I am currently in my fourth year of coaching basketball, my second at the high school level with St. Mary’s Catholic Central, in Monroe. The Varsity coach contacted me to help the program & take the freshman team. I was honored to have the opportunity to help these young men learn the game of basketball. Jim Welling, the head coach of Toledo Central Catholic men’s varsity team, told us on-air last Thursday on The Fox Sports Morning Blitz (check us out weekdays from 7a-9a) “many kids want to play the game, but not all of them want to learn to play the game”.

Yes the pressure of a freshman high school coach is not the same as a varsity coach, which certainly not even in the same ballpark as a professional coach. But in the game of basketball, a coach is just that, a coach. A coach by definition via dictionary.com states these two definitions (among others) “tutor who prepares students for examinations” & “a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes”. These principals of preparation & training are constant throughout every level of roundball.

What Detroit Pistons head coach Maurice Cheeks must do, is prepare his team to defend the opposition & train them to stop dribble penetration, get into help-side defensive positioning & “help-the-helper”. Concepts that should be in place already but for whatever reasons the Pistons can’t seem to grasp, leading the “Stones” to be out of position on the regular & it all starts at the first line of defense… The Point Guard.

The signing of Brandon Jennings, an NBA All-Rookie 1st Teamer with career 17 point- 6 assist numbers, brought some serious excitement to a team without a legitimate PG. A guy with flash & dash, a guy who can break down an opposing point with a lightning quick handle & a guy who can create his own shot. The issue with Brandon has always been his shot selection & his defense. Yea sure, he’s a pro & not a student, you pay him to play, but as a coach you must get it through his mind that he is the floor general & he must facilitate the offense.  You must also get through his head that he must play DEFENSE… Brandon struggles to defend his own position & if you can’t get stops against your position, there’s a problem. Defense is something that you have to take pride in; locking down your man is a “right of passage” amongst the best in the game & the Pistons can’t stop the dribble… at all.

The Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Smith (at the 3 or Small Forward), Greg Monroe, & Andre Drummond line-up has been rough thus far offensively, due to an inability to understand spacing (but that’s another article for another time). More importantly defensively, this bunch has been, well, a failure. At 16-22 this season, with a 13-26 Utah Jazz team on the horizon Friday night (when I’m writing this), this team needs to get their act together & it begins with learning how to play defense.  Communication is the key to successful defense, rotation & help-side are keys to successful defense; if you can’t stop the dribble-drive you are going to need help & if you receive help, someone has to have the backside to “help-the-helper”. These are teaching points. These are fundamental concepts of defense, it’s sad that this group of professionals doesn’t seem to understand these principals. At this point it’s on one man & his staff to make these corrections. It’s on the COACH, Maurice Cheeks, to teach & it’s on the players to LEARN…

--AB