BOOK-of-the-MONTH: “The Basketball Coaches’ Complete Guide to the Multiple Match-Up Zone Defense”



Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . Page  2

Preface and Introduction . . . . . . . . . . Page  6

Ch. 1: Advantages of the “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” . . . . . . . . . .  Page  8

Ch. 2:  Specific Defensive Alignments, General Placement and Terminology of Defensive Personnel . . . . . . . .  Page  16

Ch. 3: General Terminology of “The Matchup Zone Defense” . . . . . . . . . .  Page  19

Ch. 4: The General Terminology of Opponents’ Offensive Schemes. . . . . . . . .  Page  27

Ch. 5:  The General Positioning/Location and the Required Stances Used by Each Player in “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” . . . . . . . . .  Page  30

Ch. 6: The General Slides Utilized in “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense”. . . . . Page 51

Ch. 7:  The General ‘Boxout’ Responsibilities by Each Player in “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” . . . .  Page  60

Ch.  8:  The General Stunts of “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” . . . . . . . Page  71

Ch. 9: Variations of Defensive Alignments/Sets of  “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense. . . . . . . . . . 89

Ch. 10: Methods to Defend Specific Offensive Actions . . . . . . . . . .  Page  90

Ch. 11: Evaluations of “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” . . . . . . . . . .  Page  105

Ch. 12: The General Breakdown Drills Used to Improve “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” . . . . .  Page  110

Ch. 13: Summary  and  Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . Page 125




“The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” is a defensive package that is a “multiple-defensive scheme” that can have a variety of looks as well as many different types of defensive stunts that can help the defense in the following manners:   A)  To help protect, conceal, and minimize a defensive team’s weaknesses,  B)  To accentuate a defensive team’s strengths. In addition, “The Multiple Matchup” can be used to C) To probe the opposition for its various possible weaknesses and then ultimately attack those weaknesses. This can be accomplished by using many different “stunts” that can be easily used in a sporadic and spontaneous manner during the course of a game.

                        A. The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense is used to Help Protect, Conceal, and Minimize the Defensive Team’s Weaknesses

If the defensive team has physical deficiencies that are out of the coaching staff’s control, such as lack of athletic abilities, lack of quickness and/or physical strength and/or height; “The Multiple Matchup” can help compensate for those deficiencies. The first year that “The Multiple Matchup” was put in was actually my first year at a particular high school. By December of that season, the coaching staff had realized that the first year’s varsity team was terribly deficient in every manner described. This particular team was also deficient in its knowledge and experience in playing man to man defense. This team lacked the height, the athletic ability, the overall team physical strength to be able to effectively play any type of so-called “normal defenses”, such as man to man defense or half-court traps. The lack of overall ability (of this team both offensively and defensively) caused us to look for something other than a standard half court zone defense. After several losses in November and December, where our preseason evaluations of our team unfortunately became increasingly accurate, the decision was made to make a change in midseason. We decided to try to salvage the season by making the drastic change in midseason of scrapping a 15 year old philosophy of full court pressure and half court man to man defense. This had to be dropped in midseason, which was a tremendous shock to the staff’s coaching philosophy. This was not an easy thing to do, but the ability or lack of ability of this team warranted the change. So during that season’s Christmas break, in which there were about five or six days without any games, “The Matchup” was introduced to the players. The coaching staff learned many different intricacies and facets as they attempted to teach and coach the players. It was a tremendous learning experience for both the coaching staff as well as the players. Through trial and error, intense observations and studying, the coaching staff learned as they prepared for practices, during the actual practices, during games, and after watching and studying game tape after games.

“The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” became the mainstay of the team’s overall defense and as they learned and improved, the team and the overall program improved year in and year out. Adjustments in the defense were constantly made and the defense improved year by year. The coaching staff learned the defense’s techniques and the concepts more thoroughly to constantly “fine-tune” the defense. The coaching staff also learned how to teach the defense to the players in a more effective manner. The defense was taught not only to the Varsity team, but to the Junior Varsity as well as the Freshmen teams. “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” was a major factor in the improvement of all teams and in the overall program. As the talent level improved, as the athletic abilities, our overall team speed and quickness, and the team strength improved (due to weight lifting programs, summer camps and leagues), all teams within the program remained with using “The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense” as our staple defense.

