Late Game Strategy

One of my most memorable trips as the head coach at Stetson University was a flight from Orlando to San Francisco. My assistant, Jeff Rutter, and I used the lengthy trip to talk late game strategy. Surely the people sitting close to us on the plane thought we were nuts. Armed with 3-ring binders weighing about 12 pounds each, we laid out our material and went to work.

Our topic was late game strategy which has dozens of components to it. We did our best to dissect one topic after another. The problem breaking down a topic like late game is that the possibilities are endless, meaning the monster grows instead of becoming smaller. We did our best, making it a quick and enjoyable trip.

One of topics that day dealt with an end of the game scenario when one team takes possession of the ball with limited time left. This could come after a made or missed shot or free throw as well as from a turnover. We call this situation, “flow or blow”. In other words, when your team takes possession of the ball with limited time left, will you call a timeout or let your team flow down the floor to get a shot on their own? Like all late game situations, this scenario must be thought out and practiced.

If you decide to blow, or call a time out, you will be able to set your strategy for a final shot. You may need to get your players settled down or give them a quick rest. Another benefit of stopping play is that you can substitute to get your best offensive players on the floor. By stopping play you will also have to successfully in-bound the ball which could result in a turnover. If the opponent is in a full court press it could take valuable time off the clock and limit your chances to score.

Some coaches like to flow in a situation like this, which also has its merits. The defense is not allowed to set up their strategy since you are bringing the ball on the fly. By being aggressive with the ball, the offense is usually in control. Many times an aggressive offensive attack will result in a foul. Unfortunately, many times the offense will take a bad shot or turn the ball over because a lack of organization.

This is one of many late game elements you should practice with your team to give them confidence. Players execute better when they know they can score in these situations due to repetitions in practice. The decision is yours, coach. Will you flow or blow?