The Basketball Podcast: EP244 with Gary Williams on the Flex Offense and Pressure Defense

RELEASE DATE : 30/11/2022

In this week’s coaching conversation, Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on the flex offense, full court pressure and removing the grey areas.

Gary Williams is the winningest head basketball coach in Maryland history. During his 22 seasons at the helm, the Terrapins went 461-252, a winning percentage of .646. His tenure included 14 NCAA tournament berths, seven Sweet 16 appearances, back-to-back trips to the Final Four, and the 2002 national championship. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014 and has the basketball court at the Xfinity Center named after him.

Teams coached: American Eagles, Boston College Eagles, Ohio State Buckeyes, Maryland Terrapins
American record: 72-42 (.632)
Boston College record: 76-45 (.628)
Ohio State record: 59-41 (.590)
Maryland record: 461-252 (.647)
Overall record: 668-380 (.637)

Career Accomplishments:

  • NCAA National Championships:  1  (2002)
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 17 (1983, 1985, 1987, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010)
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: 9 (1983, 1985, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003)
  • NCAA Tournament Final Four: 2 (2001, 2002)
  • NIT Championships: 0 (Runner-up in 1988)
  • NIT Appearances: 9 (1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2005, 2006, 2008)
  • ACC Regular Season Champion: 3 (1995, 2002, 2010)
  • Big East Regular Season Champion: 1 (1983)
  • East Coast Regular Season Champion: 1 (1981)
  • ACC Tournament Champion: 1 (2004)


  • ACC Coach of the Year: 2 (2002, 2010)
  • National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted 2014)
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted 2014)

Listen Here:

Gary Williams Coach Quotes:

“I always like the flex [offense] because . . the way we played, we wanted to press, we wanted to run. And so, the flex gave us stability. We knew exactly what we’re doing in the flex . . it’s a very rigid offense.”

“I think it [the flex offense] is a great offense for middle school kids, high school kids, because every player has to learn every part of the game. We would do post-up drills with our point guards because they’d get inside and, all of a sudden, they were the guy posting up on the flex cut. So, it taught the game, but it was also fun because you were running offense at the same time.”

“If you look at the Flex, good spacing in a 2-3 flex set, you have driving angles, from both guards who can penetrate the middle. But the wings have that ability to penetrate between the guard and the inside player, the post player on the ball side.”

“I think that’s what you’re looking for, some type of balance because you see too many teams . . if they have a bad shooting night, they’re going to lose . . If the ball doesn’t go in from the perimeter, they can’t win it with their defense, they don’t have pressure defense when they get behind. All those things go into having a program.”

“I always believed that you needed at least two presses. So, the one people recognized the most is the 1-2-1-1. But then we also had a 2-2-1 and we’d have a 2-1-2. So, we were basically showing three presses.”

“We would always tell our teams that we were going to be the best conditioned team in the country. And we were going to do it by playing basketball . . we’re not going to do it by running on a track, we’re not going to do it by running sprints at the end of practice, we’re going to do it by how we play every day in practice.”

“What we liked about having a reputation as a pressure defensive team, teams would have to use some of their time . . to prepare for our press. I always thought that was an advantage.”

“The momentum of pressure defense, with the feeling of scoring six points in 20 seconds . . Once you do that, your press is going to be good the rest of the year because your players have had that experience of how that feels and how it changed the game. And you go from there.”

“It’s basketball. You’re doing what a million people would love to be doing . . And you have to remind them once a while.”

Gary Williams Breakdown:

3:00 – Flex Offense
5:00 – Removing Down Screen
9:00 – Less Structured
16:00 – Vs. Pressure
18:00 – Vs. Switching
24:00 – Triangle Influence
26:30 – Three Point Line
29:24 – 30:08 – Membership Sales AD
30:09 – Toughness
33:00 – Press Defense
37:00 – Sideline
40:30 – Points Per Possession
43:00 – Playing Full Court
47:00 – Remove The Grey Area
51:00 – Cross Matchups and Press
54:00 – Press Break
59:00 – Playing 5-on-5 Press
1:00:00 – The Current Game

Gary Williams Links from the Podcast:

Gary Williams

Tom Davis

Greivis Vasquez

Sarunas Jasikevicius

Eric Hayes

Rick Pitino

Tom Izzo

Jim Boeheim

Pearl Washington

Vic Bubas

Dean Smith

Lonny Baxter

Chris Wilcox

Steve Francis

Tahj Holden

Pete Newell

Bruce Pearl

Juan Dixon

Calvin McCall

Glen Rice

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