Before a coaching staff decides that this defense is the best defense for his program, the head coach must realize many things. The head coach must sell the defense to his staff and convince them that this defense will require a tremendous amount of time and effort not only by the players, but every coach as well. The coaching staff itself must make a commitment to this defense by thoroughly learning the defense inside and out. The coaching staff must set an example to each and every player in the program of his trust and belief in this defense. The coaching staff must then make sure that the players make the same type of commitment. The coaching staff must still teach defensive fundamentals, as well as the various intricacies of “The Multiple Matchup”, and sell the “The Multiple Matchup” to his players. The coaching staff must convince every player that the team will have an edge by using this defense for the reasons mentioned above and also instruct the team that opposing teams often times are not accustomed to playing against matchup defenses and their offensive performance many times will suffer.

There could be a maximum of five different defensive sets/alignments (which could be viewed to opposing offensive teams as five different defenses) that could possibly be utilized. Cosmetically, these are five different defenses, but to the educated and trained defensive coaching staff and team, all of these defenses have almost the same base defense, with almost  identical concepts, techniques, slide-coverages, terminology, and responsibilities. There are naturally some small differences, but basically the major difference is just in appearance. This makes this defensive package look multiple, varied, sophisticated, and appear to be difficult for opposing offenses to break the defense down; when in fact, it is somewhat very simple to grasp for defensive players.

A simple way of naming and identifying the five different matchup defenses can also be achieved by using the following defensive numbering system that has been incorporated and utilized for several years:

#0 (or Fist) is the name for the Matchup Zone with the half-court alignment in a “1-1-3” defensive set. The “0 Zone” is the first defense that should be taught and is therefore called the “Base Defense”. Once it is successfully taught, stunts for the “0 Zone” should be added.  Once the stunts are added, the “2 Zone” and the “3 Zone” can also be implemented. Diagram  #  201.

#2 is the name for the Matchup Zone with the half-court alignment in a “2-3” defensive set. See Diagram  #  202.

#3 is the name for the Matchup Zone with the half-court alignment in a “1-3-1” defensive set. See Diagram  # 203.

The question may be asked by some coaches if any of these “Matchups” can be run in conjunction with some type of full-court pressure. The answer is a definite “yes!!”  The Matchup Zone Defense can be successfully integrated with full court pressure, especially using various zone presses such as a “1-2-1-1”, “2-1-2” or “2-2-1 zone presses”. Our full court defensive package was numbered in the following manner:

  • #1 Press is the name for the full-court pressure defense in a “1-2-1-1” defensive set.
  • #2 Press is the name for the full-court pressure defense in a “2-2-1” defensive set.
  • #3 Press is the name for the full-court pressure defense in a “2-1-2” defensive set.
  • #5 Press is the name for the full court man-to-man defensive set.

If a full court press defense was used that then dropped back into a half court defense, it would be a two digit defensive name, with the first digit representing the full court defense and the second number signifying the half court defense. For example, if a team wanted to run a Full Court 1-2-1-1 Zone Press and then fall back into the 1-1-3 Half Court Matchup Zone Defense, the defensive call would simply be called the “1 Press” and falling back into the “0” defense, or simply called “10”. If the team wanted to run a Full Court 2-2-1 Zone Press and then fall back into the Half Court 1-3-1 Matchup Zone, that call would simply be “23”. If only a half court defense is wanted (without any type of full court pressure), then the defense would be named with only a single digit. In summary, full court pressure can definitely and easily be run in partnership with the “Multiple Matchup Defense Package”, when a defensive team is physically and mentally able to apply full court defensively.

