The Importance of Mentors – A Tribute to Coach Ed Siegel

–Shaun Busick, Zionsville High School, Zionsville, IN

 I remember early in my coaching career attending the annual IBCA Spring Coaches Clinic and being in awe of the veteran coaches who coached the best teams in the state.  Coaching icons like Jack Butcher, Bill Green, Ed Siegel and Howard Sharpe (just to name a few) were at the clinic themselves listening to the same speakers as me.  Needless to say, I was intimidated by just the “presence” with which they carried themselves.  Little did I know that one of the men whom I looked up to as a young coach would someday become my coaching mentor – Coach Ed Siegel.  

I met Coach Siegel at one of those early coaching clinics I attended and he seemed like an intense, tough coach.  I must admit that I was intimidated by this guy.  Even when I spoke with him as a young coach, he exuded the ultimate toughness and intensity.  He was a no-nonsense, competitive individual who demanded seriousness and focus from everyone with whom he came into contact.  At the time, he was the head coach at Pike High School in Indianapolis and had built a Program that was admired state-wide as one of the top Programs in the state.  He had so much success at Pike High School that they eventually named the gymnasium after him.  Little did I know that several years later, this same rough, tough man would become a dear friend and valued mentor.  I met him again a few years later when he came to watch my 2003-2004 Bellmont Braves play.  He was scouting teams for the 2004 Hall-of-Fame Classic, and after Coach Siegel watched us play, we later received an invite to participate in the Classic the next season.   

Later, when I moved to the Indy area and took the Zionsville job back in 2006, I sought the counsel of some coaches in the area – both current coaches at the time and retired coaches.  That is when I reconnected with Coach Siegel.  He was willing to meet with me, and even into his 70s at the time, he was still the same tough, intense man I had met over 20 years before…  From that initial meeting to several others that followed, Coach Siegel became a “regular” at our ZCHS practices and games.  That is when I asked him if he would mind being a mentor to me.  He gladly accepted and we became pretty close after that.  As we spent more and more time together, I realized that Coach had not lost any of the “fire” with which he had coached.  He wouldn’t hesitate to get on my players or me, for that matter, if he felt we weren’t doing things the right way or up to his standards.  This was a huge key for the growth of our Zionsville Eagles Basketball Program, and we all accepted and embraced what Coach was saying to us because we knew he cared and had our best interests in mind.  

It was not uncommon for Coach to get on me after a practice or game.  He gave me exactly what I needed as a head coach – he held me accountable to a higher standard, expecting me to explore why my staff and I were doing what we were doing.  He asked countless tough questions that really helped me solidify and mold my coaching philosophy.  He spoke a lot about accountability and always being the best one could be as coaches, players, students, etc.  He reminded me so much of my own father, who I had lost in 1995 after a tough battle with cancer.  Dad was only 59 when he passed, and his passing left a void in my life that Coach Siegel filled.  As a matter of fact, since I had no one to whom to send Father’s Day cards, I began to send one each year to Coach Siegel.  He had not only become my coaching mentor but a friend and father-figure to me.

Recently, however, Coach Siegel wasn’t getting around so well.  He was now well into his 80s, and he wasn’t able to attend practices or games much anymore.  That didn’t stop him from staying involved, however.  We spoke regularly after games and during the week about how our team was practicing and playing.  He read the articles about our team and got updates from his family who lives in Zionsville about the games.  

So what exactly is a coaching mentor and what is his or her role?  To me, a coaching mentor must be someone for whom you have a great deal of respect.  It must be someone who is not going to tell you what you want to hear but tell you what you need to hear.  It must be someone who has fought the same fight you are fighting and who understands what you are going through as a coach.  It must be someone who knows that winning is only a byproduct of the preparation you put in to get your teams ready to compete.  As Coach Bob Knight once said, “Everyone has the will to win, but very few have the will to prepare to win.  

As I reflect upon the mentoring I was given by Coach Siegel, I must admit that there were times that I walked away from our meetings thinking he was grumpy or being negative.  Upon further review, however, Coach was challenging my thinking, and as I thought about it in those terms, it caused me to “dig deeper” into my coaching philosophy and solidify what I considered essential as a coach to what winning basketball really is and how it looks.  Coach Siegel made me a much better coach.  More importantly, Coach made me a better person.  He constantly asked me the following:  “Are you taking care of your family?  Are you spending time with them?”  Coach Siegel knew that an individual’s priorities should be faith and family first.  

