The concept of Kaizen was brought to North America from Japan in the 1980’s. The term signifies continual improvement. Essentially there is no end destination as there are always iterations and changes for the better that can be made. Kai - stands for CHANGE and Zen means GOOD. Adopting the philosophy of Kaizen means you are fully committed to a journey of development.
There is no magic end-point in one’s search for excellence. To fully embrace this is to fall in love with the process and the iteration involved with continual improvement. This is why you see coaches who have one heaps of national titles, or people in business who have risen to the top of their industry - still striving to be better. You must indeed be humble in order to adopt such a philosophy. There is no secret code, you never truly “beat the game,” each new season, each new quarter is a chance to make changes for the better. The humble nature needed and wisdom that there is not one formula for success is an essential element in adopting this philosophy. Put the joy into the journey, never be satisfied, always be striving!
Basketball is all about opportunities.
In spending the last 4-5 years deeply immersed studying and coaching, I have come to believe that controlling the first ⅓ of the shot-clock is essential. Bobby Knight has spoken at length about the importance of “conversion,” - that is the transition between offense and defense and vice-versa. The ability to attack a disorganized defense and see an advantage as it’s presented to you, is essential for winning basketball. Players must be developed to create, and see, opportunities that arise in a possession. Key foundational pieces of this are: spacing, movement off the ball, and reading the different layers of defense.
The goal of all teams should be to move seamlessly between offense and defense. Spatial awareness in running the floor is of the utmost importance. Teams cannot simply run as if they are doing a 5-on-0 drill in practice. Players must be taught to read gaps, and where the ball, themselves, and their defenders are in relation to each other. If you are able to score in the first ⅓ (8 seconds) of the shot clock, that means the offense has seen an opportunity and taken advantage of it.
Opportunity Cost is the foregone value of something you give up by not acting or rather by choosing against it. The opportunity cost of not being able to take advantage of situations early in the shot clock is a tough possession in which the defense dictates the play-- over a 40 minute game this significantly strains a team. In FIBA with a 24 second shot clock the best chance on the offensive end is not to swing the ball back and forth waiting for the defense to break down. The offense needs to quickly create and the seize their opportunity to get a great shot.
On the flip side, defensively, teams should look to control the first 8 seconds by keeping the other team from scoring in that first ⅓ (duh!). That is done by taking away their initial actions. If you can take away the other team’s primary option and make them go to Plan B, it goes a long way to controlling each possession. If the other team’s offense always begins with a wing entry, then take that away, and see if they can adjust. Obviously in this day and age with video-analysis the way it is, teams will all have each other well-scouted.
A NOTE ON VISION AND DECISION MAKING - One thing I have been studying recently is the rim-runner in transition. I believe a team’s ability to take advantage of the defense depends on knowing where their teammates are. Defensive rebounding will leave players in various positions as they convert to offense. It is not realistic that there will always be a forward out ahead of the pack. If a team stalls waiting for that forward, many times they have given up an opportunity to score. Sometimes the forwards will lag behind if they were battling down low for a rebound, in that case the early-offense needs to adjust to that. Perhaps it is an early spread ball screen with everyone else spaced outside the 3pt line (ala Classic Phoenix Suns with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire) or any other host of creative entries.
The ability to have flow in your transition offense and not freeze the ball is often the difference between a coach keeping their hair colour or greying very early!!!