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Basketball Offense - Delay ("4-Corners") Offense -- "Butter"

By James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @ http://www.coachesclipboard.net

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This offensive half-court set is used when we want to run the clock and take time off the clock, or when we want to go for a last shot, or when we want to go for only a good, high percentage shot.

Also, if you have the lead and the opponent changes to zone defense, this can also be a counter strategy to get the zone defense to come out and play man-to-man. You can hold the ball until they come out of their zone.

For those of you who run the Flex offense, you might prefer to run the "High-Flex Delay Offense" as your delay offense.

See the diagram. We use a basic "4-corner" setup with O2, O4, O3 and O5 on the corners, and the point guard O1 is free to dribble, move around and cut inside the four corners.

The point guard, or "chaser", O1 can dribble-penetrate the middle of the box, but as he/she picks up a defender, or the double team comes, should quickly dish the ball off to one of the four corner players. The corner player can just hold the ball until challenged by a defender, or pass to another corner player, or back to the point guard. All passes must be crisp and accurate and high percentage. Do not throw across court into traffic, where it could be intercepted and taken for the game-winning lay-up on the other end.

4-corners delay offense

When you pass, fake a pass one way, and pass another. You can look the defender off to open the passing lane. If you are in trouble with a double-team, or can't find someone to pass to, call a time-out (but you must know if you have any time-outs left, otherwise it's a technical foul on you). If O2, O4, O3 and O5 are being guarded closely and being denied the ball, O2 and O4 can screen and replace each other, and so can O3 and O5.

Here's a tip that works sometimes for an easy lay-up. The point guard dribble-penetrates the middle to the circle, but then pops back out with a pass to a corner. He/she gets the ball back and does this a couple more times. Now the defense is expecting this pass back out the next time, so they over-play for the pass... but this time the point guard makes the hesitation move and then the quick drive to the hoop for the easy lay-up. But it doesn't always work out like this, so if the defender challenges the point guard's lay-up, O1 should just dribble it back out or get it out to a corner... remember, only uncontested, easy lay-ups.

Rules of the 4-Corners Delay Offense

A. "Chaser" (point-guard O1) rules

B. Rules for the wings (O2 and O3).

C. Rules for the posts (O4 and O5).


4-corner delay offense, rules

Situation 1, we have a small lead with only a minute to go in the game.

In this situation the only acceptable shots that are permitted are the uncontested lay-up and free-throws. At this point in the game, the concept that is very important for everyone to understand is (to quote the late Coach Al McGuire of Marquette): "The clock is your enemy!". We have the lead and don't need any more points or shots. We just have to keep the ball out of the hands of the opponent so they can't score, as we run time off the clock. So then, you ask, why even shoot the uncontested lay-up, because we could miss it and the opponent could get another possession. Here's my thinking. I would shoot the uncontested lay-up because it's a 90 percent shot, and it can put the "last nail in the coffin" for the opponent. Just trying to run "butter" and taking time off the clock is not always a guarantee that we won't make a turnover, or that the defense won't steal the ball. Also, they will foul us, and I would rather have an uncontested lay-up than a 1-and-1, high-pressure free throw. It's all how you play the odds, and the uncontested lay-up is a good bet. Coaches, this is the time to have your best ball-handlers and best free-throw shooters in the game.

Situation 2, we are going for the last shot of a quarter.

You can also use "Butter" to stall the clock for the last shot of a quarter. When the coach yells "Go" (usually about 10 seconds left), then the corners move in and you start working to get a good shot off. If the shot is taken with about 4-5 seconds left in the period, it may give you time for a quick rebound and a second shot, but not enough time for the opponent to take it all the way down and get a shot. But don't foul going for the rebound, especially if the free-throw bonus is on. A common error that I see many teams make, even college and professional teams, is that they wait too long to get "into the offense" and end up taking a bad, wild long-outside shot, or no shot at all. You should be moving in and looking to score at about the 10 second mark, with the shot going up at about 4 seconds. Even if you score a little "early", you should be able to play good defense for 5 seconds!

Situation 3, "soft butter"… it’s near the end of the game but we’re not quite ready to go into a full delay.

We may be up by 8 points with 5 or 6 minutes left in the game. We do not want to go into a full delay and lose sight of continuing to score. But we would like to be patient and run some time off the clock. We may go into what we amusingly call our "soft butter" offense using the 4-corners offense, but still looking for a good, high-percentage shot, or a chance to go to the free-throw line. The defense may think we are in a full-delay, and when they least expect it, we will attack the basket for a lay-up. If the quick lay-up is there, we'll take it. This is also a good strategy when we have the lead, and the defense is sitting back in a 2-3 zone preventing our inside game and guard penetration. Bringing the ball out in this 4-corners offense will force the defense to come out of their zone and play man-to-man, now opening up the middle for our inside game. If you are dealing with a shot-clock however, you can only run this offense for a little while.

Also see the "High-Flex Delay Offense"... for those of you who run the Flex offense, you might prefer just to run the High-Flex as your delay offense.


Here's a helpful DVD and a book from the master himself, legendary coach Dean Smith.

Dean Smith: T-Game Zone Offense & Four Corners Delay Game
Dean Smith: T-Game Zone Offense & Four Corners Delay Game (format - DVD)
with Dean Smith, legendary University of North Carolina head coach; 879 career wins; 2X NCAA Championship Coach; 4X National Coach of the Year; Basketball Hall of Fame ('83)
Dean Smith unveils two potent offenses that he used to guide his teams to over 800 victories and two NCAA Championships - the T-Game Zone Offense and the Four Corners Delay Game. The popular T is effective against man-to-man and zone defenses. The T-Game places players strategically on the floor to exploit the defense. Three guards work as a unit on the perimeter as the posts collaborate inside the paint and in short corners. Ball and player movement, posts dives and skip passes are all weapons against the zone. Game clips, white board diagrams and on the floor demonstration help Coach Smith dissect the details of the T-game. To preserve leads late in the game, Smith invented the Four Corners delay game. Used 107 times in his career, the Heels won 105 of these games due to its effectiveness. Five benefits of the four corners make it difficult for defenses to gain an advantage... (more info)

Price: $39.99
Buy Now from the Coach's Clipboard Basketball DVD -  Video Store!



Basketball: Multiple Offense and Defense by Dean Smith. (format - Book)
An excellent book with sections on the free-lance passing offense, 1-4 offense, "T-game", basic cut-movement game, 4-corners offense, fast break offense, press-breakers, special situations and the shuffle offense. Defenses include pressure man defense, the run and jump defense, the "40"and the "50" defenses.

Buy Now from Amazon.com!