The Basketball Podcast: EP80 Jimmy Tillette on Dribble Drive and Princeton

RELEASE DATE : 12/02/2020

In this week’s coaching conversation, former Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss mixing the dribble drive and princeton offensive systems. Tillette, a basketball philosopher and educator at heart, shares philosophy, history and concepts that have shaped his coaching.

Tillette is the former head coach of the men’s basketball team at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tillette was the head coach of the Bulldogs team from 1997-2012, and is the school’s winningest coach. 

In fifteen seasons as the coach of the Bulldogs, Tillette compiled record of 229–219, leading the Bulldogs to their only two appearances in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship in 1999 and 2000 while they were a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The 1999–2000 season was highlighted by upset wins over traditional basketball powers St. John’s and Alabama. Tillette was most recently head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Before Samford worked as an assistant in the college game at Mississippi State, Tulane and Samford. Prior to that he was head coach at De La Salle high school for seven seasons, including the program’s best-ever, when the Cavaliers finished with a 40-1 record and a Class 4A state title in 1986.

Learn more from Jimmy Tillette:

Masterclass with Jimmy Tillette on Culture

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Jimmy Tillette Quotes:

“We want to play as fast as we can on offense . . I’ve always believed it’s not the quickness of the players it’s the speed of the offense.”

“You’re at the end of cerebral play in college. Anything below 30 seconds is going to turn into the NBA and those coaches who were at the best schools athletically wanted to do that anyway.”

“You have to be able to get the ball in and out of your hand as quickly as you can with balance. You want to begin on balance and end on balance . . it’s about being accurate, being meticulous . . making good judgments.“

“That’s the beauty of it [the Princeton Offense], you can change it from year to year based on your personnel and still retain the essence of it.”

“Typically what happens under stress, there’s an immediate degrading of communication . . you have to find ways to be able to effectively communicate.”

“Once you add stress to something, the simplest things can become difficult – the defense is going to grab, they’re going to be in a different place, etc. – so you’ve got to fight through the friction.”

“If you’re playing in space . . you can play with the ball in the center of your body; if you’re playing in tight, the ball has to be shifted to one side or the other away from the defender.”

“Pivoting can help you extricate yourself to create space to make passes.”

“The ball always has the first opportunity to score . . but at some point in time when you get the basketball it may not be the best opportunity.”

“I’m not asking you to surrender the ‘me for the we’, what I’m asking you to do . . is select ‘the best from the rest.’”

“It’s imperative to anything you’re doing in either one of these offenses [the Dribble Drive or the Princeton Offense] to stretch the defense that you be exactly where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.”

“You can’t just run around and not be spaced properly . . this is another under-coached part of that Princeton stuff . . “

“It’s incumbent upon the coach to say things in a way that not only can be understood, but also can’t be misunderstood.”

“People talk about what comes first: confidence or success? Well, I would say the thing that comes first, really, is improvement. Focus on improvement.”

“When we’re teaching kids to finish, the whole idea is you want to start on balance, end on balance . . but we’re trying to get there as quickly as we can on balance.”

“I call it the obligation of leadership: accurately interpret reality. You’ve got to accurately interpret reality as it relates to your enterprise and your environment.”

Jimmy Tillette Selected Links from the Podcast:

Mississippi StateTulane University

Samford University

John Brady

Pete Carril


Joe Scott

Chris Mooney

University of Richmond

John Beliein

Bill Carmody

Carl von Clausewitz

Antoine-Henri Jomini

Robert Frost



Albert Einstein

Jimmy Tillette Breakdown:

1:00 – Changes over his Years of Coaching
4:00 – Princeton Offense
6:40 – Adding the Dribble Drive System
9:30 – Reads and Rules for Backdoor Cuts
12:20 – Fundamentals
15:00 – Characteristics Princeton Offense
18:00 – ABC: Action Beyond the Concept
21:40 – Individual Aspects
23:00 – Fog and Friction
24:30 – Working on Creating Better Passers
28:00 – Spacing, Screening and Cutting
31:40 – Metamorphosis of the Princeton Offense
34:30 – Improvements and Progress
37:00 – Ideal Length of Possession for Princeton offense
38:40 – Ideal Action
41:00 – Defensive Physicality
43:00 – Ideal Team for Princeton Offense
45:00 – How Coaches Teach
48:00 – Sharing Ideas
50:00 – Conclusion

Jimmy Tillette:


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