Coaching Basketball: Teaching Offense and Shot Selection

This article was written and submitted by retired High School Coach Dave Millhollin. Coach Millhollin is known throughout the Sacramento area for his Boys Varsity teams’ fundamental soundness, discipline, unselfishness, team defense and overachievement. Dave Coached for 27 seasons and compiled 391 wins. I have included more information about his coaching career at the end of the article.

If you are interested in contacting Coach Millhollin, you can email him at hoopcity@sbcglobal.net

TEACHING OFFENSE AND SHOT SELECTION

It is important to approach teaching offensive execution and proper shot selection as an “indoctrination” process. You are not just teaching concepts and skills, you are trying to instill a value system and philosophy in your team and program.

The Goal:

You want your team and all your players to understand exactly what proper offensive execution is and what it is not, also you want your team to understand which shots are “good shots” and what shots are not.

Taking these goals one important step further; you want your team to understand how proper offensive execution and good shot selection leads to playing “winning basketball.”

The fact is that most teams do not execute very well offensively and almost every basketball team takes a lot of bad shots each game. So, if your team executes well on offense and takes good shots; their chances of winning improves tremendously – And if your team can do this consistently and understand what they are doing; you are able to build a “culture of winning” on your team and in your program.

Logical reasoning:

When asked about offensive execution and shot selection, each player on your team should have something like this to say:

“Proper offensive execution and good shot selection greatly increases our chances of winning. We really want to win. So we are going to embrace the concepts of proper offensive execution and good shot selection. We want to know as much as we can about it and implement it into the way we play so we can win as many games as we possibly can”.

Before we continue our discussion on teaching offense and shot selection any further; we should examine the teaching process and the establishment of execution standards.

Five powerful teaching ideas to consider:

  1. COGNITIVE TEACHING:
  • Thoroughly explain and demonstrate each offensive and shot selection concept carefully, both to the team and to each individual player. Comprehensively and meticulously go over every appropriate situation and scenario.
  • Ask questions and answer questions to make sure your players understand every concept, use examples and ask for examples.
  • From drill and scrimmage situations, frequently stop the action to evaluate and explain examples of correct and incorrect execution. Explain why for every example and involve your players in the conversation as much as possible. Your players must know what is correct and what is incorrect and why. They must be able to explain and defend every action they engage in on the court.
  1. BEHAVIORAL TEACHING (Rewards and consequences)
  • Reward positive behavior (good shots and good execution).
    Variable Ratio; tailored to each individual
  • Apply appropriate consequences to negative behavior (bad shots and bad execution).
    Fixed ratio, 1:1
  1. CORRECTION TEACHING:
  • In the mind of a child; “Everything that is not corrected…. is accepted”. Therefore we must correct every thing that is not acceptable and reinforce, recognize, reward or praise every thing that is acceptable. (This is the only way I have found to effectively teach what is and what is not acceptable).
  • “Kids do two things; what you make them do and what you let them do”. So; make them do the right things and don’t let them do the wrong things.
  • The way your team plays in games is a direct reflection of the standards you require in practice; whatever you allow in practice will show up in games.

  1. REPETITION TEACHING:
  • Relentless scoring practice is necessary for scoring proficiency and relentless offensive execution practice is necessary if you want your team to be good at offensive execution.
  • “Practice does not make perfect; “practice” makes permanent. Only “perfect practice” makes perfect.
  • Get good at what you work at by working at it relentlessly and working at it correctly.
  1. REMINDERS AND ACCOUNTABILITY TEACHING:
  • It is essential that every player understands how proper execution of concepts and standards affects success and winning. It is also essential that each player possess an obsessive desire for the team to be successful.
  • Once concepts and standards are established; effective teams create an atmosphere where players respectfully remind, correct and reinforce each other’s execution and hold each other accountable.

OFFENSIVE BASKETBALL AND SHOT SELECTION

Coaches must know their team’s strengths and weaknesses each season then develop offensive systems and a style of play that enables their teams to have a chance to have as much success as they are capable of each season. They need to have offensive strategies and tactics that enable their teams to have success against any kind of full, extended and half court defenses they will encounter.

