Fred Hoiberg Talks Transition Play During NABC Webinar
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Fred Hoiberg Talks Transition Play During NABC Webinar

May 12, 2020

Typically, coaches at the youth and college levels would spend their springs in gyms coaching and evaluating players during the AAU season. This isn’t a typical year, obviously, and to fill the basketball void the National Association of Basketball Coaches has been hosting a series of webinars for coaches of all levels to hear and learn from some of the best coaches in the game.

On Monday, it was Fred Hoiberg’s turn to share his background, teach some of his transition concepts and answer questions. I’m a coach myself, so I thought tuning in would be very educational.

Hoiberg didn’t reveal anything he hasn’t already shared when going through his background. He mentioned how vital the coaches he played for were to his growth as he took bits and pieces from all of them to shape his own coaching philosophy.

One viewer asked Hoiberg about recruiting to his system and what he’s looking for. Hoiberg said getting the best talent possible is always his goal and he’ll adjust his system as needed, mentioning the different kinds of point guards he coached at Iowa State. However, the one thing he emphasizes with all of his teams is playing with pace.

Hoiberg also talked about his philosophy regarding practice time. Early in his career, his practices were drill-heavy, though he’s gone away from that in recent years. Now Hoiberg said he likes a lot of competition, both in the drills his teams do and in their five-on-five work. This season with the Huskers, he ran a lot of competitive drills early in the season but had to shift to more skill work later on as the huskers depth took a hit and keeping players healthy was his primary focus.

One coach asked Hoiberg what percentage he thought a team would have to shoot from deep in order to be successful playing his up-tempo, 3-happy system. Hoiberg brought up the simple math of 33% from 3 being equivalent to 50% on 2-point jumpers (a mark very few hit), which is why he’s so against mid-range jumpers. Even mediocre 3-point shooters are as efficient as the best mid-range shooters. 

Hoiberg also mentioned that high-volume 3-point shooting creates good spacing, and good spacing leads to more opportunities at the rim. That’s part of why Hoiberg had the Huskers play the way they did even without above-average 3-point shooting. He also said he’d take a layup over a 3 in transition every time — unless there’s a defender there at the rim. Then the kick-out 3 is the right play and it’s something he hopes to see more of in year two in Lincoln.

Hoiberg, who played 10 years in the NBA, said he became much more of an “analytics guy” during his time in the front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has an analytics person on his staff that provides him with post-game reports, and he has video coordinator Matt Holt chart the team’s various actions during a game to see which ones are having more success, providing in-game updates during timeouts.

Transition offense is a big part of what Hoiberg’s teams do, but what about transition defense, or at least, the number of bodies devoted to getting back rather than crashing the offensive glass. This past season on most plays, Hoiberg instructed two guys to crash the offensive grass with a third having the option as well if he was in what Hoiberg called “the lower box.” However, it’s an area he hopes to improve and is looking a other options.

The instructional part of Hoiberg’s seminar — aided by clips from this past season at Nebraska as well as his time with the Bulls — was focused on primary and secondary fast break plays and concepts.

For Hoiberg, spacing is just as vital to a successful fast break as the tempo itself. Here’s a diagram of a typical fast break with good spacing.

On this play, the rebounder threw the outlet pass ahead to the point guard while the wings streaked up the court. The key here is the rim-run by the big. By sprinting down the court, he drew the retreating big man defender to him, eliminating his ability to slide over to the front of the rim. The big is also instructed to run up the opposite lane line from the point guard to give him an angle for a pass if the big is open.

The point guard pushes the ball up the floor and passes ahead to the wing on the top of the graphic here, and the wing took it to the basket for a layup without any help defense in sight. 

Hoiberg also went through a handful of other primary break concepts he ran through and then he introduced some secondary break options as well involving screens.

Here’s a standard drag screen after the initial break slows down.

If the break isn’t going anywhere, the big has the option to slow down and set a drag screen for the point guard rather than running to the rim. Ball screens are tough to defend in a halfcourt set, let alone when the defense is still scrambling to get back in position.

On this play, the other three Huskers have spaced the floor perfectly with two wings in the deep corners while he four-man gets wide to give the point guard plenty of room in the middle of the floor coming off that screen. Hoiberg’s talked about the 4-point line on Nebraska’s practice floor, and this is precisely what it’s for: to encourage this kind of spacing which forces help defenders into tough decisions.

Off this drag screen, the point guard has the option to take it all the way himself or drive, draw a defender and kick to one of the corners. Or, if a corner defender is ball-watching, the wing can back-cut for an easy layup off a pass from the point guard.

Hoiberg ran threw a handful more sets including double-drag screens, wide pin-downs and more.

Hoiberg is a terrific basketball mind and Monday afternoon’s NABC webinar gave him an opportunity to share his knowledge with coaches at all levels, and in turn, with Huskers fans who read this piece.

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