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Basketball, Coaching

Tom Izzo on Leadership on the Court

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo is known for his winning ways on the court, but his career has been about more than winning basketball games. The statistics are impressive, with Izzo taking home one national title and eight Big Ten Championships. Appearing in the NCAA Final Four on ten occasions will get a coach, and their program, noticed. 

However, the ability to connect with his players and maintain his integrity are among the most impressive traits of Coach Izzo.

Several key phrases help fans and fellow coaches understand the leadership style of Coach Tom Izzo. The most important phrase for the Spartans coaches is honesty and integrity. The openness to be real with his players sets Izzo apart in a sport where coaches and parents tell players what they want to hear instead of what they need to know. Tom Izzo is brutally honest with his players, according to his fellow coaches. 

Maintaining his integrity has become key to his success as a leader throughout Michigan. Along with turning down the advances of LeBron James to join the NBA, Izzo has worked to raise awareness about the water issues in Flint.

Talent is critical in the world of basketball, with college players hoping for a speedy move to the NBA. Coach Izzo provides a different view of college life and the draw of the NBA. The Spartans coach explains that playing in the NBA is different from maintaining an NBA career. 

Izzo’s most famous alumni is Draymond Green, who remained with the Spartans for four years despite constant calls from the NBA. Green is one of the players who benefitted from Izzo’s love of players from different sports with a willingness to adapt to several positions.

Within the Michigan State Spartans program, it is well known that the team comes above all else. For Tom Izzo, the team should be the most important aspect of the basketball program in a sport where individual stars have become the norm. Izzo understands his program does not attract the top individual superstars of high school basketball, who tend to move to Duke and North Carolina. 

What Izzo offers is the chance to learn and develop as a player and a person. His open-door policy continues after players move onto the NBA or a career of their choice.       


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Basketball

How to Slow Down a Pressure Defense

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.org

Applying a pressure defense is a common strategy among basketball teams around the country, which is designed to disrupt the rhythm of the opposing offense, speeding them up and forcing mistakes. This can come in the form of zone press, full-court press, man press, or simply consistent trapping throughout the game. Regardless of the type of defensive pressure that you are facing, having a gameplan to counteract that is essential.

Force Their Hand

A common strategy used by teams attempting to slow down a pressure defense is by taking as many timeouts as possible and stopping play. While this can be effective in crunch time situations, it is not always necessary.

To take advantage of their quickened defensive schemes, design plays that are just as fast as theirs. Charge the basket and create easy finishes. This puts them on their toes when done effectively, and displays confidence on the offensive side of the ball, disrupting their rhythm and turning the tables.

Ball Strength

A high-pressure defense is one that is going to be reaching for the ball as frequently as they can without drawing fouls. Poking and swatting a limply-held ball will almost always result in turnovers. Ensure players are holding the ball with strength, and with both hands.

Simultaneously, players should be in a position of strength, squaring up their defenders immediately upon catching a pass. Otherwise, the defender will get in the face of the player with the ball, taking up as much space as they can and forcing the ball handler to pivot backwards. Being in an advantageous position (with at least a foot between the ball and the defender) will allow players to pivot and dribble, shoot, or pass.

Fake Passes

Defenders in this scheme are almost always going to be looking to jump passes and disrupt passing lanes in general. For that reason, simply faking passes is going to be an effective move in throwing the defense off. However, the fake must be convincing.

Any skilled basketball player can sniff out a fake pass if it isn’t well hidden, as they typically read the eyes of the ball handler. For a truly deceptive fake, square your shoulders towards one player and extend your arms. As soon as the defender jumps, quickly fire the pass over to an open teammate.

Hard Cuts

Getting open against a pressure defense will not be a simple task. Jogging around the paint to try to find an open spot will do no good. Get away from your defender by making hard cuts. Much like route running in football, a fast cut in the opposite direction will create space for a short period of time. The cleaner and better these cuts are, the more the defense will worry about individual players rather than the ball, thus creating offensive opportunities.

Basketball

The Most Shocking NBA Trades in the Last 10 Years

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.net

Trades in the NBA happen frequently, but some stand out more than others. Here are some of the most shocking trades in the NBA in the last 10 years.

  1. Oklahoma City trades James Harden to Houston for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, 2013 1st rounder, 2013 2nd rounder, and 2014 1st rounder

In 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder were poised for great things. They had lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals the year prior, but they had a young, talented nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. As the sixth man, James Harden provided valuable scoring and playmaking off the bench.

Unfortunately, the prospect of having to pay an expensive luxury tax to resign Harden to a max deal proved to be too daunting. Since then, Harden has become a perennial all star and MVP in the league. To this day, one of the biggest “what-if’s” in NBA history is if the talented trio all stayed.

