Scouting and preparing one's team for games are vital ingredients in building a winning team. With more tools available than ever before, each coach and his staff must know what to expect from every opponent. However, sometimes these same teams and coaching staffs play three games in one week, so scouting and preparing the players has become a tougher task than in years prior. Coach Ettore Messina returned to Europe last summer to coach AX Armani Exchange Milan after serving five seasons as Gregg Popovich assistant coach at the San Antonio Spurs and he explained what has changed in scouting and game prep and how he uses new technology to support his coaching staff.
"Now there’s less time to prepare a game," Messina explained. "For many years, we had at least three days to prepare for a single game, we did a complete scouting job, we knew everything about our opponents, all their plays, all their offensive and defensive solutions, and we repeated them a lot of times during practice to be sure we knew every single detail for their system. I had the luck to work with Gregg Popovich and often referenced the legendary American football coach Bill Belichick, who asked his assistants to prepare three major themes for every game. No more than three because with more input, players lost attention and forgot them."
"Prepare three major themes for every game. No more than three because with more input, players lost attention and forgot them."
Messina gave examples of how that translates into basketball with his players: "Take away the low post play, defend with great intensity and energy against the offensive transition, and deny offensive rebounds from our opponents who have potential on the offensive glass. Three clear things that in the mind of my staff and players - if done well on the court - will help the team win."
In this way, the coaching staff's job is more difficult in that it must fully scout the opponent and choose the three most critical aspects to help their team. On the other hand, the coaching staff also has the support of technological systems that allow them to work immediately after the games and to show players what they did on the court, while also preparing for upcoming opponents.
"Technology helps you a lot. You don't have to draw up plays, explain them to the players or have a walkthrough on the court," Messina said. "It’s enough to send the team a video clip or a series of clips by WhatsApp and the players can watch them at any moment. The ability to use video has become more important than in previous years. All the clubs have access to software that can cut the games in a huge number of clips so you can edit a single play, actions of a single player, or a certain part of the game, or whatever."
The immediacy of these tools helps reinforce for players what they just experienced from a game.
"The ability to use video has become more important than in previous years."
"For example, on the way home from a road game, you can show a player on the plane some of what he did a few hours before on the court, singling out his good plays and bad," Messina noted.
"This way it’s easier for him to understand and for you to explain and this helps you as a coach a lot. It was unthinkable until a few years ago. There has been great development on the individual games of players because of this, while before it was mainly a team-focused job."
With Coach Messina and his staff - as well as countless other great coaching minds across the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague - making use of these strategies, fans can enjoy seeing the best players in Europe's premier basketball competition get only stronger from week to week as we head into the second half of the regular season.