Building a Cohesive Basketball Staff

Coach Huddle

During my long coaching career, I coached a JV (frosh/soph) team twice. The first time was my first-ever coaching job at Jesuit High in Sacramento, California when I was 21 years old and still in college. The second time was about 30 years later at Union Mine High in Placerville, California, a new school with no Juniors or Seniors on campus yet. Even though I had many years of experience, including nine at the college level before that second go-around at the JV level, I pretty much tried to do the same things I had done the first time. I wanted to develop sound, fundamental players for the Varsity team. Luckily for me, after both of those JV seasons, I became the Varsity coach of those same players the next year. If their basketball fundamentals were poor, I had no one to blame but myself.  

As a Varsity Head Coach, at six different high schools along the way, I had to deal with all types of assistant coaches.  Some were left over from the previous coaching staff, others were assigned by the administration without my input, and once in awhile I was allowed to choose my own assistants.  Some of these coaches obviously were a challenge to deal with because they just weren’t on the same page with me.  They usually conceded they would do what was best for the program and what I wanted done, but sometimes it just didn’t happen.

Obviously, having eager and loyal assistants is very important when forming a coaching staff.  I often found that my best assistants were ex-players.  They knew me, knew what I expected, and in many instances didn’t know too much more about basketball than what they had learned from me.  That usually turned out to be a blessing because our philosophies were pretty much the same.  The next set of assistants who worked reasonable well were those that sought me out because they liked what I did and wanted to be a part of my program.  They were eager to learn, follow the philosophy I had, and usually adjusted well to our culture.  

Sometimes as a head coach, you have to convince assistants to do what you feel is best for the program.  This can be a problem when one of your coaches is set in his ways and wants to do only what he knows best.  That’s when you become a “salesman” and try to convince that coach to do what is best for the program.  Sometimes you give it a try for a year and then you just have to make a change.  Letting a coach go is not a pleasant task at all, but usually best for all involved.

No matter what level you coach, you should be looking to develop fundamentally sound, unselfish, and intelligent basketball players. Too often, coaches get caught up in “winning the games” and forget to develop their players. If you are a lower level coach, you have the responsibility of preparing your players so they can fit into the Varsity Coach’s system.  Personally, as a Head Coach, I don’t care about Frosh and JV teams’ won/loss records.  When the better players are ready to move up, I want them to move up.  Assistants that don’t embrace that philosophy are too interested in their own personal records and not the development of a program.  I often remind lower level coaches, you get head coaching jobs because of your Varsity team’s success, not your JV record.  Are you developing players?  Are you part of a winning program?  It is your job to help develop a winning program by teaching solid, fundamental basketball and developing sound, fundamental basketball players.

Lower level coaches set the tone for the program.  They need to set a good example by always being at practice and on time because then, they can more easily require their players to do the same.  Coaches need to show good sportsmanship and demand it from their players too.  And it is also a lower level coach’s job to take care of behavioral problems so they hopefully do not carry over to the Varsity team.  

As a Freshman or JV coach, you should show interest in the Varsity program and involve yourself when possible.  Ask to attend practices, observe pre game meetings, sit on the Varsity bench during games, and be in on halftime and postgame gatherings.  These are great opportunities to observe and learn.  You might even be able to help the Head Coach in some capacity and show your expertise.  

Finally, you need to be a student of the game.  Attend clinics, read basketball books, study online videos and articles about the latest trends in teaching the game of basketball.  You are never too young or too old to learn, so always seek knowledge.  Don’t be afraid to find other coaches, especially veteran ones, who can help you in your education and pursuit of a better coaching career.  Old Timers, like me, usually enjoy sharing their knowledge and passing it on to the next generation of coaches.

As a Head Coach, I always handed out a list of goals at the beginning of the season for my lower level coaches to accomplish.  I also used it for evaluation of an assistant coach at the end of a season. It is a list similar to the one my first “boss”, Bob Gaillard, gave me at Jesuit High School way back when I began my career as his JV coach.  Below, are my 12 Goals for Frosh and JV Coaches.  I hope it will give you some ideas in preparing your own list for your assistants.  Having a successful basketball program begins with building a cohesive staff.  A Head Coach needs to provide the leadership that will help everyone succeed.  Start today!


1. Play at least ten (10) players every game.  (First half preferably)

2. Have an intense, hustling, fundamentally sound, man to man defensive team.

3. Install a “numbered” fast break attack utilizing the pass rather than the dribble whenever possible.

4. Teach the “inside-out” offensive approach while developing sound post-up options for all players.

5. Instruct players in the proper methods of shooting bank shots, free throws, and right-left handed lay-ups.

6. Daily drills on offensive skills need to be employed – dribbling, passing, pivoting, posting, screening, and cutting.

7. Daily defensive breakdown drills involving 1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3, and 4 on 4 half court are required.

8. Teach the “basic” 2-1-2 set-up for beating any zone press.

9. Teach the “man to man / run and jump” press and at least one zone press (2-2-1 or 2-1-2 or 1-2-1-1).

10. Emphasize proper rebound-blocking out procedures and techniques.

11. Include daily, monitored, form-shooting and free throw shooting.

12.Teach players to celebrate assists by pointing to the passer when they score.


For more about Coach Battenberg, check out his website at:


4 thoughts on “Building a Cohesive Basketball Staff

  1. Just read this entry, sorry to comment so late. I think this is such a great topic that applies to all sports, and in some ways, to many aspects of life. You could really apply your ideas to any “role” that exists to support something bigger. I think excepting a support role and perfecting one’s ability to perform that role is a lost art. Too many people view Frosh/JV coaching as a springboard to a Varsity job. A great lower-level coach finds satisfaction from how their players perform years after they coached them!


    1. Thanks for your feedback, Rich. Your point about this applying to many aspects of life is right on. Having great support staff is often overlooked and under-appreciated. We all need to keep that in mind when serving as leaders.

      Liked by 2 people

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