Today, April 22, 2020, Coach Siegel departed this life for his life in eternity, a victim of complications of the dreaded Coronavirus.  Coach was a man of faith.  He was a family man. He loved basketball, but he loved his family much more.  Coach was also my mentor and friend. I will always value our friendship and the times we spent together.  As my coaching career progresses, it is my sincere hope that I can pass along the gift of mentorship that Coach gave me to someone else.  It is amazing to me that Coach Siegel never quit coaching – well into his 80s, he was still pouring into his family and into this coach.  I am confident that one day I will see Coach again on the great court above.  If, in fact, there is basketball in heaven, Coach Ed Siegel will be found patrolling the sidelines.  Once a coach, always a coach.  Rest in peace, Coach. 


One of the Best Decisions of my Life

After 25 years of coaching on the boys side, Coach took over the girls program. Here’s his take on year 1.

Jimmy Dolan, Weymouth HS, MA

Taking Over a Program : Year 1 

After a year away from the sidelines the Girls Varsity Basketball position opened up at Weymouth High School, where I am a physical education teacher. Despite coaching for over 25 years on the boys side including a successful 12 year run as the Boys Varsity Coach at Weymouth, I had never really thought about coaching girls. A few of the members of the team who I had in class encouraged me to apply, fast forward 6 months later and it was one of the best decisions of my life. 

The interview process was something that was very beneficial to getting our program off and running in the right direction. When preparing to take a program over it is a great time for self reflection and evaluation. First things first, we needed to create a 3 year action plan before we ever stepped on the gym floor. Our purpose would be to create a successful high school basketball program where student athletes are challenged to become better players on the court and involved school citizens off of the court. To run a program that complements the athletic culture and enhances the overall school experience of those involved. Identity pre-season goals and get to work. 

Pre-season : *Develop a coaching staff that is second to none. Quality coaches on all 3 levels . 

*Provide professional development to our staff including local coaching clinics. 

*Help create the practice and game schedule with at least 2 scrimmages and a full season with 20 competitive games. 13 league games and 7 non-conference games. (varies state to state) 

*Promote and hold sign-up meetings to create a positive buzz around the program. Run an intramural open gym program for select dates leading up to try-outs. 

*Hold fair tryouts and evaluations to come up with 3 levels of our program. 

*Take care of all housekeeping matters including uniforms, travel gear, practice gear, sneakers, coaches gear etc, 

*Hold a parent meeting once teams are selected and outline your program. 

Fast forward to tryouts and I feel very comfortable that we reached our preseason benchmarks. The vibe in the gym was amazing and the idea of a full program was starting to come together. Make sure that you are involving the entire coaching staff and sub varsity programs. Come up with a team motto or slogan that you can put on shooting shirts. For years we have always used the word – FAMILY. During the season you will be spending more time with your team than at home, so I always thought that was powerful. Also do not underestimate the impact that team gear can have. Especially when building culture you want the kids to feel part of something special. 

I would be very hesitant in the beginning to focus on wins and losses. Focus on the process and start to create a culture of competing. If you are doing things the right way in terms of skill development and team building eventually the wins will start to come.

Here is a list of some in-season benchmarks to use year one. 

*Create an excitement around the basketball program that will help school spirit and athletic culture. 

*By positively promoting program increase the number of candidates and ultimately fill each roster – Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman to maximum capacity. 

*Build an environment where academics come first and provide support to those student – athletes who need help. 

*Reach out to youth program and work to build a relationship. Including getting kids involved in clinics, camps and practice sessions. Also work to build a youth presence at all of our home games. 

*To promote and encourage community service opportunities in order to better overall school community. 

* Use a skills based approach to player development with consistent training practices used throughout the program. 

*Control what we can. Expect that everyone have a positive energy and attitude with a competitive effort. 

*Compliment on court development with a commitment to strength and conditioning. 

* Use resources such as film and Hudl along with scouting reports to best prepare our team. 

