Building a Relentless Transition Brand of Basketball

I was watching Masconomet play in the preseason last year and admired how relentless the team was in transition. I asked their head coach Bob Romeo about it last week. Here is what he said:

Building a Transition Brand

They always implore their players that “you play the way you practice.” Therefore, the structure of the practice gives the players very little down time. More on the specific drills that they use to incorporate pace of play in a future post.

Coach Romeo was also quick to point a key in making substitutions. The players that are entering will possess different skill sets, but the pace goes unchanged. When players get caught in a cycle where their minutes are below their expectations, players keep working in practice. The coaches are quick to point out to those players that their time will come. Coach Romeo knows how critical these players are to their brand of playing fast. And even for players that play less time, the staff remind players that every second is a chance to positively impact the game. By sprinting from end to end with regular consistency, players will eventually find themselves in a position to get a lay-up because many opponents cannot keep up.

A few months back, I listened to Quinnipiac’s Associate Head Coach Mount MacGillivray give a talk about their approach to playing fast. And while Coach Romeo does not employ the exact same philophy, much of what MacGillivray talked about with pace of play seemed in line with what Coach Romeo was speaking about.

Ultimately playing with pace is not for every coach. In the case of Masconomet, their quickness and dearth of height make the decision an easy one.

The Statistical Impact of Playing Fast

Coach Romeo summarized a typical game for teams that look to push the pace versus teams that don’t. He broke it down by quarters. In the first quarter, the game might be close. The other team comes in with high energy and high expectations. In the second quarter, the team that plays fast has opportunities to go on runs. In the third quarter, it might start out similarly to the first quarter. The only difference is that with a half already in the books, the run that started in the second quarter in the first half should start a little earlier in the second half. Finally in the fourth quarter, the team that is not use to a fast pace will have a difficult time playing defense.

As he pointed out, there are games where this formula is imperfect, but in general it is reliable. Two season ago, I coached a team that statistically shot better, turned it over less, and had the best plus/minus in the fourth quarter. It was a brand all the way down to the players. Psychologically, it made falling behind much easier because the players had built in trust not to panic.

Shot Selection for a Fast Pace Team

Coach Romeo subscribes to Vance Walberg’s philosophy, “Like 3’s, love lay-ups.” Therefore he encourages players to take transition three-pointers. There are skeptics that argue that players today are taking too many 3’s. Coach Romeo does not worry about it. He encourages players to take uncontested shots. If those shots, happen to be three-pointers that is great. Inevitably players will get cold, but he does not panic. When two in a row eventually go in, the opposition will need to burn a timeout. It is deflating.

The philosophy reminded me a little of what Jay Wright does with Villanova.

Tomorrow there will be a post about some of the daily drills that Coach Romeo uses to get shooting in transition. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *