Randy Lambert - Motion Offense Principles

  • Coach Profile

  • Head Coach at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee for 32 years.
  • Graduated from Maryville in 1976. Received a M.S. degree from University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1977.
  • Coached and taught at Lenoir City (Tn.) High School for 3 years.
  • Began his career at MC in 1980, posted 602 wins and 257 losses for a life-time winning percentage of over 70 %.
  • Taken the Scots to 18 NCAA III National Tournaments and participated in three Sweet Sixteen’s and an Elite Eight appearance in 1992.
  • MC is currently ranked 7th in D-III for best winning percentage (.797) in the 2000’s, 25 consecutive winning seasons.
  • Two South Region Coach of the Year Honors.
  • Eight Conference Coach of the Year Awards.
  • Program  is known for graduating its players and playing an up-tempo style.
  • Motion Offense Principles

Each year, I try to adapt my offensive and defensive systems to my talent level and their strengths. Offensively, I want to play up-tempo. I love a team that will share the ball, understand their roles, and work to be efficient. We run in a controlled fashion, and we do not have many rules in transition.

I want to push it and be in an attack mode. We will push the ball to spots and flow into motion. I prefer to run my motion from a 4 out 1 in look (if my talent dictates this style). I want the motion to be as balanced as possible with proper emphasis of the four phases of offensive basketball: 1) Inside presence, 2) Penetration game, 3) 15 ft. or mid-range game, and 4) 3 pt. game. By teaching good motion, our players are able to understand the basic principles of most offenses and how they should attack most defenses.

Our coaching emphasis is placed on the following team concepts:

  1. Spacing and alignment-Spread the defense. Utilize the floor. Align your players to make the defense work. Overloads are great, but always maintain the proper spacing among the players.
  2. Read the defense-As an offensive player, your primary emphasis should be on who is guarding you and who is guarding your teammates. Players have to be taught how to read the defenders rather than just following the ball.
  3. Player movement-Cutting is the foundation of motion. Player movement should be primarily north to south (making basket cuts) rather than east to west (following the 3 pt. arc). The basket cut should be used at a 2 to 1 ratio to the screening action. Create movement to get what you want, from whom you want it, and when you want it.
  4. Ball Movement-Any good offense must make the defense work. Ball reversal or side-top-side movement is the best way to find the seams and penetration lanes of the defense.
  5. Inside-out attack-Always attack the middle of the defense. This can be done by making an entry pass to the post or by dribble penetration. Attack the heart of the defense by cutting into the lane area and looking for openings. Kick-in to cause the defense to collapse and then attack the basket on the catch or kick-out.
  6. Defining roles within the offense-This is the role of the coach. Each player should know what is expected of him in every offense. Shot selection and each player’s shooting range have to be discussed and reinforced in practice.
  7. Solid screening action- Teaching how to set a good screen and the emphasis of legal bodily contact is critical. Screening angles and locations (along with the read as a second cutter) has to be defined and then practiced.
  8. Communication-Talking through the offense increases its effectiveness. Good teams talk. Common talking opportunities are requesting the ball, a screening action, directing traffic to insure spacing or ball reversal, etc.

We do run a few special plays to place our players in a particular alignment, to isolate a player for a one on one action, or to get a particular shot at a particular place. Most of our plays will have a counter or slight variances to keep the defense guessing. The plays will usually have an inside look and a three point look. I like to run special plays for special players and special situations. We, as coaches, sometimes make this harder than it is. Get the ball to the people you want in the spots where they can be successful.

Our defense must be the most consistent aspect of our game. Our base defense is a pressure man-to-man. We are all about ball pressure and playing the passing lanes. We would like to think that we can score 8 to 10 points off of our defense against a good team. We work hard at teaching on the line and up the line defense. We emphasize the concept of measuring. A player can move further up the line (the passing lane) toward the ball, depending on how far the ball is from his assigned man.

This concept of measuring allows the defender to show for help, or collapse on penetration or an entry pass to the post. In practice, we encourage our players to see how far up the line they can measure without allowing their man an opportunity to score.

Each player must have two major commitments in their personal defense: A) Maintaining pressure on the ball if your man has it and B) Helping when your teammates need it. When you play like this, there will be gambles and breakdowns. Players have to learn through practice when they can try to make a defensive play and get away with it. We encourage a certain amount of gambling, especially for those that have the ability to recover quickly. We want our players to read the play or see it develop and then react to make a defensive stop.

Rotation and learning to scramble on defense has to be drilled and reinforced through repetition. Ball side defense is what makes your defense tough. Help side D is what makes it successful. Help and recovery without getting hurt wins championships. Our defense must demonstrate a level of toughness that can be seen from even the most casual observer. We are going to get back and not give up any easy baskets. We are going to protect the lane. There will be no straight line penetration moves to the basket. Every pass and every shot will be pressured. Defense has to be a priority to every one of your players. They must want to play defense and take pride in their personal skills and team’s ability to defend. Good defensive teams make mistakes, but great teams have the ability to cover up these mistakes.

