Contesting Shots Matters and Here’s Why

Earlier this season I listened to Eric Mussleman speak to his team on the importance of contesting shots.  He referenced the 2015-16 NBA season to explain why the distance of your closeout on a shot makes all the difference.  He said that defensive FG% was lower as shots were contested closer.  You can hear him talk to his team in the YouTube video at the end of this post.  

Sometimes it’s difficult to compare NBA analytics with lower levels because of the type of athlete, the longer 3-point arc, etc., but I thought that this statistic could be applied at any level because of it’s nature.  We decided to make it a point of emphasis with our team defense and it has been instrumental in our success.  We play Pack-Line defense, so closeouts are an important aspect of what we do.  Early on in the season we struggled to contest shots, but noticed we gave ourselves a chance when we did.  We kept working on closeouts every day and determined this could be the single most important statistic that we track.


Over our last 13 games we have a record of 10-3.  Our defensive FG% is directly related to our W/L record and has proven to be a key factor in our success.  Here’s what I mean:


0-2 feet contests – 35/137 (25.5%) 

2-4 feet contests – 39/101 (38.2%)

4+ feet contests – 9/12 (75.0%)


0-2 feet contests – 32/125 (25.6%)

2-4 feet contests – 23/76 (30.3%)

4+ feet contests – 4/7 (57.1%)


0-2 feet contests – 3/12 (25.0%)

2-4 feet contests – 16/35 (45.7%)

4+ feet contests – 5/5 (100%)

You can see the difference between our wins and losses.  In our wins, we consistently contested shots 0-2 feet more often that any other distance.  We made teams uncomfortable shooting the basketball.  In our losses, we failed to consistently contest shots 0-2 feet and allowed teams to get comfortable shooting unguarded shots.  We have found that contesting/not contesting shots is a huge stat for us. I believe that contesting shots is extremely valuable at the college level.  The more our players see the proof of how contesting shots directly impacts our success, the more seriously we take it. 

Here is an example of what I use to track contested shots during games.  I will make my best judgment on the distance of the closeout and then go back and watch film to determine the accuracy.  If we have mostly 0-2 feet closeouts, we find that we win most of our games.  If the majority are in the 2-4 or 4+ column, we find that we typically are playing from behind.
Here is an example of what I use to track contested shots during games.  I will make my best judgment on the distance of the closeout and then go back and watch film to determine the accuracy.  If we have mostly 0-2 feet closeouts, we find that we win most of our games.  If the majority are in the 2-4 or 4+ column, we find that we typically are playing from behind.

If you would like to discuss in more detail how we track this or see more examples of its impact, please reach out to me at

*Written by Andrew Wingreen and originally posted on

NCAA Tournament Trends: Ghost Screens and Gap Creation

Watch the full episode of #HoopsForum: NCAA Tournament Xs & Os Trends

Looking for ideas to improve your basketball playbook? This year’s NCAA Tournament teams offered a variety of ideas to help your half court offense, zone offense, and special situations.

Ghost Screens

The darling of this year’s tournament wasn’t in fact a team. It was the ghost screen.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, ghost screens are modified ball screens. However, instead of actually setting a screen for the ball-handler, the screener sprints away from the ball-handler. One of two things usually happens – either a gap is created for the ballhandler to drive or the screener’s defender helps on the ball-handler, leaving the screener open for a shot.

Gap creation off the Ghost Screen

The Gonzaga Bulldogs took things a set further by following the ghost screen with a ball screen to create further confusion for the defense.

Gonzaga’s ghost screen followed by a ball screen

Gap Creation

The late Chuck Daly once said, “Spacing is offense and offense is spacing.” Teams are are starting to truly understand what it means to manipulate space in order to exploit defenses.

Whether it’s a double gap or a triple game, teams are creating one-on-one situations and then forcing help defenders to choose whether to give help or let their teammate attempt to stop the ball handler from scoring.

A triple gap for 2 forces x3 to choose whether to help or stay on a corner shooter

Check out the full episode of #HoopsForum (scroll up) for more plays from this year’s March Madness. And be sure to watch live episodes of #HoopsForum, streaming every Friday on YouTube and Twitter.

If you’re interested in more of the best plays from the 2021 NCAA Tournament, check my latest playbook

Other Resources

  • Become Patreon member of A Quick Timeout to receive playbooks, mini-clinics, coaching courses, and more!
  • Watch exclusive content and original videos from Coach Tony Miller on YouTube.

