How to Change Your Team’s Defensive Mentality Using Consecutive Stops by Raymond Navarro

Basketball is a game of runs, and to go on a run, you have to accomplish two things. One, score the basketball and two, get multiple stops in a row. For the 2011 national championship UCONN Huskies, consecutive stops was a huge emphasis and a pillar on which they built their championship team. Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun believed defensive momentum is essential to winning games. So UCONN’s assistant coaches would chart consecutive stops. Whenever the team would get three or more stops in a row that was called a “kill”. Their goal was to get three kills a half. In the 2011 season, the Huskies were 21-2 when getting four kills in a game. They were 18-0 when getting five kills in a game. In the championship game against Butler in 2011, UConn had seven kills. The current head coach of the Huskies Kevin Ollie talked about his team’s defensive mentality on getting consecutive stops on the “Coaches Show” podcast in 2014 saying “We haven’t lost a game in 2 years when we get 5 or more (kills) in a game”.

The University of Virginia also chart “kills’ but instead the Cavaliers call them “gaps.” Tony Bennett has been emphasizing gaps to go along with his pack-line defense ever since he got to Virginia. Once the Cavaliers get a gap or get close to a gap, assistant coach Ron Sanchez (who is keeping track of stops and how many they need to get a gap during a game) lets the team know, and the team feeds off it. Virginia has been one of the top defensive teams in the country for many years partly because of their discipline pack-line defense but more so because of their defensive mentality. Being able to measure defensive success by getting consecutive stops is a way the whole team can buy into playing defense. Even their fans have bought into playing defense and getting consecutive stops. The scoreboard usually shows how many consecutive stops the team’s pack line defense has. The crowd goes just as crazy for a great defensive possession finished with a forced airball, shot clock violation, or forced turn over than a magnificent dunk.

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Our assistant head coach for my high school team was a big believer in getting consecutive stops. He made a poster that looked like a map/board game, and every square was the next opponent leading all the way to the state championship game. After every game, he would write the number of kills/gaps we got and just like UConn’s stats ours were very similar. Towards the end of our season our defense picked up, and we were getting six or more gaps a game. We held every team to under sixty points per game, and we finished the season winning our last 12 games, including a state championship. This mentality of getting consecutive stops was a huge reason for our success.

Getting consecutive stops is a way to turn a tie ball game into a ten point lead, or an eight-point lead to a twenty point lead. Charting kills/gaps can be a great way to change your team’s defensive mentality to buy into getting stops on the defensive end, and by doing so, you will also get more runs throughout a game. The saying goes “Teams and players are what the coaches emphasize.” Emphasizing getting consecutive stops will turn your team into a group that’s enthusiastic and passionate about playing defense.

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