I used to go to every University of Utah practice that I could possibly go to. Besides learning all sorts of new words from Rick Majerus, I got to sit in and really watch how one of the best coaches in the business practiced. He worked those kids very hard.
When I signed with the University of Utah I knew exactly what I was in for because I had attended so many practices already.
One day at practice, Coach Majerus was doing a drill that was created to show how a player would stop a fast break on defense. It was important enough for him to spend a half hour on it and is a very important skill that players can develop. Players got in line at mid-court, out of bounds, and on both sides. Another group of guards were standing at the foul line extended.
A coach would create a rebound and throw the outlet pass to a guard and it was the defenses job to stop the ball. I don't know how many of you have tried to stop someone that is coming at you full speed while dribbling. It is near impossible.
The first player on defense was a freshman who had never done or seen the drill before and didn't know what to expect. The rebound came down, the outlet pass was out and here was this guy dribbling at near full speed. One move was made and he was by him. Coach Majerus wasn't pleased. He said some choice words at the kid and pulled one of his seniors out to the drill.
The senior had done this before and was prepared. As the coach passed the outlet to the guard, the defender came at him from an angle and flat out drilled him in the chest with his forearm. He knocked him over and the ball went flying out of bounds. Majerus was ecstatic.
He praised that kid for how he stopped the break. Majerus made sure of two things. One, make the guard pick a side and funnel them to the sideline. This takes away a lot of the options of a guard. If they are in the middle they can do more damage on a fast break as compared to a wing. Two, he wanted the defense to be physical and to not back down. The guard who caught the outlet pass that day wasn't the same during that drill. He was now timid. It succeeded.
Needless to say I was very impressed. I initially thought Majerus would be upset at the blatant foul, but once I realized the principle it made sense. For any young coach who reads this you will have a serious advantage when it comes to this. By pressuring the outlet pass and pressuring the ball immediately, the fast break points will be cut by more than half.
-Meet the guard and take a defensive angle to force him to a sideline. Make him choose.
-Don't be afraid to play physical early on. I'll never fault a young player for trying to set a tone early in a game.
-Most teams like to throw an outlet pass to certain players. Study that player, know what side he likes to get the ball and be ready to stop the ball. It is much, much easier to stop the ball before it gets truly started. Once a player has a running start it is very difficult to stop him without fouling.
Remember that as a player this is a great skill and as a coach it is a great skill to instill in the younger players.