In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Washington Wizards assistant coach Zach Guthrie joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on a holistic approach, art curators and advantage basketball.
Zach Guthrie is an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. Guthrie began his career as an assistant video coordinator for two years with the San Antonio Spurs and later served as the manager of advanced scouting for the Orlando Magic from 2012-2015.
Guthrie joined the Washington Wizards after spending the 2020-2021 season with the Dallas Mavericks. Prior to Dallas, Guthrie spent five seasons (2015-2020) as a member of the Utah Jazz organization. He has twice been the head coach of an NBA summer league team for the Jazz and the Wizards.
Zach Guthrie Quotes:
“You have these philosophies and these ideas, and then you get to use them and see what works, what doesn’t work, and just how many decisions go into being a head coach. It really gives you the empathy for the head coach and gives you more of an opportunity to support them later on, understanding what they’re going through.”
“I think it’s important to check for understanding. This isn’t a lecture, this is a dynamic thing that we’re doing with players . . I don’t want to just talk into space for my own sake. I want to see what they’re picking up and what they’re understanding, because sometimes you’d be surprised what you talk about and what they actually take from it.”
“They [the players] are the ones that have to make the reads and make the decisions. I want to get that feedback from them like, ‘What did you see there? What’s going on? Why do we run this play? Why do we run this action? What advantage are we creating by this?’”
“A lot of times we use [‘recreate’] when there was a decision that maybe don’t think was the correct decision. But I think you can also use ‘recreate’ at times when it was a great decision. And it’s like, let’s let everyone see why this was great, because sometimes it’s a little thing that’s really a big thing, and you want to keep emphasizing and modeling that behavior that you’re looking for.”
“I think right now, we as coaches have a tendency to be too siloed. We want to just look at the micro, the little skills and the drill and this play and this thing. I think it’s all about connecting it to the game and understanding the context.”
“We want to have these boutique, 1-on-1 sessions [where] everything’s about [the player] and his development and his growth. But you have to understand how that transfers to the team, to the 5-on-5 element. We take so much of this out of context and we get so lost in this individual skill when it’s about how does it transfer to the team and how can we get as much team growth as possible . . That’s what I mean by the Holistic Approach.”
“It starts with giving them the why and giving them the context. And as much as we can bring in other players, and I know not everyone has the resources that we do in the NBA . . But as much as you can make it 5-on-5, 3-on-3, whatever you’ve got, use it to make a decision. No matter what your resources you have on hand, you can use these things.”
“I think there’s a lot of buy in from players [for multiple player workouts] . . Make it fun or make it competitive, Those are the two cheat codes in coaching and you got buy in no matter what it is. Guys like to compete. Guys like to have fun . . the decision making that might seem a little foreign at first or a little different than your traditional workout, guys love it. They buy in. They get to compete, they get to talk a little trash. You get the fun interplay back and forth.”
“I call it is ‘define and refine.’ You define – these are the things that you do well. And then you refine it and cut it down, pare it down. I think, we want more and more and more. But less is better. Simple is better. Detailed simplicity is what we strive for. We want these few things that you can really excel at on an NBA court and replicate night in, night out. Because one of the hardest things to do is consistency.”
“I think a lot of times when you watch The Greats . . what’s complicated is actually simple. There’s a lot of eye candy in different ways. They get to it, but they get to simple, elemental, basic building block things over and over and over again in different ways. And that’s what really sets them apart and that’s what makes them great.”
“The two things I talk about in player development a lot are feet and eyes. I think your eyes scan the floor and your feet get you to the places you need to go. [You want to be] efficient with your footwork and simple with your footwork.”
“In every pick and roll drill we do, there has to be a setup. There has to be footwork to create the advantage. And then we can take that little advantage and turn it into a big advantage.”
“Everyone has a unique perspective and has an ability to help you grow. I think the more you can ask pointed questions, the better you become. The ability to go out and solicit that feedback really helps you.”
“Those are just free points in the NBA. If you know how to cut and you cut with force, that’s an easy layup for you. I think the other important part of keeping an advantage is these spacing automatics . . to keep advantages, you have to have a well spaced floor, and you have to have five guys all on the same page.”
“I think the vast majority of offense [in the NBA] is really flowing into conceptual stuff . . Even if you run a set play, it’s about what you do after that . . We talk a lot about how do we find action or create action when we’re neutral. When the play broke down, it’s neutral. Now we’ve got to find action . . we play off our principles and off triggers and things that can help us do these things.”
“We want to reverse the ball to create movement in the defense, then use a trigger to trigger an advantage. The moving the ball is to move the defense and keep them slightly out of position and help position so they can’t just load up to one side.”
“Obviously, people have goals and aspirations but be where your feet are. What I tell a lot of young guys in this business is not to think about the next thing. Just be where you are and be the best version and the best servant for who you’re working for. So, how can I help that person? How can I do what I can to help them and be the best possible version of that and always continue to learn and grow and to always be curious.”
Zach Guthrie Breakdown:
1:00 – Summer League Head Coaching
2:30 – Importance of Asking Questions
3:30 – Recreate
6:00 – Holistic Approach
10:00 – Silo Training
14:00 – Improving is Fun
19:00 – Getting Better at Any Age
22:00 – Footwork
26:00 – Adding Layers
27:00 – Connecting Team Concepts
28:30 – Improve Team Workouts
30:27 – 31:02 – B.I. Podcast AD Spring 2023
30:00 – Offensive Philosophy
32:00 – Detailed Simplicity
35:30 – Re-Spacing
38:00 – Conceptual Decision-Making
39:00 – Finding the Action
41:00 – Playmaking Positions
48:00 – Teaching Methodology
53:00 – Having Player Input
56:00 – Intentionality
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