Building Your Basketball Playbook: Inverted Offense

Flip the traditional setup – Inverted Offense posts up a guard, running actions above to create huge advantages and tough covers.

While attending the NABC Coaches Convention a few years back, I was intrigued when I saw the session titled, “The Analytical Edge: Underutilized Strategies to Increase Win Percentage,” presented by Frank Dehel of Dribble Handoff.

As I listened to his presentation, one of his main topics in particular got my attention – Inverted Offense.

While the term may not be familiar to you, you’ve seen the base action done for years. Look familiar…?

Reasons To Invert Your Offense

In order for your inverted action to be effective, Dehel tells us a couple things need to happen:

  1. Your guards must win 1-on-1 matchups. Ask most coaches, and they’ll tell you they don’t spend much time having their guards, especially their point guard, practice post defense. A point guard with the moves and ability to dribble, pass, and score in the post is immediately at a huge advantage.
  2. Height and weight differential matters. According to Dehel, his analysis showed that guards who were at least 6’3” tended to have the most success. Even if you don’t have tall guards, your guard may have a weight/strength advantage. There might be times during a game where you can create a mismatch for that guard against a smaller and/or weaker guard.

Some of you are thinking, “Ok, so what? The post up PPP (points per possession) still doesn’t make it worth for us to try any inverted actions.” You’re right – the numbers say shots in the paint off post ups are typically inefficient. However, Dehl’s research found FGAs coming from a pass out of the post yield a +.25 PPP than a FGA in the post. As a matter of fact, shots from a post pass yielded an even higher PPP than a couple of our favorite types of shots.

Adjusted PPP
 YearShots off ScreensSpot-UpShot from Post Pass
*Statistics from

Translation: You need more sets and strategies to get FGAs off post passes.

Here are some ideas to get you started…

Team USA – Horns Inverted Offense

Team USA horns inverted offense

This Horns set from Team USA’s women’s squad is the perfect example of an opportunity to post a guard, then make the defense pay when perimeter defenders are caught turning to find the ball. In today’s game, many teams are putting four or five shooters on the floor at a time. It only takes one defender turning to find the ball for an open 3PA (see Frame 3).

Villanova Wildcats – Fake Handoff to Inverted Offense

Villanova fake handoff to inverted offense

The Villanova Wildcats action above shows the “inverted” portion of the offense by not only posting Jalen Brunson but with the forward screening on the perimeter (something typically done along the baseline to get a guard open).

Utah Jazz – Inverted Offense

Jazz inverted offense

For years, we’ve seen offenses create mismatches in the post by using guard-to-forward screens. Two more possibilities:

  1. Use a forward-to-guard screen for the guard to get into the post.
  2. Use that same guard-to-forward screening principle to get a perimeter shot for the forward (see Jazz play above).

Should I Invert My Offense?

Entirely? Of course not. You may not even feel you have the personnel to try posting any of your guards. But the numbers say passing out of the post for perimeter shot opportunities is advantageous enough to add to your playbook.

If you need more ideas, feel free to connect with me on Twitter @tonywmiller, and I’d be happy to help.

Building Your Basketball Playbook: Multiple Actions

There is incredible value in running sets with multiple actions, and the options are nearly endless – here’s a few to get you started.

For those who read the companion blog post on plays with consecutive actions, you may have already begun tweaking your playbook to include a few more of these types of sets. Before you get too far into finalizing things, here’s one more suggestion…

What are Multiple Actions?

When you first started reading about consecutive actions, you may have thought it was just another way of referring to multiple actions – two or more actions occurring on the floor at the same time.

Consecutive actions are actions that happen back to back, designed to force a few defenders into navigating a difficult sequence.

Multiple actions are actions that occur at the same exact time, designed to force every defender on the floor to guard something.

Multiple Action - Double Pin Downs - Powered by FastModel Sports

Most of you have coached multiple actions for years. A quick look through the FastModel playbank, and you’ll find hundreds of great plays with those types of actions – double back screensdouble cross screensmover-blocker offense, etc.

Coaching Multiple Actions

If used well, multiple actions force all five defenders to guard an action at the same time, which can create great scoring opportunities for the offense.

Typically, a multiple action will involve some sort of screen, so it’s important to prepare your offensive players to read two scenarios:

  • If the defense switches, you may end up with a mismatch somewhere on the floor.
  • If the screen defender shows, you may have a slip to the rim for an easy two.

Simple enough, but could it be possible to make multiple actions even harder to guard?

