Book-of-the-Month: “The Complete Basketball Coaches’ Guide to Footwork, Balance and Pivoting”

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By Coach John Kimble


Acknowledgements   and  Foreword

Chapter Introduction . . . . . . . . . . Introduction

Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . .Teaching Methods & Philosophy on Drills

“Failing to  prepare  is  preparing  to  fail.”—Coach  John  Wooden”

Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Important Pivots of the Ballhandler

“Unless you  plan  to out-rebound and out-shoot  everyone  you  play, then  you  better  learn  to handle  the  ball.”—Coach  Henry  Iba

Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Important Pivots of the Shooter

“Shooting Makes  Up  For  A  Multitude  Of  Sins”-Coach  Hubie  Brown

Chapter 4 . . . . .Important Pivots of the Offensive Post-Player

“Footwork and balance are necessary every moment of a game.”—Coach Pete  Newell

Chapter 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Important Pivots of the Rebounder

“You Can  Dribble  Too  Much  and  You  Can  Shoot  Too  Much,  But  You  Cannot  Rebound  Too  Much–Anonymous

Chapter 6 . . . . . . . . . . . .Important Pivots of the Offensive Screener

“On offense there are three unselfish team actions that are necessary for success:  passing, screening, and moving without the ball.”—Bill Bradley

Chapter 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Important Pivots of the Defender

“Offense Wins Games, But Defense Wins Championship”Anonymous

Chapter 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Overall Importance of the Pivot


As many of today’s players become more and more proficient in strength, quickness, speed, and overall athletic ability, it is the job of coaches at every level of play to make sure that their players do not become deficient in the overall basketball fundamentals that are a prerequisite for the ultimate success of their team.

As the game seems to desire flashy play and exciting plays to highlight and accentuate the athletic talents of today’s players, it is still the basic fundamentals of the game (that seem to be unnecessary and boring for some players to learn and for some coaches to teach and emphasize) that are sometimes the missing piece for the ultimate success of the team.

It is firmly believed that the elementary skill of pivoting is one of those fundamentals whose importance seems to be taken much too lightly. Pivoting is an important and necessary component of several basketball skills that coaches and players alike often call “the fundamentals of the game.” The art of pivoting is an integral part of passing the basketball and of shooting the basketball off of the dribble as well as immediately off of the pass. The skill of pivoting is the initial part of a player “getting in triple-threat position” after catching a pass (to become either a shooter, a dribbler, or a passer). Pivoting is essential in successfully executing the most fundamentally sound aggressive moves as an offensive post player. Pivoting is a major component of setting any type of screens for offensive teammates. The skill of pivoting is a requirement to be able to successfully rebound the basketball both offensively as well as defensively. To become an efficient and aggressive defensive player defending the opponents’ dribbler, pivoting is also an important fundamental that must be frequently utilized.

Each of these six phases of the game are necessary for a player to be a well-rounded player and are specifically discussed in Chapters 2 through 7. The specific techniques and drills to learn, practice and improve those techniques are addressed in those chapters with diagrams and illustrations provided. This book includes over 120 pages and nearly 200 diagrams of the actual action, the specific footwork, and the format of many drills that can be utilized to learn and practice the various techniques of the different phases of the game.

Chapter 1 gives an overall philosophy on how to effectively teach players offenses and defenses and an in-depth philosophy on how to incorporate drills into the practice setting in a way that will be productive as well as time-efficient. This chapter also organizes a portion of the daily practice so that the fundamental skills described in this book, as well as other skills, can be incorporated into the format of each practice, while being as time efficient as it can possibly be.




There are countless fundamentals, skills, techniques, and concepts that must be taught to each and every individual basketball player as well as to the overall team. There are offensive alignments/sets, offensive plays/entries, offensive continuities, as well as the many fundamentals and techniques that strictly apply to the offensive phase of the game. Conversely is the defensive portion of the game, which includes numerous individual and team-concept skills and techniques that need to be taught to each player and the team.

