The Basketball Podcast: EP285 with Greg Neeley on an Adaptable Defense

RELEASE DATE : 13/09/2023

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Piedmont University head coach Greg Neeley shares insights on the 2-1-2 zone and the power of an adaptable defense.

Greg Neeley finished his 10th season as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Piedmont University. Six of those ten seasons have seen the Lions finish .500 or better making him the winningest coach in Piedmont men’s basketball history.

Before coming to Piedmont, Neeley spent one season as the head coach at Warren Wilson College where he led the Owls to their first ever USCAA National Championship. The season also marked the Owls’ first ever USCAA tournament appearance as Neeley led the team on a 12-game winning streak to finish the season. This team is currently recognized as a Team of Excellence in the Warren Wilson College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Neeley’s first head coaching job was at Ancilla College where he led the Chargers to a four win improvement in year one and an additional five win improvement in year two. Before making the jump to the head coaching ranks, Neeley was an assistant coach at Piedmont working under then-Head Coach Lee Glenn for three of the team’s most successful seasons in the school’s NCAA era to that point.

In the coaching community, Neeley has served as the USA South Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Chair and the Collegiate Conference of the South Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Chair. He also has been on the NCAA D-III Men’s Basketball South Region Advisory Committee and was selected to the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches’ Academy as one of 30 NCAA men’s basketball coaches chosen to participate in the inaugural class.

Greg Neeley

Greg Neeley is also the creator of the product Unlock the Power of An Adaptable Defense: The 2-1-2 Pressure Zone Defense Mastery Series available at

Forget Traditional Zone Defense: The 2-1-2 pressure zone defense zone defense is unique, fun to play, and easy to install. Traditional zone offenses struggle against the 2-1-2 pressure zone defense since its principles are unlike other zones. The 2-1-2 pressure zone defense easily transfers to special situations such as full court pressing, half court trapping, and out of bounds defense.

Listen Here:

Greg Neeley Quotes:

“Through trial and error, through practice, through just having some individual players use their own instincts, we kind of morphed this into our 2-1-2 pressure zone defense. And it’s been super-effective for us. The stats have embodied that and we’re very pleased with how it’s been for our program.”

“For us, it [the 2-1-2 pressure zone defense] has allowed us to spend much more time on offense in practice, which I know our players like more and we’ve become a better shooting offensive team because of that. The adaptable part was big for us and it’s proven effective.”

“It’s not hard. It’s just different. Like at the guard position, for example. The rotations and the movements are just different than what they’ve done in the past, but it’s not hard to comprehend. Our guys have . . built up these basketball habits their whole life, and so now we’re asking them to do those habits just a little bit differently and that’s what makes the zone really effective. It’s just repetition and using constraints and playing live and figuring it out.”

“We were a pack-line defensive team. We didn’t turn anybody over, but we were really good in the gap. We walled up, we were solid, but we went from that to the zone and we led the league in turnovers. We were aggressive, we were much more fun to watch . . and I think it has helped us in recruiting.”

“We ended up being first in points per possession allowed defensively. And that’s a metric that we use to kind of judge how we’re doing defensively. And just in our conference, which at that time was like 14 schools, we were top three in every defensive category.”

“We’re big on figuring it out, working through that, having guys communicate with each other. We’ll do some stuff in practice where they’ve got to get three stops in a row and we’re not going to correct, I’m going to be quiet. They have to bring the energy. They have to talk to each other. They need to huddle and make that adjustment . . just like they would in a game when they huddle before a free throw. They have to figure it out. I think they take more ownership in the defense and pride when we can do that.”

“I’m going to talk to our guys before our first practice, ‘This is going to look messy. It’s going to look messy sometimes. It’s not going to be a coaching clinic, and that’s okay.’ And some of the adjustments that we’ve been able to make with the zone defense have come from individual guys, just their instincts where we can give them a little flexibility.”

“It is structured freedom. And you earn that freedom by how hard you play in those habits. Now, if you’re out there not playing hard and not communicating and not doing some of those intangible things, then maybe you have a little less of that freedom. But structured freedom, that’s when it’s at its best, that allows us to morph to the offense.”

“If it takes ten minutes longer in practice, that’s okay . . I feel like the buy-in and the growth that comes from the stuff that we’re talking about is worth so much more than the extra ten minutes of ball handling or whatever . . we feel like those growth moments, even if they take a little bit longer . . has been so much more beneficial for our group.”

“Those small conversations are so important, I can’t stress that enough. Just making sure that, especially your leaders on the team, are bought in and understand why you’re doing it and that they’re seeing the benefits and excited about playing it. It’ll trickle down to the rest of your locker room. We’re constantly having those conversations, even with our older guys.”

Greg Neeley Breakdown:

1:00 – Starting Practice Later

Greg Neeley Selected Links from the Podcast:

Please Support the Podcast

As we build our podcast following please take the time to support the Basketball Podcast. Our goal is to openly share as much useful basketball coaching info to stimulate your coaching. 

  1. Tell your friends about us.
  2. Give us a shout out on social media.
  3. Give us a five star review wherever you listen to podcasts.

How to leave a podcast review at iTunes

Go to the iTunes page of the Basketball Podcast.

Click the View in iTunes button.
View in iTunes
At iTunes, click the Ratings and Reviews tab.
Select Ratings and Reviews
Rate the podcast using 1 to 5 stars.
Submit a brief honest review.