Defensively I am a multiple defense guy. I am not a stubborn guy, we will scout an opponent and put together a defensive plan that is determined by the opponent’s strengths. I love John Wooden’s philosophy that his teams worry only about themselves in regards to doing what they do and doing it well. I wish I always had the talent to think that way but often that is not the case. At home I will start with a zone defense (2-3, 3-2 and often a 1-3-1 to start the second half) believing that our opponent will not shoot as well on the road as they would at home. Thus I want to see our team protect the paint and keep the opponent off the foul line.
Free Throws and Tempo
One of our team goals is to make as many free throws as our opponent shoots. On the road we often will start in a man to man and not allow our opponent to get good perimeter looks. We still strive to contain and keep the opponent out of the paint. We use various three quarter and full quarter pressure defenses as well, especially after scores. These defenses are designed to control the tempo of the game most of the time as well as to keep our opponent off balance. We use a full court 1-2-1-1 press when we want to gamble for steals/turnovers and get our opponent into an uncontrolled state.
3/4 Court Pressure
Our 2-2-1 three quarter press is used to control tempo and force opponent to bring the ball up the alleys/ sidelines. Our three quarter 1-2-1-1 press used after made free throws surprises teams and often creates some easy turnovers. Most important is the fact that no matter what defense we play man to man principles are a big part of what we do. Fundamentally regarding rotations and communication as well as playing defense with our feet and not our hands, we must have a sound man-to-man foundation. Bobby Knight and Rick Pitino are two coaches systems that come to mind when I think about what we are attempting to accomplish defensively.
Balanced Offensive Attack
Offensively we preach a balanced attack. Our first goal is to run and attempt to get some easy transition baskets. We then work inside outside. We want ball movement and high percentage shots taken. We do not play a “Star” system in that we never feature one particular player. I want every player on the court to be a threat. Each player knows what his role is and I want him looking to bring to the table what he does best.
In our overtime National Semifinal victory this past season our leading scorer who averaged 19 points per game had 41. After the game I was shocked to find that out. He is a first team All American, but again he does not take an excessive number of shots. In that game he was 23-26 from the free throw line and he got on some nice rolls. We did not look to go to him each trip down the court but instead he scored within the framework of what we try to do as a team.
I guess I like the Dean Smith philosophy in that Coach Smith was probably the only coach to keep Michael Jordan’s average below 20 points per game. I just like balance in that it makes it so difficult for your opponent to stop just one guy and in turn have a great chance to beat you. In our National Quarterfinal victory for example our leading scorer did not score in the first half due to foul trouble as well as some double coverage defense. We still led at the half in that game by 10 points.
Coaching Role Players
Overall I am a very strong believer in roles. Our players recognize their strengths and look to do what we ask of them and what they do best. Regarding their weaknesses, we work on them daily but also look to hide them. We always work hard as coaches to put our players in positions where they can be successful. For example our bigs who generally are not strong ball handlers keep the ball off the floor. We like our shooters to catch and shoot. They have a shot or they do not. If they do not, move the ball. Basketball really is a simple game as long as it is organized properly.
Managing Playing Time
We also like to play 9-11 players. We have had great success in that often our bench /depth gives us a lift and advantage that our opponent can’t match. This is achieved by having competitive practices daily. The players also know that game minutes can increase or decrease based on what happens in practice. Playing time on our team is determined by how hard you work daily, having a positive attitude and a player’s ability to fulfill his role. Spots in our rotation can change game by game based on what happens in practice daily. This leads to a situation in which players are improving daily and when individuals improve our team improves.
Coach Rick Harris,
Community College of Rhode Island
Rick Harris just completed his 6th season as Head Men’s basketball coach at the Community College of Rhode Island. During this time the Knights have won the Region XXI Championship in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012 and were the Northeast District Champions in 2007 and 2012. They have participated in the NJCAA DII National Tournament twice during this period in 2007 and 2012.
This past season the Knights made it to the National Championship Game, losing to Mott C.C 70-60. In his six seasons the Knights have a 121-75 overall record including a 63-17 record in New England Region XXI play. Twice he has been named Region and Northeast COY. Prior to coaching at CCRI, Harris was a boy’s high school coach at Cranston High School East from 1990-2006 where the Thunderbolts won Division IA State Championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004.They were State Finalists in 2001.His overall high school record was 230-187 and he was named COY on 5 different occasions.