In 2003, I took some time to consider my basketball life up to that moment. After my playing career and then over twenty years in coaching, I knew there was something missing. After much contemplation, I decided to create the Read & React Offensive System™. Why would my reflection motivate me to launch into such a daunting project? More importantly, what problems was I trying to solve?
Let's toss all of my experiences, observations, and problems into one giant pot, and stir them around for consideration, because that's exactly what I did in 2003. Here are the ingredients in no particular order:
With a goal set as lengthy and complex as this, I wondered how to go about building a principled offensive system. My answer? By examining how we build defense...
First, we teach players the skills required to play defense: their defensive stance on the ball; their defensive stance when in help position; their denial stance when one pass away; how to defend in the post; what to do with their hands when their man is dribbling, driving, or shooting; how to block out or check out, rebound, and outlet the ball. These are just some of the tools that each individual defender needs to bring to the table. There are encyclopedias of drills to build these tools into an individual player. But these tools are not enough to build team defense.
The next step is to tie these individual players together in a 5-player-coordinated defensive unit. We all have our own preferences and twists, but traditionally, we split the floor into ball-side and weak-side halves. How do players know what side they are on? By reading the ball in relationship to their man. On the elementary level, it 's as simple as this: if you are one pass away (ball-side), then be in your denial stance. If you are two passes away (weak-side), then be in your helping stance; perhaps halfway between the ball and your man (or in the lane, or on the midline, etc.) As the ball is passed around, we expect coordination as a whole, even though each defender is simply reading the ball. I would call this the first defensive layer. I think you would agree that there's no need to move on to the second defensive layer until the players have mastered it.
Defensive layers are added one at a time, and are never expected to contradict the previous defensive layer. We must add how to defend ball screens, how to defend screens away from the ball, how to defend basket cuts, how to defend flashes into the lane, etc. There is also a teaching progression to these layers. As an example, post defense will be taught before we teach the other players how to help down on the post. The bottom line is that regardless of what you teach and when you teach it, I think you'll agree with me that we don't teach it ALL at one time and that we try to teach it in a logical, building-block progression.
And as we teach these defensive layers, we are limited to what the players can absorb. Obviously, if you're on the youth level, you probably don't get beyond the first step. You're happy if you can just get all the kids in a defensive stance at the same time! But if you're on the college or pro level, you expect to get mastery of all the layers in only a few weeks. In other words, the progression is the same, but how far you get depends on the level of your players.
I understand that you might have a different progression. Certainly your defensive details will be different than mine, but my point is that there's a teaching progression with defense. No one jumps directly to step 4 (Principled Defensive Situations) without first demanding a command of the first three "defensive layers."
So, how do we transfer this defensive progression to the offensive end? We follow the first step by teaching the players how to shoot, dribble, attack one-on-one, get open, screen, etc. In fact, Better Basketball has seven videos devoted to these skills. They're extremely important to the success of any offensive system. However, they cover only the first step in the progression. Traditionally, the next step is to go to plays, patterns, quick-hitters, sets, or whatever you like to call them. This is where I wanted to break tradition. I wanted my offense to follow the same progression as my defense. I wanted my players to play offense by principle, and most importantly, as a 5-player-coordinated unit. And that's exactly what the Read and React Offense does: it provides a framework that can be used as an offensive system to develop players, teams, and programs. Or, it can be an offense for one team, an offense that builds upon itself, with a counter for anything any defense can throw at it.
I knew there would be problems if I taught offense the way I did defense. Like defense, my offense would NOT be able to execute to perfection at the beginning of the season. But, on the other hand, just like my defense, my offense would get better at playing by principle with each layer and by the end of the season, tournament time, we would be at our best.
The specifics I've used to accomplish these goals and solve these problems is laid out in the Read and React DVDs. The intricacies and adjustments are many, but always very simple. Here's an outline of the system.
The first five layers of the offense are grouped into a "Level" that I term "Laying the Foundation." The habits taught in these layers take care of the two most common actions that occur in offense – dribble penetration, and passing the ball to a teammate one pass away. The layers will work regardless of the formation (5-out, 4out, or 3-out). These five layers ensure good spacing and floor balance, give each player on the floor built-in-motivation to react quickly and correctly, and solve the problems of aggressive perimeter denial defense without using hand signals or verbal signals.
I termed the next Level, "Completing the Foundation." It has four layers, and they bring screens into the offense, but not in traditional ways. For example, in the Read and React System, a player WITH the ball can actually act as the screener in a pick and roll (the R&R System explains the details). To some who have seen the R&R, these four layers are the most impressive of the system, as they create some normally complicated 5-man movement, including double and even triple staggered screens without the players having to read anything more than the simple 2-man action of that layer. This level also provides European 3s and back screens, among other scoring opportunities.
The next four layers are concerned with Post Play. The offense can now easily morph into various sets with players positioned in the low post, the mid-post, the high post, or even the short corners (an adjustment that has of course proven particularly useful against zones). This level adds a great deal of flexibility to the offense without changing a single acquired habit from the previous layers. These layers allow you to imitate a dribble-drive game, a power post game, a blocker-mover game, the UCLA high post game, or many others. The only thing that post players MUST do is react correctly to dribble penetration. Other than that they are free to do whatever a coach wants to emphasize, whether it's back to the basket post moves, two posts screening for each other, a post or two screening for their teammates on the perimeter, or a particularly talented player moving from the inside to the outside and back.
The final Level contains four layers, and I term it "Icing on the Cake." It provides the best counter to sagging man or zone defenses, the pin screen. This is one of the habits that could be taught out of order without affecting the offense. As an example, if a team was playing with only the first 5 layers, the coach could add layer 14 without contradiction and without teaching anything to link this habit to the first five layers. Morphing the offense to attack zones is explained in this level. It contains no new habits and completes one of my primary goals: the same offense versus man or zone defenses. Finally, the system ties your transition game into your half court game without having to stop and set up. The defense won't know where your fast break ended and where your half-court offense began.
Every habit in the R&R offense has its own 2, 3, 4, or 5 player drill to teach it to your players. I've included them all, from the most elementary drills to the most advanced, on DVD #3 in the package. My reason for the drills is two-fold:
1. The fewer the players in the drill, the more reps they can get. The more reps they can get, the quicker the Read & React habits will form. The quicker the habits form, the sooner the offense works efficiently.
2. The drills allow you to collapse time frames: In the off-season, these drills will not only allow for fundamental work like shooting, ball handling, passing, one-on-one play, and conditioning; but by using them, you'll have 90% of your offense ready to go by the first day of practice.
After two years of trial and error and experimentation, I was ready to implement the whole System, but because of the success of Better Basketball, I was no longer coaching and therefore had no team or organization of my own with which to use it. So, I gave the system away to many of my coaching friends. It was absolutely the best thing that I could have done! They've provided three years of "laboratory" experience that I otherwise would not have. The Read & React has proven to be adaptable to any style of play or any coaching philosophy at any level, boys or girls.
So what's next? That's up to you, and how you use it. In some respects, the Read & React is just a tool for teaching the game. But it can give you things that no one else has:
What's next for me? Watching coaches like you use the Read & React in ways I never thought of. Watching you take the game we love to a higher level. Could there be anything more fun and more exciting? I look forward to Reading your Reactions!Previous PostNext Post
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