I held a private all-day Princeton Offense clinic this past week at Muskingum, where I coached and taught for forty-plus years and where I introduced and ran the Princeton.
Mike Tartara, who played for me, brought his team from Cuyahoga Heights High School to work on various facets of this offense. His freshman and eighth grade coaches also attended, as did Muskingum’s head and assistant men’s basketball coaches, Travis Schwab and Joe Puch. All in all, there were 5 college and school coaches and 11 players, who ranged from entering freshmen to entering seniors. It was a joy to work with this array of experience and perspectives!
We spent the first two hours in the classroom. (Amazingly, the players were attentive throughout the session, even though they’d just stepped off a 2-1/2 hour bus ride!)
The Princeton Offense and #UnrequiredWork
Unrequired work was my starting – and ending – point. If you asked anyone there for a takeaway from the day, you’d get one answer: #UnrequiredWork!
We discussed in detail what unrequired work looks like, ranging from LeBron James and Kobe Bryant’s work habits to those of Matt Weir, captain of my local high school’s first-ever state championship team and who will play for the Air Force Academy.
Once everyone was clear on the prerequisite, I continued with the Princeton. (The whiteboard is my friend!) We talked about:
- The need to need to pass, dribble and shoot on the move under pressure for the entire game;
- Standing judiciously and cutting credibly;
- Squeezing and reading when you cut back door and come to the basket;
- The angle and position of the back door pass;
- How the Princeton is more of a cutting offense than a screening offense.
The players started to become more aware and read the various ways defense can play you. For example,
Question: What do you do when you’re overplayed?
Answer: Go in toward the ball (to shorten the passing lane) and a little higher (to open space for the pass). This is the basis of squeeze and read.
Without over-complicating the process, I cut the talk off and took the players to the floor to apply theory into practice. Before I describe our floor work, I want to share 2 important tips for coaches:
2 Tips for Coaches to Be Successful Teachers
1. Whenever you apply theory into practice, you must take into consideration the experience level of the players! For example, the freshmen were often a little confused and lost during our floor work. This is normal and brings me to my second tip.
2. You must put players in a position to succeed and at the same time you must challenge them to learn more and, also at the same time, make sure they aren’t too hard on themselves about what they don’t yet know.
We spent another two hours on the floor. We made credible cuts – stood judiciously – made precise back door passes – were ready to shoot threes over and over while finishing at the basket with proper ball pick up. We were always squeezing toward defense and reading the next defender.
Repeat, repeat, repeat! Proper preparation makes all the difference!
The Coach and Required Work
I teach coaches and my clinic was as much for the coaches as for the players. Here are tips and required work for coaches. Basketball fundamentals are important and essential, but they aren’t sufficient. 3 conditions stand out for success in teaching and the coach must understand and live them. It’s required.
- Be Kind. You need to work hard and make it fun.
- Be Generous. Give love and time to your players.
- Be Patient. Don’t react in constant complaining; don’t act in a forcing and pushy manner.
Whether dealing with parents, friends, children, officials, your boss or your players, kindness is paramount. The coach must understand poor calls by officials, unhappy parents and administrators who want you to develop great kids but succumb to the pressure of needing to win.
This type of understanding is a tall order indeed. But a smile, a handshake, an extension of kindness, especially during difficult situations, is a must if you are going to stay in coaching. It is easier to trust someone who acts like he cares about you and your child if he generously shows kindness in tough situations.
Be generous with your ability to love your players. Be generous with the time you are willing to give them. Mike Tartara took a day away from his beautiful wife and four great kids to come to Muskieville.
The players don’t have to be told but they must see that the coach is generous with his love and time!
At the end of the day I reminded everyone that the time we spent together, six to eight hours, is nothing without the players spending unrequired time on their game.
I challenged the players to put time in for them to do on their own.
I also challenged Mike to spend more time on the Princeton but never lose sight of his wife and the four delights!
Be generous. Give til it helps!
Teaching, coaching, parenting and being an administrator are all very difficult. Expect tough times, expect things to go astray, expect confrontation and criticism, and have the patience to react in a way that everyone involved would be proud.
One act of impatience is contagious! How quickly might this scenario happen?
One of your players is frustrated by an official’s call; then he is bumped by an opponent and reacts by pushing back. The official sees only the most recent shove, calls a foul and tosses your player.
You react to the call and then yell at your player. You have now lost your patience. Your player’s dad comes down out of the stands and screams at you for not getting on the official more. He too has lost his patience; he screams and threatens the coach. Now one of your assistants intervenes and the two scuffle. The police are called and both the assistant and the parent are ejected.
Wow! One player, then one coach, lose patience and all hell breaks loose! That’s all it takes. And you, the coach, must not let this happen.
Coaching is more about patience than it is about dribbling, passing and shooting … although I admit I have often lost patience with poor execution of fundamentals.
Patience prevents problems.
Unrequired work on the part of the players plus required work on the part of the coach including kindness, generosity and patience regarding the players and the parents will help everybody get better.
Together we can win!
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Photos: © Jennifer Lyle – slide from my Princeton Offense webinar (top); video stills from Princeton clinic