A team is only as strong as its weakest link. An individual player is only as strong as his basic fundamentals of the basketball skills necessary for success. Therefore, there are countless techniques that must be taught to each and every player in order to maximize each player’s skill level. When every player’s skill levels are then maximized, that can make the team a stronger and more cohesive unit. Unfortunately, there is a constraint on the amount of time that can be utilized for players to learn and refine those required skills. A seemingly unlimited amount of material must be taught to players in a limited period of time. This can be a difficult task for a coaching staff to perform.

For a coach to be successful, He must be an excellent teacher. In order for a coach to convey this excellence as a teacher, He must have a fundamentally sound concept of how to convey what needs to be taught to his players and motivate those players in the limited periods of time He has with them. One coaching-teaching philosophy (of any basketball skill, offense, or defense) is to teach the proper techniques to the players by showing them the why and how those techniques are to be performed. Today’s players expect to know why they are to perform tasks, not just that they are to do them. If coaches want the players to successfully be able to execute those skills and techniques; coaches must then confirm to players the importance of proper techniques, demonstrate to players how to perform those skills and then provide game-realistic settings for players to practice, improve and then perfect those skills and techniques.

One particular coaching-teaching philosophy is a belief that in order for a basketball program to be successful, coaches must demand that every player be fundamentally sound in how to perform all techniques in each of the many phases of the game. Then the coaching staff must be able to motivate every player in performing those fundamentals at their highest level of intensity. Attention to detail by the coaching staff is crucial, as well as the positive and constructive criticism that must come with the teaching and the drill work. “Game-realistic” scenarios must be implemented to simulate “game-like” conditions and many drills must be created to practice the various offensive and defensive skills and techniques. The old cliché, “practice makes perfect” does not have to apply in your program. The philosophy that could be used in all practices is this: “Perfect practice makes perfect!” That philosophy must come through “game-realistic” drills and conditions under a very watchful and scrutinizing coaching staff. Success must come in small consistent increments so that players’ confidence in themselves, in their teammates, and in the “system” will slowly and gradually grow and increase as time goes on.

One teaching method that can successfully be used to teach basketball skills is the “whole-part-whole” method with a great emphasis on the how and the why on every technique, every skill, whether they are on offense, defense, transition, or whatever concept is being taught to the team. Players must have confidence that the methods and techniques they are being taught are the best possible ways for them to be successful. The manner in which the skills are being taught to the players should give the players assurance that they will be able to successfully perform those skills, regardless of how difficult those skills appear to be. In basketball, “there are many ways to win the game.” There are numerous styles of play, and many different methods can be successfully be utilized by coaches. For the team to have confidence and trust in the coaching staff, the coaching staff must be “students of the game.” After carefully choosing the specific techniques, methods and styles of “how to play the game,” the coaching staff must then convey that strong belief and confidence to each and every team member. Then and only then will players be sold on the philosophy of the staff. Then the players will “give their heart and soul” to the program and play with the needed intensity in order to be successful. Players must believe in what they are doing (whether it is a type of technique, an offense, a defense, a play or whatever they are performing), if they are to perform at a high degree of intensity. With that high level of intensity often comes the success of the players.

When something new, such as a new offense, is introduced to the team; the offense should be introduced as a “whole entity.” Then the offense can be broken down to the basics that are needed for the offense to be successful. The specific techniques that are required for the offense to be able to operate efficiently and successfully should then be demonstrated. Those particular skills in “game-realistic drills” are worked on only after the players have graduated to that particular level of performance. The first drills that are taught and practiced are more of a “teaching drill” than intense and competitive drills. The first drills are actually broken down and have levels of skill and learning competencies that all players must accomplish before they get to the “high-level skill performance drills.”