*Have fun while being a part of something special. Enhance the overall high school experience with a positive healthy activity and being part of a team. 

*Start to create an alumni base and make them feel part of the program. 

So in terms of building a program it is important to focus on a few more things. Engage your senior class. Even though they may not reap the benefits of everything you do, they deserve a great season. I hit the jackpot this year with 3 outstanding kids who were great teammates and leaders. They certainly help to build a legacy of pride. Another important key is to get your school involved. We were blessed to have outstanding support from our school principal, athletic director, school staff and parents. 

Looking back we won 5 games and in some ways it was one of the most successful seasons I have ever been a part of. Think about what went well and how this translates into a springboard for the future. 

● We won our season opener on a buzzer beater – kids will never forget 

● Late in season we avenged two 25 + point losses – including a win over defending state champ and league rival on senior night. 

● Great team building events going to local college game and supporting boys team. 

● Our 3 seniors are going to college 

● We have 10 returning varsity players including an all league guard. 

● We participated in several charitable events including helping out at a local food pantry and volunteering at an autism center. 

● Girls are currently working on a project to help nurses involved in fighting Covid 19. 

Now it’s time to start preparing for next season. Before you do, take some time to become a better coach. There are so many on-line webinars and resources, film exchange, connect with other coaches, read a book etc. Also remember to take a minute during these crazy times and be thankful to all of our doctors, nurses, first responders and anyone else working now to keep us safe and well. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. Good luck. 

Jimmy Dolan Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Weymouth High School @HoopWhs 

Creating an Effective Play Card

As Bob Knight once said, “The key is not the will to win… everybody has that.  It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” For successful coaches, that preparation comes in the form of countless hours spent in practices, film sessions, putting together scouting reports, and creating game plans.  However, it’s the ability to carryover pre-game preparation into game time decision-making that makes the most successful coaches truly elite.

One resource that your coaching staff can use to help successfully carryover your pre-game preparation into successful in-game decision-making is an effective play card.  A play card can benefit you on the sidelines in several ways, including:

  • An effective play card helps coaches to make quick yet effective in-game decisions.
    • The game of basketball moves at such a fast pace and if you think too long on a decision, it will be too late.  A play card gives you all the information you need to make a quick, informed decision.
  • An effective play card allows coaches to compile their game plan in a clear and concise way to use in the heat of the battle.
    • As coaches, we go into games with a game plan that we believe gives our team the best chance to win the game.  During the heat of the game, your play card can serve as an organized reminder of each part of your game plan and potential adjustments to that game plan, if needed.
  • An effective play card can be a reminder of important details that can benefit your team  in crunch time situations late in a game.
    • There are 2:00 left in the 4th Quarter, it’s a tie game, your ball coming out of the timeout… what do you run? There are 18 seconds left in the game, your team is down one, the opponent has the ball… who do you foul?  It’s these types of situations in crunch time where you can refer to your play card for assistance.

Here is an example of a play card that we use in our program:

Our Play Card is made up of the following components:

  • Our entire playbook:
    • Man to Man Offense (including transition offense, base offense, man to man offensive series’, and man to man sets plays)
    • Zone Offense (including base zone offense, zone series’, and zone set plays)
    • Special Teams Sets (including baseline out of bounds plays, sideline out of bounds plays, and after timeout plays)
    • Defensive Calls
  • Game Specific Priority Series/Sets
    • We adjust our play card for each opponent and our Priority Series/Sets are the offensive options that we’ve identified through scouting as being most likely to be successful vs. the particular opponent.
  • Game Plan & Adjustments
    • Plan A, B, and C
      • This is our primary game plan and potential adjustments that we’ve identified through scouting as being most likely to be successful vs. the particular opponent.
    • Player Personnel
      • Each team has unique personnel and through our scouting we label certain players with terms like “Monster”, “Curry”, and more.
    • Who to Foul?
      • These are the players that we need to foul late in the game, if needed.
    • Other Notes
      • Any tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, etc. of an opponent that we have picked up on through our scouting can be listed here.
  • End of Game Situational Sets
    • These are special sets to score in crunch time.  With these end of game situational sets, we try to be prepared for any scenario that we may face.  We have sets prepared that we believe will be effective against that particular opponent in the following areas:
      • Baseline out of bounds plays
      • Sideline out of bounds plays
      • Full court sets
      • Half court sets
      • Sets that we may have run before in special situations but we need to draw it up as a reminder.

