“It’s not overwhelmingly difficult for a committed group of players with other average individual basketball skills to put together a very good team defense. Many good defensive teams are far better than the sum of their parts.”

Winning Defense is set up into three (plus drills) separate parts:

  1. Developing Individually Within a Team Concept
  2. Rotating in the Half-Court Man-to-Man to Maintain a Multiple Defense Effect
  3. Multiple Defenses to Defend Basic Two and Three-Man Plays

Each couple of pages are different sub-chapters within the overall concept of the “Parts.” We are going to identify some of the most notable takeaways every 25 to 30 pages in an attempt to be thorough without having to cover each-sub-chapter such as, “Using Colors as Defensive Labels.”

Our First Takeaways:
  • The Defensive Seven
  • The Line of Demarcation
  • Summary of Defensive Play-Calls & Clock-Ending Adjustments
The Defensive Seven
  1. Have a great transition from offense to defense.
  2. Push the ball to a sideline in order to establish a good weakside defense as early as possible.
  3. Keep the ball from reversing easily from side to side.
  4. Concentrate on stopping penetration via the dribble and pass.
  5. Prevent a consistent low post attack.
  6. Rotate to assist a teammate.
  7. Rebound and pick up loose balls.

These are the 7-principles that guide the entirety of Winning Defense. Everything else falls under the umbrella of 1 of those 7 components of defense to improve the connectivity of the team. Del Harris (the author) covers system organization with a combination of “Numbers, Colors, and Hand-Signals” to indicate/communicate the type of defense the team should be executing given the situation. Each team has its own language and terminology that works best for them, but it is important that there is some system in place.

“A system of communication can be set up in any number of ways, but it should be something you like and can take pride in and, more importantly, will be easily understood by everyone.”

Establish a Defensive Perimeter

“It is important for the team defense to establish a line of demarcation inside of which they are going to make it extremely difficult for the opponent to make a penetrating pass or drive.”

Is there a line of the ball where you determine as the point where we will no longer allow ball reversals or dribble penetration? The line of demarcation indicates that upon crossing halfcourt certain defenses establish a level of the ball where denial takes place or forcible ball-pressure towards a sideline/baseline is expected.

As a Packline principled coach, our line of demarcation is often lower than programs look to deny. Packline can be misunderstood for inviting dribble penetration to the middle versus not giving any angles and understanding where your help is on the weakside. Our line of demarcation would be anything free-throw line extended as we look to win the “paint-touch” battle as often as possible in a game. However, we are not looking to take away ball reversals as opposed to giving the optical impression to offensive teams that there is limited real-estate for driving lanes. Each team will have a different line of demarcation depending on style of play, but it is an important concept to consider where players should understand how to manipulate the offensive from defensive positioning.

Risky Calls & Clock-Ending Adjustments

Depending on the situation and/or competitive variance in the matchup, a risky play call is a way to manufacture momentum. Typically, this will come from run-and-jump traps, mixing up ball-screen coverages, or amplifying pressure on an extended court.

During late clock situations of a possession there are times to take advantage of breakdowns or poor spacing. With only 10 seconds left on the clock (shot- or game) there are 4 adjustments that can disrupt late offensive execution.

  1. Switch on every pick – at this point with time expiring it is too late to take advantage of the potential mismatch.
  2. Trap any pick-and-roll situations with an intent to deny one pass away. Two good passes often are too late.
  3. Trap the low post – preferably from the top of the defense.
  4. Apply the “star player” trap. Get the ball out of the hands of the best playmaker late in need-to-score situations.
Coaching Application

Do you have a line of demarcation defensively? Where does it exist on the floor?


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