How to Build Your Basketball Coaching Philosophy


I have been involved in numerous basketball coaching job interviews, both as a candidate and as an interviewer.  A common question often asked to candidates is: “What is your Basketball Coaching Philosophy?”  The usual answer I hear from young coaches is something like this: “I want the players to have fun and enjoy playing together.”  That might be a goal, but not a philosophy.  One of Webster’s definitions of Philosophy is: “A set of ideas about how to do something.”  This is what an interview committee wants to know.  What do you teach and how do you teach it to the players?

Before applying for a job, a coach should sit down and write his own Basketball Philosophy.  What do you believe and how will you accomplish it?  While adjustments and small changes may take place each season due to the talent available, a good coach will have a basis for what he does and why he does it year after year.

My basketball Philosophy was pretty basic in the beginning.  I had to add to it as I learned more about the game and what it took to succeed.  

Early on, I learned the importance of a good defense and how it could help the running game I liked so much.  

Later, I discovered the advantages of rebounding well on both ends of the court. Limiting opponents to one shot and getting extra shots on our offensive end became a big boost to my system.  

Playing a fast pace was something I enjoyed as a player, so I wanted to continue with that as a coach.  But learning the importance of transition back on defense to stop others from fast breaking my team became just as important to me.  

Shot selection was not a problem until the last 15 years or so when everyone became enamored with the 3-point shot.  Before, it was accepted that the better shooters would get more shots.  But then the enticement of the extra point for a longer shot seemed to inspire all players (and coaches) to want to try 3’s, whether they could make any or not. Defining a “good shot” became more important to me.  

And finally, I felt we needed to spend more time daily, in practice, working on Special Situations.  The idea of drawing up something in the huddle at the end of a close game without practicing the situation beforehand, seemed to be a little too risky to me.  

As my philosophy developed over time, I rewrote it and tuned it up a little every year.  But it really didn’t change too much from my first season as a Head Coach many years ago to my last.  I encourage all coaches, experienced or new, to sit down and think about what you believe in and why.  Then put it on paper and also keep it on your computer so you can fine tune it as you go along.  It’s always nice to know what you believe in, just in case someone asks.  It’s also helpful to you at the end of the season when you evaluate yourself and your team, and as you prepare for the next year’s new group.

For those who are curious how my Basketball Philosophy ended up when my coaching career finished, check below.  It is based on five distinct areas of instruction and it basically stayed the same over my last 10 years of coaching.  If you haven’t done it yet, get started on your own right away.  You will find it helpful in more ways than one.

Coach Battenberg’s Basketball Philosophy

1. Defense:

A solid Man-to-Man defense is the foundation of my philosophy.  Depending upon the quickness and abilities of the team, we apply pressure where and when we can.  We use zone defense only as a change of pace or as needed in special situations.  Our defense is designed to stop penetration, contest all shot attempts, and to create opponent turnovers. We expect our defense to keep us in games even when our offense is struggling.

2. Rebounding:

Playing great defense and forcing a missed opponent’s shot is negated if we allow them a second chance opportunity.  These extra opportunities lead to more shots, more fouls, and more scores by the opponent.  We strive to get every rebound and hold opponents to no second chance scores.  On offense, we send three to the boards every time and seek our own second chance opportunities.  We want the extra possessions, extra shot attempts, and the extra free throws we can gain.  

3. Transition Game:

On offense, we look to push the pace after made and missed opponent’s shots.  We run a fast break “wave” at every opportunity, emphasizing the pass ahead rather than the dribble.  We attack at the rim or in the post as quickly as possible.  If the initial “wave” is stopped, we go into our Secondary Break (Early Offense) and look to score before the opponent’s defense is completely set.  When our opponents get possession, we sprint back into the key area as quickly as possible to prevent them from scoring easily inside.  We strive to have the best transition team in the area.

4. Shot Selection:

Players are taught to get a high percentage shot on each possession.  We first seek a fast break lay-up, then an inside post-up, and finally an open opportunity for a very good shooter.  Players are encouraged to become good shooters through practice and to limit attempts they have not perfected. Our half court sets are designed to get the most shots for the best players and the best shots for the most players.

5. Special Situations:

During the course of the season, we cover as many Special Situations as possible.  These situations include: tip plays, out of bounds plays, last second plays, press offenses, time management, end of game situations, zone offense specials, trick plays to score when needed, how to come from behind late in a game, and many others.  Luck goes to the prepared and we want to be prepared.  

Final Note:

The above Philosophy was presented at the last two interviews I did for a head coach position.  After getting the positions, I also handed out shortened versions of this philosophy to my new players at our first team meeting.



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