we can put the team on the floor that has the best players.  In addition to developing basketball skills you can work to improve their athleticism, and to develop their mental toughness to handle the competition and pressures of a basketball season.   You must implement a year round program to develop your players’ skills place both during the season and out of your games season.

We have a plan to develop mental toughness in our players that includes defining what it is and what it is not, not allowing anyone in the program to use or accept excuses, not accepting moping, pouting,  or poor body language, and rehearsing in practice any and all pressure situations we might encounter in a game. That is not to say that we can simulate the pressure of a game in practice, but I feel that if we have rehearsed it in practice, it gives the player confidence that they have a plan of attack for the games.

#4 Develop, implement, and teach systems for team play that fit your players’ abilities and strengths.

Your system of play must take into account not only what each player does well, but also your depth, what it will take to win in your conference, against your schedule, and in season ending tournament play.
This is something that our staff works on throughout the year, but once we have selected the team, it is time to tweak and implement our system of play around the abilities of our players. It is an ongoing process throughout the regular season. We do not make wholesale adjustments, but will add in wrinkles, or subtract things that aren’t working as well as we thought they would when we included them as a part of our scheme.

This is a philosophical decision that you must make as a coach, but my philosophy is that we are going to utilize systems of play and structure our areas that we emphasize in practice, that give us the best chance to advance in our season-ending state tournament. As an example, if we know we’re going to have to beat a team that runs flex in our first round of the state tournament, then without telling our players what we were doing, we will practice defending the flex all season long. If our pack defense gives us the best chance of winning in the sectional, that is what we play during the season and work at daily. We do not play other styles of defense during the regular season even if they might be effective against one or two regular-season foes.

I refer to this role as team development because not only does it involve our offensive and defensive systems, but it includes team building and team chemistry as well. You’re not going to be able to reach your potential as a team unless there is a cohesion and camaraderie among the players. As coaches we can influence that togetherness of our team by the attitudes that we exhibit and instill in our players, the team building activities that we do, and the emphasis that we put on it.

#5: Assign roles that best fit each players within the system, work to keep them in those roles, and redefine roles as players change or the needs of the team change.

Deciding how each player, each assistant coach, and each manager is going to help the team and then working with that team member to coach them and make them better in that role is a crucial part of your job.  Providing those roles in writing in players and coaches notebooks is a very clear way of giving the direction they need to get started. But, just as important as having a plan to get started is your ability to have a plan to evaluate how each person is performing his or her role, how to keep them within their role and what to do if they grow out of that role.

#6: Intentional professional development for the entire coaching staff.

With all of the daily responsibilities that a coaching staff has during the regular season, it is very tough to spend any time on staff development.  Just like you ask your players to work on their game during the improvement season, the coaching staff also needs to sharpen their skills. There are five areas for each coach to work on and that coaches should have an individual development plan, just like players have an individual workout plan. The five areas to develop are:

  1. Technical Knowledge of the game of Basketball.
  2. Ability to teach the game of Basketball.
  3. Ability to bond a team.
  4. Ability to develop players’ individual skills.
  5. Leadership Skills

Create a coordinated development plan as a staff, so that you have different coaches working in different areas and can share their information so that everyone benefits from each other’s work.

Area of Focus #7: Promoting the basketball program as a whole and the players individually.

We don’t do complicated things, but strive to build relationships between our players and our community. The main thing is that you are working to create interest in and present your program in the best possible light.

We have a simple web site promoting our program that we email a link to for potential college recruiters as well as media members.  We write a basic pre-season media guide to hand out at games.  We run a summer youth camp and involve our players as instructors.  Each summer we hold a one day father/son one day clinic on the Saturday before Father’s Day.  We have an autograph night during the season where our players stay in the gym to sign autographs for anyone who is interested. We schedule all of these a year in advance so that we have the facilities and administrative blessings that we need.

We keep a resume for each player of his best games and honors such as player of the game, etc… to use to nominate them for post season honors and scholarships as well as to provide to potential college recruiters.

The key to the success in these seven areas, and ultimately your basketball team and program is your ability to visualize what you want in each of the seven key result areas, write long range, yearly, monthly, and daily goals and tasks, and then implement them through the work of everyone in your program.

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Tennessee Competitive Practices

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Clinic Notes from:


These are some of the notes presented by Dean Lockwood at a PGC/Glazier Basketball Coaching Clinic. Dean has been an assistant in the Tennessee Women’s Program for 12 years. He was also an assistant in their men’s program for 5 years. In between those stints at Tennessee, he has been the men’s head coach at Saginaw Valley State, and Northwood University.