4 Out-1 in Motion Principles or What I have Learned from 30 Years of Running Motion

  • Spacing has to be emphasized every day. Horizontally spread the floor to make the defense work. Utilize the 3 point arc and beyond as the spacing line. Screening can mess up the spacing so get it done and move. Spacing in utilizing the post is also critical. Re-establish spacing throughout each possession.
  • Cutting is your bread and butter of the motion. Players should cut with at least a 2 to 1 ratio to screening. Twice as many cuts as screens. Cut to the lane presenting yourself to the ball, get below the defense along the baseline and read where you need to go from there. Emphasize the changing of speeds in your cuts. You must sprint hard to receive a pass or insure that you are open.
  • If cutting is the bread and butter, screening is the meat and potatoes. Teach your players how to set a legal, solid screen. Teach proper screening angles in relation to the defenders. Teach the second cut after the screening action. Teach the slip and use it as a read. Designate screeners and/or have a favorite screener to bring off the bench.
  • If you are going to run the 4 out-1 in, then make sure your players are using the 1 in. Your offense must work off the post. You need to insure his touches and the frequency of those touches.
  • The entry pass is a lost art of basketball. You must teach it and drill it frequently from various positions on the floor. Fake to make the pass is effective. Making sure that you see the post’s numbers (his chest area) in order to make the pass usually results in an effective entry.
  • The 1 in must have a solid post move and a counter to that move. It also helps if he is a good passer. You have to work on the post’s options. Make sure he is not just following the ball. This makes him easy to guard. He needs to stay away from the ball on the opposite block and look for opportunities to duck-in to the middle or to meet his defender and seal him to produce a lane to the basket upon receiving the pass.
  • Emphasize players changing their cuts, screens, and moves during execution. The normal pattern is to pass and cut away or to pass and make basket cut. Change it up with an occasional fade screen, a slip screen, or a cut to clear out a side. Start this teaching process early in the year and continue to harp on it through the season.
  • All good motion teams talk. This system of talk (Motion Language) must be practiced and begins in drill work, continues through 5 on O, and carries on in 5 on 5. The team must talk through every possession.
  • Don’t ever fight pressure. Back cut it and look to space. Make sure that help comes to a teammate that’s in trouble, i.e. trapped by two defenders, picked the ball up and has the 5 second count on. Practice back cutting from various spots on the floor. There are times that a pressured ball handler must blow by a defender that is up in him.
  • Ball reversal, fundamental passing, and catching skills need to be taught and reinforced in every practice. Moving the ball from one side of the floor to the other is critical. The best time to penetrate is on the catch of a quick reversal pass to one side of the floor. The best time to enter into the post is on a reversal, beginning with the look from up top to the look from the opposite side.
  • Players have to be taught to read the defenders. They have to learn that their primary focus needs to be their defender and how he plays in relation to the ball.

This individual and team concept has to be learned over time. It helps if your players can learn to identify the gaps and seams in all defenses and know how to attack them.

  • Don’t overlook ball sureness and good passing. All good offenses have a rhythm. It’s important to establish this rhythm, but don’t go to fast. Sometimes you need to slow them down by taking the time to make reads. Dribbling should be used for ball reversal, attacking the basket, or improving a passing angle. Don’t overlook the importance of catching the pass and squaring to face up to the basket. Eliminate turnovers.
  • Teach offensive rebounding techniques and emphasize it in everything you do. If you can, designate a coach that is only responsible for rebounding. Talk about rebounding responsibilities in all breakdown drills and continue to put emphasis in all 5 on 5 work.
  • Teach your shooters specific motion options: the fade cut and the back screen and pop. Teach your non-shooters their basic options: the curl cut, the basket cut, and the seven cut.
  • Drill on a weekly basis the critical skills of motion: spacing, cutting, screening, reading the defender(s), back cutting, 2nd cutter action, 2 man game, 3 man game, dribble penetration, dealing with pressure, reversal actions.
  • In switching defenses and against intense pressure, set your post on the side opposite of the ball. Have your cutters use the v-cut or seven cut against pressure. On a switching defense, use the kick back maneuver in the screening action. The cutter off the screen comes to the screen and seven cuts it to the goal. The screener kicks back to the ball (replaces himself). Use the slip against the switching D also.
  • 5 on 0 motion is good to work on techniques. It also is a time that you can reinforce certain important concepts: spacing, ball reversal, working off the post, utilizing different options, communication. Don’t use this time for you to take a break. This is an important teaching time to promote creativity and exactness (paying attention to detail).