Watching the men’s Final Four and more specifically, the championship game, reminded me of one of the reasons I created the Read & React. It has nothing to do with the implementation of the offense; rather, it is how to use the Read & React during a game.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a college coach and I have no NCAA championship rings. I’m just a student of the game. When I watch games on any level, I’m always looking for something that I can learn and pass on to you – asking myself, “What would I do in this situation? Would I do anything different?”

And of course, I’m always viewing it through the eyes of the Read & React.

With that being said, here’s what I want the Tribe to consider:

“The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

Imagine the following scenario. In your preparation for your opponent, you’ve chose to emphasize a particular action – the high ball screen, for example.

But, once you get in the game, it is clear that your opponent can defend that screening action perfectly. In fact, they are defending it so well that you are getting almost nothing from it and the shots that you do get aren’t the ones you want (and even those are going in).

What do you do?

If you were a baseball coach and your pitcher was throwing all fast balls being drilled time and time again, would you tell him to throw better fast balls or would you tell him to throw some change-ups, some curves, or some sliders?

If you were a football coach and the defense was stuffing your every attempt to run the ball, would you tell your team to “run better” or would you begin to throw the ball?

It’s exactly the same in basketball. Although, for some reason, it doesn’t seem as obvious.

If I encountered the above situation, I would want to change my emphasis of action.

And, this happens to be fairly easy with the Read & React. Consider the following in terms of the change of tempo, change of ball movement, change of player spacing, and ultimately the change in scoring opportunities:

Go 5 OUT and Pass & Cut without setting any screens.
Avoid any physical contact and turn the offense into a foot race with the ball changing sides of the floor as many times in one possession as possible.

Begin 5 OUT with an emphasis on cutters posting up when they have the chance.
Feed the post and choose Laker Cuts or X-Cuts. If nothing is available, kick it out, get out of the post, keep going and try it again with a different player.

The action looks like this: Pass & Cut, Feed the Post and Cut, back to 5 OUT, Pass & Cut, Feed the Post and Cut, etc; inside, outside, inside, outside, etc.

A similar variation of this would be Pass & Cut mixed with Dribble-At. When a Dribble-At occurs (and no lay-up results), the cutter posts up. With this version, everyone on the team knows that only the Dribble-At cutter will post up for the feed.

5 OUT and every cutter seeks to set a back-screen on their way out. As every Read & React coach knows, this will result in Multiple Staggered Screens. Don’t forget that with the clustering that occurs in this action, there will be huge open spaces for dribble penetration.

4 OUT 1 IN and Pin & Skip, Pin & Skip, Pin & Skip until weak-side defenders don’t dare put a foot in the lane. Combine any other layers with this emphasis – you’re just looking to move defensive players until there’s a good Pin & Skip opportunity. Remember, you don’t have to shoot the Skip pass. You can catch and drive, catch and feed the post, catch and pass and cut, catch and Dribble-At, etc.

Pass & Cut in any formation with the intention of hunting Draft Drives or Intelligent Drives. You are looking to break down the defense by combining two actions – passing actions and dribble penetration actions.

This list is potentially endless – that’s why I made the Variations DVD. These variations could be given a color code, a name, or a number so that they can be worked on during practice or called from the sideline in a game.

The next time your opponent is prepared for your offensive actions, you will have the ability to change gears (tempo, spacing, screening or cutting actions) and offer your players different scoring opportunities. The Read & React lets you do this without changing your offense.

And, of course, you might still lose anyway, but hey, it’s my responsibility to give my players a chance to win. Changing gears gives them that chance.

If any of you Tribe members have “game-coached” the Read & React in this manner, I would love to hear your examples. I’ve already talked to a few who coach it this way, so I know you’re out there! Let me know in the comments section.

7 Responses

  1. rick,
    this is pretty close to how we finished our season. we won 9 of our last 10. We usually started with a 5 out pass and cut only approach. when my sixth man came into the game we normally went 4 out with many pin and skips looking for post ups. As the game wore on we would change to 5 out with one designated post up or screener. Teams could not guard us. We ended up with the kind of shots we wanted every trip. In the only game we lost, we just couldn’t make a shot. they were the same shots we took in all the previous games.


    1. Hey Dale,

      More needs to be written or perhaps demonstrated about this subject. Yours is a perfect example of what I mean about flexibility and variability of the R&R. The changes that you mentioned are difficult to guard. The defense must adjust every few minutes to a different formation and a different type of scoring threat? Yeah – it’s hard to scout and prepare for.

  2. Rick,

    There are two items that I believe are often overlooked in optimizing the Read and React. The first is the transition to offense. I have taught my players that the fast break and the “offense” should be one in the same. Similar to my playing days in Europe we have embraced a sideline fast break. Using 5 out spacing we would have a player sprint to the corner and the ballhandler attack the wing. After the ballhandler passes to the corner and cuts we flow seamlessly into the 5 out attack. Since we are thinking “fast” break the cuts and the fill ins are performed at a much quicker cadence. Even when we don’t have numbers we always seem to have open looks. I believe this is due in part to American coaches teaching players to guard the middle/inside first as it relates to transition defense. When we play against lousy shooting teams we do the same thing.