Next Level Multiple Actions (with Consecutive Actions)

A lot of coaches quit reading this article about 3 paragraphs ago because they already know about multiple actions. But because you stuck with it, I’m going to give you a tip that will give those coaches’ teams major problems.

Here it is: When possible, combine your multiple actions with consecutive actions.

Let’s look at two examples: (click on the diagram to download it to FastDraw or email to a coaching friend)

One of the reasons we love a stagger screen is because it’s actually a consecutive action (two screens back-to-back) that forces the defense to either switch, or show and recover. Pair it with a DHO (or in the example below, a fake DHO) and you take away all help defenders from guarding the strong side of the floor. The result? An uncontested layup at the rim.

Multiple Action - Horns - Powered by FastModel Sports

The combination of consecutive actions with multiple actions are great for OB situations. While a screen-rescreen is happening on one side of the floor with the 5 and 2, 4 is giving 3 a back screen on the opposite side of the floor. And there are even more scoring opportunities than just a shot for 2; 5 might be open on a slip to the basket, 3 could screen for 5 (as pictured) for a lob at the front of the rim, or 4 could be open for a short corner jumper if x4 shows on 3. If the defense switches everything, you should have mismatches all over the court!

Multiple Actions - BLOB - Powered by FastModel Sports

Just like with consecutive actions, the combinations for multiple actions are almost limitless. It’s just up to you to find the best actions to fit with your personnel and system.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section or on Twitter about which consecutive actions have worked for your team!

Building Your Basketball Playbook: Consecutive Actions

String together consecutive actions to creates advantages by forcing the defense to make back-to-back quick decisions.

During my second year as a college assistant coach, we had a Division I point guard transfer into our small program. His skill in the pick and roll was quickly apparent, not just to our staff, but also to our opponents. In just the first few games, the typical high ball screen became less and less effective as teams would adjust their defense to force our ball handler to give up the basketball.

In an early season classic, I remember our head coach adding a Horns set for our stretch 4.

Bob Jones University - Double Screen to Flare Screen Horns - Powered by FastModel Sports

We ran that play in the invitational’s first game. It worked. (Though, we still lost the game. After all, you can’t run the same set every possession.) More importantly, we were on to something. I didn’t know the term “consecutive action” at the time, but that’s exactly what we had created with the Horns set – a play with back-to-back actions that created a brief advantage for the offense.

Consecutive actions aren’t new. You probably, right now, have a set or two in your playbook with some sort of consecutive action – a dribble handoff to a ball screen, a floppy set (stagger followed by a pin down), or maybe a flex action (cross screen to down screen).

So if this strategy isn’t new, and if everyone already runs consecutive actions, why do they seem to work so well?

Defending Consecutive Actions

  • Many defensive players fail to communicate.

Coaches understand how difficult it can be getting players to communicate with each other on the court. Talking though individual defensive assignments is tough enough. Having to talk through two actions back-to-back can be especially challenging, even for veteran teams.

  • Many teams practice defending only one action at a time.

The coach says, “Put three minutes on the clock. Let’s work on switching the DHO.” Once that three minutes is up, “Put three more up. Now ball screen defense.” Even coaches who use small-sided games typically don’t force their defenses to guard two actions in a row.

What does this mean for you as a coach? First, make sure you’re teaching your players what, when, and how to communicate on the defensive end. Second, purposefully incorporate more consecutive actions into your practice, especially into 3-on-3, 4-on-4, and 5-on-5.

Coaching Consecutive Actions

Even though your team will be guarding consecutive actions well now, it doesn’t mean your opponents will be. As you begin to design your plays to include more consecutive actions, here are some ideas to get you started.

A simple flex action (cross screen to a down screen) from the Indiana Pacers results in a potential open shot or drive from the wing.

Indiana Pacers - Flex Quick Hitter - Powered by FastModel Sports

Screening for screeners is a commonly used consecutive action. In this Wedge PNR from the Boston Celtics, a screen is set for Al Horford who immediately goes and sets a ball screen for Kyrie Irving.

Boston Celtics - Wedge PNR - Powered by FastModel Sports

The combinations for consecutive actions are almost limitless. It’s just up to you to find the best actions to fit with your personnel and system.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section or on Twitter about which consecutive actions have worked for your team!

Reviving a Program with Abe Woldeslassie, Macalester College

Abe Woldeslassie is the head men’s basketball coach at Minnesota’s Macalester College (NCAA D3). In 2018, he took over a program that had won just 35 games in 10 seasons. In this episode, he shares how he’s changing the program’s culture and how his past experiences as a player and coach have helped him revitalize the program’s culture there at Macalester.


