Playing basketball, have you ever heard that “It doesn’t matter what offense you run, it’s how you run it that counts?”. Actually, I think it is totally false. It must be “Even though it does matter how you run your offense, what you run it is at least equally as important!”. Regardless of your coaching philosophy and goals, your choice of offense will be absolutely critical to your overall success.
Now I will be the first to admit that championships have been won on various levels by teams running the Flex, Triangle, Shuffle, Hi-Low, 5 Out Motion, Dribble Drive Motion, and undoubtedly dozens of other offenses. BUT, that doesn’t mean that a coach can just reach into a grab bag of offenses, pull one out, run it effectively, and win. Yet, year after year that is essentially what many coaches do, especially at the high school, middle school and club levels.
Even if their selection of an offense is not quite that random, there are always teams in every league and region that are running a particular offense because either their coach ran the same thing when he was in high school or because Duke, Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, or another big name program runs it.
Before mentioning some things that you might want to consider when choosing an offense, let’s look at the real purpose of running an offense in the first place. Simply stated, running an offense should accomplish two things: 1.) Put your opponent at a defensive disadvantage so they end up fouling and sending your team to the free throw line and 2.) Generate open, makeable shots for your three best scorers.
With that in mind, here are five things to ask yourself when choosing an offense:
1. What is my #1 coaching priority and/or the coaching priority of my school? (Win games, develop players or a combination of both?)
2. What is the physical makeup and skill set level of my team and especially of my three best players? (Big, small, quick, slow, shooters, posts, slashers, drivers, etc).
3. What is the experience and basketball I.Q. of my team in general and especially of my three best players?
4. How does the physical makeup, skill level, experience, and basketball I.Q of my team compare to teams on my schedule? (We might be smaller or slower than in years past but still bigger or quicker than teams on our schedule.)
5. Where do my three best players shoot/score from most effectively? (Hubie Brown says that even NBA players will shoot better from one side of the floor than from the other and better from certain spots than others.)
6. Considering my staff and my available resources, what can I effectively teach?
Once you have the answers to those questions you can start weighing some of the many offensive options that are available. When looking at all the various offenses remember that college coaches generally recruit players who will fit into their already established system of play and so they may not have the same personnel limitations that you are facing. It might be more advantageous to seek out successful programs at your same level and see what they are running before making any definite decisions.
Regardless of which offense you decide to install it is absolutely imperative that you make the commitment to become an expert in that offense. You can’t effectively teach what you don’t know and understand yourself. Instructional DVDs, books, clinics, and articles are the most common methods of learning but don’t underestimate the value of getting out on the floor with your team and running through the offense yourself. I guarantee that actually running the offense yourself will help you discover insights to whatever offense you choose that you won’t be able to find any where else.
Finally, it’s important to know that all of today’s great and most popular offenses are basically “tweeked” versions of similar offenses that have been used for years. If something doesn’t fit your team’s personnel then change it! Carroll Williams did and came up with the Flex. Bobby Knight did and came up with Motion. Tex Winter did and came up with the Triangle. Vance Wahlberg did and his offense evolved into the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. Don’t be afraid to be creative – who knows what you might come up with!!
Dave Stricklin is a veteran basketball coach and writer for HoopSkills.com. Visit the website for more of his expert basketball instruction.