Sergio Scariolo began coaching in his hometown, where in 1985 became assistant coach of Basket Brescia (Serie A1). In 1987 he became assistant coach of Scavolini Pesaro (winning the 1988 title), before being promoted head coach in 1989. In two seasons as head coach, he won one Italian title (1990) becoming the youngest head coach winning the Italian title, and played a Korac Cup final (1990) and an Euroclub Final Four (1991). In 1991 he moved to Desio, then in 1993 he became head coach of Fortitudo Bologna, where he played one final. In 1997 he moved to Tau Vitoria, where he won the 1999 Spanish Cup and played a final. In 1999 he went to Real Madrid, where he won the 2000 title, then played a final in 2001. In 2003 he became the head coach of Unicaja Malaga, winning the 2005 Spanish Cup and the 2006 title and bringing the team to the 2007 Euroleague Final Four. He became head coach of Khimki, Russia, in December 2008, reaching the final. He is all at once head coach of the Spanish national team for men.
The game philosophy of a coach often depends more on the manpower that a coach has at his disposal than on the philosophy itself. Thus, philosophy turns into flexibility. In Europe, there is the tendency nowadays to play with four players on the perimeter and one inside the lane. As a coach, I’ve grown up with the philosophy of three players on the perimeter and two players inside, and my players on the perimeter didn’t give me the chance to take out a 4 with the characteristics of a shooter. However, through the years my philosophy has been evolving. Injuries to some key players forced me to play with four players outside and only one inside, making some adjustments, but following the set three-two, without changing it completely. Usually, I look for certain movements in order to take advantage of the spacing. I’m now going to describe some situations with three and four players open on the perimeter, outside the three-point line.
With a set-up consisting of three players outside and two players inside, the first trailer cuts to the low post on the strong side and the second goes to the low post on the opposite side. With a set-up of four players outside and one player inside, the post coming as first -who will not be 5, because is slower- tries to go to the low post on the strong side, not just to take that spot, but above all, with the intention of receiving the ball on the move. If 5 cannot do it, he backscreens the other post and then opens up to receive a possible pass. In this moment, we already have four players on the perimeter and one player inside the lane (diagr. 1). I don’t like that 4 cuts after the pass to the low post, I prefer that he looks for an advantage that may come from a possible inside help of his defender (diagr. 2). The pass made by 5 to the top of the key is the most natural for a right-hand player. 4 can now drive because he has a lot of space. Only if X4 defends with his back turned to 4, 4 cuts to the basket (diagr. 3).
If in the transition there’s not the pass to the wing, we look for a solution with dribble for not stopping the play. 4 makes a direct screen for the point-guard and he will then try to receive a pass inside (diagr. 4). Normally, the defense will react with a defensive switch between the defenders of 4 and 5. 5 will then go up to play high-low post.
If we can’t take advantage of this situation, 5 makes a hand off pass to the wing to take advantage of the probable float of his defender. He immediately goes down low and 4 goes up. Usually, the defense will switch (diagr. 5). In the situation of the pick-and-roll, we have decide not to let 5 automatically go up to the three-point line. We preferred that he receives the ball at the elbow of the free-throw lane, where he can attract a defensive help by using a crossover, thereby creating an easy three-point shot (diagr. 6). In a situation of side pick-and-roll, where the defense goes to the middle, 4 takes position in the mid-post so that he can take two steps either to the basket and dunk (if his defender helps out on the penetration) or to the free-throw line. If there is a second help, we look for a three point shot (diagr. 7). If 4 goes high to the free-throw line, we can play high-low, or pass the ball to the other side (diagr. 8).
With a set-up of four and one, 4 goes out the three-point line, either high or in the corner, in order to create space. If the defense on the pick-and-roll is very aggressive, this will create a lot of space inside for 5 (diagr. 9). If we play the side pick-and-roll with 4, we put 3 in the corner with the intention to create space. With 4 open, the situation is ideal for taking advantage of defensive help and defensive rotations (diagr. 10). If the defense forces to the baseline, with a set-up of three players outside and two inside, we try to make a hand-off pass. If the defense denies it, the point guard cuts backdoor and we play hand-off with 2 (diagr. 11 and 12). With the set four and one, 2 cuts to the other side to create an isolation and the point guard drives to the basket against the post (diagr. 13). If it is 4, who makes the screen, we create an isolation and take advantage of the one-on-one of the “fake” post. We need to play with open spaces (diagr. 14).
SITUATION WITH TWO POST PLAYERS IN THE HIGH POSITION
- Three players outside and two players inside: 4 screens and goes inside. 5 quickly makes a direct screen because he is not a shooter (diagr. 15). If we have not achieved any advantage, 5 screens again for 1, with an advantage given by the deep position of 5’s defender.
- Four players outside and one player inside: in diagrams 17 and 18, this is a similar situation with a direct screen set by 5 and 4. If the defense switches, we look to pass to 5 inside the lane.
MOVEMENT FOR A QUICK SHOT
1 dribbles and uses a screen set by 4, who then goes out the three-point line using the screen of 5. 4, who receives the pass from 1, can shoot or else pass the ball to 5, who cuts after the screen (diagr. 19). In diagram 20 we have a similar situation. In this case, instead of having 1 going to the wing, he goes to the middle and 4 opens in the lower position on the wing.
- Three players outside and two inside: with 5 in low post, our 4, who is not a shooter, has to stay as near as possible to the basket (diagr. 21), being very active to punish the helps. If 4 is not a shooter, his defender will not follow him if 4 goes open. Thus, it does not create space. If there is a second defensive help, 4 screens the wing’s defender to keep him from contesting the shot.
- Four players outside and one inside: we try to let 4 go as far as possible away from the basket. I will often put the player guarded by the opponent of 4 in the 4 position and not necessarily my post player. In diagram 23 we can see the most effective pass for a right-hand player in the low post. If 5 receives the ball on the other side, 2 and 4 change their positions, so that 5 can pass the ball with his right hand if he decides to play towards the baseline (diagr. 24)
SITUATION WITH A SHOOTER, WHO OPENS ABOVE THE POST SCREENS
- Three players outside and two inside: in diagram 25 we can see the particular tendency of the right-hand shooters. If the player usually comes out at the right, he hedges the screen. However, if he comes out at the left, he will often stop and shoot. The wing, 3, gets open on the opposite side of 2 (diagr. 26). We look for an inside pass for 5 or else we play a direct screen (diagr. 27).
- Four players outside and one inside: if 2 goes out on the side where 5 is located, nothing changes. However, if he goes out to the side where 4 is located, 4 takes advantage of the help made by his defender on the shooter and immediately gets open, ready to shoot on the other side (diagr. 28).
With this particular move, we can provoke a switch among the defeners of our post players (diagr. 29).
ONE MORE SITUATION WITH A DOUBLE SCREEN FOR THE WINGS
Diagram 30 shows the move with three players outside and two players inside. On the other hand, if we have four and one and in case of a defensive help, 4 goes out to shoot on the other side (diagr. 31 and 32). If there is no help, 5 screens and 4 opens at the top of the key (diagr. 33). We use the same philosophy for the vertical screen (diagr. 34). We try to involve the wings in these movements; 2 can play the ball on some occasions (diagr. 35).
When we play with four and one, we insist that our “faked” 4 goes for the offensive rebound, because his defender usually will not seal against a long rebound. Sometimes, a simple touch of the ball while moving in for the rebound can be enough to keep the ball on offense, even though our player doesn’t catch the ball.
In general, when we play with four players outside and one inside, we make a few movements to begin our play. We then try to take advantage of both the spaces that we create and the spaces that the defense fails to cover.