In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, New Zealand professional coach Zico Coronel joins the podcast to talk about visiting the Houston Rockets, reimaging scouting reports, and using analogies in coaching. A lifelong learner, Coronel has spent time with some of best basketball programs in the world as a guest coach including the Houston Rockets, Valencia Basket, the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball, and FC Barcelona Basquet.
Coronel is in his second season as the head coach of the Taylor Hawks in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NBL). In his first season he lead the Hawks to 12 wins and a semi-final berth. This was a drastic improvement as the previous three years the Hawks won 10 games combined.
Prior to becoming head coach of the Taylor Hawks, Coronel served as an assistant coach to the Wellington Saints. There he was the assistant coach to Kevin Braswell who went on to head coach in the Australian NBL, and FIBA Hall of Fame inductee Pero Cameron.
The Wellington squad had unprecedented success while Coronel was on staff. The team became the first ever New Zealand NBL undefeated champions going 20-0. This was the fifth championship in 13 years Coronel achieved as an assistant coach.
As well as working with respected head coaches like Kevin Braswell and Pero Cameron, Coronel has also had experience working with Kenny Stone and Tim McTamney. He has also represented his country as head coach of the New Zealand 🇳🇿 Under 16 Boys’ who advanced to the semi-finals of the Australian Junior Championships, equaling New Zealand’s best ever performance at this tournament.
“Possibly no team in the world plays truer to their theory of basketball [than the Houston Rockets] . . every single thing that they do . . their tactics . . their spacing . . where they set the screens and the angle of the screens . . is geared toward generating the shot profile that they want.”
“The [NBA] players basically have the luxury of always doing the thing that’s most important to their development . .”
“What James [Harden] does at training is kind of mind-boggling . . the main rationale [of the coaches] is, if we give him basketball drills, they’re too easy for him, so we have to continually rack our brain to try to come up with things that are challenging for him.”
“It’s certainly interesting in terms of a growth mindset perspective . . he [James Harden] makes mistakes at practice because they are continually pushing the limits.”
“They very much talk about expected shot value . . What was the quality of the shots that we generated? Was it better than the quality of the shots that the opposition generated?”
“I think it’s very important that you develop shot selection by process and not results . . one of the ways you can allow your players to have trust that that is exactly how you are evaluating them is that you offer them praise while the ball is still in the air or as early as possible.”
“Having a really clear idea of why you’re coaching . . then having a really clear belief about how you believe basketball should be played . . allows you to evaluate all the good ideas.”
“I think [blocked practice] is still pretty much traditional . . in the U.S. college game . . I think a lot of times they do an amazing job of getting players physically prepared and they play with great intensity but tactically, the NBA game, Euroleague and international pro game is probably [more advanced].”
“The more you can move into your base system and leave less as a part of the scouting process the better.”
“A lot of offense is just trying to override their communications systems. Can we do things more quickly than they can communicate it and stay organized? Then we get a disorganized defense to attack and break down.”
“I think you want to know how well it [coaching] is transferring preemptively; last year we used Kahoot an online game where you can build your own quizzes . . to probe the understanding of the scout.”
“You have to have your non-negotiables but . . if one party has to adapt here, the coach or the players, you cannot control if your players will adapt but you can choose if you will adapt. And that’s one of the ways you can avoid conflict.”
“We want to spend as little time as possible between those high efficiency scoring zones [at the rim and at the 3-point line] . . so we want to get from three to rim as quickly as possible and from rim back out to create the space for the next person’s opportunity.”
“We like to pass from space, not from the thicket . . We want the defense to be rendered irrelevant . . A lot of that is knowing your passing options as opposed to reacting to them . . a lot of it is having your eyes up.”
“Take a hostage [when defending the ball screen] . . if I don’t want the screener to take me out, I’ve got to get very close to the ball handler.”
“It’s better to be early and wrong than late and right in terms of communication.”
“One of the best ways to have a good ball screen offense is one screen, especially at practice. One screen, that is all you’re allowed because if you execute that one ball screen correctly . . that’s all you need. And if you didn’t generate a good shot out of that singular ball screen, you made a mistake.”
“The game is ball screens, whether you like it or not. If you’re trying to help your players achieve their future goals, if you can make them a good ball screen player then you’ve probably made them a good player.”
“Any time you can create the impression of pressure without actually having to expose yourself, this is good.”
“I hate to trap up . . I know it can work against bad players . . whereas if you trap down, we sometimes call it a ‘free double’ . . if you trap down and they pass it back, that’s free. Who cares?”
Click below to listen in if you listen on:
1:00 – Travels in North America with the Houston Rockets
2:30 – Houston Rockets Team Practices
6:00 – James Harden and His Individual Workouts
8:00 – Transfer into the Game and Simplicity
10:30 – Evaluating the Quality of the Shot
13:20 – Other Takeaways from the Houston Rockets
15:00 – Pieces of Advices for Coaches
16:00 – Takeaways from other Coaches
19:50 – Things Coaches Overvalued in Scouting Reports
23:50 – Helping Players Transfer Information
27:00 – Improving Scouting Reports
31:30 – Not Need to Write Generalities on Scouting Reports
33:50 – Adaptability
36:30 – Using Metaphors and Analogies to Increase Understanding
38:00 – Snipers, Medieval Torture Racks and Lava
42:00 – “Don’t Let The Defense get Close to the Ball when Spacing…”
45:00 – “Take A Hostage” when Defending Ball Screens
47:00 – Crack The iPhone
50:00 – Initiative During Ball Screen
51:30 – The Theory of Subtle Offense
54:30 – North Angle and One Screen
59:00 – Importance of Decision Making
1:01:30 – Other Examples of his Defense
1:04:00 – Subtleties of Offense and Defense
1:07:00 – Brilliant Coaching in NBA
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