A Coaching Clinic: The 2-1-2 Hybrid Zone Defense

Dan SmithCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2009

This is my 40th article at Bleacher Report, and I thought it to be a good time to share with everyone why it is that I feel that I have an expert opinion on sports. I coach basketball and understand what it takes to build a team, to prepare for a game and a season. I have seen the thin line that exists between a great win and a devastating loss.

Playing the game that you love is great recreation, but coaching a game that you love is so much more. To lead your team into a game and match wits with the other coach is such a joy to be a part of. To play a team better than your team but have a great gameplan that works is a priceless feeling.

To have a team loaded with talent and motivate them to reach their potential is another priceless feeling. To be the even keel for your team after the wins and losses is what coaching is all about. That is how you see your team build character, because learning how to win is just as important as dealing with the losses.

I have heard that, even in basketball, there are defensive and offensive coaches. I am successful in coaching basketball because I have solid teams that play a system of aggressive defense that leads to an attacking offense. I teach my teams in practice that you can crush the other team's will in basketball by doing some very simple things very well.

The first thing is individual players have to work harder at every practice. A team is truly only as strong as its weakest link, so I instruct every player to always be improving. The hard work in practice leads to fun times at the games.

Within the game, the way to get into the other team's head in basketball starts with rebounding. You can show your toughness as a team by boxing out and grabbing those critical defensive rebounds. Nothing is more demoralizing than knowing you have one shot at the basket before you have to get back and play defense. To further the opponent's demoralization, if you can grab offensive rebounds it begins to wear on them.

My teams would make work look easy while the other teams were just working to keep up. When the other coach takes a timeout, I always tell my team the same thing:

"Look how hard they are working to be down by four points."

I have to take a timeout sometimes and tell my team this:

"Look how hard you are making them work to only be up by four points."

You see, I teach this hybrid zone defense that makes the opposing offense work for every shot. Once the shot goes up, our offense is already in motion, trying to get an easy transition layup off of any missed shot.

You have to have a deep rotation to run the 2-1-2 hybrid zone defense, because the top two in the zone have to cover a lot of ground on defense. The top two players are also the ones streaking out for the long passes in our transition game.

Most point guards are right-handed, so their offense goes to the right-hand side. The top defender on that side has to work a lot since they cover half of the court down to the baseline. The defender on the left side was usually the one running down the court when the shot went up. One of the bottom two grabs the rebound and looks for the middle player, who throws the ball downcourt for an open layup.

Over and over again.

If the other coach sent a player back to stop our transition game, then we would just walk the ball upcourt and play a grinding half-court style full of pick-and-rolls, post moves and other forms of physical basketball.

When you play an attacking style of basketball, the other team is always reacting to what you do. It was how my teams controlled the flow of a game and, with the hard work we put into our practice time, we were usually the fresher team in the fourth quarter.

The 2-1-2 that I coach would not work in the NBA because they have that absurd defensive three-second rule. I hope to someday take it to the college level and watch my teams continue to grind out wins while crushing the other teams' will. 


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