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Coaching the Read & React

One of the defenses that Read & React coaches sometimes struggle against is a sagging man to man. And, it makes sense. If you don't have shooters, a defense can interfere with all the cutting and penetration of the Read & React by playing off and protecting the paint. But, as I'm sure you've already guessed, there are solutions. These came from coaches like you in the forum and have been used in real games in real situations. Thanks to Mat11, Rob K, rpt, Rick, and rgriffin921 for the ideas. Pin & Skip: A Pin & Skip sends a message to the defense, "if you want to sag, then you will have to navigate a screening situation. Help and sag if you want, but your defensive life will be much more difficult". But, you don't have to shoot on the skip pass. You don't even have to score on that action. It's designed to move the defense out of their comfortable little box and hopefully open up some seams that can be exploited by other actions. A skip pass recipient can drive immediately against the close out, feed the post and make one of four post cuts, make a perimeter pass and cut, Power Dribble, Reverse Dribble, or Skip the pass back across if another Pin Screen has been set. Try the Pin & Skip, force the defense to navigate screens, and look to score with the next action. Of course, if you have the shooters, knocking down the 3 is the simplest option.

Let me tell you something that you already know: each one of your players is different. Each has a unique set of skills, a unique capacity for learning, a unique hype number, and of course, a unique personality. But, are you treating them that way? Please read as deeply into that question as possible, but for the purposes of this blog, I'm going to focus on what that means for you as a Read & React coach. Players can be taught layers according to their own abilities. That means you can have some players using Layers 1-6, some using 1-10, and some using 1-20 (or even, 1-6, 10, 14, and 15). As long as the foundation layers have been covered, those with fewer layers will not hinder the impact of those with more. Let's put this in a practical perspective. There are two types of Post Slides: Basic (layer 5) and Advanced (layer 16). There are also two ways to fill out after a player has cut: simply fill out (layer 1) or backscreen out (layer 10). You can train one post player to only react with a Basic Post Slide and train another to react with the Advanced Post Slide based on their skill, ability, understanding, etc. (That's your job to figure out.) And, the same is true with filling out and backscreening. Maybe a handful of players can't (or won't backscreen) - that's ok.

Watching the men’s Final Four and more specifically, the championship game, reminded me of one of the reasons I created the Read & React. It has nothing to do with the implementation of the offense; rather, it is how to use the Read & React during a game. Let me begin by saying that I’m not a college coach and I have no NCAA championship rings. I’m just a student of the game. When I watch games on any level, I’m always looking for something that I can learn and pass on to you - asking myself, “What would I do in this situation? Would I do anything different?” And of course, I’m always viewing it through the eyes of the Read & React. With that being said, here’s what I want the Tribe to consider: “The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” Imagine the following scenario. In your preparation for your opponent, you’ve chose to emphasize a particular action - the high ball screen, for example. But, once you get in the game, it is clear that your opponent can defend that screening action perfectly. In fact, they are defending it so well that you are getting almost nothing from it and the shots that you do get aren’t the ones you want (and even those are going in). What do you do?

In yesterday's post, we mentioned the simplicity of the Escape Hatch for a dribble penetrator who can't make it all the way to the rim or just doesn't like what he sees. Today, let's take it one step further. What if that ball handler (1 in this case) drove right, bounced off to the Escape Hatch, then immediately crossed over and attacked again - this time to the left? What would that do to the defense? Let's take a look at it. Bounce Off Escape Attack Frame 1
With 1 driving right, every other offensive player Circle Moves to the right. This forces every defensive player to rotate as well. Most likely, x2 has helped on the drive and now must recover to his man in the corner.

We get a lot of questions about zones. For coaches that have been used to running separate man and zone offenses, it is sometimes difficult to make the mental transition that the Read & React Offense can be used for both. Sure, there are certain layers that work better against zones and there are a few tweaks that will help a great deal. Let's examine one of those tweaks - the Hook & Look as it dovetails into Pass & Cut. Against a zone, adjust your Pass & Cut layer like this: when you pass (instead of cutting in a straight line to the basket), you should hook into a seam of the zone and stay in that seam for one pass before filling out. Holding for one pass is important: often the zone may maintain good defensive position on your initial cut, but lose track of you when an extra pass makes them shift. In the following clips, you'll see how a 13U Travel Team from South Windsor, CT uses this simple tweak to attack zones, many times getting lay-ups. Yes, lay-ups against a zone are possible.

I was recently at a Shorter University women's game watching them dismantle their opponent. This is their first year with the offense, but I noticed one action (or sequence of actions) that they went back to time and again with success.

And, I think you might be able to find a place for it - especially if you do anything in the 4 OUT. 4 OUT Weak-Side Lob Frame 1
Here's the whole concept in one frame. 4 (who was their best offensive player) has the ball and the post is on the weak-side. 4 passes to 1, then basket cuts. Instead of trying to hit the cutter right away, 1 lobs over the top into the shaded area.


I'm not exaggerating when I say that this was good for a lay-up two or three times (at the college level, no less) and when it wasn't, their best player still caught the pass cleanly and then got to work her skills on the low block. Not once did this pass get tipped or thrown out of bounce (of course, your mileage may very on that one, I guess).