Jon DeMarco: Five Basketball Lessons from the #GBetBBChat

Coach Jon DeMarco has been trying to grow his network and knowledge in basketball through the #GBetBBChat that he facilitates using his Twitter account (@Coach_Demarco). For very selfish reasons I wanted to know what the biggest epiphanies he has had in the two years since he pivoted from coaching at the high school level. Here are the ideas he shared with me.

1. Core Values can Always be Improved

Coaches have a variety of ways of communicating and capturing their team’s values. One coach recently shared with me an acronym they call PRIDE (passion, respect, investment, discipline, excellence). Another coach shared this thought, “Don’t be afraid to cut someone loose that isn’t buying in or embracing the culture. Those are areas I screwed up in my first 3 years at [his coaching position]. I also think we did a good job of constantly teach it.”

When I ask an extremely open-ended question such as how have you gotten better in the last two years, I am always interested in someone’s first thought. That Coach DeMarco shared a thought about core values is telling.

2. Slowly Becoming Open-Minded to Zone

Coach DeMarco admitted that he has always been a fan of man to man defense. At the youth level he is an advocate for teaching players man to man especially. His conversations with the vast network of coaches he is interacting with is swaying his opinion a little more toward zone as players move to high school. He reasoned that so many more coaches and players are exposed to man that when they see zone, it can be a struggle to adjust. Similarly, coaches increasingly preach pressure defense as part of a pitch toward increasing the tempo. Any recently hired coach is emphasizing pace. Yet, the University of Virginia just won the national title. It makes for an interesting clash of opinions.

3. Spain Action off Pick and Roll Is Lethal

Coach DeMarco had a caveat from the outside of our conversation that there is a proliferation of plays out there. The entire NCAA tournament play diagrams can be purchased. Go to Fast Model sports, the Coaching Toolbox, or Adam Taylor Play of the Day. There are more combinations than can ever be taught. The most important part of the whole process is fundamentals. If the most foolproof set does not end in a made lay-up it is useless.

After that caveat though, Coach DeMarco was an advocate for the Spain Action off of pick and role. Defending a pick and role is challenging enough. Adding a dimension where the defender of the big is screened creates another layer of decisions. All the while there are two players in the corner ready to shoot or lift if needed for when their player helps off.

4. Run BLOBs for the Purpose of Getting to a Set

More often than not coaches design BLOBs for a quick shot. This obviously has its benefits, but there are some flaws to this design too. Most BLOBs are scouted in advance. If a team takes away the two top actions in a play, what then? If a team does not have firm rules about how to be spontaneous in a game, BLOBs that serve only as a means of maintaining possession will result in poor shots. Additionally, Coach DeMarco’s initial stance about having too many plays can prove problematic. In addition to the half-court offense, players need to remember a different set of rules and actions in a BLOB.

5. Pin Down into Dribble Handoffs Are Tough to Defend

In a similar way that the Spain action is tough to cover, again multiple decisions need to be made on this kind of action. Here is one set from San Antonio that uses multiple pin downs that lead to dribble hand offs. Here is a slightly different variation from Golden State in which the screener (Steph Curry) gets the handoff.

Coach DeMarco went a step further and discussed how he had a point guard one year who was masterful at hesitating as she was about to hand off. She would often keep the ball in possession as her defender hedged toward the player coming for the handoff. As a result she would then dish it off to a big underneath the rim in their dribble drive or keep it herself for a lay-up.

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