If the defensive team lacks athletic ability and cannot match the athletic skill level of the opponents, then “The Multiple Matchup” could be a viable answer to the coaching staff. If the defensive team is overmatched by the opponents having more height and/or quickness, again “The Multiple Matchup” can offer the defensive team a way of neutralizing the height or the quickness that it possibly lacks. Putting individual pressure on the ball wherever the ball is located and feeling confident that a high degree of ball pressure is safe because of the support system that the alignment of “The Multiple Matchup” provides is another advantage that this defense provides teams. “The Multiple Matchup” allows defensive teams to be able to put pressure on the basketball with a built-in support system of backup reinforcements, in case the opposing offense defeats the initial ball defender. If the defending team lacks the necessary height to match up effectively with the opponents, “The Multiple Matchup” can provide an very effective safeguard to help neutralize an opponent’s big man and/or the opposition’s offensive “inside game”, by complete fronting of the low post and the constant built-in helpside that supports the fronting post defense. Rebounding problems because of a lack of height can possibly be minimized with an organized set of rules for each defender’s “box out” responsibilities, which provides excellent angles for each defender to box out the opposition. Excellent defensive rebounding positioning can sometimes neutralize the lack of height of rebounders.

            B. The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense is used to also accentuate the Defensive Team’s Strengths.

  • If you have a minimal number of defenders that excel in some specific facet of team defense, “The Multiple Matchup” is a system that can allow those defenders to constantly perform their specialties and accent their strengths while also protecting other defenders that may not be as proficient in the same defensive skills. If the defensive team overall has a strong propensity of mentally handling a multiple defensive system, then “The Multiple Matchup” is an excellent defensive system to incorporate (with or without defensive deficiencies).
  1. The Multiple Matchup Zone Defense is used to also probe the opposition for various weaknesses and then ultimately attack those weaknesses via using many different “stunts”.
  • It has been found that many teams have a real “mental block” when having to deal with matchup zone defenses. The mental hang-up can then compounded with the various defensive stunts that “The Matchup Zone” has in its defensive repertoire. Opponent’s offense can be strongly confused and effectively grounded. The entire stunting scheme attacks the mentality of the overall offensive team, while certain stunts attack specific individual weaknesses of particular players. There are a total of seventeen different stunts that we have created and then utilized throughout the years. Experience has shown that just by randomly running a specific stunt or two during an early portion of the game gives a defensive team an excellent way to probe the opposition’s offense for previously undiscovered weaknesses. Any newly uncovered weaknesses are then attacked for the remainder of the game, in various strategic manners.

The “0 Zone” can be signaled from the bench and passed on to every defender simply by using the raised fist. This signal is symbolic for the base defense of the “Matchup Zone Defense” in two distinct ways and the symbolism should be used as examples to the players that are learning, practicing, and implementing this defensive system.

The fist itself can be thought of as an aggressive and attacking posture, which is very appropriate for this defensive system. Most defenses are a method for the defensive team to counter the opposition’s offense only after the opposition normally attacks them. They then must have to first wait for the offensive team to act in some particular way and they must then react in a particular way to stop the offensive team. There is no rule in basketball that says that the defensive team must remain in that passive role of waiting, reacting, and attempting to neutralize and counter those offensive actions. The symbol of the fist can serve not only as the name of the defense but also to convince the defense that they do not have to be the reactors, but can be the actors. The defense can be the team that initiates the action, with the action being as aggressive as they want it to be. This causes the offense to become the passive team that must wait and read the defense, and then attempt to come up with an offensive plan to fend off the defensive team’s attack. The defensive attack can be as aggressive and as multiple as the defensive team chooses. This new attitude of the defensive team can lead to a great deal of self-confidence and faith in itself, which can lead to a great deal more of success.

The second symbol of the fist can be also passed on to the defensive team. When a person looks at a fist, there are five fingers that are kept closely together to form an object of strength, toughness, power and aggressiveness. Each finger can be symbolic of one of the five individual defenders of the “0 Zone”. If just one finger (or defender) does not perform his responsibilities, the fist (or “0 Zone”) loses the majority of its force and strength. Every finger (or defender) must be part of the fist (or the “0 Zone”) for it to be effective. These two symbols may aid a coaching staff in “selling” the defensive mindset and attitude and the overall Multiple Matchup Zone Defensive System to his players.

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