Other additional information that you may want to include in your own play card:

  • Opponent’s set plays
  • Sets you may want to run for specific players
  • Sets you may want to run when you have a specific lineup in the game
  • Specific Lineups (i.e. Best Free Throw lineup, Best Pressing Defensive Lineup, etc.)
  • Special Plays (i.e. Tip Off Play, Delay Game Offense, Sets on a Purposefully Missed Free Throw, etc.

Twitter Roundtable: Your Best Advice

We selected a couple responses from each of the questions posed on Twitter last week

Your best advice to aspiring head coaches

Ryan Varga, SB Washington HS (IN), @whscoachvarga
Ask as many questions as possible! Most aspiring coaches start off as assistants, but there is a huge difference that next seat over. Learn what it takes to run a program from the ground up. Start with the behind the scenes things (fundraisers, administration, parents, etc.). Implementing your philosophies and the x’s and o’s will be the least of your worries!

Daniel Crabtree, North Knox HS (IN), @DCrabtree85
Find a great mentor to coach under. Treat every assistant job like it’s your dream job (even if it’s not). Ask to take on new responsibilities and do things to make the HC’s life easier. I would advise aspiring coaches to take on Frosh or JV jobs because there is no better training than making real time game decisions. When you’re ready to start applying for HC jobs, don’t be picky when it come to applying. Remember, you don’t have to accept every job you apply for. The interview experience is something you will improve upon the more you do it. I personally interviewed for 9 different boys and girls HC jobs before landing a job. Without a doubt, I ended up in the best place for me and my family. Don’t rush it, my 9 years of high school assistant experience under 2 excellent head coaches prepared me for the many challenges and responsibilities I now face. Embrace the journey and steal ideas from great coaches.

Your best advice when contemplating taking a job

Javante Wilson, Indiana Tech University (IN), @Coach_Wilson23
Would you be happy doing it for no money?

Rodney Walker, Evansville Central HS (IN), @rwalkerball
Make sure it is the right time, place, and move for you AND your family. If you don’t have the support of those your closest to, it will be hard to be 100% committed to what you love.

Your best advice when coaching your kid

Jimmy Beasley, White River Valley HS (IN), @jimmybeas
Outside the game, he’s your son, not your player. Don’t take the game home.

Ryan Varga
Should coach every player like he is your kid!

Your best advice when hiring assistant coaches

Brandon Allman, Brownstown Central HS (IN), @BrandonAllman22
Make sure to pick loyalty and someone who is dedicated to helping kids.

Daniel Crabtree
Look for good people over guys who were just great players. Hire people who are great with kids over basketball knowledge as long as they are willing and eager to learn. Bring in guys who will be loyal and present a unified front within your program. You won’t agree on everything, but they need to voice ideas or concerns to you behind closed doors. Most importantly, look for assistants who put the players and the program above all else.

Your best advice when contemplating leaving a job

Lukas Haworth, North Putnam HS (IN), @CoachHaworth
Am I leaving for greener pastures without first watering the lawn I own now?

Javante Wilson
Make a pros and cons list about that job and why

Powerful Balance

Coach is a state champion basketball coach, a national champion power lifter, and has 7 children: How does he do it all??

FINDING BALANCE AS A HIGH SCHOOL COACH–Marc Davidson, Blackhawk Christian High School, Fort Wayne, IN

It seems that everyone is trying to find balance– that delicate balance of success at home, and success at work. I struggle to find the perfect balance on a day to day basis; I’m sure this is a struggle for many coaches. Author & speaker Jon Gordon views this dynamic between home and work as being more about rhythm than balance. Gordon points out that there is a rhythm to life, and a season for everything- and we must plan accordingly. 

Coach Marc Davidson won the Masters Heavyweight Division title in the fall of 2019 at the Strongman National Championships in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy Courtesy Photos

For all of us, there is a time to work and a time to rest. For a coach, there is a time to go out scouting, and a time to go out with your spouse. There is a time to breakdown game film, and a time to be with your children. There is a time to plan tomorrow’s practice, and a time to help your spouse around the house. 