In defining the “whole” and the “part” in the phrase “whole-part-whole,” both can easily vary from skill or technique to skill/technique being taught. For example, the “whole” is the entire play that is being introduced-all five players’ responsibilities for the play to be completed. The “parts” are the specific techniques performed by each of the five players, with every player having different skills and techniques that must be performed in order for the play to be successful. A “part” could be just one player working on learning, understanding, and executing one simple task that takes place in just one specific situation. The “part” could be one player performing several tasks in a wider range scenario, or the “part” could be five players doing several tasks simultaneously.

For instance, if initiating a new man offense continuity to the team, the coaching staff should first show the team the entire offensive continuity. The staff would have five players demonstrate the offense by literally “walking them through” the offense, while the remaining players observe. Then the staff would rotate other players into the offense until all have gone through the offense. Coaches then would have two groups of players go through the offense at higher degrees of speed, until “game-speed” is reached. No defense is used and no shots would be taken, so that the continuity offense could be run for longer periods of time, without any interruptions. Do not allow any distractions during this learning phase. Once the basic movement patterns and rules are learned by all team members, coaches would work on all players practicing their shots from the spots where they would get their shots within the framework of the new zone offense. Coaches would demonstrate where and how the shooters would receive passes to get their shots. Coaches would have the players practice those shots and have other players practice the passes they would make to those shooters (from the same locations on the court that they would in a game). Once the players learn their specific passing and shot locations and they start feeling comfortable with the understanding of the offense, the level of intensity of the breakdown drills is stepped up. Goals and performance-standards are established, with these goals and standards increasing in difficulty as the players progress in their skill development and knowledge of the concept being introduced.

As a coach, it is best to not assume every player has mastered all of the fundamental skills of basketball. The more elementary He is in the initial breakdown drills before advancing to more sophisticated breakdown drills, the more solid that his players will most likely be in their overall understanding, their performance level, and their overall success of whatever skill is being taught and performed.

The more experience the players obtain, the more demanding the coaching staff can be with them. No drill should be “too easy” or “too difficult.” Coaching staffs should remember to start at the very basic fundamentals and lay a strong foundation. The “whole” could and should gradually and ultimately be the performance of all five players in a game. But that will take time, planning, teaching, practicing, drilling, effort, and patience (by both the coaches and the players).

Here are some “points of emphasis” that a coaching staff should keep in mind while using the “whole-part-whole” teaching method in their basketball practices.