In my opinion, coaches should teach offensive schemes that put the right players in the right places on the court in order to maximize their team’s offensive and scoring potential. Offensive systems should be easy for players to understand and execute.

All Players must understand their team’s offensive systems and understand the style of play they are being taught. They need to understand that if they execute their offense properly, it will result in their team having a chance to achieve their maximum potential (provided that they play good defense and rebound effectively, of course).

It is in the aforementioned context that offensive basketball and shot selection will most effectively be taught.

PRIORITIES:

  1. Proficient execution against defensive pressure; full, extended and half court pressure and presses.
  1. Proficient execution against any kind of half-court defense.
  1. Develop the mentality that “We finish every offensive possession with points; we score every time we get the ball”, and “We do not commit fouls while we are on offense”. Teams that establish this value system are extremely difficult to beat.
  1. Proper shot selection is essential. Each player must be taught and understand his personal scoring role. The team must know under what circumstances scoring opportunities occur.

All players must know who should shoot, when the shot should be taken and from what spot the shot should come from; EVERY POSSESSION.

  • Players must only be allowed to attempt shots during games they have the ability to convert.
    “If he can’t make that shot it in practice, he doesn’t get to take it in the game”.

Coaches must stress the concepts of:

  • “Right time, right spot, right player”………for every shot.
  • “Take shots the other team can’t fast break on”……this is a critical concept.
  1. Players must understand game situations at all times and adjust their offensive decision making appropriately.
  • Execution of offensive play calls from the bench.
  • How time and score should affect each possession.
  • “Bonus philosophy”; players need to know how many fouls the opposing team has each half and know how to use the bonus while on offense to gain an advantage.
  • Possession discretion; players need to know when to push the ball up the court into early offense and when to pull it back and run their half court possession offense.
  • “Fresh clock” kick outs v. offensive put-backs from offensive rebounds. (sometimes possession of the ball is more valuable than quick points)
  1. Coaches must be able to use their “remote control” from the sideline effectively

Many coaches shy away from delving into teaching and discussing shot selection with their players because it is not easy to teach and it can lead to confusion stimulating comments like “……afraid to shoot”, “got my kid all screwed up”, “doesn’t understand his role”, “he’ll take me out if I take that shot”, etc. However, I believe that studying the topic and learning how to approach the subject is very worthwhile for coaches who really want to learn how improve their coaching and win more games.

Teams that shoot high percentages from the field are normally very successful. Opposing coaches and people in the know frequently say things about them like; “those guys really know what they’re doing”, “they play with great discipline”, “I wish my guys had that kind of shot selection”, “they are fundamentally sound”, “what an unselfish group” and “they never beat themselves”. Make no mistake, it is very challenging for coaches to become good at teaching solid offensive execution and great shot selection, but to me, the rewards make it a tremendously worthwhile endeavor.

© Dave Millhollin 2014

About the author of this article, Coach Dave Millhollin In fourteen years at Ponderosa High School, Coach Dave’s teams won 260 games (.665). From 2000 through 2009 Ponderosa won 207 games over a ten year stretch which included four SVC Conference Championships and two CIF Section final four appearances. Over his 27 year Boys Varsity Coaching career, Coach Dave posted 391 wins, produced 20 college basketball players and was named SVC Coach of the Year four times. At Ponderosa, Coach Dave’s teams were #1 in California in team defense five times and in 2008 Ponderosa was the top defensive team in the Nation among shot clock states. Over Coach Millhollin’s last five seasons (2005-6 through 2009-2010; 136 games) Ponderosa averaged a composite 50% total field goal percentage, 58% two point field goal percentage and 32% three point field goal percentage. Since retiring from High School coaching in 2010, Coach Dave has been actively involved in coaching Jr High level School and AAU teams as well as and running instructional basketball clinics from the primary grades through the College level.

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2 comments for “Coaching Basketball: Teaching Offense and Shot Selection

  1. Rusty Smith
    June 21, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Dave presented many concepts that are right on point. Very solid article.

    • williab83
      June 21, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Rusty!

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