This dynamic of home/work can be a “both/and”, instead of an “either/or”. Our challenge as coaches, is to find the rhythm which enables us to be successful on all fronts. I believe that having a “team” approach with your spouse, along with some creative and strategic planning, are a couple keys to success. 

Having a “team” approach with your spouse is critical for any coach who is married. I’ve been a head coach for 17 years, and my wife and I know that from November through March, things are a little crazy. So we plan for how we will effectively manage the rhythm of a basketball season. During those in-season months, we have to get more creative and strategic with our family time. For example, our in-season “dates” for the past six years (and likely for many more years to come) have been driving to our sons’ college basketball games on Wednesday or Thursday nights. Our team approach has helped us to see this as a chance to really connect with each other, and we have grown to cherish these times. 

For coaches who have children, that presents another challenge. And again, a team approach with your spouse, along with creative and strategic planning during the season, are critical. This past season for example, my 3rd grade son came to nearly all of our varsity practices. This was a simple way for me and my son to connect every day. I’ve also found it helpful to “unplug” when I’m home– put the phone down, put the computer down, and be intentional about connecting with my wife and kids.

Davidson and the Braves won the state championship in 2019,
and were poised to make another deep run this year.
(Photo courtesy Parkview Sports Medicine)

25 years of marriage, and 17 years as a head coach, and my wife and I certainly don’t have this all figured out– we are still learning how to dance to the rhythm, so to speak. Legendary Coach John Wooden defines competitive greatness as “being at your best when your best is needed”. Let’s face it, as coaches— our best is needed! Our wives need our best, our children need our best, our players & teams need our best. While we may never find that perfect home/work balance— with a team approach and some creative planning, we can hopefully create a flow and rhythm to our lives which will help us be at our best on all fronts. 

Marc Davidson is the varsity basketball coach at Blackhawk Christian School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He and his wife Lisa have been married for 25 years. God has blessed them with 7 children: Wesley-23, William-21, Frankie-19, Marcus-17, Jimmy-15, Isaiah-9, Jaela-9.  

Teaching and Coaching

Aaron Garrett, Batesville High School, Batesville, IN

If I had only known. If I had only known that on Friday the 13th of March 2020 would have been the last time I would see my 161 eighth-graders all together at school. I would have had different conversations and expressed many things I typically do to end each year. I miss the kids terribly, but will do my best to make eLearning beneficial for them. I DO know this- I will be a better teacher and coach because of this experience. 

I received advice many years ago not to spend so much time on my “side job” of coaching that I neglect my most important job, which is teaching. It is imperative as coaches that we are one of the best teachers in our building. As a basketball coach in Indiana, we are quite possibly the most recognized individual from our school corporation out in the community. Think about that humbling thought for a minute. I take that responsibility very seriously. What shadow am I casting to others and am I being a great representative to all those that are always observing?

Being a great teacher can only help make us a better coach. Being a great teacher can only help us learn to communicate more efficiently and effectively as a coach. Being a great teacher can only help us be organized and disciplined as a coach.  Being a great teacher can only help eliminate some of the angles others will try to pursue to push us out of our job as a coach.

I take great pride in the fact that many of those students I am missing have no idea I am the basketball coach. They just know that I love teaching American history and do my best at it. I challenge coaches of all sports to use this time to become a better version of yourself as a human being, family member, teacher, and coach. Not only are your students depending on you, but the future is as well. 

The Change Up:

Why a devoted man-to-man defensive coach switched to zone defense

–Shaun Busick, Zionsville High School, Zionsville, IN

My varsity coaching career has spanned over 25 years in the state of Indiana, and throughout most of my career I was a die-hard man-to-man defense advocate.  However, due to the changing landscape of basketball and the rise of ball screen continuity offenses, I made the switch to zone defense full-time in the Fall of 2012.  As a result, I am often asked, “What changed your mind and how is the change going?”  This article will attempt to answer those questions, plus give the reader insight into my philosophy moving forward. 