Deep Dive into Small-Sided Games with Joerik Michiels, Elite Academy

Joerik Michiels is the co-founder of Elite Academy in Antwerp, Belgium. As a professional skills trainer, Joerik has experience coaching and presenting at camps and clinics around the world. In this episode, he shares how small-sided games have revolutionized his coaching, from the youth levels through the professional ranks.


Post Player Development with Jackie Carson, Furman Paladins

Jackie Carson is the current coach and a former player for the Furman Paladins. As a player, Carson finished her collegiate career in the Paladins’ top 10 for points (2nd), rebounds (7th) and blocks (2nd). She shares tips for being an effective post player at both the high school and college levels.


Championship Culture with Chris Spatola, ESPN

Chris Spatola is an ESPN college basketball analyst and former member Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils basketball staff. On this episode of “Coffee with Coaches,” we talk leadership, teamwork, building culture, and more.


Self-Scouting and Skill Development with Edniesha Curry, Maine Black Bears

Edniesha Curry is entering her third season as an assistant coach for the Main Black Bears men’s basketball team. She is currently the only woman serving as a full-time assistant coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball. In this episode, she talks about two of her areas of expertise, self-scouting and skill development.


Lessons from a Legend with Bobby Cremins, Georgia Tech (ret.)

Bobby Cremins is the former head coach at Georgia Tech, College of Charleston, and Appalachian State. He amassed 579 wins (.607 winning percentage) at the NCAA Division I level, including 3 ACC Coach of the Year awards, 4 Southern Coach of the Year awards, and a Naismith Coach of the Year award (1990). His teams appeared in 11 NCAA Tournaments, including 1 Final Four (1990). In addition, he coached on multiple gold medal USA Basketball teams.


Workout Ideas and Drills with Wesley Brooks, Michigan Wolverines

Wesley Brooks is an assistant coach for the University of Michigan’s women’s basketball team. During his time with the Utah Utes and Michigan Wolverines, Coach Brooks has been instrumental in developing both perimeter and post players into all-conference players. In this episode, he shares some of his best tips for training players in the area of skill development.


Pressure Defense with Richard Westerlund, Great Lakes Christian College

Over the past two seasons, Richard Westerlund’s Great Lakes Christian College team has been in the top two in all of college basketball in steals (826) and forced turnovers (1386). In this episode, Coach Westerlund shares his philosophy for pressure defense, both full court and half court. If you’re looking to improve your team’s defense this season, this episode is a must-listen.


The Art of Shooting with Fletcher Magee, Monbus Obradoiro

Want to improve your shooting mechanics and mindset this off-season? Fletcher Magee, former Wofford Terrier and current professional basketball player, checks in to talk about shooting mechanics, getting yourself out of a shooting slump, and the fundamentals of great shooting.


Designing Your Offense with Jaycob Ammerman, UCF Knights

Looking to up your team’s PPG this season? Evaluating your offense’s effectiveness during the summer months? Jaycob Ammerman, video coordinator for the UCF Knights, provides suggestions for how to best design and select offensive actions for your team.


You Want to Be a College Coach? with Matt Mossman, Oklahoma Sooners

Do you, or someone you know, dream of becoming a college basketball coach? Matt Mossman (Oklahoma Sooners) and Andrew Wingreen (Stetson Hatters) join Tony Miller to discuss their paths to the college ranks and what you should be doing now to prepare for being a valuable member of a college basketball staff.


John Wooden: The Teacher with Ray Lokar, Gold Standard Coaching

Ray Lokar is the Director of Coaching for Gold Standard Coaching. Coach Lokar is a native of California who grew up a UCLA Bruins basketball fan. His dreams came true when he had the chance to work John Wooden’s basketball camps in the summers at UCLA. Coach Lokar shares some of things learned from the then-retired Bruins coach, including what made Wooden such an effective teacher.


John Wooden: The Mentor with Cori Close, UCLA Bruins

Cori Close is the current women’s basketball coach for the UCLA Bruins. While an assistant, Close was introduced to Coach Wooden, and over the next 17 years, she developed a close friendship with Wooden. She shares in this episode how the legendary coach impacted her as both a coach and person.


John Wooden: The Friend with Andy Hill, UCLA Bruins

Andy Hill won three national championships in the early 1970’s as a UCLA Bruins player. Hill later went on to become the president of CBS Productions. He reunited with Coach Wooden after 25 years and became a close friend to Wooden. In this episode, Hill talks about that bond and the lessons learned from his friend.


