Managing Team Offense during Games

Managing a Team Offense can be a very challenging aspect of basketball coaching. Finding the right key to unlock an opposition’s defence is one of the more pressing issues every coach faces when they take the floor. When speaking with coaches one of the motivating factors which is often discussed in regards to play or offensive system selection is “will this beat everything”? Many coaches over coach their teams offensive needs because of a fear that they will not be able to deal with a defence one day and need more, rather than fewer offensives well executed play options.


There are however a number of different strategies for managing a team’s offense during a game which will help deal with the challenges of defences in general.


Coaching a Team Offense is all about Options (Source: Ben Stanfield)
Coaching a Team Offense is all about Options (Source: Ben Stanfield)

The first step is to Define what is Working during a game. A team’s offense will work slightly different against every team. If you are playing in the higher levels of competition then a team will have scouted a team’s offense prior to the game. Most of the more favoured plays can be less effective in these cases if not executed well by the offense. In this situation when looking at a team offense it is important to recognise what is working well. This might be a particular play or certain read during an aspect of a play. For example guarding a back-cut might something a defence is unable to do with a good rate of proficiency. By exposing the weakness this will change how a defensive team might help off the ball and then the team’s defensive rotations might change affecting the whole defence in general.


As a coach when examining the team offense, it is important to be able to Look for a Counter to the strategy of the defence. As stated earlier defences might be scouting a team well in advance and be comfortable with defending the standard offensive play options. In these situations, it is important for a coach and team to be familiar enough with an offense to be able to employ counters and exploit the tactics being used by the defence. For example, a defence might be switching on all on-ball screens. In this situation, the offense may look to always to pass to the screener on the roll to the basket.


Most team offense is situational and it is important for a coach to know What is Needed from the Team Offense Right Now. Being aware of the flow of the game and what type of scoring option is best will help a coach choose the right play for the defensive situation or that time during a game. In some situations, this will mean a three-point shot, other times it will be tactically specific like looking for shots within the offense that are in the keyway because this is a must score possession.


Another way to select the right team offense is to Look for the Inform Player. The inform player is the player with the “Hot Hand”. Try to find options for this player to gain possession in offense can be a useful way create issues for the defence. This should not mean that the same offense is run every possession, but that the inform player is found within the offense more regularly to keep their run of form going and in turn fuelling the team’s offense overall.


A good strategy to examine when things are not going well is to ask yourself, Are you Using all the Phases in your Offense? By doing this, a coach might be able to identify if there are gaps in the offensive phases of a team. If the half court team offense is not working, then looking to exploit other elements (fast break or primary transition) might be the best option to help a team continue to put points on the board. By not looking to utilise the full spectrum of team offense phases a team will be limiting their opportunity to play basketball in its fullest capacity.


If everything is going bad in regards to being able to find a scoring option then the one golden rule is Rotate, Rotate and Rotate Some More. As a coach, it is important to always keep rotating through the various team offenses to try and find a formula that works against the oppositions defence. Rotating sometimes it is about the players on the court working out how to execute what is needed, sometimes it is about using the right play against the defensive change-up and other times, it is about rotating the team offense to make it difficult for the opposition to match-up and counter as effectively as possible.


In conclusion there is never any situation under which a coach should choose to give up on a  game or the team. Having options and being prepared to exercise these choices makes a coach and team just that much harder to beat. Managing a team offense is not always easy and as a coach, being challenged will only serve to provide experience and opportunity to learn and grow.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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