Coaching Nuggets with Coach Kelly Wells

Coaching nuggets. We are all trying to find the newest answers to our coaching problems; Coach Wells shares the right answers for us. Coach Kelly Wells of the University of Pikeville shares some of his championship basketball coaching philosophies and nuggets of wisdom. Follow Coach Wells @coachkellywells on Twitter.

coaching nuggets with coach kelly wells

Championship Coaching Nuggets


StrengthFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath

UBUNTU, by Stephen Lundin (Tribal tradition of TEAMWORK AND COLLABORATION. Philosophy of: I am because we all are! The success of the group MUST outweigh the success of the individual.)

The Little Red Book of Wisdom, by Mark DeMoss

Success is a Choice, by Rick Pitino


  • Hire GREAT coaches (only as good as the people around you)
  • Put your family ahead of basketball
  • Lifelong Learner (Coaches have to be Coachable)
  • Work Ethic, (Required Work vs. Unrequired Work) (Greatest Asset)
  • Power in Belief (In yourself, your players, your situation)
  • Dream bigger than MOST think is possible / Guarantee Little, Deliver Much
  • Relationships Matter: Care about your coaches/players and their lives
  • Shared Commitment: Players love when you sweat with them, more about what you bring than what you know.
  • Self Evaluation: Would you want to play for yourself (why/why not)
  • Take players where they won’t take themselves, best version of each player
  • Have a Philosophy and Beliefs that fit your situation (Be Flexible)
  • Organized
  • Handle Media, Parents and Community Relations (Own PR Department – staff, players, parents, fans, admin, etc.)
  • Communication (truth, upfront, often)


  • Must Defend
  • Eliminate Transition Baskets
  • Take away offensive rebounding
  • Play through runs (Resolve)
  • Eliminate turnovers and Vomit Offense


“Complexity is the enemy of execution” –Brendon Suhr, LSU

“Young men need more models, not critics” -John Wooden, UCLA

“Transactional Coach or Transformational Coach” -Jon Gordon

[bctt tweet=”“We can’t have a championship program without championship actions” -Bob Starkey, Texas A&M WBB” via=”no”]

“A coach will have more impact on lives in a year than most in a lifetime” -Billy Graham

“The greatest sin a coach can commit is to allow kids to slide by. In classroom as well as the court” -Hubie Brown

“Interest VS. Commitment” Interest = Doing it when convenient / Commitment = All the time -Shaka Smart

“No one is bigger than the team. If you can’t do things our way, you’re not getting time here and we don’t care who you are” -Gregg Popovich

“Empower the people around you, from the janitor to the AD. You do that by being sincere, caring about others, and then putting it into practice” -Sue Gunter. LSU WBB

“What we do as basketball players/coaches is abnormal. If you want abnormal results them give abnormal actions. NORMAL=NORMAL” -Billy Donovan, OKC

“YOU determine your value (wage) with what you bring to the table. Our paycheck is OUR responsibility” -Kevin Eastman


Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better BE RUNNING. –African Proverb

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. –Nido Qubein

There is no passion to be found playing small – In settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. –Nelson Mandella

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends. –Walt Disney

[bctt tweet=”Never let the pressures take away the pleasures. –Kelly Wells, UPIKE” username=”@coachkellywells”]

coaching nuggets by coach kelly wells

FIVE Components to be ALL IN:

1. Unselfishness –
o Remove “Me-ism”
o Sacrifice
o “Check your ego at the door; the only stat that matters is team success.
2. Compassionate –
o Nobody cares what you know until they know you care
o It not the VALUE you receive, but the VALUE you give to others.
3. Goal Oriented –
o A ship with no port of call is sure to get there—NOWHERE!
o Put your plans in writing! “Bucket List”
4. Togetherness –
o It amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit
o Amway Philosophy: How many people can you help be successful? In return you will be successful.
5. Leadership –
o Action / Not Position
o Be an authentic leader: Show you care, lead by example, develop leaders

Team Defense: Defending the paint vs Defending the Perimeter

Team Defense: Defending the paint vs Defending the Perimeter

Team defense is a term used to describe the philosophy of a team’s defensive objectives. All teams try to make it difficult on an offense to score. There are different ways to accomplish that objective. Michael Asiffo shares his insights on team defense by separating teams that prioritize defending the 3 point line aggressively compared to a team defense that focuses more on defending the paint.

Many casual fans of basketball assume that team defense is just an effort thing. I cannot tell you how many times I hear “he’s got to want it more” when a player allows a dump off pass. While basketball is an effort thing, a lot of it has to do with system.

team defense defending the jumpshot

For any casual fans reading this, team defense is a system as well. Like in any system, there are better pieces than others, but the system that one operates in can make them a better defender. A coach can get into numerous defensive schemes. However, each system attempts to do one or the other. Either attempts to force the opposing offence middle or to force the offence to the edge or corners. In other words, a team will value perimeter protection or paint protection more. This has been highly contested among coaches and has only become more prevalent due to the emergence of the pick and roll.