I have to start by saying that I had never planned on playing much zone until I saw that our lower-level program at Zionsville Community High School (Zionsville, Indiana) had some very big kids coming through the ranks, and my coaching staff and I weren’t interested in our opponents dragging our bigs outside and putting them into ball screen action.  Specifically, I had the son of former Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits (who was 7’4”) coming into the high school in the Fall of 2011.  Derrik Smits was 6’8” when he started his freshman year of high school in 2011, and he needed some seasoning on the JV before we would move him up to full-time varsity competition his sophomore year of high school.  This gave us time as a Program to start experimenting with zone defense.  With my “expertise” being M-M defense, I sought out Hall-of-Fame coach and match-up zone guru Basil Mawbey to teach me all he could about zone defense.  Coach Mawbey was not coaching at the time, and fortunately for our Program, Coach Mawbey’s daughter lived in Zionsville, so he spent some time in our town anyway.   

After connecting with Coach Mawbey (we had known each other for several years before), we decided that he would come and work with our team during the “summer season” of 2012.  We basically turned over the reins of our defense to Coach Mawbey that Summer, and as he ran the defensive portion of our Summer practices, my assistant coaches and I took pages and pages of notes.  We also asked a ton of questions throughout the process. At 52-years-old now, I would be lying to you if I told you that most of the stuff we do were things we came up with ourselves.  Our coaching staff and I want to be life-long learners.  Each of us reads a lot and studies a lot of film – of our team, our opponents and Programs we respect.   

Coach Mawbey accompanied us to our various Summer games and tournaments.  He became one of our assistant coaches and our “defensive coordinator”.  By this time, Smits was going into his sophomore year of high school and was penciled in to be our starting “5”.  He was now approaching 6’10” and had developed a great knack of protecting the rim by blocking shots and just being a “presence” in the paint with his great size.  He was also a great communicator on the floor, so he became the ideal player to man the middle of the zone.  Making this move also prevented opposing coaches to take Derrik to the perimeter in ball screen action.  He would stay in the paint defensively on EVERY possession, which is something we had set out to do in the first place. 

Initially, the change seemed very tough for our players and coaching staff, but we all stayed committed to becoming the best zone defensive team in the state.  This entailed at least 30 to 45-minutes of work on zone breakdown drills and actual game situations every practice.  (Note:  Our practices are usually around two hours in length, so you can see that this was a pretty big commitment.)  Starting two or three sophomores most the 2012-2013 season, we finished 11-10 with a young squad.  The 2013-2014 season saw some improvement with our team on the defensive end, as we finished 13-7.  Derrik’s senior season (2014-2015) became our “breakthrough” season, as we finished 19-7.  Had our starting point guard not gone down late in the season with an injury, we had a legitimate chance of winning the programs first Sectional since the Brad Stevens-led Eagles won the Lebanon Sectional back in 1995. 

After Derrik’s senior class graduated, our zone defense continued to evolve and improve. We didn’t have quite the size, but our overall defensive instincts and understanding of the zone improved.  By this time, Coach Mawbey had moved on and my staff and I felt much more comfortable teaching our ‘2” match-up.  We also added our “1” match-up which is more of a traditional 3-2 or 1-2-2 zone.   

The 2015-2016 season saw another 19-win season (19-6), and we made it to our first Sectional final but lost to the Mavericks of McCutcheon and future IU point guard Robert Phinisee.  That Mavericks squad went all the way to the State Finals and lost to Romeo Langford and New Albany by 3.  We won 18 the next season but lost again to the McCutcheon in the Sectional Championship.  Our breakout year came in the 2017-2018 season, when we won the first Sectional at Zionsville since 1995.  We went 22-4 and won the always loaded Hoosier Crossroads Conference for the third year in a row.  The ‘18-’19 season also saw more championships, as we went 21-6 and won our fourth straight conference title and our second of  back-to-back Sectional titles.  It should be mentioned that our post players during our run of championships, Hogan Orbaugh (6’9) and Gunnar Vannatta (6’10) were outstanding in the middle of the zone. Those teams were also led by current Purdue guard Isaiah Thompson, who was tremendous at the top of our zone. 