If you want the best in basketball education, then you need to attend the PGC/Glazier Basketball Clinics this Spring! They’ve changed the coaching clinic game forever with more topics, superior speakers, and a staff pass that includes unlimited coaches from your school. The dates for this fall are:

2016 Fall Clinic Dates are Posted!

Thoughts on Competitive Practices

It takes more time and thought to plan practice to make it as competitive as possible.

Players must be held accountable for competing, but it is the coaching staff’s responsibility to set the tone.
The UT staff will not accept a player not competing–it is one of their non-negotiables
What do your players say are the most important things in your program? At Tennessee one of those things is competing.
Competition is valued highly at UT because we all compete in life almost every day.
Competitors are harder and harder to find and to create.

Establish competition in practice early and be consistent.
Tennessee starts competitive drills and games the first day of practice
Emphasize supporting the players through the competition
Be precise and demanding about how you want your players to compete–specific time and score
Your entire staff must know what you are looking for

Competitive drills help to keep players from hiding in practice
Have something on the line a lot
Competitions keep the coaches from always being the “Bad Guy”
Don’t stop a competitive drill to correct a mistake.
Don’t stop the masses for the one–you can get that on player with a coach for your teaching

Competitive drills promote “readiness.” There is a difference between readiness and preparation
Always recognize selfless acts made for the benefit of the team–example a screen that leads to a shot. Show
appreciation and respect for outstanding efforts. Include those types of plays in your film breakdowns.

Utilize peer pressure within your team
Have no more than 2 areas of emphasis for a drill. Everyone runs on unmet goals of emphasis. It is a team thing.
No missed lines on sprints.
Place a time on all running
Put pressure on seniors and veterans when their team loses in scrimmage or drills
If the first team is beating the second team in a scrimmage, switch scores and force the first unit to play from behind.

Put your best player with the 2nd team. Helps your first team practice playing without him or her, makes the scrimmage more competitive, and raises the level of play for your second unit.
Every competitive game is charted and winners get marks on a scoreboard in the locker room.

Some ideas for competitive drills.

Warm Up Drills: set a standard of execution. For example, if you run 5 star passing or a similar drill, set a specific number of passes that must be thrown and caught correctly and with no fumbles. If there is an error, start over. In layup drills, each player must make 2 from each side so that there are no misses–12 player team must make 48 consecutive layups or start over. You can come up with similar standards for your drills.

50 Pass DrillDrill is to work on passing, catching, spacing, cutting. Defense can do anything regarding denying, switching, trapping. Players cannot make consecutive passes back and forth to each other except for a give and go. The offense is not allowed to dribble. No shots are taken except layups. The offense scores 1 point for each completed pass and 10 points for a made layup. With a turnover or the rebound of a missed layup attempt, the teams change who is on offense and who is on defense. The first team to 50 wins.

Spurs Drill: Starts 5 on 5 Half Court. If the offense scores, they keep the ball in the half court and play against the same defense. If the defense makes a stop, play it out in transition to the basket on the other end of the court. If that teams scores in transition, they get the ball in halfcourt and if they score, they keep and stay in half court. Play to a specific score that you establish.

Attack Cut Throat: Play Cut Throat, but the team coming on to offense sprints to half court. Tennessee plays it this way to promote an attacking offensive mentality and to prevent a back it out and set it up mentality.

Start at 2 Drill:
To work on valuing each possession. It is a short, but intense game. Half court offense. The score starts at 2. Each basket or foul is a plus one for the offense. The defense gets a minus one for a stop. If the score of the drill gets to 4, the offense wins. If the score gets to 0, the defense wins. There is a consequence for the losing team such as running.

PGC/Glazier Basketball Clinics is a preferred partner of The Coaching Toolbox

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Australia – Point PTP Sprint

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This play was run by Australia in the Olympics and then diagrammed and contributed by Wes Kosel to the FastModel Sports Basketball Plays and Drills Library.

You can also find out more about FastModel Play Diagramming software by clicking this link: FastDraw

Wes Kosel is an assistant men’s coach at Augustana University

You might not want to use the plays that I post in their entirety, but my hope is that you can take parts of the plays and use them where they fit for your system.

This is what Coach Kosel said about the play:

Australia uses a pick the picker action in this play with a cross screen / down screen combination. If nothing is there, the big sprints out to set a ball screen.



1 dribbles off of a high ball screen from 5.

2 screens for 4.

5 rolls into a down screen for 2.

1 passes to 2.






4 sprints out to set a ball screen for 2.



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