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March 28: Court Vision: The Trained Eyes of a Head Coach (Part 2)

If you haven’t read Court Vision: The Trained Eyes of a Head Coach (Part 1), make sure you jump over and read it first!

Below is my mental checklist I go through on the defensive end of the floor:


  1. As soon as the offense starting setting up (either in the half-court or out-of-bounds) my brain starts filing through hundreds of plays and actions that I have seen in the past or through scouting to try to alert my players to what might be coming.
  2. I am also listening and watching for play calls.. If I know a play call or hear/see a play call ran earlier in the game I will alert my players to be ready for what is coming.
  3. As the play develops, with the ball in corner or my eye(s) I start focusing on the rest of the floor:
    • Is our help side in the correct position(s)?
      • If the ball is on the wing, we need to make sure any ball side defenders have their Hand on the Rope. The rest of the defense (guarding players on the weak side) needs to be On the White Line.
    • Is the offense moving any of their players into positions to take advantage of our defensive alignments?
      • Is our help side in the correct position to counter these moves?
  4. Pick & Roll Situations
    • As the defense sets the pick, not only should the defender be in position to (Level / Show/ 1/2 Blitz / Blitz) but the other 3 defenders need to have eyes up and alert, forming a triangle  and communicating to each other. As a coach I make sure the next two most obvious pass outs are covered as well as the rim. The only pass we want to give up is a skip pass (Which should be prevented by high hands in the trap).
    • Even if you have an unselfish team full of communicators who talk loudly throughout all of your possessions, a coaches voice is always helpful. If I see a pick about to happen or a play setting up that may result in a pick, I alert my players as early as possible to not only assist with the (Level / Show/ 1/2 Blitz / Blitz) but also to ensure the other three defenders know a pick & roll is taking place.
  5. Press Defense
    • As our two trappers start to engage the ball, I take my eyes away from the ball and 1st check to make sure the interceptor is in place to take any horizontal/back passes away as that is usually where the trap is coming from. Next I look to make sure the sideline pass is taken away and then to make sure we cover the middle of the floor or any players cutting to open gaps (Players in middle should have head on a swivel constantly looking for cutters). The last piece of the press is ensuring our back defender is covering the rim. (All of this happens in about 1 second)
      • Rotations will depend on the type of press we are running, but these five positions are the most common that occur during the majority of our pressing situations.
  6. Post Defense
    • I typically prefer to have my players 1/2 the post with a hand in the passing lane to prevent any easy post feeds. This prevents an easy seal over the top and our players do not get buried behind a strong post player.
    • In the event we do 3/4 or full front and the ball is fed, it is essential that our help is on the white line to take away any easy lob passes.
  7. When the shot goes up I rarely watch the ball (The crowd will tell you what happened). Instead focus on watching your players to see if all five players block out and crash the boards.

As I think back to my time at the University of Florida, I have to imagine I am one of the most fortunate manager/graduate assistants to ever come out of a Division 1 program; I was able to learn from 6 current Division 1 head coaches. I am forever grateful to them and the numerous other assistants who helped teach and mentor me into the coach that I am today. As always, if you have any questions about anything I have written about please do not hesitate to shoot me an email or comment below.


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about rick torbett

Rick Torbett has taught thousands of coaches to win more games through his innovative approach to the game. He has created powerful training for coaches at any level so they can coach their best and win more games.

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