This past season after losing three D-I kids (Thompson – Purdue, Nathan Childres – walk-on at IU, and Orbaugh – a walk-on at Louisville), our team stepped up and went 16-10 against a top ten schedule in the state.  This included going 6-2 against teams in the IBCA Top 20 Final Poll.  Vannatta, now 6’11 and a senior, was the center of this year’s zone and did a great job.  Looking to the future, we have class of 2022 big man Isaiah Davis (6’8) and 2023 big man Nick Richart (6’8) ready to man the middle of our zone in the future.  Behind them, we have a 6’3 8th grader and a 6’4 7th grader who are beginning to learn the zone concepts we are now teaching throughout our Program.   

In conclusion, I am confident that my days of coaching M-M full-time are over. As opposing coaches would probably attest, preparing for our zone is not easy. Our players and coaches have fully bought-in and are committed to becoming the best zone team in the state. Finally, I leave you with this thought about zone defense…  If you and I were to sit down and talk offensive philosophy, I can assure you that you could speak for at least an hour on all the things your teams do against M-M.  However, once we turned the conversation to zone offense, I can almost assure you that you couldn’t give me more than fifteen-minutes’ worth…  Think about that. 

(Coach Busick can be reached for questions at .  I would be glad to speak with you about what we specifically do with our match-up zone defenses.) 

End-of-Season Recognition During a Quarantine

After our season concludes, the icing on the cake is to celebrate each team with an end-of-season banquet.  This is a way to bring families together and honor those who have dedicated so much time to what we do in the winter.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most end-of-season banquets have been postponed or canceled. So what can we do as coaches to give our players the recognition they deserve?

Nate VanDuyne (@NateVanDuyne) of Frankfort High School (@Frankfort_BBall) came up with a virtual solution.  He created a YouTube video containing highlights and awards for the 2019-2020 campaign.  

This is what Coach VanDuyne included:

  • Season highlights
  • Major letter winners
  • Participation certificates
  • Awards (Varsity, JV, Freshmen)

Here is the video!

We had a great year from an all-around growth standpoint in our program. The behaviors culturally were much improved from accountability to mistake-response, our skill level and execution improved, and we improved our win total from 3 the previous year to 7. With such an abrupt ending due to the virus it was disappointing because we weren’t able to celebrate the growth we achieved together or give out well-deserved awards. Putting together this video gave some closure to a season that points our program in the right direction and honors those that were a part of it.” – Nate VanDuyne

We would love to see what other coaches are doing in place of end-of-season banquets.  Please share!

The Unspoken Truths of State Title Teams

Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive about the title of this piece. You’ve all read the books, watched the documentaries, and heard the speeches from those we look up to and seek out for guidance. What could I possibly add to the dialogue? Truth be told, there isn’t much to discover in terms of the traits of winners. All the buzzwords of success are not only true, but they are known…culture, preparation, work-ethic, etc. (in no particular order of course). You know the public perception of champions, but what about all the stuff behind the curtain? It is my hope to provide you not with something new in itself, but simply a different way of looking at what you already know. I’m not sure any particular point is more important than the other, but we certainly believe all were vital to our success. Enjoy!

5 point guards will compete in any game. 

We may not win, but we’ll be close. That is how important a great PG is to a program’s success. In high school basketball you don’t need a stud athlete, a 6’8″ bruiser, or even an all-star to be successful, but I guarantee you’ll be hard-pressed to find a state championship team without a true coach on the floor. If there is one player you coach early, often, and hard…make it your point. If you don’t have one, make one. I can tell you from experience the latter is nearly impossible, but it is absolutely worth the effort.

Coach your players, not your system. 

Players change every year so why should everything else stay the same? To be clear this was easy to execute in our program. We were a man and motion team. Make no mistake, we had sets and we made use of tactics such as a sinking man to mimic a zone, but we never changed our foundation. We were hard to scout and hard to adjust to because of our players, not our system. Because we were so intent on making sure our roles/responsibilities and strengths/weaknesses were clearly and publicly defined, we were able to overcome a lot of the issues that arise in almost any group of competitive teenage boys. We broke down the intricacies of a game for high school kids and let them play instead of controlling the intricacies of a game that high school kids played. If that makes about zero sense I understand. Try to look at it through the lens of the “give a man a fish” proverb.


