It's all About Preparation

by Lute Olson (Member of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame)
It's all About Preparation

While fans are busy filling out their brackets, coaches are busy making preparations to face their first round opponent. And shortly after the brackets are unveiled, coaching staffs immediately begin the process of preparation. 

Methods to the madness differ, but all are consistent with being very thorough.

We always had a very detailed approach to preparing for both our first and -- potential -- second round opponents, which does not vary much from our regular season scouting system.

One of the most often used expressions is, "Our focus is solely on our next opponent." That is not exactly true. 

In practice our attention was focused squarely on the next game and nothing else, but -- as a staff -- we were always trying to stay two steps ahead. As a coaching staff, we had our next three opponents scouted and that is something that we carry over to the NCAA Tournament. 

And that process begins all over again when the brackets are announced on Sunday evening. 

More likely than not, we already had game tapes on our first round opponent. We had an excellent video crew who taped every single college basketball game throughout the season. 

One assistant coach was assigned the responsibility of breaking down every aspect of that first round opponent, from the tapes we had available. While he is examining film, another assistant would begin utilizing contacts to obtain updated game tapes. 

Five to six hours after the brackets have been announced, the assigned assistant had a complete scouting report mapped out.

One of our other two assistants had the assignment of working with him on specifics of defensive approach. He answers the questions, what players do have to be concerned with, what types of sets the opponent will run in a given situation, what are their tendencies and so on. 

When we would convene as a staff on Monday morning, we were fully prepared to discuss approach and implement our game plan. 

At the same time the first round opponent is being examined, a third assistant draws the assignment of scouting the two teams who we would possibly face in the second round, assuming that we win our opening round affair. 

His breakdown also begins on Sunday evening and often goes late into the evening. But his assignment is not discussed during our Monday morning meeting. I did not want to know anything about our potential second round opponent until the first game has gone final.

Still, it is of the utmost importance the assistant that draws that assignment to have a complete understanding of both teams in advance. By the time we board the plane for our first round destination, we had a thorough breakdown on three teams. 

In the days leading up to that first game, every conceivable scenario is played out. We break our preparation down to the finest detail with one simple goal in mind -- We want our players prepared for everything. 

One thing that we always preached to our players is that they will never be surprised by what they encounter on game day. 

Once they stepped foot on the floor they knew that when the opponent's guard goes left he will probably look for a screen to get his shot, if he goes right he will look to pass to the post, if he penetrates to the middle he will look to kick it back out and so on.

By no means do we do anything radically different than every other coaching staff in America. More likely than not, our approach was very similar to every team participating in the NCAA Tournament this season. 

Some coaches put a heavy emphasis on their own teams, with the idea that if they execute their own stuff they will be successful. I always took a different approach, in that we wanted to be sure we are sound in what we want to do, but we also want to be sound and secure about what our opponent will do.

There are always going to be variations in approach and philosophy, but one thing is the same with all sixty-eight coaching staffs -- They are all very thorough.