Basketball Coaching - How to Plan for a New Season

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

"Failure to prepare is preparing to fail." - John Wooden

Coaches should have broad overall season plan. There are things you need to consider before the season starts. What offense should you use? What defense? Are you a man-to-man pressure team, or a zone team, or packline? Do you have speed, quickness and a deep bench? If so, play uptempo, press, and fast-break. If not, slow things down. You'll need a press offense to attack presses. You'll need a few quick-hitter plays, and a few baseline and sideline out-of-bounds plays, and maybe a last second desperation play.

Selecting practice drills depends on what you will be trying to accomplish with the above. On the Coach's Clipboard website and members section, there is a ton of stuff! But don't get caught up in all of that. Keep things simple and just select things that will help your team, and then get good at those things! Use Coach's Clipboard as a reference when you need to add something new. See: How to use this basketball playbook

The articles linked below will help and guide you.

Tom Izzo
Coach Tom Izzo

1. Choose an offense(s)

You'll need a man-to-man offense... motion, dribble-drive, read and react, ball-screen, triangle, flex, horns, hawk, shuffle, blocker-mover, Michigan-style, UCLA, Princeton, Swing... lots to consider and to choose from. Pick one and get good at it. Choose an offense that fits your team personnel and will get your best players good shots.

You'll also need a zone offense (or two), especially for attacking the 2-3 zone (the most common zone you will see). Over the years, our high school teams have used two zone offenses... "zone-23" (for attacking the 2-3 zone) and our "Runner" offense (for attacking 1-3-1, 1-2-2, and 3-2 zones). I like attacking the middle of zone outlined in "Key Elements/Principles in Attacking the 2-3 Zone Defense". Sometimes these zone offenses also work against man-to-man defense and the packline defense.

Youth coaches should keep it very simple. A man-to-man offense might be a simple 1-3-1 offense that will work against man-to-man and zone. You might try this simple 2-3 zone offense.

2. Select a defense(s)

Do you like a pressure man-to-man defense (Dick Bennett style) or a zone defense (Jim Boeheim style)? The packline defense is great for stopping dribble-penetration, clogging the paint, and forcing outside shots. Also I would consider Bob Kloppenburg's SOS pressure defense system. Matchup zone... maybe, if you have smart players.

Youth coaches... teach man-to-man defense and principles, so they will be good at it when they reach high school. You can win games with a 2-3 zone, but what is the goal of youth sports?

3. Are you going to press?

If your team is a quick, deep pressing team, select a press defense. Over the years, we have effectively used the matchup press defense, but it takes awhile to learn. A zone press or simple full-court man-to-man defense, or a half-court trap ("Viking press") might work well for your team.

Youth coaches, if you press, just consider a simple full-court man-to-man press which extends half-court man-to-man principles to the full-court.

4. You'll need a press offense

Have a plan for attacking presses. There are a number of good press attacks on this page. We have used the "80-60-40" system for attacking pretty much anything we see. I also like the 3-Up Press Breaker. Our high school varsity teams have always used a secondary break to get the ball up the floor quickly.

5. Select plays

After you have installed your half-court and full-court offenses and defenses, put in a few plays. But save a couple good plays for the post-seaon. Select plays that get your best scorers good shots. Pick a few man-to-man plays, and a couple zone plays.

You'll also need a couple baseline man-to-man out-of-bounds plays, and a play or two for attacking the 2-3 zone on the inbounds. Also put in a sideline play or two, and maybe a "buzzer-beater".

6. Use the right drills

There are many drills listed on this page that drill not only individual player fundamentals, but also team concepts for offense, defense, pressing, transition, etc.

Also see: Basketball Coaches Preseason Checklist: A Quick Guide to Preparing for the Season