If you need a professional basketball league example of this, look no further than the Raptors vs Pacers series that concluded recently. The Raptors team defense opts to defend the paint, almost at all costs (just take a look at their first game against the Cavs). This is a stark contrast to the Pacers’ team defense which played aggressively on the perimeter thus sacrificing paint protection.

Here are advantages and disadvantages to both:


Defending the paint:

  • Teams do not allow back breaking easy buckets in half court sets often: this often means that big men do not get easy layups
  • Teams are able to contain penetration: for players whose games are predicated on the ability to finish at the rim, paint protection teams are their worst nightmare.
  • Force tough shots: the three is a tougher shot than a layup, therefore a paint protection team are “playing the percentages”

Defending the perimeter:

  • Force teams into live ball turnovers: perimeter players are typically the passers of the team. Thus, cutting off their passing lane to other perimeter players and big men allows for more bad passes. This ends up creating turnovers in live play, which usually lead to easy buckets.
  • Ball dominant guards struggle against perimeter defenders: ball movement is key against this defensive philosophy, if a guard holds the ball too long then disaster strikes for the offense.
  • The open three point shot is limited: players are shooting and making three points at a rate that we have never seen. The perimeter protection philosophy holds the shooters in check or at the very least to shot contested threes.


Defending the paint:

  • The three point shot is typically open: if the ball is able to go inside then out (i.e. drive and kick, post up pass to three) then the perimeter shot is available.
  • Players who shoot well gives this team problems: a player who can shoot well from the perimeter in a spot up or pull up situation will have good nights against a team that follows this philosophy.

Defending the perimeter:

  • Big men tend to do well against this philosophy: big men typically get one on one situations or dump off opportunities against a team with this defensive philosophy, making it really easy for a big man to have a good night.
  • Fatiguing: it is hard for players to consistently move with a player, making it tiring to sustain energy with this Philosophy.

Obviously, no smart coach completely goes to one side of the spectrum with these philosophies. A team values one over the other depending on its personnel. This is why two-way players are so highly valued, and so rare, because it allows for a system to go as planned by the coach.

Post Game Processing Sheet

Post Game Processing Sheet by Erick Blasing

Post game processing or the time period immediately following the game is an important window of opportunity for players to learn. Coach Erick Blasing shares a simple tool that he uses with his team to utilize this teaching time.

I mentioned in my last post that one of the best decisions I ever made as a coach in Sparta was to research “Train to Be Clutch” by Josh Metcalf and Jamie Gilbert. Their process is directing people to transformational leadership and increasing mental preparation for life. I am currently reading through their book, Burn Your Goals and it is fantastic. I highly recommend it. Please check out their site for more information on everything clutch as well as a lot of free resources:

As a team we spent time pre-game as a team with no noise and used a simple visualization process to prepare for that night’s games.  While we used the pre-game routine every game we never rolled out the post game processing sheet. As I mentioned before, our pre-game went fantastic and made us a better team. The post-game form is very similar and something that I wish I would have utilized. I plan to implement this fully in the future.

I think a major piece that is often missing from teams is the ability to comprehend the ending of the game.

Often players will either internalize the responsibility for the game’s outcome or place blame on others around them to an extreme that is not proportional with reality.

Using the processing sheets, players can attempt to bring their emotions in check and understand what can be improved upon.

Game 2 of the Western Conference’s 2nd Round, San Antonio and Oklahoma City is a prime example of a game where post game processing could help the team improve. In a crazy ending that saw multiple missed calls against San Antonio, the Spurs still had a shot for the win in the end but did not prevail. While everyone is focusing on that high pressure ending with miscues and sloppy execution, processing sheets can help the players understand that in a 1 point loss, a turnover in the first half could have made the actual difference in the game. If you encounter a similar scenario, the processing sheet can help players look at the game with a clearer vision and understanding.

Coach Sherri Coale of the University of Oklahoma shared something very similar that they do every post game.

The post-game is a little more in-depth and would be very useful to have players complete immediately after the game or on the bus ride home.  These sheets would be a great help for the players during film study. I hope these help you and your team improve down the road!

Check out this link for your Post Game Processing Sheet

Enjoy the journey,


[Video] Golden State Warriors Keys to 73

How the Golden State Warriors Made History

Coach Michael Asiffo shares his take on the historic run by the Golden State Warriors and the keys to their success.

[bctt tweet=”The success of the Golden State Warriors can be attributed to these 3 keys” via=”no”]

The Golden State Warriors had a historic season of 73-9. The focus was centered on the magic of two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the more the helpful editions of Klay Thompson as well as the revelation that is Draymond Green. This is true, however, there is much more than just three guys dominating the league on display here. Everyone one of the Warriors 73 wins have come due to team effort and just plain good basketball. Here are some reasons why the Warriors are so good:

1. They Shoot and Make Threes

The Warriors shoot threes and other NBA teams try to emulate that. The NBA is a copycat league and there is the growing philosophy that you need to shoot threes. Even if you make less than half, shoot threes because three is better than two and mathematically it makes sense.

