Program Progression – Part 6 – Varsity

Our basketball philosophy at White Oak High School can be summarized into one word…PRESSURE! Our overall objective was to play a brand of basketball that separated us from the other teams in our region thus making it extremely difficult to prepare to play our teams. We chose this philosophy because it maximized the strengths that were most common to our players…great effort, discipline, conditioning, fundamentals, intelligence, and coachability. Our system was geared toward taking advantage of these traits because they were traits that could be controlled more so than athleticism. We taught this style of basketball through the “simplicity and execution” coaching philosophy and the “whole-part-whole” teaching method.

Our defensive philosophy was to play a team man-to-man pressure defense which influenced the ball to the corner and put an emphasis on stopping ball reversal. Our objective was to force teams out of their offensive sets by forcing them into 1 on1 situations and by keeping the ball on one side of the court. In extreme cases, we would employ a half court zone defense. Normally, these cases only occurred during seasons when our personnel was limited in the areas that are required to play our pressure man-to-man defense or we believed there was a large discrepancy in the effectiveness of our opponents’ zone offense in relation to their man offense.

Our offensive philosophy was to play at a fast tempo in order to take advantage of our conditioning and effort for the purpose of creating high percentage shots. Our goal was to apply as much pressure offensively as we did defensively. On made and missed shots we would utilize the numbered sideline break in order to minimize the time needed to advance the ball down the court and maximize our opportunities to create high percentage shots. In the half court, we used an adapted version of the flex offense against medium to low pressure man to man defense in order to create screening, cutting, and post up opportunities. We used a version of the dribble drive motion offense against pressure defense in order to take advantage of individual skills and mismatches on the perimeter or in the post. We also incorporated several quick hitters and ball screens against man to man defense. Against zone defenses our philosophy was to beat the zone down the court, utilize odd vs. even and even vs. odd front offenses, and to surround the zone with shooters. We also had a couple of set plays to screen the interior and exterior of the zone. However, our best zone offense was to always have good shooters. Our overall objective offensively is to put up to 5 players on the floor who were 4 dimensional offensive players…post up, dribble drive, mid-range shot, and 3 point shot.

In order for us to experience success at the varsity level, it was crucial for each step within our program progression to execute their part of the plan. If this was the case, we should consistently put teams on the court that are capable of winning district championships and advancing in the state playoffs when our talent level is average or slightly above. In years that our talent level was superior to our norm, we expected to compete with the best teams in our classification for the state championship.

At the varsity level, we would always divide the season into 3 segments. During the non-district portion of our schedule my goals were to develop our leadership, find the right personnel for our team along with them learning their roles, prepare for the district race including seeing how our team would handle adversity. In order to accomplish these goals, I always felt it was necessary to play a competitive non-district schedule. If it was necessary to lose a few games in order to accomplish these goals then I always felt it was worth it. In my mind, if we were not battle tested by the time district rolled around then it was my fault. I believe this philosophy allowed us to play our best once district arrived and our players believed they were battle tested.

During each of our non-district games, I always tried to find similarities to teams in our district so that our teams would constantly be reminded that it was district we were preparing for each night. For example, “This team is going to press us which will help prepare us for Tatum.“ We also rarely prepared for specific teams during non-district practices because I wanted to make it harder on our teams to execute and to see how they would respond in game situations on their own. I always felt like this made us tougher but it obviously made it more difficult to win at times. Also, I would not use time outs as often during non-district games so that our players had to learn to fight through adversity on their own. Many times, I could since our fans getting upset during these teachable moments but I was always looking at the big picture…sometimes growing pains were hard.

By the time we started our district race, I wanted to have developed our depth through playing time in non-district games and have our players settled into their roles. Hopefully, we had faced some adversity which had made us tougher and we were battle tested heading into district play. I think our players were convinced our process worked and they were confident going into district play. We would now prepare specifically for each team using game plans we had already practiced in our non-district games, we would have a written, prepared scouting report for each team, and we would use our JV as the scout team during the team portion of practice. A large part of this philosophy was to make the district schedule seem “easier” as far as being prepared. Consequently, when we approached competitive district games, I would always refer back to our preparation and I believe this gave us confidence.

In years that we had above average talent on our teams, we won many games by lopsided scores especially during district play when we played some teams that we just had more talent than they did. My goal was for our team to always play to a standard regardless of the opponent. It was a mentality….we would play with maximum intensity for 32 minutes, mentally and physically. If teams tried to walk the ball up the court the first half we would extend our man defense to not allow this then play exclusively our half court man defense in the 2nd half along with rotating our 9 or 10 players equally. At times this would meet with criticism from opposing fans or teams but my goal was to always take care of White Oak first. If this offended some, then I would just take the hit. It was my job as the head coach to do what I felt was necessary for us to meet our goals and that’s what I did.

If we were fortunate enough to make the playoffs, I always believed it was important for our team to know that we didn’t have to do anything different. We would prepare the same way and we would play the same way. This never changed…it was always steadfast. I think this was particularly effective on our way to the state title in 2012. White Oak had not been to state since 1957 so that team was carrying the hopes of an entire community on their backs. When we made it to Austin, we faced Idalou who was the #1 ranked team and defending state champions. My biggest fear, once we made it to the state semifinals, was that we would play like a deer in headlights…I’d seen many inexperienced teams do this at the state tournament before. I believe it was at this moment that our process paid off for us. Our team was convinced that we were battle tested, we were prepared, and we just had to play with the same level of intensity and level of execution that we strived to play with every night. Those kids believed and they were tough…and it didn’t hurt that we had the best student section in the state!

In summary, the success that we had was all about the process and throughout the past 6 entries, I have tried to outline for you the White Oak version of the process. As the head coach, I was blessed to have parents, players, coaches, and administrators who trusted our process. I hope you have found something within our program progression that will benefit your program and help you achieve your goals as well.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!

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