  • Remember that the gymnasium is the “classroom” and that for learning to take place in any classroom, there must be organization and an atmosphere conducive for learning. Have discipline in the “classroom.” Demand that players pay attention and concentrate when there is teaching going on. Encourage questions from players at the appropriate times.
  • Don’t assume that players possess the fundamental skills that are necessary for them to be successful. It is better to over-teach the fundamental side of the game to each and every player than to make assumptions and overrate the players’ talent and skill levels.
  • Don’t assume the players possess knowledge of the game that you or they may think they have. Making assumptions of players’ ability level and knowledge of the game can get a coach in trouble.
  • Have an organized practice plan—it is a coach’s “lesson plan.” “Plan your work and work your plan.” Don’t vary too much from your plan, but have some flexibility in it also. Don’t be bound by the plan completely. Learn what a “teaching moment” is and take advantage of those opportunities, even if it means varying from the practice plan.
  • Make sure the time limits of all drills are short enough that players do not get bored. A coach can plan to run a drill for four or five minutes three different times in a practice versus a fifteen minute drill at one setting, with players losing interest (and therefore intensity).
  • Make sure that players are not standing at the end of lines during drills, where the attention and intensity levels can wane. Create your drills where everyone is involved, not just three or four players at a time.
  • Make sure that all breakdown drills have gradual levels of difficulty as players are improve (both physically and mentally). This allows the positive reinforcement players need as they initially learn and develop skills and techniques. It also keeps the focus of players later on as they improve their skills.
  • Set realistic performance goals for your players in the various practice drills. Make the goals a realistic similarity to the tough competition of games.
  • Keep statistics on the performances of players in practice. Reward the winners in small ways and give small penalties for the losing individuals or groups.
  • Demand from your players and assistant coaches a quick transition from one drill to the next. Don’t let anyone waste time in the rotation from one drill to another. This creates a mind-set for more productive and time efficient practices.
  • Involve your assistant coaches in the practice planning and the actual teaching on the court. Get them involved in the practice planning sessions and listen to their ideas. Let them coach, when they are prepared.
  • Make sure that the more sophisticated drills that are utilized are “game realistic.” That means that these higher level drills always must be performed at “game speed” and have some forms of pressure and competition placed on the players. This means that they have “winners and losers”-with awards and (minimal) penalties.
  • If a coach wants his players to be enthusiastic and energetic, He must not only be enthusiastic and energetic, but He must be the MOST enthusiastic and energetic person in the gym. Be an example to your players and coaching staff. If you are the head coach, you must be the leader and set an example for all to follow. Let the players feed off your energy and enthusiasm.
  • Don’t accept anything but excellence from yourself, your staff, or your players. Players and assistant coaches will improve only if they are self-motivated or are pushed by others.
  • Have a keen eye for detail. Look for it and expect it from your players on every technique that is being taught and worked on. Include “points of emphasis” and “coaching points” in your practice plan, with your assistant coaches, and with your players in practice.
  • Be positive when correcting players but still be critical in a positive way. Be demanding when it comes to your players’ attention and physical effort. Don’t accept anything below that high level that you constantly stress. Praise the team and the strong efforts of individual players. Let the players know that you are well aware of the hustle and effort of every player on the court.

Teach the rules of the game to your players. You cannot succeed unless you follow the rules of the game and you cannot follow the rules unless you know the rules.

Ultimately, remember that a great coach must be a great teacher. A great teacher must be a great student.

He must know the material that He is teaching. He must “stay up with the game.” Coaches must stay informed of the changes of styles, techniques, rules of the game. Basketball is not a static game. There are constantly changes that occur during games. Coaches must have high levels of expectations from the assistant coaches, the players, the managers, and above all, himself. Oftentimes, people only reach the levels that are expected of them. Coaches cannot expect anyone in the program to perform at a higher level than He performs. Coaches are a model to everyone in the program every minutes of every day—be a strong example and model.

Every athletic team has practice to prepare for their games. What occurs in practice can and will make the difference as whether that team will succeed or fail in the game. It is quite likely that a significant portion of each of these daily practices will be the fundamental drills that will be discussed. Drills and the manner in which they are taught and how they are incorporated into the daily practices will determine whether a coach is successful and whether the team has an opportunity to succeed in actual competition or not. The techniques and methods that a coaching staff chooses to teach to his teams are very important to the success of that team. The effort to make sure that all fundamentals are taught, developed, and practiced is of tremendous importance to the overall success of that team.

In developing all types of offenses, it is obvious that many different offensive skills and techniques must be worked on and practiced for all individuals (as well as the team) to be proficient.

Various types of passes that are necessary for the zone offense to be successful are taught and demonstrated and then practiced in repetitive form in various forms of “game-like” conditions. The many different forms of dribbling needed in a successful offense are constantly practiced in various drills that are constructed with as much “game-realism” as possible. The different types of zone offense cuts are also explained, demonstrated, and practiced on when and how the cuts can be most effective within the offense. Drills should be utilized to work on the proper screening techniques utilized in zone offenses. Post up moves should be practiced individually with and without defensive opposition. Individual drills and team drills help players become more proficient in the overall skill of offensive rebounding. Techniques of overcoming defensive box-outs, reading the flight of the ball on missed shots, and anticipating where the offensive rebounds will fall must be practiced for players to become proficient. Countless forms of shooting drills are introduced and used several times in each daily practice, so that shooters can become more proficient shooters both on the interior and on the perimeter of the zone offense. Techniques of catching the basketball (while in “shooting position” so that shooters can “get their shots off” more quickly) are a daily part of the shooting practice routines.

