Basketball Defensive Philosophy

To Force Middle or to Force Baseline that is the Question...
By Lee DeForest, Basketball Coaches Club

To Force Middle or to Force Baseline that is the Question...on defense a coach must choose between "fanning" the ball to the outside or "funnelling" the ball to the middle of the floor.

Hubie Brown calls this type of decision a philosophy question, but I would have to say for high school coaches it is determined by your talent. I would like to present two of the basic theories used by coaches that force the ball sideline as well as those that force the ball middle. My hope is that you have a better understanding and can make a decision about what is best for your team.

[Related: High School Basketball Playbook]

Why would a coach want to force the basketball baseline?

To take advantage of superior speed and athleticism against 60% of your opponents and 80% of your league/district opponents

To take advantage of your superior bench and force them to play more players

To take them out of running their set plays and make them make plays instead

To force an uptempo game

To force turnovers for easy points

To keep the ball on one side of floor so that you know where your help is coming from

To keep the ball out of the most difficult place to defend (Middle; where is your help?)

To keep your players aggressive and with an attack mentality

Less reliance on learning how to defend all the various screening/cutting situations because you are not letting them reverse the ball and run sets

Your kids only have to learn one rotation on the baseline

Why would a coach want to keep the ball off the baseline?

To keep your players out of foul trouble

To limit the play of your bench

To prevent dribble penetration of a more athletic/talented team

To prevent easy post entry to the post from the wing

To force the opponent to run plays and out execute your defense

To stop easy scoring opportunities because of poor rotation

To limit offensive rebounds because of rotations on defense to stop the drive

To contain the basketball and make players shoot contested jump shots

No longer have to teach deny-help-recovery and instead teach recovery because the defender always starts in help (not denying passes)

These are just some ideas about how a coach should choose between which basketball defense will suit their talent and experience for a given year. Of course a coach should teach what they know, but at the same time, it is the responsibility of the coach to learn as much as possible in order to have options for their troops when they go into battle. Prepare them the best you can so that your team can achieve to the best of their potential because you put them in the best situation to succeed. Defense is the start of that and I hope this article has helped you to better understand the two basic philosophies of defensive play.

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"No one is bigger than the team. You're going to be on time, you're going play hard, you're going to know your job and you're going to know when to pass and shoot. If you can't do those four things you're not getting time here and we don't care who you are." -- Coach Hubbie Brown
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