Petar Skansi began his coaching career in 1973 with Yugoplastika Split, the winners of the Yugoslavian championship, Yugoslavian Cup, and the European Cup in 1977. In 1978, he became the assistant coach of the Yugoslavian National team. From 1980 to 1998, he coached different teams in Italy, including Pesaro (Cup of Cups in 1983), Fabriano, Venice, Rome, Treviso (Italian Championship in 1992). As head coach of the Croatian National team, he won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games. This past season, he coached Novo Mesto, Slovenia. He has been an advisor and lecturer of the FIBA Olympic Solidarity Program since 2000.
The most difficult, as well as the most important job for a coach, comes when he has to build his team at the beginning of the season. Every time we begin to speak about a working program, we must focus on the starting point: the selection of players.
Only those athletes who possess the highest levels of psychological and physical qualities and who can be directed to follow a systematic and well-planned program, can help a coach achieve his goals for the year.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE TEAM
Here is an overview of what physical and mental attributes you want to look for in your players.
N.1 POINT GUARD (PLAYMAKER)
It is not mandatory, but it is preferable to have a team leader in this role. Along with good ball-handling skills and good outside shooting, this player must also understand the team organization and team defense. This player will act as the coach’s right hand man when he is on the floor.
N.2 SHOOTING GUARD
I expect this player to be the best defender. The team will work hard so he can get his shot, but he has to pay them back by working hard on defense.
N.3 SMALL FORWARD
This player has the same characteristics as the shooting guard. In addition, he must be a good rebounder, an inside shooter, and be able to effectively guard the most dangerous opponents.
N.4 POWER FORWARD
This is your crucial player. This player must play aggressive defense like a smaller player, be able to make a high percentage of three-point shots, have a good inside game, and be an excellent passer. Ideally, this one player must possess all of these characteristics.
N.5 BIG MAN, PIVOT
This player is the hardest worker of them all. He “lives” under difficult conditions in the low post. He is your most important defensive player and the first rebounder. He opens up the transition and most likely touches the ball on offense less than the others. He must be able to have strong inside moves with his back to the basket.
N.6 BACK-UP POINT GUARD
This player has a very sensitive role on the team. Sometimes he becomes more important than the starting point guard. He is the player who must change the rhythm of the game. It is better if he is not a copy of your starting point guard. He should be a specialist in some other area like zone offense, transition, or shooting.
This player has similar characteristics as N.2 and N.3 (not necessarily a back-up, but he is a specialist).
Back-up player to N.4 and N.5. He is a strong rebounder, a good offensive player (for example: against zone defenses). In all probability, he needs to gain more game experience.
N.9 AND N.10
These are the young players with promising futures. Outside or inside players - it does not matter. What does matter, however, is that they are attentive players who will work hard in practice. They need game experience and the coach must give them the opportunity to play every time he can. They must be ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
My basic philosophy is that a good team is the result/consequence of a team’s unity. We have to work a lot on this aspect every day throughout the season. Problems in unity typically develop because each player has his own “confessor” (his agent, his father, friend, girlfriend, or a journalist) and each of these people wants their “protege” to be “the star” of the team. But this is not possible until the whole team becomes “a star.” The solution to this is the following: every single player has to play strong defense.
We have to build the team every day in practice. Here are the daily goals and how to achieve them:
- Never let others work with the team.
- Nobody is perfect! Have you ever seen a game or a player without mistakes?
- The player needs encouragement when he makes a mistake.
- You must care about the last player on the bench the same way as you do about your team star.
- Don’t ever change your attitude because of a player’s mistake.
- It is enough if the players give their best effort. What more can you expect?
- The respect of every single player is of fundamental importance.
- We demand tolerance, but we do not try to satisfy players in every way and we do not beg them to do what is necessary.
- We all know that our long-term unity depends on winning.
What else is important?
- To build and to nourish respect between the coach and players.
- A coach must always stress the players’ qualities.
- Back-up players must always stand up and encourage the teammate who comes off the floor.
- Giving credit to the players who do small, but equally important things.
- A good pass must always be recognized. Show the passer that you have appreciated the pass by putting your thumb up.
- Letting the players show you when they are tired. Do not let the opponents notice this.
- Make the players play defense with the same intensity as offense.
- A good action has to be recognized by every member of the team. Players have to congratulate each other.
- After the game, point out the qualities of the opponent to your players. It is bad to underestimate the opponents.
- Be sure that your players know why they have to sprint! They have to do it because of pride! They sprint because they want to be better than the others. Sprints help them to build team unity.
- Never allow a team member to become discouraged or depressed.
- Every player has to have the feeling of belonging to a team.
- Coaches, this is your team. You provide the rules and you make the team respect them. Do not turn players against you with hysteria, either in practice sessions or games.
- Once you punish a player for discretion, it’s over! Don’t bring it up again.
- Young men want discipline. All of this helps them to build their own self-discipline.
- Give young men another chance.
How to get your ideas and concepts across to the players:
- Let the player know that he is not on the floor just for shooting by changes in the line-up you make during the game.
- We have to correct players, not criticize them. When you correct, also remind them of the good things they are doing.
- Don’t disturb them during the game or during practice.
- You must always encourage them. This will help make them mentally stronger.
- Positive thinking is extremely important.
- It is not necessary that you always start the game with your best players. The opponents prepare their game against your best men. By not starting with your best, you will distract the opponent while giving your team a mental boost. When you do put in your best players, it will increase the intensity of play.
- Always have a back-up player ready if you want to make a change. Recognize each player who comes out of the game with a pat on the back or a word of encouragement.
- It is to think about your fans. Try to make them happy: how do you do this?
- A young player is better than a tired star (at least, for a couple of minutes). Be sure that the players know when they can play.
- It is clear that we need more than five players on a team. Players think primarily about scoring, but we must also appreciate other skills. We must encourage good passing and help on defense.
- Never make the mistake of underestimating your players, the opposing players, or the coach.
- Always speak to the opposing coach after the game.
- Use the best performances of your players. Sometimes we win even if we don’t play good basketball.
- Always insist on pride.
My philosophy of coaching basketball is wrapped up in the following attributes. In my opinion, coaches should take them into consideration during the ongoing selection of the players at the beginning of the season:
The major character attributes:
The major physical attributes:
These physical attributes don’t necessarily need to be combined in one person, yet it is clear that a person who is neither tall nor fast does not have the necessary requirements to be a good basketball player. Power, as an essential component of modern basketball, can be developed through hard work in the weight-training room.