Random Coaching Points From Bratislava

Day 15 on my Euro trip…

I take back what I wrote earlier about Bratislava. I spoke to soon. As it turns out, we’re staying in what could be considered the ‘suburbs’ relative to downtown Bratislava where the action is taking place. For my Canadian peeps, think Mississauga relative to downtown Toronto.

Where we are very much has the visual flavours of the old communist regime. This is where the real people stay. (My way of saying the working class folks.) The buildings have definitely been constructed for function over form. Very bleak, minimalist and compressed together.

Frankly, little joy is derived from looking at the architecture and construct of these buildings, at first glance. There is, instead, if you stop and take it in, an appreciation and empathy for the times within which they were built.

Yesterday, on our day off, we took the athletes to Old Bratislava which is located downtown. It’s absolutely SPECTACULAR! All the wonderful things that I enjoyed in Novi Sad take a second place finish to the patio restos, store fronts, historical architecture and cobble stone roads that riddle the area. (All Brat needs is Novi’s ‘scenery’). It’s absolutely amazing and reminds me of Quebec City in someways except this is so much more vast of an area and falls right on the famous Danube River.

We were only there for 2-hours, but I’ll definitely be going back later in the week to sit and enjoy a brown pop with the locals.

Back to basketball…

Today we were back on the saddle, or in the stands I should say, for our daily diet of four games of basketball during the U19 Women’s World Championship. Our Canadian women’s team lost a tough match to the Aussies. Both teams matched up well, but their experience was evident as they executed down the stretch very well.

As has been the case each day on this trip, Yoda Master Mike (MacKay) and I, start (…, fill) and end our day with chalk talk. Here are some bite size chunks that we keep burping back up as it percolates in thought…


What does it really mean to be an elite athlete? It seems as if the word “elite” is tagged every where nowadays in reference to basketball programs.

But what does it mean? Can anyone label their program elite? And, what’s the commitment involved for an athlete wishing to be, elite?

Is high school ball elite? What about club or AAU basketball? Are there different types of “elite”?

Hey… I invite feedback on this one. I’m formulating my ideas.

One of the things that we discussed is that, we – coaches, athletes, parents – want “elite” results yet are often only willing to give mediocre effort or commitment.


A take on the 4 W’s and H of it all… (as we’ve pondered the topic in relation to developing and teaching basketball intelligence)…

  • WHEN = technical decision that needs to be made
  • HOW / WHY = fundamental skill
  • WHAT = Strategy (season… a team’s style of play)
  • WHO = Tactics (minute game-by-game changes based on scout/personnel)

For example in a mock team: “…WHAT we’ll do on penetration is stay closed on the wings and help across with our big; however, if Bobby (WHO) is on the wing (who’s a non shooter), we’ll stunt to slow down penetration and then recover.”

It’s important to begin to define and dialogue with your athletes on these things.

Keep in mind working to improve your teams defensive IQ, you must allow the athletes to play through mistakes—especially in practice. This is a critical step as good defenses must learn how to scramble, recover and rebuild themselves. Perfect offense will always beat perfect defense as my good friend and former coach, Dr. Elcombe, has told me on many occasion. He’s right. And, the rules reinforce it.

With that in mind, allow the sequence to complete itself before intervening for corrections.


This thought was best exemplified in the FIBA U19 Men’s World Championship last week when Serbia beat the USA. Greece and Spain proved in the 2006 World Championship; the Argentines in the last Olympic Games. We’re seeing it again this week with the women.

My two lead favs in the finals at this week’s U19 Women’s World Championship, so far, are (or were) USA and Serbia. However, the Serb’s best player busted her ankle and judging from the fact that she was not at the game today, I’d guess she went home. [Apparently, she just signed a contract worth a couple hundred thousand EU… cha-ching.] That bumps them out of my tops category.

The nod then goes to the Aussies in the finals with my dark horse being Sweden. Yup… I said it Sweden. Who would have thunk it.

We’ll see.

A few ideas… just ideas.