Preparing for End of Game Situations

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This post is reposted from Bob Starkey’s Basketball Coaching Blog,  The post is a few years old.  Coach McGuff is now coaching at Ohio State and Coach Neighbors is now the Head Coach at Washington and just guided them to the 2016 Final 4.

I have been re-reading some stuff given to me some time ago from Mike Neighbors,now an assistant at the University of Washington for Kevin McGuff.  I came across a great passout from Mike and Kevin on End of Game Situations and thought I’d pass it on.  Do you have a strategy for End of Game Situations?  How much thought have you gave it?  The thing I respect about Mike and Kevin is that they are detailed in their approach to all phases of the game — which lead to great success at Xavier and now as they rebuild the program at the University of Washington.  Here are their thoughts on EOGs:

Why is END OF GAME SITUATIONS even a topic for a clinic when we all as coaches know that the first possession after tip-off, or the third possession after the 8:00 media, or the 43rd possession of the game all have the same point value potential?

It’s because everything gets magnified at the END OF THE GAME. Pressure seems greater. Emotions run higher. Coaches have to talk louder in timeouts because everyone in the crowd has stopped text messaging and is now laser locked onto the action. Referee’s huddle and make sure they are all on the same page. The number of in game distractions increase.

It as become evident to me that the teams who are BEST at EOG’s are teams that throughout the course of the game have treated every single possession with the same respect as the very last ones. These teams appear to be oblivious to any of the mentioned distraction and repeatedly execute game winning situations when the pressure is the greatest. They display a composure that others don’t. Their coach has a control that others don’t. Their players demeanor is consistent. They are in character. As a result THEY WIN more than they LOSE!!

Once you establish that approach it is still imperative that you have a plan for implementing and executing. That is where we come up with the D.I.E.

DDevelop your philosophy
  IImplement you strategy
EExecute your tactics


You can attend clinics, buy books, look on-line, or steal from others but to be successful your EOG Philosophy has to be YOURS!!! My grandpa always said “You can’t sell what’s not yours” and he was right. If you don’t believe in it, your players won’t and you’ll LOSE more than you’ll WIN. So utilize all the resources you can to think through as many situations as possible then MAKE THEM YOURS!!!


Are you going to foul on the floor ahead by three points? Does it depend on the time left? Is that time 8 seconds? Is that time 5 seconds?

Are you going to get the ball in your best players hands or use that player as a decoy for option #2? Do you work in practice as if your first option has fouled out already?

Are you going to take a quick two point shot then foul if down three with a certain amount of time?

Are you going to miss a FT on purpose with a lead to force opponent who is out of time outs to rebound and hit a last second shot?

Are you going to run plays that your players already know or draw something up? Are you going to run a “dork” play?

Are you a go with the stats coach? Are you a go with your gut coach? Are you depends-on-the-situation coach?

Are you going to switch all screens? Stay on and play 1-on-1 defense? Trap a ball screen? Change defenses out of the time-out? Show a defense play another defense?

Are you going to put a big player on the inbounds passer or play centerfield?

And the countless other situations that we encounter at the end of game.


Now that you have your philosophy, you must implement the strategy with your players and your team. This is where you determine which players on your rosters can perform certain skills… who can throw it the length of the floor, who can catch that pass, who can dribble from end-line to endline in five seconds, who can create their own shot, who can throw a lob pass at the rim, who can simply inbound the ball safely.

This is how you are going to teach the skills necessary to be successful when pressure and distractions are at their highest level… will you devote time in practice to these situations, will you turn on the PA system to simulate crowd noise, will you stop practice in the most stressful moment and work on an EOG.

This is the plays the you are going to call or the defenses you are going to play to win games in the last few minutes… beg, borrow, steal from the best, find ones that have worked

Some great EOG things I’ve stolen from various coaches:

Throwing tryouts… A coach stood at one end of the court and let players try to throw balls to hit them. Whoever could, was their long throw-in girl.

Set the shot clock to various times and see who can go score 1-0, 1-1, 2-0, 3-0 etc.

Team worked on saving the ball to their own basket and keeping the ball in play as the clock ran down

Keep away in working on not allowing a team to foul ball handler

Dribbling the ball to various spots on the court to call timeouts

Loose ball scramble to work on creating held ball situations and NOT creating held ball situations


Now that you have a philosophy and a strategy, it is time to EXECUTE your tactics to win the game.

Your very first thought should be that HOW you say what you are going to say is just as (if not more so) important as WHAT you say!!! Your demeanor and your tone will be directly reflective of how your team will perform.

Are you talking to them in the same manner?

Are you on the same spot on the floor as you normally are for timeouts?

Are you using a wipe board or not?

Are your assistants scrambling and frantic in your ear?

Are the subs in their ’normal’ huddle mode? (if it’s not how you successfully practiced it, then don’t expect them to perform in the game)

Do you have a method for knowing the number of fouls on each team, who has the possession arrow, have you pointed out in the various arena’s where the game/shot clocks are located?

Do YOU know the situation?

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