For those that played me with over the years you’re well aware of how much I dislike playing zone defense. Consequential as a coach I seldom have my teams play zone. I do teach some zone defense so we can practice against it but we rarely play it during games.

My reasons for playing man-to-man are pretty typically;

  • I think kids need to know how to play proper man-to-man before they can play zone. Since I’m coaching younger players I’ve never got to the point where I feel they are great man-to-man defenders yet so there was no need to move on to playing zone.
  • We don’t have much practice time during the season so taking the time away from skill development to drill and practice multiple defenses just doesn’t seem practical to me. We’ll learn one and try to do it better than anyone else.

Since I started coaching at the high school level it seemed that most of the better teams did the same thing or at least only used zone as a tactic within the context of the game. They might switch to zone periodically to protect someone in foul trouble, to slow down a team that’s getting good dribble penetration, or to force a poor shooting team to score from the outside. But for the most part the top teams played man-to-man. This year that seems to have changed.

Perhaps teams play zone against us for one of the reason listed above, but in speaking with some colleagues around the province they are noticing the change as well. One interesting suggestion was teams are playing more zone because of the shorter shot clock this season. Show some false pressure to slow down the ball then fall back in zone for the final 16-18 seconds forcing teams to score with the clock winding down.

Canada Basketball pushed hard to bring in 24 & 8 thinking it would help develop a player’s ability to be creative, especially off the dribble. If coaches are now resorting to zone defense to prevent this, the reality is the new rules are instead developing better shooters that no longer play man-to-man. Interesting indeed.

For me this just reinforces what I knew all along…we need just one offense that we run regardless of the defense. In games we don’t have the luxury of time to setup difference offenses once we get into the half court and we don’t have enough time in practice to teach multiple offenses. Next year I’m dropping my zone offense (3-out 2-in) and we’ll run Read & React all the time.

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