The Basketball Podcast: EP196 with George Galanopoulos on Defense

RELEASE DATE : 29/12/2021

In this week’s coaching conversation, Texas Legends NBA G-League head coach George Galanopoulos joins the Basketball Podcast to share his insights on defense, ball screen concepts and coaching internationally and in the G-League.

Galanopoulos was a member of the Legends coaching staff for the 2016-17 season serving as an assistant before earning a call-up to the Dallas Mavericks. The 2016-17 season saw the Legends earn the most wins to that point in franchise history and earn a record five NBA Call-Ups. He spent two seasons as a video coordinator for the Mavericks and is currently on the bench with the Summer League team in Las Vegas. His first role with the Legends came out of an internship with the Mavericks as well when he went from player development intern in Dallas to assistant coach in Frisco.

In 2017, George Galanopoulos was named Uganda National Team Head Coach, a position that he still holds. He has helped spark great success for the Uganda program as they compete for their place in African and FIBA basketball.

Along with G League, NBA, and FIBA international, Galanopoulos’ resume includes collegiate experience. While at Indiana University, Galanopoulos worked with the Hoosiers’ men’s basketball team, which helped propel him to his first position with the NBA G League’s Bakersfield Jam.

After the Jam experience, George Galanopoulos then ventured overseas to coach in New Zealand’s NBL, returning to the States the following March hungry for another opportunity in the NBA. Having previously interned under Mike Procopio at legendary trainer Tim Grover’s Attack Athletics in Chicago, Galanopoulos reconnected with his old boss, now a player development coach with the Mavericks spearheading their expansive internship program. Procopio minted Galanopoulos as one of the Mavs’ 12 player development interns for the ‘15–16 season.

George Galanopoulos

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George Galanopoulos Coach Quotes:

“Coaching is adaptability. You have to be adaptable; you have to expect the best and prepare for the worst.”

“In the G League, we’ve had weeks where we’ve had seven players for a practice, so you’ve just got to pivot and adapt. When you expected having 10 players and a guy might be hurt, a couple guys get called up, you’ve got to pivot and play 3-on-3 break down games instead of 5-on-5.”

“Culture starts with people. You want to get high character people all pulling in the same direction that have defined roles and understand exactly what is expected of them. Whether it’s staff, players, or management, they’ve got to know their role in order to help push this thing forward.”

“We talked today after practice about how grateful we are to be playing this game in a great gym . . with people that we like and enjoy being around.”

“I think if you develop your players properly, you will win basketball games . . but what we’re trying to do every single day is not worry about winning . . we’re just going out and working out every day and working on individual skills.”

“Part of development is preparing guys to play their next opponent and win that game . . We said from day one, we’re not going to talk about winning. We know every time you step between the lines, we’re keeping score, whether it’s practice, a drill, a scrimmage, or it’s a game, we are trying to win the game.”

“At the end of the day, you are preparing guys to play at the next level to win basketball games. We’re not trying to get guys ‘called up.’ We want guys to create longevity in their careers . . we want them to get called up and we want them to stay and become the best version of themselves so that they can have long stable careers.”

“As much as we can we talk about and reflect and internalize the impact that we are having on a global scale . . and it goes for G league players too. You never know if there’s a five-year-old kid sitting in the stands who ends up wanting to play basketball because of the way that you played that day.”

“I think you see guys playing harder when you create more clarity as far as what guys are supposed to do individually in their roles and how you’re supposed to execute on both ends of the court. Once you see and feel that clarity and there’s a system in place that holds players accountable to their roles and what they’re supposed to do on the court, I think you start to see teams play hard.”

“Defense is not just playing hard. It’s creating clarity in what you need to be doing based on the action and the spacing that you’re being presented with. The game offensively is played so much faster, with so much more pace and in so much more space than it ever has been, so you need to talk about these things.”

“Besides coverages, you want to define what shots you want to take away. And you want to define what shots you’re trying to force the other team into.”

“Switching should not be lazy. You shouldn’t be out there point switching, because that’s what we love as offensive coaches is a point switching team. What you want to do is to switch physically, so that you can take teams out of their actions and keep yourself out of rotation. It actually should be an aggressive, physical mindset.”

“Ultimately defensively, you want to keep bodies on bodies; you want to make sure, no matter what, whatever defense you’re in, that the offensive player that has the ball always sees a body in front of them.”

“There’s a lot of guys that just don’t want to embrace that contact at the rim . . I think most guys, you need to teach them specifically the technique of jumping straight up in the air with their hands and absorbing [contact] in the chest.”

“You’ve heard the term ‘jump to the pass.’ We don’t want guys to jump, we want guys to sprint; we want them to pivot and run and sprint to shrink . . it’s just something that you’ve got to hold guys accountable to and they’ve got to hold each other accountable to it. And once they see that the ball stalls because that offensive player sees help behind and he sees that next man, that’s when you’ve got a high level defense.”

“I think it’s important to embrace your experiences, to enjoy it and not be so focused on where you’re going next. I would say the guys that I’ve seen get called up are the ones that enjoy the experience and don’t worry about the call up. Everybody’s got a different career trajectory, whether they’re coaches or players. Just enjoy it [because], like we said, the last 18 months has taught us that it can all be taken away from you in a heartbeat.”

“That’s my advice to young coaches: go into a job with no agenda other than you’re just trying to help guys get better. And you’re trying to help yourself get better every day, so that you can better help others. I think if that’s at the core of your profession, and your teaching, and your approach, then everything will work out.”

George Galanopoulos Breakdown:

1:00 – Balancing National Team and G-League
3:00 – Roster Inconsistencies
6:00 – A Better Coach
9:00 – Culture and Building a Roster
12:30 – Basketball Around The World
15:00 – Evaluating The Game
17:00 – Process of Winning and Losing
19:00 – International Trends
21:00 – Determining Pick and Roll Coverage
27:00 – Determining Defensive Coverages
30:00 – Defending Spain’s Pick and Roll
33:00 – Top Blocking Action
35:00 – Covering The Cutter Off The Ball
38:00 – Technique of Contesting
44:00 – Offensive Counter
47:00 – Team Philosophy
49:00 – Personnel
51:00 – Stagger Handoffs
53:00 – Passion to Coaching
57:00 – Living Close to the
59:00 – Conclusion

George Galanopoulos Links from the Podcast:

Ryan Pannone

Cameron Payne

Moses Brown

Loudon Love

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