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  • Jack Fleming

Coaching Strategy & Tactics

Every coach (including myself) loves to geek out on coaching tactics — the Brad Stevens game winning SLOB plays with the Boston Celtics, or the Oklahoma City Thunder going big in the 2016 playoffs vs the Golden State Warriors and the list goes on. David Wheadon, Australian Rules Football coaching expert who has worked extensively with AFL clubs and basketball coaches such as Brian Goorjian and Mike Dunlap has an amazing read called The Art of Coaching. Excerpts and thought process have all come from this book.

Are You Trying to Show People How Smart You Are?

Where strategy is the practice, preparation and planning while tactics are the isolated plays and reactive changes in a game . He states that “great coaches tend to be strategy coaches who believe their team can execute their strategy and game plan better than the opposition who can oppose it. They realise that you can defeat good teams with execution, not deception.”

The coach can be a danger to their own team if they continuously try and roll out clever tactics to trick their opponent, it can create an image of insecurity in trusting what your team does well. We must understand that with every system, strategy and plan there are advantages and disadvantages. Wheadon explains that coaches on the extreme ends of the spectrum rarely ever win. The coach who claims they will run fast break on every possession has no chance in the playoffs, the coach who presses all game will eventually be found out by the better teams — these are the extremes.

“There is no perfect game plan, but the most important criterion is that it does not help the team beat itself.” — David Wheadon

Structure Equals Freedom

With your coaching strategy, system and style of play consider the advantages and disadvantages of every single one. It’ll help to challenge your thought process, and bring to understand that the philosophy of “structure = freedom” applies. Individuals can express their flair, creativity within a boundary that is defined by your structure of play. The two extremes of a flawed game plan give players either too much freedom or not enough choice. The team who is too rigid will not be flexible enough to adapt when something is taken away, and the team who is given too many choices will often make none of them. Here I have taken some concepts within game strategy and analysed the positives and negatives.



  • Can create chaos and take structured teams out of their rhythm.

  • If you have great athletes you have a chance of generating easy points.

  • Creates an attack mentality and generates extra possessions.


  • Good teams will eventually pick you apart, high risk and might leak easy points.

  • Level dependent: are you developing good players by pressing the life out of smaller teams?

Highly Rigid Structured Offence


  • Coach dictates what shots we are getting, can get the ball to your best player.

  • Promotes discipline of execution, important in close games.


  • Is the game about you becoming better or your players? Doesn’t promote independent decision makers.

  • Teams will take you out of your offence and challenge your decision making, you haven’t conditioned your players to be ready for that.

Offensive Rebounding — Tagging Up (5 to the Offensive Glass)


  • Generates extra possessions, creates an all in mindset.

  • Very simply to execute, everybody is doing the same thing.


  • Not always effective against stronger bigger teams, has a tradeoff down the other end.

  • An extreme habit, must be drilled in daily.

  • Do you have the athletes for it?

Think It Through

The best game plan is predictable to your team and unpredictable to the opposition. It must fit your personality, coaching philosophy and promote what you believe is best for your players. It also must tie into everything you do at practice. It must give you a chance to be win, have some logic. It must be disciplined enough to deal with when you need to execute, but free enough that it can be adaptable. Without rules there can be chaos, but there must be freedom within those rules because basketball is an imperfect game.

Want to Connect?

If you would like to continue the basketball conversation, provide your thoughts or ideas please message me on Twitter @jackfleming1, comment or e-mail me at

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