[content_box box_type=”e.g. normal, confirm, warning, info, alert” title=”Title”]For example, player A takes 10 threes and makes 4, he scored 12 points on 40% shooting: 4/10= 0.4 (40%)
Player B takes 10 shots inside the three point line and makes 5, he has scored 10 points on 50% shooting
5/10= 0.5 (50%)

Which means that with a lower percentage on the same amount of shots player A has scored more than player B. With that being said, I think a lot of believers of this philosophy lose the fact that you still need to make the threes to the tune of 40% because 45% from two is the magic number to break even with a team that shoots 30% from three. In the 2015-2016 season, every team in the NBA shot well over 45% from 2. Even the bad teams shot over 45%. In fact, only the Los Angeles Lakers are the only team to shoot under 46%, as they shot 45.4%. Also, just for fun, here is the most interesting part. 10 teams in the league shot 50% or higher. The Warriors obviously lead the league in attempts, but they were the only team that shot 40% from three. Meaning the Golden State Warriors shot a lot of threes, however, made enough threes to beat a team that shot 50% from two; if they were to go shot for shot.

2. Out of Bounds Play Execution

One thing that is not really focused on enough in mainstream basketball proper is defending out of bounds plays. Many times it is not how good or bad the defender is, but the position that person is in. Fortunately, NBA coaches and players are smart enough to defend out of bounds plays. However, the Warriors have a team that is different (obviously). Most players on the team can shoot the three, or have been shooting well from three this season. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes all shoot 38% from three or higher. Meaning that you as a coach have to instill in your team that you have to guard the three. The Warriors take advantage of this and will get a lot of easy layups on out of bounds plays, in particular the sidelines. They are ruthless in this aspect.

Coach Nic from BBall Breakdown touched on this advantage months ago:

Getting easy baskets is a staple in basketball and the warriors do that to perfection.

3. Assists

The Golden State Warriors lead the lead in total assists for the season at 2373, which is 273 more than the Atlanta Hawks. While I have always been a firm believer in “assists do not tell the full story” for a number of reasons I will not get into now, it is an indication that teams move the ball. Yes the golden state warriors have offensive talent on their team and yes the warriors can shoot the lights out. With that being said, that offensive talent is accentuated so much more because they pass to each other when they are in good spots. How many times does Draymond Green bring the ball up in transition to find Steph Curry or Klay Thompson trailing for an open three? How many times are Steph Curry and Draymond Green run that strong side screen roll to merciless effect? How many off ball screens lead to that player who came off that screen get the ball, who then dumps it off the roll man on the screen? If you answered a lot then congrats, you watch Golden State Warriors basketball and realize that the Warriors pass the ball.

There are a lot of things that make the 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors special. However, from a coaching perspective these three things are very teachable to your team. Running out of bounds plays, passing the ball and shooting shots that you can make are essential in basketball.

Pre-game Preparation Sheets

Pre-game Preparation Sheets by Erick Blasing

Pre-game preparation is something that every coach considers, but how many of us actually have a tangible strategy? Coach Blasing has put together a tool for coaches that want to have an objective measurement to prepare for game.

I am really excited to start sharing on Basketball Insight! Coach has put together a fantastic site that really helps coaches connect and share daily. I hope to contribute some value to you and your teams. The 2015-16 season was my first as a Boys Varsity Assistant at Baraboo, WI High School. Prior to Baraboo, I was Head Boys Coach for Sparta, WI from 2011-2015. Today I wanted to share some pre-game mental preparation sheets that we did as a program in 2014. I will be following this up soon with the post-game processing sheets as well. A huge shout out to Josh Metcalf and Jamie Gilbert as these sheets are a part of their Train to Be Clutch Program. I am currently reading their book, “Burn Your Goals” and can not wait to implement some of their ideas in my training sessions and team work. Enjoy!


Their process, that I hope to share some with you over the next few posts, is directing people to transformational leadership and increasing mental preparation for life.

Please check out their site for more information on everything clutch…

During the 14-15 season as a team we spent time pre-game as a team with no noise and used a simple visualization process to prepare for that night’s games. Following our quiet time, the players would each receive one of the attached pre-game preparation sheets to help process their thoughts. This is something that we practiced and worked on prior to using this in a game setting. Following time for the players to work on the sheets we would go into our pre-game preparations and matchups for the night. Finally, we would read our team creed as a squad before taking the floor.

With an extremely young team that year, (6 sophomores out of 10 varsity players), we struggled early with pre-game anxiety and early game miscues. We started this exercise about three games into the season and I noticed a huge difference as the season progressed. Our players became more prepared and focused for tip-off and really came together as a group off of the court as well.

Enjoy the journey,


Pre-Post Play Focus by Jamie Gilbert





Check out this link for the Pre-Game Prep Sheets:

Pre-game prep sheet DOWNLOAD