Coaching a European Club – Week 5

Another week, and more missed practices. One player was ill, one player was suffering from the elbow to his jaw from the weekend, two players missed because of travel/work/school, and another left a practice when he caught an elbow to his eye and had to go for stitches. Therefore, there was not a lot of tactics/strategy at practice this week. 

At Monday’s practice, we did no 5v5 stuff until the final drill, when we played Tip Transition (below). Otherwise, it was a fairly simple practice. I switched up our shooting drills this week and went to the Oiler Shooting Drills (Snow Valley Basketball School) to get more running into the drills. Also, after our ball handling against pressure last weekend, we played 1v1 full court. We worked more on defensive rotations using different 4v4 games with various constraints. I also changed the finishing drill to Pass-Cut-Fill-1v1 (below). After the practice, two players told me that they really enjoyed the practice. I don’t know if that means that they hadn’t enjoyed previous practices, and when I asked, one could not explain why he enjoyed this practice, but I guess that’s something.

Tip Transition


On our second practice, I warned the team about complacency. We had another game this weekend, and for the first time, we were playing a team from a lower division. I could see the letdown in intensity already, so I spoke about wanting to play to our potential every time that we take the court, not just when we play better teams. The practices followed a similar routine for the week with a concentration on our weak-side rotations and closeouts. I added another new shooting drill and mixed up the Oiler Shooting Drill each day to practice different shots from our various sets. Later in the week, we focused more on transition defense.

On Saturday, we traveled for the game. As it turned out, the club that we played had a job opening posted online, and that is how I first got involved with the job in Denmark. Long story, but when I mentioned this club’s job, an acquaintance had never heard of the club, but posted something online, and that is how my current club first heard of me.

We won by 16 and scored 97 points. We started slowly and jumped to a 10 point lead at the end of the first quarter, but squandered it in the first couple minutes of the second quarter. They pressed, as I expected when I saw them in warm-ups, and we handled the pressure really well, considering we never practice against any kind of zone press. I don’t think that a press should work against professional and semi-professional players, so I don’t even bother with it. We turned their press into numerous 3v2 fast breaks.

Our problem was defensively, as we were unable to prevent their smaller, quicker guards from getting into the paint. They essentially ran the same play that we run; they just ran it more quickly and with more precision, and our defenders were frequently a step late.

Frustratingly, despite our size advantage, they appeared to get numerous offensive rebounds (nobody keeps stats). They also out-hustled us to numerous loose balls. I can see young guys sanding flat-footed waiting for balls as opponents race in front of them.

After the game, I was displeased with the performance and told them so. After I finished, one of the guys said, “Hey, guys, we won.” When I told the head of the club that we won but played poorly, he said that it is good to win. I’m more concerned about the performance, especially in preseason. The ability to beat a team from a lower league, even while missing two of our top six players, is not important. We should beat a team from a lower division or we are in the wrong division! We need to continue to improve our performance, learn from mistakes, and play better all the time so that we are prepared for the regular season.

Unfortunately, prior to our next practice, we play another game against a team from the higher league, so we won’t have much time to discuss these things. I spent the car-ride home talking to my young point guard, as he did not have a great game. Also, another young player asked me questions about pre-game preparation, as he was nervous when he found out that he was going to start after not traveling with the team last weekend. I sometimes forget that in Saturday’s game, for instance, only two guys got any time for the team last season, so most of the guys are brand new (including our player who scored 30) from the youth leagues. When I think about things in those terms, our performance wasn’t too bad.

By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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