How to coach, teach and use the basketball man-to-man defenses
We believe, beginning at their earliest formative years, all basketball players should be taught how to use and understand all six ways to play the man-to-man defenses. If you give a kid these basic tools, you will be doing him the best favor, possible. Then if any make the pros, their coach will never say, "You must have played zone your entire life."
In the State of Indiana, most coaches believe the first defense to be taught youngsters are an assigned man-to-man defense. First of all, you must understand that this type of defense is a difficult one to teach, but an obligation that comes with the job. This difficulty is because much is left to the judgment of the individual player.
Man-to-man basketball defense makes it possible to match players against opponents of equal size, skill, and quickness. Each player is assigned a particular opponent and held responsible, defensively, for that player.
After each game, the most popular item in a basketball dressing room is the scorebook. Every player, I have known, always wanted to know, not only how many points he scored, but how many points his assigned opponent scored. A youngster quickly learns that he may score in double figures, but should his assignment score one more point than he did, then, he better get to work on his defensive skills. Every player, I ever coached, always took pride in his defensive ability. The smartest basketball players know the importance of good defense. The player who holds his assigned opponent scoreless, or to a few points, while outscoring him is a valuable team player.
Man-to-man defense requires each player to be able to guard his man in every defensive situation, and be skilled in defensive fundamentals:
When making defensive assignments go somewhat on size; but not entirely. The tallest player on their team may be their most-clever player. In such a case, you need a defender that can keep that player from handling the ball as often as possible. Typical assignments would be as follows:
It is not practical to use the ideal assignment of guards taking forwards, center against center, and forwards on the guards. Usually the forwards are bigger than the guards, and the forwards are assigned to work both boards; however, if at all possible, have one guard work the defensive board and handle the ball from out-of-bounds.
The big weakness of a man-to-man defense is that screens can be set to free the offensive player from his assigned guard. Offensive moves will make it most difficult, sometimes, for a defensive player to stay between his man and the most direct line to the basket. There must be a definite plan for the defensive player to use against various screen situations. This is a definite defensive team maneuver demanding alertness and cooperation.
Communications (talk) is most important if you expect a good basketball defensive team. This is often the hardest job of coaching. That is get all your players to realize how important it is to talk on defense. Teammates must talk to warm each other of screens being set, to switch safely, to pick up a loose man, and to ask for help. Defensive players should be talking to each other all the time, yelling the following examples:
Hall of Fame Coach, Arad McCutchan, used two methods of counteracting screens:
Basketball man-to-man defenses can be played in six different ways. The material a coach has available and the opponent determines what defense is to be played. The position of the ball determines each individual’s position in that particular defense.
Back in the old days of the game of basketball, the guards stayed back and were strictly defensive men. It was up to them to see that no one scored. They were watch-dogs of the basket. In the beginning they were usually the most rugged and least versatile players on the floor. Sometimes, they didn’t even get beyond the center circle on the offensive drive because they had so little to do with the offense.
When the opponents brought the ball down into scoring territory these two guards immediately took charge of the two forwards, the center took the opposing center and the defense was man-to-man in nature. They played their opponent all over the floor.
Times have changed since then and to establish the normal man-to-man basketball defense you must emphasize that each defender has two duties:
1. Guard the player assigned by the coach. This is his most important responsibility and under normal conditions, he should not expect help from teammates.
a. When guarding a player who is dribbling, the defender must never lunge, but must move the man away from the advantage he, or she, seeks. The person guarding the screener should call out any switch. Both players should be aggressive staying with the player they have switched without retreating.
b. In case of a mismatch where a smaller defender must cover a taller player, a teammate should collapse to help.
c. The smaller player should play in front of his opponent in a pivot position knowing he will get weak-side help from alert defensive teammates. The players should switch back to their original opponents as quickly as possible under safe conditions, again calling the switch.
2. Cooperate with teammates. In case of a mismatch where a smaller defender must cover a taller player, a teammate should collapse to help. Players away from the ball should collapse toward the screen to help
To coordinate his, or her, movement to those of the team, each player has the following responsibilities:
1. Force the opposing dribbler in a predetermined direction.
2. See both the designated opponent and the ball.
3. Be prepared to pick up opponents who are free coming off a screen or a backdoor cut.
4. Collapse to the middle to prevent easy reception in the pivot area when you are on the weak-side of the floor.
5. Be vocal.
6. Get back on defense quickly.
7. Be alert to double team opponents.
8. Be mentally and physically alert to avert any opponent's scoring opportunities.
9. Get inside rebound position on every shot by the opposing team.
10. Help the pivot defender in the following three ways: First, do not allow a pass into the pivot area; second, float into this area to discourage the ball from being passed when your opponent is on the weak side; and third, try to tie up a good pivot player from the front by following the pass-in if the ball does get into the pivot-player's hands.
