Establishing a Foundation: An Offensive Philosophy Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Offensive Philosophy

Great offenses are made up of great players who use their superior skill sets and mentalities unselfishly within the framework of the team. We see great offense game after game when teams like Oklahoma City and San Antonio play each other. Those guys are hard to guard. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to coach that level player. We might get to coach dominant players on our level, but they don’t come around all the time and even they have limitations. This makes it incumbent on coaches to establish a foundation offensively that we can build on using the abilities of our players to create the mentality that we want. If there is no foundation, there’s nothing to build upon. The foundation must be fundamentally sound. The foundation must be robust. The foundation must be straightforward.

I guess we just generated a list of three more questions that need to be answered as we develop an offensive philosophy.

  1. What is a fundamentally sound offense?
  2. What is a robust offensive philosophy?
  3. What is a straightforward offensive philosophy?

I think we’ve talked significantly about fundamentally sound offense. We’ve talked about spacing, ball movement, and player movement. I believe these are fundamental to any offensive philosophy. These three qualities are easily taught and mastered by players. Players can be easily held accountable for those three things. These are three things that can constantly be improved upon. Players can always move the ball and themselves better. I don’t necessarily mean move MORE. In most cases at least, I mean move smarter or move more efficiently. These are skills that can always be improved upon, but I think it is very easy to teach these at a basic level, while at the same time constantly emphasizing to players how to improve in these areas.

So what is an offensive philosophy that is robust?

  1. A robust offensive philosophy works against any defensive tactic.
  2. A robust offensive philosophy works with a variety of players, allowing them to showcase their strengths and mask their weaknesses.
  3. A robust offensive philosophy works at any point in the game.
  4. A robust offensive philosophy gives coaches something to hold players accountable to.
  5. A robust offensive philosophy gives players something they can be confident in.
  6. A robust offensive philosophy provides the best offensive players on a team the opportunity to help their team.
  7. A robust offensive philosophy emphasizes offensive rebounding.

You can change your offense against different defenses but your philosophy shouldn’t change. There should still be a certain mentality that players bring to a possession no matter what the defense is doing. Coaches talk a lot about having a defensive mentality. Contrary to what this blog might make you think, I think defense is more important than offense. However, having an offensive mentality is important to playing good defense. How many times do you see teams come down and fire up a bad shot and then play good defense? Playing good offense can give teams a sense of euphoria and a desire to get a stop. Bad offense often leads to easy transition opportunities or at best a lack of energy on defense. Having a robust offensive philosophy helps teams keep up a more consistent mindset on each possession.

A robust offensive philosophy must allow players to use their strengths and mask their weaknesses. Coaches can ask their players to practice in discomfort but they must allow them to play in comfort. When a coach asks a player to do something in a game that they know they aren’t comfortable doing, it affects that player’s mentality as well as the mentality of their teammates. As coaches we can always throw out the words, “Do it because I said so” but I would like to ask you this. If you’re asking a player who can’t attack well with their left hand to use a ball screen on the right wing to go to the middle, then how is that any different from asking that player to beat Michael Jordan in 1 on 1 and giving him the ball first.  It doesn’t set them up for success . That player knows that’s not their strength; their teammates know it’s not their strength. It affects the outcome no matter what the defense does because it affects the players’ mentality.

A robust offensive philosophy must be work no matter the time and score. Again you can change what you do based on the time and score, but it’s tough to change your philosophy. You can call a different offense but your players must have the same mentality when they approach that possession. It’s going to be tough to have a different philosophy with a different play call. I wouldn’t recommend developing your philosophy from your plays. Develop your plays from your philosophy.

A robust offensive philosophy provides a mechanism for holding players accountable which helps create a confident mentality. We’ve talked a lot about mentality already. I won’t harp on that now except to say that being able to hold players accountable is important to team success. When players know they are doing the right things, it gives them confidence because coach is happy and they can be more freely on the court.

I haven’t talked a lot about scoring, because I think that is more of a factor of the players than the offense. Players make plays.  Good players make good plays.  Great players make great ones. They don’t need a coach to score. They need a coach to make it easier for them to score. A robust offensive philosophy gets the ball to players who can score or create easy scoring opportunities for their teammates in situations where it is easy for them to do so. We’ve already talked about how a defense can take away something if they want to throw enough resources at it. The question is what do they have to give up to take it away and can your offense capitalize. A robust offensive philosophy makes defenses pay for every choice they make.

This last one may be the most important one of them all. A robust offensive philosophy places an emphasis on offensive rebounding. If you’re not coaching in the NBA, you’re probably coaching a team that’s going to miss over half of their shots game after game. How many of those rebounds are you going to get? Your half court offensive philosophy must address how you want your team to rebound offensively. You won’t score many points if you don’t.

Now that your offensive philosophy is fundamentally sound and robust, you must make it straightforward for your players. You can make it as complicated as you want to in the office. You can talk about it for hours and look at different options and pros and cons. However, when you step on the court, it better be like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It better be simple. It better be presented simply. It better be executed simply. Of course there are a lot of different skills and concepts that go into making an offense work. Shooting is a fairly complex skill. Some players make it more complicated than others. That’s even more reason that your offensive philosophy must be simple. Players should be able to tell you in less than 30 seconds how you want them to play on offense. It doesn’t have to be some catchy anagram or “Coach’s Offensive Octagon.” It doesn’t have to be clever. It should be simple, concise and easy for them to understand.

Your offensive philosophy must be fundamentally sound. It must be robust. It must be straightforward. If your offensive philosophy encompasses those three qualities, then your team has a good chance to play lots of quality possessions over the course of a season. By the end of the season, your offense might be complicated but your philosophy will remain the same.

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