In this week’s coaching conversation, German National Team head coach Gordon Herbert joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on philosophy, roles and identity.
Gordon Herbert has extensive experience having coached throughout Europe, most notably in the German League and the Euroleague, and in the NBA as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, and the Georgian national team and the Canadian National Team. In September 2021, he was named head coach of the Germany national team. He guided the German team to a bronze medal at the 2022 European Championships.
He also has coaching titles, winning the Basketball Bundesliga: 2003–04, the FIBA Europe Cup: 2015–16, the French Cup: 2006–07 and the Finnish Cup: 2009.
Herbert came to Germany for the first time as head coach in 2000 (DJK s.Oliver Wurzburg), and in 2001 he moved to the then Opel Skyliners Frankfurt for three years. After several years as head coach in Europe (Paris, Pau-Orthez, Saloniki, Honka) and as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA (2008/2009), he returned to Germany in 2010 to the Deutsche Bank Skyliners Frankfurt before he spent the 2011/2012 season at ALBA Berlin. This was followed by his third term in Frankfurt (2013-2019).
Further stations in Herbert’s coaching career included the Georgian National team, which he took over in February 2018 to lead them through the World Cup qualification for the 2019 World Cup. Since the 2019 World Cup, Gordon Herbert has acted as an assistant coach in the Canadian national team under the head coach Nick Nurse.
As a player, Herbert took part in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and at the 1986 World Cup in Spain with the Canadian national team. In 1983 he won a gold medal at the Universiade in Edmonton, Canada. His playing career ended in 1994 when he became a coach.
Gordon Herbert Quotes:
“The better players you have, the more freedom you’ve got to give them . . and they have to have confidence in you, too, because you come to the last five minutes of a basketball game, you’re going to probably need one of these guys to make a play or make a play for somebody else. And they have to have that confidence.”
“We teach offensive concepts before we teach plays. We put our concepts in, 5-on-0 with ball screens and without ball screens. We want to stay organized. When we feel we have an advantage, now we’re playing basketball, now we’re out of the play. And now we’re playing with our concepts, which is a lot about angles and spacing.”
“When we teach 4-on-0 we’re not only teaching our offensive concepts, we’re teaching our offensive rebounding, and our defensive transition. So, we’re teaching all three things in one drill.”
“We give freedom on the offensive end; we do not give freedom on the offensive glass and in defensive transition. We score, we have a pickup point. We miss, we’re five guys inside the three point line and now we command the ball.”
“The triggers we run are real simple. We want to create gaps, we want to create gaps where we can penetrate and we want to get paint touches.”
“We cut off the ball as soon as we see a person’s back. If somebody’s going to stunt we think about cutting.
“You can’t let one guy on the strong side guard and help. Anytime that happens, we’re changing the angle or we’re a cutter.”
“Our whole thing is to contain the dribble, contain the first step, no direct line drives. You can’t take away everything defensively. We really work on where our balance is in our stance, head straight, down, as wide a base as possible, and create a presence. You have to create a fear factor in that offensive player that you can guard them.”
“We do work on technique because I think technique helps an average defender get more confidence that he can play people. And confidence is a big factor on the defensive end, just like it is shooting the basketball.”
“He gave me the best advice when I was a young coach, he said, “Listen, but stay with what you believe in. Do what you believe in. And if you go down, you’re going to go down with what you believe and not what somebody else wants you to do.”
“We, as coaches, want players who want to make an investment in themselves who want to be better.”
“I think offense takes longer to teach, especially in today’s game, against the different defenses. And it [offense] is probably more interesting, you can be a lot more positive . . I think you get players more in tune with stuff when you get into offense and then you go to the defensive stuff.”
“I think it’s important to explain to the team that defense is going to be a constant force. Offense is going to be a little bit of a roller coaster, we’re not going to shoot the ball great every game. But defensively, we can be there every game; rebounding, we can be there every game; our defensive transition has to be there every game.”
“We start with the end in mind. What’s our long term goal? I have players set this . . they discuss, we talk about it, and we come up with our long-term goal. I don’t tell them what our goal is. I want them to decide what our goal is, they’ll set higher goals. And now I can always come back to them and challenge them, ‘You set this goal. And the stuff you’re doing off the floor or on the floor doesn’t go to this goal.’ Then we set performance goals, which are measurable.”
Gordon Herbert Breakdown:
1:00 – National Team
2:00 – Importance of Roles
4:00 – Organization and Creativity
6:00 – Concept of Spacing
10:00 – Triggers
14:00 – Offensive Advantage
16:00 – Adjusment on the Wings
21:00 – Influence of Hockey
25:00 – FACC Program
25:35 – 26:20 – Membership Sales Ad
28:00 – Three Factors
30:30 – Teaching a Lot of Defense
33:00 – Player Enjoyment
36:00 – Defensive Decision
39:00 – Special Situation
43:00 – Coaching with Nick Nurse
45:00 – Pace in Practice
52:00 – Sorting Roles to the Players
55:00 – Conclusion
Gordon Herbert Links from the Podcast:
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