Defense Wins Championships, Right?

Published by Aram Parunak on

Defense Wins Championships, Right?

Defense is just as important if not more important than offense. It really does win championships. As much as I believe that we should let players play the game in this style on the offensive end, I believe more strongly that successful teams play good defense.

I believe this style of offense gives coaches the opportunity to build a tough defense. The key word here is OPPORTUNITY. Just like the offense creates scoring opportunities for players, it also creates defensive teaching opportunities for coaches. It is up to us to take advantage.

I will not get off on a tangent debating the pros and cons of different defensive systems. That’s for another time. All I’m saying is that whatever defensive system or style you choose, teaching offense this way makes teaching defense make sense.  Teaching players how to play offense layer by layer and then teaching them how to defend layer by layer just fits. Now it’s up to us to hold them accountable and up to them to make it happen.

Make It Important

Good defense isn’t going to just happen; coaches have to make players make it happen. We have to demand it, then teach it, and then demand it some more. The best part about this system is the opportunity to collapse time frames and teach defense using the same drills that are being used to teach the offense. We don’t have to make anything up. We just have to take advantage of the OPPORTUNITY that we’re given.

In teaching the offense, defensive players (dummy and live) can and should be added to drills as the coaches deem necessary.  Initially, drills should be done without defense so that players can focus on the skills that make up the layer.  The defense should be added in order to make the offensive drills more game like once players become more comfortable with the offensive skills and concepts being taught.

If we stop there, we are trying to win games instead of championships. We are trying to make players look good for a highlight reel instead of building complete players.  Some players have highlight reels, and some have rings. We must develop the whole player, not just the offensive player. This style of play makes it possible.

Keep in mind, while we are emphasizing defense, players are continuing to build offensive habits and improve on their offensive skills at the same time with each repetition. The opportunity to teach defense is ours.  We must take advantage.

Teaching Defense

The foundational layers provide a framework for teaching basic player-to-player defensive concepts.

  1. The player with the ball
  2. Receivers depending on ball and player position and movement
  3. Dribble penetration
  4. Cuts
  5. Post Players
  6. Rebounding

Rebounding, which may be the most important concept on the list, can be emphasized in every single drill.  Teams are going to miss over half their shots.  The question is how many chances do they get at a second attempt.

Keeping people out of the lane increases the opportunity that teams will miss shots.  Defending the ball and dribble penetration is critical to good defense.  Attack Dribble is a great way to teach the first three defensive components in the above list, which are all centered around keeping people out of the lane.

Dribble-At and Pass & Cut allow coaches to teach players how to defend cuts and post players as well as parts of the other concepts. Other layers will provide different ways to teach the same defensive concepts.

What about Screens?

The “advanced” layers provide the opportunity to teach more advanced defensive concepts. Screens are an advanced concept in the offense and should be treated as advanced defensive concepts as well.  Players must have a good understanding of on-ball and off-ball defensive concepts related to the foundational layers before they will be able to grasp defending screens.

If players can defend the most basic layers, then they will have a much easier time defending more advanced concepts.  Many times, defenses struggle defending screens because of poor positioning or communication. If players are talking on defense, and they are in the right position most of the time, defending screens becomes a lot easier.

As each layer is broken down, the opportunity to teach defense will be discussed. The emphasis for now is offense. So we won’t discuss specific defensive techniques or philosophies. For now, I just urge coaches to teach defense and demand it, even if it means your offense might not be as good. I believe that if you take time to teach defense, your offense will benefit more than if you only teach offense. I know you’re not here to read about defense.

Next, we will cover the first layer “Circle Movement”.


Aram Parunak

Aram Parunak

After 18 years of coaching college basketball, Aram wants to use the Hoops College platform to have a greater impact on the game and the players who play it. Allow him to join you on your journey to be the best player with the most options you can possibly have.

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