The Basketball Press
Why Running a Press is a Smart Move

Most - maybe all - basketball coaches have run a full court basketball press at some time after they've been coaching for a while. For some, it's a basketball strategy they use on a consistent basis to get some points on the board; for others, it's a last-ditch effort to salvage a game that is slipping away (we've all been there).

Coaches that use the full court press only when it is absolutely necessary are missing out on some good defensive strategy. I'm going to suggest that all coaches should look at the full court press not as something to use only in extreme situations, but to run as a "usual" part of your defensive strategy.

A caveat to that statement: I'm not a fan of putting on a press and leaving it on for the entire game. Or for the entire quarter, for that matter. My preference is to spring the press on our opponent for 3 or 4 possessions, and then pull it off. Then later, spring it back on again. Surprise them, make them work, make them uncertain of what to expect every time they get the ball.

There are lots of good reasons to incorporate a full court press into your game strategy, but here are the top three in my view:

The Basketball Press
Top Three Reasons to Run the Full Court Press

basketball press - double teamThe Double Team

1. Size matters.

If you don't have size, you can be in trouble playing against a set-up offense. But if you spread out your team and harass the ball from the beginning, your 6'0" center can suddenly be very effective.

And if your opponent does have size, they very likely will want to set up an offense and take advantage of their size. By spreading them out and making them work to get the ball upcourt, you are effectively taking their size advantage out of the game.

2. Change Game Tempo.

Get your opponent out of their game, especially if they are a "walk-the-ball-up, set-up-the-offense" type of team. Take them out of their comfort zone, and they will make mistakes.

Teams that like to work the ball in and set up their post players will often get flustered when you throw on a full court basketball press and switch the tempo to a high-pressure, hectic pace.

3. It's Just Good Defense.

You can play a solid defensive game if you have 4 excellent defenders. Probably even 3 excellent defenders will do. Give your opponent lots of room to get the ball upcourt and set up an offense, and maybe they'll find that weak defensive player and score. But harass them from the beginning, and they'll turn the ball over. In other words, you can hide that weak defender or two.

Sure, a full court basketball press is a good strategy to use for other reasons - it allows you to get that little spurt of 4 or 6 points before the offense starts to acclimatize; and it's exciting to play and watch, so your players and fans will enjoy it. But the three reasons above are reason enough to put a full court press into your regular-season playbook.

Choose a full court press and teach your players to use it well, then use it on a regular basis throughout the season. It shouldn't be considered a strategy to save for last minute situations or playoffs only, but a part of your regular playing style.

But again, use it intermittently. If your opponent is a decent team, they will figure out a way to break the press if you play it against them long enough. And if they are a weak team, then you shouldn't need to press for very long.

And don't be one of those coaches who runs a full court press the entire game against a much weaker team and explain it away by saying your team needs to practice it. That just ruins the game for everyone, and nobody really learns anything important.

Anything can happen with hard work and dedication

– Jerry West