Richard Pitino | Establishing Full Court Pressure Defense

Written by Tedi Yaghoubian

Tedi Yaghoubian is a head basketball coach at Northern Suburbs Basketball Association in Sydney Australia – currently coaching Men’s Under 18 representative squad. Last year the Norths Bears won the metropolitan championship and were runners-up at the NSW State Shied Tournament. Coach Yaghoubian’s playing experience includes representative basketball for Norths Bears State League Division 1 team as well as many years of playing at club level.

September 23, 2015

Richard Pitino | Establishing Full Court Pressure Defense

Richard Pitino – son of famous and Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino – is the current head coach of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s basketball team. Coach Pitino began his coaching career in 2004 as an administrative assistant Tom Herion at the College of Charleston. In 2005 he was hired to serve as an assistant coach at Northeastern University. This followed by his stint at Duquesne University the following year. He joined his father as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville from April 2007 to 2009 after which he left Louisville and joined Billy Donovan’s coaching staff at the University of Florida. He left Florida in April 2011, to become the associate head coach at Louisville.

Coach Pitino accepted his first head coaching role at the Florida International University (FIU) in 2012. This was the first time that coach was able to implement his high pressure defence that finished eighth in the nation in steals. He compiled a winning record in his first season and in addition his FIU team had the best conference record in school history.
Coach Pitino was then hired a year later by Minnesota Golden Gophers as their new head coach replacing Tubby Smith. He recorded a school record 25 wins in his first season and won the NIT tournament championship defeating SMU in the final.

In a recent clinic, coach Pitino talked about establishing a full court pressure defense system. In this clinic coach spoke about the importance of establishing the mindset and the culture of being a pressing team right from the start with your team. Being a pressing team, as coach mentions, is an everyday deal and not something you can do with a few drills every day for a few weeks.

Full Court Pressure Defense


Coach Pitino demonstrates two match-up presses: the white press and the blue press. He constantly stresses having a lot of ball pressure at all times – a hallmark of being a good pressing team. Coach Pitino starts his practice with a full court 3 on 3 drill with emphasis being on ball pressure and making the ball handler turn as much as possible. This drill also helps in establishing the pace, culture and style of play that the Gophers like to play which allows them to be a more effective pressing team. Coach also shows a conditioning drill that they do at the end of every practice. Coach Pitino talked about charting multitude of hustle stats including deflections, steals, first to the floor on a loose ball, block shots and back tips in practices as well as blow-bys on defense in order to get his players to compete with energy and intensity throughout. Another drill that coach uses with his teams is the ‘Scramble Drill’ designed to get players to talk, rotate and scramble out of disadvantageous situations while maintaining constant ball pressure at all times.

Whether you are a pressing team or trying to implement a full court pressure defense system, I hope you find these notes helpful to your team and to your program.

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Click on the pdf link below to download the Richard Pitino | Establishing Full Court Pressure Defense:

Richard Pitino | Establishing Full Court Pressure Defense

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