There are six main categories of individual player offensive skill breakdown drills to train and teach the players that can be used. These categories can be broken down into the following:

  • Basic fundamentals station drills,
  • Shooting drills,
  • Dribbling drills,
  • Pivoting, passing, and catching drills,
  • Offensive rebounding drills, and
  • Transition drills.

The following is a philosophical composite about all of the drills that have been utilized throughout the years. These drills have emerged from many years of coaching basketball, baseball, and football at the high school level, and also coaching basketball at the junior college level. The philosophy has also developed from observing practices from some of the top coaches at the high school, college and NBA levels. Ideas were taken and sometimes modified from these coaches at their practices, at summer camps, coaching clinics, books, and video tapes.


Successful basketball coaches/teachers must not only be great teachers and motivators but also must have tools and instruments that will allow their players to learn the skills and techniques, but also allow them to improve on the actual skill levels. These skills can be improved with a watchful and detail-mined coaching staff by the use of game-realistic drills that can be produced and devised by creative and innovative basketball coaches. Successful basketball coaches must always remember to:

  • Make practices as “game-realistic” as possible. Have fundamental drills and breakdown drills incorporated in all phases of the game you are coaching. TEACH at your practices.
  • Have an environment that is conducive to learning (for the players) and teaching (for the coaching staff). Remember that the practice facility is the basketball coach’s classroom.
  • Pay attention to all details in every drill and with every player.
  • Get excited as a coach. Be enthusiastic. You must love to come to practice for the players to love to come. Players must be able to see you love to teach the game. Be thorough in your teaching. Assume that your players know nothing. Be a “stickler” for the smallest of details (in a positive manner). Do not ask for, but demand full efforts from yourself, your coaching staff, and your players.
  • Be a GREAT teacher and motivator.
  • Have a detailed practice plan and follow it. “PLAN YOUR WORK–WORK YOUR PLAN!” Still, there are times when you must be flexible with your practice plan when special occasions take place.
  • Incorporate the “whole-part-whole” method in your teaching of the game.
  • Not ask for, but DEMAND your players’ attention. Players must give coaches their “eyes and ears” at all times.
  • Make their practices more demanding and tougher (both physically and mentally) than the games will demand.
  • Establish their drills so that their players must concentrate as they perform them. This will prepare them so that they will be able to focus more effectively in their games.
  • Do NOT allow any players to stand around in practice, doing nothing. Keep all players and coaches involved during all drills.
  • Assume that their players know nothing and that they have no fundamental skills. Start with the basics both intellectually and skill-wise. Stress fundamentals and proper technique. Stress mental and physical effort ALL of the time by EVERY player.
  • Emphasize teamwork both on offense and on defense. Stress communication between teammates and coaching staffs.
  • Give positive credit to players with enthusiasm, especially when they have shown extra effort–physically or mentally.
  • Send a player for a water break, when a player does something positive a number of times, Have the other players shoot “one and one” free throws. If that player misses the front end of the “one and one,” have them run a full court sprint. If that player makes the front end of the “one and one,” but misses the second free throw, have that player run a half-court sprint. If that player makes both ends of a “one and one,” send them for water also. Be consistent with rewards and punishments.
  • Consistently reward the player or players who perform correctly, rather than always punishing the player or players who do not perform as successfully.
  • Allow for ample running and movement activities immediately before you send your players to shoot free throws. Make sure you have your players shoot 2 free throws at a time, as the players would do in a game.
  • Make each drill a great drill. A drill is not a good drill, unless the coach teaches the drill in a great manner.
  • Constructively correct a player when He commits an error and try not to criticize that player. Be sure that all criticisms are constructive and not personal and the player understands this.
  • Set standards for your players in your shooting drills. Set time limits for your players to hurry (but to be under control) and get off as many shots as possible. Set accuracy limits for your players to attempt to make a specific number of shots in each different shooting drill.
