The Basketball Podcast: EP92 Tuomas Iisalo on Collective Basketball

RELEASE DATE : 25/04/2020
In this week’s coaching conversation, Telekom Baskets Bonn head coach Tuomas Iisalo joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss collective basketball.
Iisalo has been head coach in the Basketball Bundesliga, the highest level league of professional club basketball in Germany, since March 2016.

After the end of his playing career he was appointed as head coach of Tapiolan Honka and was an assistant with Finland U15. In March 2016, he signed with Crailsheim Merlins. With the team, he won promotion from the ProA to the Basketball Bundesliga.

In the 2017–18 season, Crailsheim was promoted to the Bundesliga once again as the ProA season’s runners-up. Iisalo managed to establish the club in the Bundesliga and in 2020-21 guided the Merlins to their first ever Bundesliga playoff berth. In May 2021, he inked a two-year deal with fellow Bundesliga side Telekom Baskets Bonn

Tuomas Iisalo

Listen Here:

Tuomas Iisalo Quotes:

[On recruiting/selecting players] “You check the basic statistical profile of the player. .what, to me, is also very important is the play type . . A lot of times players get talked about or advertised as pick and roll players . .but they have very low usage [of the pick and roll] in college.”

“If the player can function all the time as part of that 5-man collective all the time without relaxing . . If that’s a positive. . .then you start talking to people who know him to find out if the mindset matches the game.”

“Who the best player is .. .to me that’s the player who helps the team win most and that’s not always the guy who puts up the biggest stats.”

“I have very honest discussions with the players . . telling them what type of role I envision for them within the team . . if I see him as somebody who is an advantage creator or if if I see him as somebody who can utilize advantages created for him by others.”

“We were thinking about the big picture — competitive advantages and how you can create them.”

“The competitive advantage, you have to find it from somewhere else other than just pure talent . .what we can do, collectively, we can play better basketball.”

“The teams that were able to over-perform were those with an extremely high work rate . .and those teams that stick together and play team basketball even in a difficult situation.”

“If you want to play more intense with a higher work rate the players have to be vulnerable, they have to be willing to accept that they’re going to be very tired and the fact that they’re going to be out of their comfort zone.”

“At the higher level, the differences are very small and the key is to create better habits.”

“If it [skills] are not transferring, a lot of the fault is on the coaches and on the practice design.”

“Habits make or break a player.”

“It was always difficult to choose. Are we working against the opposition defense or our own defense . .because the reps you do . .they can set your habits back in your own concepts . .so there’s a certain trade-off, but you also can’t go into the game unprepared . .for us we’ve chosen much more concept-oriented than context-oriented.”

“We try to create simple rules that give guidelines to the players but don’t really constrict them.”

“Out of an aggressive ball screen coverage we want to move the ball early . .and twice. So, two passes against the aggressive coverage. As soon as we have two guys on the ball we want to move it.”

“If you’re playing against drop [coverage on the pick and roll], it’s very different because then the ball handler must be much more aggressive, provoke the defense. The 5-man’s the angle of the roll is different.”

“What we talk about with the three shooters [off the pick and roll] . . They should recognize if the ball handler needs space or if he needs support . . Against aggressive coverages, we want to provide at least two open passing lanes, so the ball handler needs support. Against more conservative coverages, we talk about spacing because that’s what the ball handler needs to create something for his teammates or himself.”

“Reverse engineering is something, especially in the past few years, we’ve been doing more and more . . We take the endpoint of the offense, a certain sticking point . . we are mostly a pick and roll offense, looking to create advantages, looking to create closeouts . . so closeout decisions were the logical starting point because that’s usually the endpoint of a lot of offenses or where a lot of hiccups happen.”

“We are really pushing them to make quick decisions in the beginning [of training], even if it’s the wrong decision. But we want to really push them in that direction.”

“That’s what I mean by reverse engineering . ..every time we add a layer. Then at the end, we put the entry in which could be like a diamond entry or an Iverson cut or a horns cut, we are already familiar with what happens after that.”

“I think the level of challenge has to go up. You need to constantly challenge the players in the drills we do.”

“The concept of a good shot shifts during a possession.”

Tuomas Iisalo Selected Links from the Podcast:

Tuomas Iisalo

Harri Mannonen

Alba Berlin Basketball

Aito Garcia Reneses

John Boyd


John Patrick

Bundesliga Basketball

Aaron Fearne

Tuomas Iisalo Breakdown:

1:00 – Collective Basketball
3:00 – Cultivating Successful Interactions
4:00 – Things He Looked for in Recruiting
7:00 – Best Player
9:00 – Budget
11:00 – Being the Better Collective is Realistic
13:00 – Maximizing Work Rate
15:00 – Challenging His Players
16:30 – Working on Habits
19:00 – Collective Basketball on Offense
21:00 – Running Set Plays
23:30 – Practice is Enjoyable because of this Mindset
25:30 – Handling Outliers
27:30 – Reverse Engineering Offense
31:00 – Decision Making cycle
34:00 – Closeout Decision Practices
36:00 – Defining Shot Selection
39:00 – Teams and Coaches to Watch For
44:00 – Aggressive Pick and Roll Defense

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