John Wooden: The Person with Steve Lavin, UCLA Bruins

Steve Lavin is the former head men’s basketball coach for the UCLA Bruins. Lavin met Coach Wooden while an assistant in the early 1990’s. Once promoted to head coach, he drew on Coach Wooden’s wisdom to help guide the Bruins to 6 20-win seasons, including 4 appearances in the Sweet 16 and 1 in the Elite Eight. He gives an inside look into Coach Wooden, the person.


John Wooden: The Coach with Swen Nater, UCLA Bruins

Swen Nater was a member of two of Coach John Wooden’s national championship teams (’72, ’73), backing up Bill Walton at the center position. Although he never started a game at UCLA, Nater was drafted in the first round of the NBA. In this episode, he gives an inside look into Wooden, the coach.


Understanding Your Players with Neal Ring, Athletic DISC Solutions

Do you want to improve your ability to connect with and motivate your players? To help coaches better understand their players, Dr. Neal Ring joins A Quick Timeout podcast to discuss the DISC assessment. Dr. Ring is a certified behavioral consultant and former high school and college basketball coach with over 20 years of experience in athletics. In this episode, he explains the basics of the DISC assessment and how understanding the DISC’s results can be the key to unlocking our players’ full potential.


Breaking Down Skill Development with Mike Shaughnessy, Skills Trainer

Coach Mike Shaughnessy stops by the podcast to break down skills development training. Coach Shaughnessy has experience as a college player and coach and is a proven skills development trainer. In this episode, we talk about designing workouts, essential skills for training, and preparing players for the next level.


Social Media Marketing for Your Program with Mason Waters

Despite the popularity of social media, many college and high school sports programs are failing to take advantage of the marketing and branding opportunities presented by social. In this “Coffee with Coaches,” Coach Tony Miller and Coach Mason Waters share ideas for implementing a social strategy and creating engaging content.


The Film Doesn’t Lie with Jimmy Dykes, ESPN

Long-time college basketball coach and ESPN analyst, Jimmy Dykes, talks about the pandemic’s effect on college basketball, how he’s managing during these difficult times, and his new book, The Film Doesn’t Lie.


Impactful Coaching with Joe Abunassar, Impact Basketball

Joe Abunassar is the founder and president of Impact Basketball. Coach Abunassar has trained thousands of players, including 130 NBA Draft picks, in his 20-years of basketball training. In this episode, Coach Tony Miller and Coach Abunassar focus in on the 5 pillars of basketball training.


Pack Line Defense: The Basics with Andrew Wingreen, Stetson Hatters

In this first episode in our week-long series on the Pack Line Defense, Coach Andrew Wingreen rejoins the show to talk about installing the Pack Line defensive system. Coach Miller and Coach Wingreen discuss the basics of “the Pack,” including the importance of ball pressure, closeout techniques, and post defense.


Raise Your Team’s Game with Alan Stein, Jr.

Alan Stein is no stranger to the sports world. His books, podcasts, and clinics have been a help to basketball coaches across the globe. Most recently, he’s taken his knowledge of leadership and team building to the corporate world. Now, he shares these lessons to help coaches raise their team’s game.


Wisdom from Experienced Coaching with Jon DeMarco, Get Better Basketball

Coaches across the globe have benefited from Coach (Dr.) Jon DeMarco’s weekly #GBetBBChat. On this episode, Coach DeMarco shares some of the things he’s learned from those chats, as well as from his time as a high school basketball and football coach. This one is PACKED with great content for coaches of all ages!


Observations from the Booth with Jay Bilas, ESPN

ESPN’s Jay Bilas joins the show to talk about his prep for calling some of the biggest college basketball games on TV, shared characteristics of some of the top coaches in the country, the Kansas-Kansas State brawl, and the Jay Bilas Skills Camp that he holds for players and coaches each summer.


Press Defenses with Burton Uwarow, Bob Jones University

Before his time with the Bruins, Burton Uwarow coached the varsity boys basketball team at Creekside Christian Academy (GA). In just seven seasons, he transformed the team from a first year program into state champions, winning three Division I-AA State Championships. During his first year at BJU, he was named region coach of the year while leading the team to a regional championship and an appearance in the NCCAA (DII) national championship game.


Creating Leaders with Tony Miller, Bob Jones University

Who are the leaders on your team? What are the characteristics you’re looking for in your team leaders? How do you make more leaders for your team? BJU Bruins Sports Information Director, Jonny Gamet, and I discuss making leaders in your program in this episode of A Quick Timeout.



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