The Basketball Podcast: EP176 Robert Jones on the Floppy Basketball Defense
In this week’s coaching conversation, Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss the floppy defense and the keys to his program’s success.
Head coach Robert Jones sets out on his ninth season leading the Norfolk State men’s basketball program in 2021-22 and his 15th year overall with the Spartans. He led the program to its second-ever MEAC title in 2021 and an NCAA Tournament First Four win over Appalachian State. Jones’ overall head coaching mark now stands at 142-119, including 92-32 in MEAC play.
The 2019 MEAC Coach of the Year, Jones signed a five-year contract extension following the NCAA Tournament appearance, keeping him at the helm of the program through 2027-28. He has led NSU to a .742 win percentage in MEAC play – fifth in the nation among coaches with at least 100 games coached – and made six postseason appearances in seven years of postseason play.
After serving as an assistant coach on NSU’s first NCAA Tournament squad, Jones led the 2020-21 team to a share of the MEAC Northern Division title (8-4) in addition to the MEAC Championship. It marked the first time NSU won both the regular season and tournament titles in the same year. The Spartans went on to defeat Appalachian State, the only current MEAC school to win two games in the NCAA Tournament. The program was named the HBCU Large School National Champion by the Black College Sports Network (BCSN).
Jones was named the MEAC Tournament Most Outstanding Coach and the HBCU Co-Coach of the Year by HBCU All-Stars LLC/CBS Sports. He was a finalist for three CollegeInsider awards: Ben Jobe (top minority coach), Hugh Durham (top mid-major coach) and Skip Prosser (success on the court and integrity off the court). NSU went 17-8 overall in 2020-21, his seventh .500 or better overall record in eight years as head coach.
Robert Jones Quotes:
“We came up with a system called a ‘floppy system’ . . we can play zone and change to [man-to-man defense] mid-possession.”
“When we finally go to our trigger . . there is a lower shot clock and you’re already in your zone offense. So, if we do switch to man-to-man, you’re still running zone cuts and usually that’s not going to be working. So, it usually ends up in a ball screen, We trap the ball screen and that’s usually when the magic happens.”
“[Teams’] zone packages are way smaller than their man-to-man packages . . a lot of times, even if you have shooters shooting 40% using your man-to-man plays, [they’re] coming off staggers, misdirection . . sometimes [teams] don have good methods in place to get shooters open [vs. a zone defense].”
“Changing defenses and . . disguising defenses has been pretty good for us.”
“A lot of times people want to try to overload the 2-3 [zone defense] with a ball screen to a reversal . . we try to eliminate that . . and many common actions . . We’re going to try to keep you on one side on a ball screen so you won’t have a chance to swing to the other side. If you do, it’s going to be a skip pass that we can recover to.”
“When the ball hits the middle [versus a 2-3 zone] the middle guy rushes the [post . . so you can’t just take it and just turn it to go for high-low. We want to be so on you that you turn right into us. By the time you turn and look for high-low, we’ve taken it away with a diagonal dive.”
“We get pretty good players. We get the players that we know are going to fit our system. I don’t really like small guards, so we don’t really recruit small guards . . it adds to our length, defensively and rebounding-wise. It helps we’ve recruited to the system we have.”
“We call a set and we’re practicing about getting into that set quick. Let’s execute it and let’s go from there.”
“Coming off a pick-and-roll, you should have two to three dribbles, at most, to make a decision. You should be able to see right away if you want to get to the gap to score; you should see if someone’s open; or you should see if you’re going to get to the gap or someone’s open on the weak side within two or three dribbles.”
“You want to get back to the NCAA tournament . . It’s always going to be a challenge. Hopefully, our principles and our beliefs and our team and our structure and our culture help get us back into the tournament.”
Robert Jones Breakdown:
1:00 – Regular Season Success
4:00 – Guarantee Games
8:00 – Competing with Imperfect Roster
11:00 – Communication and Possession
15:00 – Triggers
17:00 – Number of Possessions
20:30 – Floppy Defense
23:00 – Full Court Pressure
25:30 – Technical and Tactical
29:30 – Ball Screen Defense
32:00 – Within His Zone Defense
35:30 – Recruiting
39:00 – Play on Turnovers
42:00 – Other Influences on Him
44:30 – A Great Person
46:00 – From Press Break Into His Offense
48:00 – Ball Screens
50:00 – Teaching Decision Making
52:00 – Conclusion
Robert Jones Links from the Podcast:
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