  1. Boston Celtics trade Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, D.J. White, and a 2017 2nd-rounder to the Brooklyn Nets for Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, a 2014 1st-rounder, a 2016 1st-rounder, a 2018 1st-rounder, and rights to swap picks in 2015 and 2017

Some call this the worst trade in NBA history, and with good reason. The Nets wanted a shot to knock off LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat, and they wanted to do it at all costs; even if it meant mortgaging their future. They got two Hall of Famers in Pierce and Garnett, but the problem was that they were 36 and 37 respectively.

The players Boston received in the trade don’t matter. What matters is who they drafted with the picks they got. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum look to have high NBA ceilings, and another pick they got convinced Cleveland to trade star point guard Kyrie Irving to them, leading us into our next talking point…

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving to Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a 2018 1st-rounder

The timing of the trade was shocking, as Kyrie Irving’s apparent disinterest and frustration with playing in Cleveland and with LeBron James came to a head when he requested to be traded. Cleveland has sorely missed Kyrie’s shotmaking ability since then, and the Celtics have seemingly become a playoff team overnight. Irving, combined with young starts Brown and Tatum, make for serious threat in the league.

Basketball

The Benefits of Offensive Rebounding

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.org

Offensive rebounds, no matter the level of basketball, can win or lose games for your team. Not only does an offensive rebound create a new opportunity to score, but rebounding your own miss can change the momentum of a game.

Take the NBA for instance. A team can play hard defense for 24 seconds, force a poor shot, and do everything right to take control of the ball and score on the other end. When that ball comes off the rim and lands in the hands of an offensive player, the shot clock starts over and all of that hard work will have been for nothing. This is especially true at the end of a close game when possessions mean everything.offensive-rebounding-768x768

Current coaching strategies teach offensive players to get back on defense rather than crashing the boards when a shot goes up. The idea is that it is more important to get back on defense and stop the other team than to go for a rebound. This stems from the fact, especially in the NBA, that teams generally shoot around 42% from the floor, so there are not that many opportunities to start with. On top of that, a good defender keeps himself between the player he is guarding and the basket so that the defender should always be in a better position to grab a board.

While that makes sense logically, if you have ever played basketball at a high level, then you know momentum and hustle can play a huge role in the outcome of a game. The emotion built when a player outfights another guy for a rebound and the way it can shift the momentum of a game at any moment is difficult to quantify, but easy to see when it happens. Most teams will send in one or two players to crash the boards while sending the rest to get back on defense.

In high school basketball and lower, this, however, would be a mistake. In the NBA, you can count on guys being where they are supposed to be and rebounding when they are supposed to rebound. Other than a few special players, there have not been a lot of offensive rebounding specialists throughout the years because it is quite difficult at the professional level.

In college ball and below, that is not often the case. There tend to be more misses leading to more opportunities or more people in different or unique positions. If you are a college or high school basketball coach… crash the boards! It can change the outcome of a game very easily.

Coaching

Creating Positive Coaching Habits

Originally published on SeanLeBeauf.org

Above and beyond all the other skills that a coach needs to have, leadership skills may be the most important. Ultimately, your team or your athletes are not going to do what you tell them to do, they are going to do what they see you doing.

Being a coach requires leading the same type of disciplined lifestyle that you expect from your players. A disciplined lifestyle means making certain behaviors so habitual that you are incapable of doing anything else. Here are three steps to turning good practices into habits.

  1. Set your goals

Chances are you expect your players to be constantly improving. This means that you need to be in the habit of constantly improving yourself, which means always having a goal or set of goals you are striving toward. Once you achieve them, be sure to set new goals. No one is perfect in every area facet of life, so finding new goals to achieve shouldn’t come as too much of a challenge.

  1. Create triggers

One great way to turn something into an almost natural instinct is to create certain “triggers” that cause you to do something automatically. One great way to do this is to set an alarm on a smartwatch. If you force yourself to do something every time you hear the alarm, eventually, your body will begin to prepare itself before the alarm ever goes off.

Over time, it will become difficult to not do that activity every time you hear the alarm. Some other triggers might be laying out your gym clothes so they are the first thing you see every morning, for example. Eventually, just the sight of these clothes will put you into “workout mode.”

  1. Make it a habit

Most goals are not achieved quickly, yet too often people quit when they take too long. This is not the example you want to set for your players. One of the first things you will need to do is simply make a habit out of the activity you are striving to improve. For instance, if you want to work out every morning but find it difficult to get up and go to the gym, push yourself and silence those lethargic thoughts. The first step is to make just going to the gym a habit, and from there, you can expand into actually getting a good workout.

These positive habits carry over into your coaching career, and thus positively affect your players. Younger athletes will see the healthy habits you have created for yourself over time and strive to do the same. Work with them directly to teach them how to follow the aforementioned steps and create positive routines of their own.