The Basketball Podcast: EP206 with Tobin Anderson on Program and Pressing

RELEASE DATE : 09/03/2022

In this week’s coaching conversation, St. Thomas Aquinas head coach to Tobin Anderson joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on teaching a pressing defensive system.

Tobin Anderson is the head coach of the NCAA Division II St. Thomas Aquinas Spartans. During his tenure, he has averaged over 23 wins a season, has a .752 winning percentage, and has led his team to seven consecutive NCAA DII Tournament appearances. His team has won six East Coast Conference title in seven seasons. He has also been voted ECC Coach of the Year twice. Coach Anderson has over 16 years of coaching at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels.

Anderson joined the Spartan staff in 2013, as the 7th head coach in the program’s history, bringing over 16 years of coaching experience at the Division I, II and III levels. Anderson comes to STAC after a two year stint as an assistant coach for Division I Siena College. He had an immediate impact with the Saints as he led them to one of the most remarkable seasons in school history. With only a 6-man player rotation, Siena greatly overachieved with an 11-4 home record and a run to the MAAC Tournament semifinals.

Before his time at Siena, Tobin Anderson was an established head coach at the Division III level at Hamilton College and Clarkson University. While at Hamilton, he posted a 118-63 record over a seven year span, with a .652 winning percentage. The Continentals reached the league tournament five out of his seven years, including a tournament championship and a trip to the NCAA DIII tournament. Anderson guided his team to the second round of the NCAA’s in 2006 as well as three regular season titles.

Prior to arriving at Hamilton, Tobin Anderson earned his first head coaching position at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. Anderson’s first team finished the 1999-2000 season with a 14-12 record, it’s first .500 season in 25 years, earning the program’s first-ever postseason bid. In his five years with the Golden Knights, he broke the school record for wins, with a 19-10 season in 2001-02. The team advanced to the ECAC regional championship game and was the third-most improved Division III men’s basketball team from the previous season. Anderson spent three years as an assistant coach; two years at Le Moyne College, from 1997-1999. He also started his college coaching career as an assistant at Clarkson in 1996, where he would later return.

Learn more from Tobin Anderson and about his Defensive Pressing System: All Access Basketball Pressing System Practice with Tobin Anderson

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Tobin Anderson Coach Quotes:

“When you when you believe in something that you do, and you like what you do it, it’s fun. That’s kind of part of the fun of pressing. We enjoy it. It’s fun. It’s fun to practice, it’s fun for the games, it’s fun to teach.”

“I think it [turnover margin] is really important. We did studies about it; if you were plus five in turnover margin . . 90% of those teams were at 20+ to 25+ wins.”

“If we can get five, six, seven more shots than our opponents off of turnovers, then that’s a major thing that is a huge part of winning.”

“The other side of that [pressing] is to play fundamentally sound offensive basketball. Play off two feet, pass and catch the ball, all like all that kind of stuff.”

“We’re not dictating to them [the players] all the time, what they have to do. We’re going to screw up, we’re going to make mistakes, and we’re going to live with mistakes, but there’s a certain point we say, ‘That’s enough.’”

“If you can get one or two runs per half, six-nothing runs, that gets you to plus 12. And then if you get one more in the second half, it’s a plus 18. That’s the game right there. What we don’t want to do with the press, is we’re not taking crazy chances. We’re not trying to give up layups, no open threes.”

“[Pressing] a great way for your program to throw the first punch, to go after people, to be aggressive, to be assertive. Guys like playing that style. It’s hard; they like playing that style in games, they don’t like playing that style, necessarily, every day in practice, and they don’t like to do the conditioning stuff.”

“We’ll show our team old tapes of Kentucky playing to kind of get a feel for how hard they played and how aggressive they were.”

“Pressing is a way of playing but it’s also kind of how you run your whole program. Your program is dictated by the fact that we have to be in great shape, conditioning is huge for us.”

“In the press, we’re not telling them when to trap or where to trap. We’re letting them make those decisions themselves and trusting them. Obviously, there’s coaching and teaching involved, but it’s their press, it’s not my press; they have to decide when and what to do with it.”

“The hardest [decision] for an offensive player is when to shoot, when to pass; I think for us it’s when to trap and when not to trap . . We want short traps, long traps get you a lot because long traps become long rotations.”

“You’ve got to know your teammates. There’s a lot of things that go into making the right decisions . . At the end of the day, if you go and you’re aggressive, as long as we can sprint back and recover . . we’ve forced the tempo, we’re going to be fine.”

“We don’t want them to have vision against our press on the ball, we want to make sure they can’t pass against the press, we want to make them go hard to beat us.”

“Most of our problems in the press come from lack of ball pressure . . if you can’t get great ball pressure and make them uncomfortable, make them do things they don’t want to do, it’s going to hurt our press, no matter no matter how good our guys off the ball are.”

“They’re going to screw up in practice, for me to stop it and practice and say, ‘Hey, you screwed up’ [isn’t productive] . . they know they made a mistake and so we’ll show it on video. But, if you get 10 or 15 reps a day, in those kinds of situations, you’re going to get better at it.”

“We’ll get back tips in defensive transition, because our guys are used to chasing things down from behind . . when you’re chasing from behind, you’re going hard. I always tell the guys, ‘You better be able to run faster than they can dribble. If you can’t run faster than they can dribble then I have to go out and find some guys that can do that kind of stuff.’”

“We get a lot of our turnovers, because it’s the wrong guy handling the ball at the wrong time in the wrong spots. It’s not the traps . .or steals, it’s that it’s more of them being sped up and playing outside their comfort level of what they’re used to doing.”

“I think it’d be hard to press and then run a structured set offense . . pressing is hard. It’s grueling, it’s tough, especially for guys in the front of the press, so I want to give them some freedom offensively to play.”

“If you play half-court defense, you can’t screw up . . But I think, in the press, we can make a mistake and make up for a mistake by our effort and by our five guys playing together, by chasing stuff down from behind, by making [the other team] play in a different situation. If you just play half-court basketball, all of a sudden you don’t handle a cross screen the right way, it’s going to be a basket.”

Tobin Anderson Breakdown:

1:00 – Power of Question
4:00 – Importance of Turnover Margin
8:00 – Philosophy of Winning Runs
10:00 – Rick Pitino System
15:00 – Defensive Decision Making
19:00 – Force Turnover Fatigue
21:00 – Tweak According to Scout
25:00 – Ball Defense
28:00 – Off The Ball Defenders
31:00 – Game-Based Play
33:00 – Creating Situation
36:00 – Recovery Aspect
39:00 – Alive vs Dead Dribble Trapping
42:00 – Psychology of Officials
45:00 – Attack Pressure
48:00 – Nike Clinic
52:00 – Restrictions in Practice Time
55:00 – Tobin Anderson Immersion Video
58:00 – Conclusion

Tobin Anderson Links from the Podcast:

Rick Pitino

Bobby Knight

Henry Iba

Jamal Mashburn

Tony Delk

Walter McCarty

Hubie Brown

Jim Calhoun

Ben McCollum

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