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Details Of The Martelli Game (& My Favourite Coaching Book)

Good afternoon!

At the end of this e-mail I share with you my favourite book about coaching. Let me tell you right away that is not about ❌’s and ⭕️’s and it’s not a drill book either. 

But first I want to share something with you upon general request.

Some time ago I wrote an article on how the provocation of free throws might be one of the biggest keys to success for an efficient offense. I revealed how Coach Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph’s came closest to mimicking the game pressure. 

Many of you were asking about the details of this mental team challenge. I’m happy to share it with you in this newsletter.

This is how it goes:

The night before every game, he ended the practice with the same drill. He puts a score of 70-70 on the scoreboard: HOME 70 – AWAY 70

Every team member (15 at St. Joe’s) has to shoot 1 free throw.
Make = +1 for HOME
Miss = +2 for AWAY

After everyone has shot, the players that have missed will shoot again.
And again. Until everybody has scored a FT.
With the same +1/+2 rule.
If after that, HOME is leading -> PRACTICE IS OVER.

If not, then we start the second round.
In this case, the scoreboard starts with a score of
HOME 70 – AWAY 71

If HOME doesn’t win, 3rd round starts with 70-72, etc …

During my apprenticeship within the staff of St. Joe’s back in the days, players needed 19 rounds (*). The drill can be over in 5′, but that day it took them 1h10. We had to move to other gym because the women’s practice had to start, assistant coaches had to leave to pick up their kids at school,  …
This is a moment you learn a lot about the team dynamics: who are the leaders, which players tends to give up soon, which bench players are important for your team chemistry, who steps up to make the clutch free throw …
It’s a mental game!

Try it out and let me know how it works out with your team!

Talking about requests, there’s another question that’s keeps getting back at me. Coaches ask me often my favorite book. Because basketball is evolving so fast nowadays and faster resources are available, a 📖 is not my main source for new drills or plays. My all-time favourite is different.

It’s “My Last Season” by Phil Jackson, about the 2003-2004 season at the Lakers. With already Kobe and Shaq on the roster, the Lakers brought in veteran stars like Karl Malone and Gary Payton to make one last run at the NBA title. 

The book covers all the struggles a coach has to deal with – on and off court – running a team packed with stars and egos. I’m a huge fan of the careers of Jackson (mostly because of the nostalgy to the 90’s) and Kobe (intrigued by the stories about his 🐍 work ethics after the recent tragic happenings). But this book about failure and disappointments teaches me more than stories about successes.

Next week I’ll be back with a longer X’s and O’s video breakdown with some recent tendencies in the EuroLeague!

Pascal.

(*) With 15 players, the first 15 rounds went up to a 70-85 start (which is almost impossible, but coach insists to finish each game, without joking). The next round, we start again with 70-70, but the team has to win two games in a row! Next up: starting 70-71 and win 2x in a row

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Recently I did a podcast with Chris Oliver of Basketball Immersion.