11. Know your opponent's strengths and weaknesses and play him, or her, accordingly.
12. Intercept or deflect if possible.Here are a few diagrams to help you get started. I can think of a hundred others, but space is limited. Surely this will give you the idea.
This defense calls for one man to guard an opponent without ever leaving your assigned player or switching. Coach Branch McCracken used it against teams who didn’t use a lot of screens and was quite successful. There are coaches who insist they use only tight man-to-man defense; however, they are soon to admit that “teammates help one another out.”
Coach McCutchan didn’t believe that a man-to-man could get results without switching once in awhile. If a defender tries to force his way through all screens, he surely will pick up a lot of fouls.
This defense can be used as a full-court, three-quarter-court, or half-court pressure defense. Such a defense is most effective when sprung as a surprise and used for only short periods of time. Use more passive defenses in-between. You will find this defense to be most effective against inexperienced teams or a team who has poor ball-handlers.
The tight man-to-man is a great defense for a quick, small team. Use it to move the opponent’s point of attack farther out than they normally like. This defense is an excellent defense to use when trailing, late in the game.
Defensive players play closer than normal to their assigned opponent. They must go after him, or her, in an aggressive manner whenever they have the ball. When playing the dribbler force him, or her, to their weak hand, not attempting to steal the ball. Stay in his, or her, bubble faking and jabbing to stop the dribble.
As soon as the dribbler stops, the defender moves up quickly getting as close to the opponent as possible, without fouling, waving arms to block vision, and shouting, "Dead! Dead! Dead!" The teammates, hearing this, get into the passing lane to the person they are guarding to prevent them from receiving an easy pass.
If the dribbler does pass off, his defender must drop off immediately toward the basket in the direction the pass was made.
This type of defense is most effective against a team composed of poor shooters. Such teams must use an offensive attack to obtain shots close to the basket. As the name implies, the loose man-to-man defense is played in a looser fashion than a normal man-to-man. In the loose defense the players collapse preventing penetration of the lane. In essence, a loose man-to-man basketball defense can be practically turned into a zone basketball defense. (See diagrams 8 and 9.)
Coach Branch McCracken gave the following hints toward using this defense:
1. “Drop off heavy and jam the area of the foul circle and foul lane. This is often referred to as clogging the middle.”
2. “The defensive player taking the man with the ball plays him fairly tight.”
3. “Other defensive men drop back off their men moving toward the middle area.”
4. “ If the offensive man is completely out of the play, the defender drops off to the extreme.”
5. “Do not lose the offensive man completely.”
6. “This defense is effective against a 3-2 offensive set with poor outside shooters.”
The pick-up point of this defense is just outside the 3-point line. This is an excellent defense to use against poor outside shooting opponents, a good cutting team, a team that changes direction to the basket well, or a much quicker team than yours. It is also good for a taller team that is playing man-to-man defense for good rebounding strength. It places a burden on the offensive team to score from the outside.
Turn-and-double man-to-man basketball defense
This is an aggressive double-teaming half-court defense, in which the player guarding the dribbler takes him toward the sideline. As this takes place, the nearest defensive guard sloughs-off his man toward the dribbler. That is to say, between the player he is guarding and the ball.
As soon as the dribbler picks up his dribble, his guard forces that player to pivot back toward the mid-court line. The guard who is sloughing-off should sprint toward the player with the ball. As the player with the ball pivots and either attempts to steal the ball or forms a double-team with the dribbler's defender.
Normally, a player being double-teamed will pass in the direction the pressure comes; therefore, the forward closest to the player who left to make the double-team should shift into an intercepting angle between the ball and the teammate's free offensive player. The strong-side forward should, also, play at an intercepting angle. Lastly, the center should zone between the two remaining offensive opponents, staying closer to the more dangerous player of the two.
If the ball is passed to a forward, the double-team would take place between the defensive forward and a guard. In this defense you should expect the two guards, or a guard and a forward, will be the double-team players, and the center in the middle area using zone principles to protect the area near the basket. The intercepting angles are to be played on the offensive players nearest the ball. The fifth defender zones the basket area as mentioned above.
If the dribbler can get the ball to a teammate, each defender must pick up the nearest opponent. The passer must be played by his original defender. The double-teamer should sprint toward the basket because the loose opponent is usually the player farthest from the ball.