    The second item overlooked is shooting. I am sure we could say that great shooting would optimize most offenses but it seems to bring the Read & React to another level. Triple screens, pin and skips, backscreens, readline opportunities, dribble penetration, post feeding and cutting, etc. are useless or do not exist if the players can not hit the open shot or be respected for their shooting ability. I watched the same Final Four that you did and we both saw 12 for 64 (18.8%) shooting from Butler. They had many open looks they just did not have fundamentally sound shots. What would not fix that is another well executed pin and skip or triple screen.

    It never ceases to amaze me how kids can invest so much time in basketball and not get to the college (or pro) level with a fundamentally sound shot. It’s the premium gasoline for the Read and React engine. Maybe someday we can compare notes on shooting instruction and what coaches should know about fundamentally “sound” and what they should be doing.

    1. Mike,

      Your emphasis on secondary break/transition is one of the many reasons I felt compelled to remake the R&R last year. Why not attack the defense before it gets completely set up? When is there a better time? And what about those teams that have to play against a shot clock? How much more time is gained with a transition game like yours that flows seamlessly into the R&R?

      Regarding shooting, I couldn’t agree more (as with most fundamentals). I spotted the need for shooting (and hitting) at a young age and put all of my eggs into that basket. I figured that coaches would find a place for me on their team if I could outshoot most players. If I made the team, then I could work on the rest of the fundamentals and learn the game as I go. It worked for me (even back in the ’70s with no 3 point line). When these types of games came up, I would be put into the game. I got a scholarship to college for one reason: coaches can never have enough shooters.

      However, I want to make another point regarding those nights when shots just won’t go down. My coach would make these kinds of suggestions to me:
      1. Get a lay-up and then try your jumper again.
      2. Get to the FT line and find your groove.
      3. Take a different kind of shot from a different place on the floor.

      Many times, these worked for me. But how can you give your players different “looks” at the rim if you run the same actions that have resulted in missed shots. How can you give your players a chance for a lay-up if you don’t have an offense designed specifically for opening up the lane and setting up the defense.

      Will changing formations and changing the emphasis of action work every time? Of course not. Nothing works every time in basketball. But with the R&R, I have the ability to change the scoring opportunities drastically enough to perhaps shake my players out of their scoring slump.

      Thanks again for contributing.

  3. Rick, 1st of all I would like to say I am a huge fan of the R&R offense,I have never coached B-ball till 3 years ago,I coached baseball for 10 years pryor to that. After the 1st year of living behind the computer trying to learn as much about basketball as I could we did make it to the Montana State championship game MCAA on Defence alone, we had no shooters,the program had no way to improve shooting of the players,.Before the 2nd year coaching I came across your R&R offense,I was all in hook and sinker so was my assistant coach, it was alittle rough the 1st year, but we developed a shooting program for the players in the off season. About 1/2 of the players instituted it in the off season.We had shooters the 2nd year and a defense,it was great .Last year was our 2 year on the R&R and my 3rd year coaching it was awsome,after losing close games to free throws and low percentage shots, the R&R mixed with shotters is hard to stop,plus a relentless defense is a total package, but defense come from the heart. In saying all that I do agree that a successful teams needs good shooters,and after just a few years coaching I believe shooting is developed in the off season,correct shotting form is the foundation, it is hard to change a players form during the season. We use the progression program with 8 to 10 zones. 1 is under the basket 10 is the 3 point line. You shoot in each zone till you get 70 to 80 percent then you can move to the next zone, my youngest son has been doing it for 3 years now and he is finally at the 3 point line but his form and rotation are near perfect. I see too many players thinking that if they put up enough reps they will get better,I think this is far but the truth,the foundation needs to be correct 1st. And we did win the MCAA State Championship last year. It was the most exciting game I have ever been in, cant wait a few weeks and we start practice.

  4. I find that with the R&R, it is giving my average players the opportunity for open shots.
    A player drives to the hoop, players circle rotate, defense helps out and bingo, open shot.
    Maybe they aren’t hitting these shots right now but it gives them reason to work harder in practice for the next time.
    They now know why we spend time catching and shooting.
    Intensity in practices have gone way up.
    Keep your ideas coming, I’m always looking to improve my team.
    Joe Hawkco

  5. Sorry to get in on this so late… I do expect all my players to give me their shooting stats from the lay up position daily… we are at 90% as a team average..depending on their time, but we try for 100 made layup shots. Then I ask them to shoot from a spot they have choosen.. I am trying to get them to do some thing like you suggest with your: “progression program with 8 to 10 zones.”

    Tim Peterson, can you give more detail on this progression… is it distance or certain spots? I am sick of seeing some of them only practice on the 3pt line because other coaches ask for that. One of my best shooters has gone so down hill and so many turnovers because of him shooting these long shots I am about to put him on the bench if it were not for his rebounding. He has also gone down on his layups. He can do practice shots but not game shots.

    Since this is a city league we do not have much of an off season. Players work on layup #1 spot before practice and their choice after practice.


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