In everything I do, whether personally or professionally, I try to utilize the K.I.S.S. philosophy. Basketball, in my opinion, was the most important place to employ the mindset. After all, we are dealing with kids…kids with influences outside of our locker room and outside of our control…a lot of them. Parents, friends, girlfriends, even other coaches are all voices we cannot tame. From the preparation to the execution, we believed in keeping everything as simple and focused as possible. If you are scratching your head wondering how to you might employ this idea as you stare at your 4″ thick binder of UOB plays you put in for the summer, do not worry… a) you certainly aren’t alone, and b) page count in your playbook doesn’t automatically classify you as complicated, especially when your actions are related as most are.

Strength of Schedule (SOS) is the most important statistic. 

Understandably not everyone has the ability to create and sustain a brutal SOS. Constraints such as conference schedules, administrator demands, public perception, and even team morale are very real and very convincing arguments not to. If you can overcome those hurdles though…do it. I can directly point to our SOS as the single most impactful contributor to our success. We played anyone, anywhere, and quite literally did not have a care in the world. To be clear, my administrators were supportive of my philosophy, I couldn’t care less what the public thought of me, and we were VERY forthcoming about our mission with respect to SOS with our kids. If you cannot adequately explain away a loss as a learning experience then there is no point to intentionally schedule a loss. Did we schedule games we knew were going to be 30 point losses? Absolutely not…I’m not sure there is a whole heck of a lot to learn there, but you can bet we scheduled games we were pretty sure we wouldn’t win. Crazy? Maybe, but we were a tough out in March and that was our focus.


I often discount the effort needed to be organized as I’ve got serious personal issues along these lines so it comes easy to me. For others, organization is a very tough requirement to meet. It is important to recognize though, if you aren’t organized, you aren’t going to reach any meaningful level of success. Do you need to be obsessed and on the verge of mental breakdowns when you forget your –only pen in the world you can use to write in the score book- pen like me? No chance, but there is a certain baseline of organization required for any position of leadership or you simply will not cut it. I learned organization early on from my completely OCD father and it is a trait I’m honestly thankful he passed along even with all its faults. As I look to my start in coaching, my obsession with organization was only affirmed as an assistant in one of most successful programs in Indiana’s history under the most successful coach. Everyone had a job, everyone knew how to do it, and everyone felt compelled to do it to the absolute best of their ability day in and day out.


It didn’t take me long to understand the reason(s) a place like Bloomington South has 47 guys on the bench and only 6 or so of them are players. Everyone wanted to be part of the well-oiled, finely-tuned, fast-paced, organized machine. They wanted to be part of it because it was simple, it was efficient, it *is just…right.

Donovan Garletts

State Champions, Bloomington South, 2009

State Champions, Marquette Catholic, 2014

Adding Counters to Your Sets

As mentioned in our initial post, “X’s and O’s are the easy part.  Developing that feel, that’s the tough part.”  

As coaches, we have to know which buttons to press on the offensive end.  This requires a feel for our playbook, our personnel and our opponent’s tendencies, all while factoring in the time, score and situation.  Once we sense these surroundings, we call plays accordingly.  

Some teams run a lot of sets.  This falls under the execution phase of offense or plays by design.  We like running sets on dead ball situations and often times after made baskets. The majority of our set plays will be designed to get our best players the most shots.    

Here are a few reasons why we like running sets:

  • We have an idea of where the ball is going.
  • We can take advantage of mismatches.
  • We can keep feeding a hot hand.

We might put in specific plays to attack each opponent, based on scouting.  We also have different series or families of plays which include specific formations that have counters or wrinkles to each.  These can be difficult to scout, if play calls are hidden, because they use the same alignment.  

These counters can happen on back-to-back possessions.  They could also be drawn up during a time out or quarter break as a next layer of a play that was recently executed.

Good coaches can call a set play to get a bucket.  Great coaches can compound the previous possession with a counter.  

Here is an example of a set play along with its counter:

Original action:

Counter action:

Here are some more examples of adding counters to your sets.  Click on the links to see play diagrams.

Original actionCounter action
Original 1Counter 1
Original 2Counter 2

Ryan Haywood (@CoachRHaywood) is the head coach at Loogootee High School (@LHSLionsBball2).  His teams are consistently well-schooled in running their set plays. Coach Haywood is a next-level thinker on the offensive end.  Here is a counter that his team executed to perfection.