I asked Coach Romeo of Masconomet what the most important thing he teaches on defense and his initial reply was one word: Team. Every player has different skills. Some players have superior quickness and others might be tremendous shot blockers. Then there are those players that possess neither of those things, but they can still be great in executing the scheme. He elaborated on some other defensive techniques and signs of good overall effort from players.
Forcing Ball Handler to Use Weak Hand
As part of that scheme, Coach Romeo highlighted matchups based on scouting reports. In general, Masco knew ahead of time what players on their team fit based against the opposition. Another generality as part of that scheme was that every player should be forced to use their weak hand. His teams stay away from forcing baseline or forcing middle and instead focus on weak hand with several considerations.
First, even if the opposition is using the weak hand try to deny them the paint. Second, even if a player is under good pressure going to their strong hand they can still score. They can make off-balance bad shots going to their strong hand. It is much more difficult doing this with the weak hand. Third, in the event that players score with the weak hand the coaches are accountable. They will not be upset with players – especially when that player was especially strong with one hand according to the scouting report. Fourth, there are players that can use both hands with effectiveness. Typically, that can be a team’s best player. They still want to push this player to their weak hand and help needs to be ready. Fifth, when you press and force a player to their weak hand they are much less likely to see the floor. That could invite opportunities to double and have the other three players rotate aggressively.
For more on advantages and technique of forcing an offense to their weak hand, see what John Fortunato had to say about the idea.
One take that Coach Romeo had which I think is worth repeating is the mentality of a defender who makes a mistake. Typically players that miss an uncontested shot or a lay-up will display some type of visible emotion. Yet, when the same player gives up an uncontested shot or is partially responsible for giving up a lay-up, they just get ready to play offense. He would like to see these scenarios flipped. In other words, shooters should take good shots and worry less about the results. Defenders need to take more pride in recognizing and correcting their mistakes.
One theme that Coach Romeo kept coming back to whether he was talking about transition or defense was the idea of multiple efforts. He encourages players to make winning plays, not highlight plays. I pressed him a little on what he meant by this and he gave me two great examples that any basketball coach is used to seeing.
Missing a lay-up
First, a player has an uncontested lay-up and misses. They probably put effort in by creating a live ball turnover or out-running the opponent down court on offense. The mistake is not the missed lay-up. The mistake is not sprinting back after the lay-up and letting the frustration get the better of you. Jeff Van Gundy loves to point out that a missed lay-up on one end almost always leads to a transition opportunity on the other end. To some degree this is the result of a person not putting in effort on the second part of the play.
Gambling and not getting a steal
Second, a player on defense gambles for a steal and just misses. Some coaches tell their players not to gamble unless they are absolutely sure, and others encourage gambling. Regardless of your philosophy this will happen from time to time. The key is once the steal is missed, how the player comes back in the play. The human reaction is to give up. A player who displays multiple efforts will sprint back onto a new defender given that the rest of the defense probably has rotated in what amounted to a 5 on 4.
These are only two examples, but Coach Romeo pointed out that very rarely is a play just one effort. Think of literally almost any rebounding scenario. The great thing about multiple effort plays, multiple effort games, and multiple effort teams is that they can become contagious.