Mastering the Details in Basketball

Mastering the Details in Basketball

This basketball coaching article was written by Basketball HQ Co-Founder Kyle Ohman.


If you ever watch great basketball teams play, you will quickly realize that they do all of the little things well. They are constantly communicating, closing out with high hands, making the extra pass, and so on. If you looked at each area singularly, they might not be that big of a deal in the grand scheme of everything, but you add all of these details together, and it really is what separates the best basketball teams from all of the rest.

So with the details being such a big deal, how do you make sure that your team is constantly focusing on mastering the details in basketball? What does it take to get your team to that level where every player is doing what they should be doing to help the team win games and ultimately championships? Here are four ways to make sure that your team is mastering the details in basketball.


A Clear Explanation of “What” and “Why”

An important part of coaching basketball today is not just telling a player to do something but also explaining why it is important for them to be doing it a certain way. The old school idea of coaching is, “do it this way because I said so.” However, that isn’t really realistic with the way that human nature works.

Yes, there should be a level of trust where a basketball coach can make a change, and the players do it without hesitating, but a player doesn’t really buy into something until they know why it is important. It is the same thing when someone tells you to do something, you want to know why, and once you know why it is important, you are so much more likely to do it.

Here are a few areas that are extremely key to a basketball team’s success but most likely need to be explained to your players as to why they are so important.



  • High Hands
  • Communication
  • Gap/Help
  • Rotations
  • Finishing the Play
  • Scouting Report Defense


Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what your basketball team is going to value, and then make sure that all of your players are on the same page. It needs to be clearly explained, both what you are looking for and why they should be doing it. Only once this is done will you be able to start holding people accountable.


“The only way to get players to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, players must understand why they’re working hard.” – Rick Pitino


High Accountability, High Expectations

“High accountability, high expectations” is a term that Gregg Marshal uses with his program at Wichita State, but it is definitely something that every program should be doing. Once you have clearly explained what and why to your team, you need to hold them accountable. This goes for the best player on your team, down to the last man on the bench, no exceptions.

This is how you start to build a winning culture in basketball. Good basketball players want to be pushed and held accountable; they just want to know what is expected of them and for it to be fair. Don’t set wild expectations that can’t be met or set expectations that are too low, and don’t hold anyone accountable. Be upfront with your players, and they will respect what you are asking of them.

There are going to be times that players mess up; that is just the way it is. So make sure that your punishment fits the crime. It is up to you to figure out what you want to do, but just make sure that you don’t paint yourself into a corner by setting up a bunch of set punishments for rule infractions.


No Days Off

The quickest way to lose discipline and a level of excellence within your basketball program is inconsistency. Players need to be held accountable and pushed every day, with no days off. If you are inconsistent with holding players accountable, it will chip away at your leadership and make your players not trust you. However, if you are consistent, a player might not like it in the moment, but they will appreciate you being consistent and holding them accountable.

This goes for being on time, going to class, closing out with high hands, etc. Anything that you value within your basketball program needs to be preached daily. It may be a struggle at first when trying to change your program’s culture, but once you show that certain areas are non-negotiable, players will start to buy-in.

Player Accountability

As much as basketball coaches do for a team, there is still a limit to what they can accomplish, and that is why it is so important to have player accountability within your team. Players need to be holding each other accountable and buying into what the team is trying to accomplish. This is when you start to see something really special happen, and your team has a chance to be great.

A great way to be a catalyst for player accountability is by meeting with team leaders and challenging them to raise the level of play during practice, team pick up, the weight room, workouts, etc. Coaches aren’t always going to be there during pick up or working out, and there must be players who know what is expected and are going to hold their teammates accountable.

Most of the time, players will naturally determine their own leaders on the team, but it is up to you to make sure that these leaders are reinforcing the team’s ideology and not eroding it.



Mastering the Details in Basketball Conclusion

We have all heard the phrase, “It is not so much about the X’s and O’s as Johnny’s and Joe’s,” and this phrase is so true. It doesn’t matter what your game plan is if you don’t have your players bought in and mastering the details of what it takes to be a great basketball team. It will take time to develop your program’s culture, but the long term payouts are absolutely worth all of the hard work.


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