To negate the offensive opportunities for a mismatch of a small player guarding a big player, a switch may be necessary between the forward who has come to pick up the opponent of the double-teaming guard and the guard who has picked up the weak-side offensive forward.
The best way to effect this switch is to allow the ball to be passed back to the original passer and have the players exchange opponents on the pass. This will not hurt the defense because these players are so far from the ball and the basket, and it will allow the defensive team to adjust to this situation and again attack in the same manner as before.
Good intercepting angles and intelligent play by either defensive player guarding the two offensive players closest to the ball will result in many interceptions. Should the ball reach one of the offensive players on the weak-side, they should have an open shot. The defense should fake at them, allowing the shot rather than an easy lay-up.
The turn-and-double defense is an excellent surprise action that is most effective against a taller team with poor ball handlers. It upsets the opponent’s plan of attack and increases the tempo of the game. Have this defense ready to use when behind in the late stages of the game.
The switching man-to-man defense was the main defense Hall of Fame Coach Arad McCutchan used while I sat on his bench. Coach McCutchan brought it with him from Bosse High School in Evansville, Indiana. This was the defense used by the Bulldogs when the racked-up two Indiana State championships in a row during 1944 and 1945. This defense is an oldie, but a goodie; however, players must be on the same page.
Stanford University may have been the first successful team to use this defense in 1942, when they won the NCAA championship. That team was coached by Everett Dean and averaged 6 foot 4 inches in height. The players were quick and employed the fast break, which was aided by excellent backboard play and a constant front-line defense.
This defense groups in zone fashion as much as possible. In fact, a good switching man-to-man defense is hard to distinguish the difference. The only way to know is observing diagonal cuts where no shifting is possible.
That Stanford championship team shifted in a manner to prevent their largest player from chasing smaller player all over the court. Their assignments were more expressly defined.
In scouting your opponent you should know their strength and weaknesses and learn how much shifting should be necessary. If you are a fast breaking team, a good rule-of-thumb in making assignments for a game are as follows:
The forwards might change sides or positioning according to their opponent or the other team’s offense. Personally, I always believed in temporarily matching players in this way:
This type of assignment permits the players to start off with a matched assignment. Many times there is no advantage to this plan because of frequent shifts while other times the play develops in such a way that there is a decided advantage. The guards shift with the forwards on all longitudinal blocks and with the center or other guard on all lateral plays. The defensive forwards shift with each other on all lateral movement thus maintaining a constant position in the front line as an energy saver and fast-break advantage. The sagging off and converging to the ball feature is equally strong in this defense as in the zone. Converging on rebounds is also a strong point. Diagrams 13 to 16 show a few situations in the operation of this defense.
I don't know who gave this defense its name; however, the concept has been around for ages. The run-and-jump defense is not a team's style of defense. It is really a part of a team's overall style of defensive play.
Before using this type of pressure basketball defense, make certain you have athletes that can perform. They must have speed and depth. Basically, the run-and-jump defense is a regular tight man-to-man defense with automatic switching in which the dribbler is influenced toward a particular area of the court, then picked up by another defender who applies intense defensive pressure as the original defender completes the switch by taking his teammate’s man.
It is important to note that success of the run-and-jump depends greatly on the element of surprise and the technique requires practice and well-skilled experienced players. Also, there are two aspects of the defense that can serve to make it a full-time defense rather than as a surprise tactic.
To give you an example, in the beginning of a game, you could play a regular half-court man-to-man, using the sideline influence technique to set-up the run-and-jump tactic. You will often find that even when the offensive team anticipates the run-and-jump, the ball handler must still find an open teammate. Furthermore, you can make this more difficult by either varying the location or the player executing the run-and-jump.
There are as many variations of the run-and-jump as there are coaches; however, the description here, follows these three rules:
The run-and-jump works best if it is initiated by your most capable and experienced player on the team. If a coach has a quick, smart, hardnosed perimeter player who doesn't mind contact and really likes to draw charging fouls, he is the logical candidate to initiate this play any time an opponent drives no matter what his court position.
The coach doesn't even have to tell the team he is using the run-and-jump. All that’s necessary is tell that player to initiate the run-and-jump whenever he feels he can draw the charging foul. This player, of course, must use discretion; however, if he is a smart player, it isn't difficult to pick the spots. If such a ploy brings about two or three charging fouls, or turnovers, early in the game, opponents, sometimes, lose their willingness to drive hard to the basket.
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