In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Union College head coach Kevin Burton joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss maximizing each possession of a basketball game. Coach Burton runs a system where the substitute throughout a game to treat each possession like the last possession in a game. The system, philosophy and grading system he uses to determine who plays in what situation are all discussed.
Kevin Burton enters in his eight season as head coach of the Union College men’s basketball program. Burton has led the Union program to new heights, winning the school’s and program’s first-ever NAIA national championship. The Bulldogs captured the 2017 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship with a record of 35-3, ending the year on a 33-game win streak.
He has led the Bulldogs to the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) regular-season and tournament championships in five consecutive seasons (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18). During the past five seasons (2013-14 through 2017-18), Union has gone 101-9 against conference opponents. The Bulldogs earned the No. 1 ranked in the NAIA Division II Coaches’ Poll for the first time in program history on Feb. 21, 2017. Union posted a perfect 20-0 conference record in 2016-17.
The Bulldogs went three (3) consecutive seasons without losing a road conference game. The streak lasted 31 games, beginning on Feb. 14, 2014, and ending on Dec. 2, 2017. He was named the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year and the Hoopdirt.com NAIA Coach of the Year for 2016-17. Burton also was named the AAC Coach of the Year three (3) times, receiving the honor in 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2016-17.
Union has made four (5) NAIA Division II National Tournament appearances under Burton, making the tournament in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. Union has finished each of the last five seasons ranked in the final NAIA Division II Coaches’ Poll. The Bulldogs were No. 23 in 2013-14, No. 11 in 2014-15, No. 11 in 2015-16, No. 1 in 2016-17, and No. 9 in 2017-18,
Burton spent seven seasons as the head men’s basketball coach at Lambuth (Tenn.) University before the institution closed due to financial issues. During his tenure with the Eagles, Burton compiled an overall record of 139-75, averaging just fewer than 20 wins per season.Quotes:
“We evaluate them [the players] on their performance and try to get to the point where their performance dictates who we put in the game and who we don’t put in the game.”
“I’m just simply thinking of trying to be successful on this upcoming possession because of how vital each possession in a game is.”
“We try to maximize each possession . . we want the correct people in the game for that particular scenario whatever it may be.”
“We try to make our players understand . . so that we can treat each possession as the most important possession because it’s the next one . . the only reason the last possession of the game is the most important one is because it’s simply the next one.”
“I started grading each possession in a certain way so that I could figure out who actually were the most productive players.”
“I go through each possession of the game and grade each player on that particular possession whether they helped or hurt the team. If it was an offensive possession . . did what you do help our score or did it hurt our ability to score.”
“Even though he went 1 for 11 and missed some easy shots that night, he walked off the floor knowing how well he played for us . . those are the types of things you enjoy as a coach – watching players grow in their overall understanding of the game.”
“Scoring is so celebrated, and it should be, but so should all the other . . factors . . the guy delivering the pass on time, the guy that set the screen . . “
“After we’ve learned all these things with our players, who we want in in what situations . . I know who I want in if we’re facing a zone, I know who I want in . . if we want to get into our press offense.”
“They [the players] know over time they’ve been graded really high in a certain area and they need to work on other areas [where] they’re not being graded so well.”
“We play people with fouls . . over the course of time, when that doesn’t work out well in a particular case . . people can maybe give you a hard time about that . . but that’s one of the factors that I can . . show that has been a big benefit for us.”
“We had multiple players with four fouls . . in the national championship and I continued to play them because, for that particular possession, they were the best player to be in the game . . we’ve seen over the years that we’re getting more possessions . . than if we were taking them out.”
“If our best players are in the game for 55 possessions as opposed to 41 possessions because I took them out for fouls, I’d rather they be in the game for 55 possessions, whether or not they were the first 55 possessions or the last 55 possessions.”
Selected Links from the Podcast:
1:00 – Coach Kevin’s Philosophy
3:00 – Treat Every Possession Like It’s The Last
6:00 – How his players deny these concepts
8:00 – Changing Values
9:00 – His Grading System
12:00 – Possession
14:00 – Developing Confidence
16:00 – Overvalued last few Possessions of the Game
18:00 – Correlation that leads to Winning
22:00 – Mechanism of Getting Substitution
25:00 – Practicing His Philosophy
28:00 – Maximizing Substitution in Timeout
29:30 – Winning on the Road
32:00 – Challenges Applying His Philosophy
34:00 – No Automatic Subs when players getting number of Fouls
37:00 – Importance of Baseline Defense
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