  • Utilize many of your shooting drills (particularly free throw shooting drills) after some type of strenuous drills, so that your players can get accustomed to shooting when they are winded and fatigued.
  • Make sure you can combine drills so that there are frequent opportunities to work on “offense-to-defense” transition, as well as “defense-to-offense” transition.
  • Have managers record statistics from your practice, such as the various shooting drills which you utilize. Post those statistics, so that players can see that their results are critical to you and the team. Have standards set for individuals as well as for the team. Have “winners” and “losers” with the respective awards and penalties.
  • Organize and format many of your drills so that there will be a variety of competition. There can be individual competition, small group competition, and team competition. Have a winner and a loser in the majority of the competitive drills, with the losers having some form of light penalty. The light penalty could be in the form of small sprints, pushups, or sit-ups.
  • Critique each player in a fair but positive manner. When a coach is about to criticize a player, first ask him, “What did you just do correctly?” Then ask him, “What did you do incorrectly?” Use this team as an opportunity to teach the players.
  • Not allow yourself to omit the physical conditioning of your players, because you ran out of practice time and the conditioning part of the practice had to be sacrificed. This can become a bad habit that any coach that wants to carefully teach and coach his players can easily and accidentally fall into.
  • Use a practice plan as a guideline to manage the practice time, realizing that in some instances there must be on the court adjustments and variations to the practice plan. “Practice does not make perfect,” but “Perfect practice does make perfect!” Perfect practice comes from well-planned practice plans by the coaching staff. The practice plan is the coach’s lesson plan.
  • Implement a great deal of structure into your practice plans and practice routines, so that your players can anticipate what to expect. Keep the practice lengths consistent, with shorter practices and lighter physical activity the night before games and often the night after games.
  • On a rare occasion, call off a scheduled practice. During the long hard grueling part of the season about half way or 2/3 or so through the schedule, this mental and physical break can sometimes get “life” back into the players’ legs and their intensity level. Sometimes a coaching staff can still have practice, but have practice formatted in a completely different manner. Play volleyball or wiffle ball in the gym or watch a movie or have pizza for the team with the coaching staff. It can be a positive diversion and a good mental break for the players, as well as for the coaches.
  • Remember to teach the following phrase by preaching it as well as by demonstrating by example, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
  • Do not end any drill on a negative note. Do not conclude a scrimmage on a missed shot or a turnover. Never finish a shooting drill on a missed shot.
  • Do not finish your practice with conditioning work. Conditioning is extremely important, but it need not conclude a practice. The last drill or activity should be a positive and rewarding type of activity for the players to give them the motivation for the next day’s practice. Make them eager for tomorrow’s practice.
  • “Don’t pay lip service” to something you tell your players is important to you without committing time (in practice) and energy (by you) so it is important to the players. Today’s players are very smart and will read through the deception.

These are thoughts and ideas which have been learned from other coaches or have been discovered over the years. Coaches can integrate them into their own philosophy and practice sessions, with the expectation of remarkable results.

In preparing a team to being more proficient in all offenses, there are many drills that could and should be utilized in that particular offense “education and preparation.” Offensive fundamentals such as passing, catching, screening, cutting, dribbling, rebounding, and shooting are unquestionably fundamentals that must be practiced with a great deal of effort, concentration, detail, intensity, and numerous repetitions exerted both by the players as well as the coaching staff. Listed below are various types of shooting drills that can be used to not only work on those shooting fundamentals, but maintain the high level of intensity and focus that is a requirement of all players for the drills to be successful.

Also described are two transition drills that are extremely important for all half court offenses to be successful. Even though man and zone offenses are primarily thought of in a “half court offense mind-set,” transition (from defense) to that offense and conversely transition (from offense) back to the own team’s defense; transition should be an integral part of the foundation of any offense.










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