Tim Fanning's Insightful Hoops Blogs

Hoops Blogs was the inspiration of Tim Fanning while he was in Barcelona coaching at AEC Collblanc. Basketball is this man’s passion. His vision was to create a blog that would offer not only for himself, but also other coaches the opportunity to share thoughts, philosophy, and ideas related to coaching and the game of basketball. Tim’s blogging insights were inspirational.

I avidly followed his blog from 2009 till 2012. In fact all the members of a team I work with at our midsize progressive software company followed his blog as well. I remember one time we were doing some custom software development for a company in finance with higher-than-usual security and privacy concerns. We were handling every aspect of their software and product development life cycle, starting from feasibility analysis, user experience design, and prototyping, to the development of scalable solutions. I must say that our data team goes beyond everyday reporting. We discover, segment, and deliver potentially game-changing insights for each client. It's challenging work that is particularly rewarding. So there we all were after a particular grueling day, sitting at a bar discussing the pros and cons of the various brackets in the 2011 NCAA Tournaments and then Tim posts about the NCAA Tournament. It's not about the brackets and which team is more likely to win, but instead he focuses on how many time outs these teams get per game. It blew our minds. Tim is always observing, analyzing, and seeing what he can use to help the players he is coaching. He picks up on some esoteric aspect and makes you stop and see what he's observed. We stopped arguing about the brackets and started to observe how time outs were being used by the various teams.

When I learned that the Hoops Blogs website had disappeared I was simply shocked. Why had its domain expired? Perhaps Fanning no longer had the time to devote to his blogging endeavors. I moved on.  You can imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that the site's domain was now available. I decided to buy it with the goal of recreating as much of its original content as possible from its archived pages. I did not want someone else to purchase the domain and re-purpose the site for something that had nothing in common with the original website. There were lots of great nuggets of wisdom regarding the art of coaching basketball that deserve to remain visible on the web for other basketball players and coaches to find. 

I have not added all the blog posts. There were loads of posts with the first one written in September of 2009 and the last in March of 2012.  I added enough content to give a good feel for what the site was originally like. Please be indulgent with this truncated version of Tim Fanning’s Hoops Blogs.


From the Earliest Posts in 2009 To the Last Post in 2012


The Time When Everything Seems Calm

Posted by Tim on September 27, 2009

When everything seems calm and good, that is when we need to be the most alert. I think this is true for life and I know this is especially true for basketball. We were up by 8 at halftime, the other team literally did not come out of the locker room for the second half (i could have and maybe should have protested for a technical), it was like they didn’t want anymore and were dead tired. It seemed as if the game would continue as planned and we, beginning with me, let our guard down. It was a lesson I think that I had to learn as a coach and to learn it maybe I needed to experience it but man was it frustrating and out of nowhere. They went from up 8 to down 15 in a very short period of time.

Everything seemed so calm and decided and that is the moment exactly when we collectively were thinking like that that we became vulnerable. Until it is over and decided it is never ever ever decided and the moment you think something is finished before it is finished is the moment when you are most vulnerable, it must be done until the end or else it simply is not done.


What Am I doing??

Posted by Tim on September 23, 2009

So right now I am beginning my 3rd consecutive year in the Barcelona area of Spain. And my 4th year overall out here (I studied abroad out here in 2004-2005). Geez I can’t believe that its 2009!!! Basically I came out here with the intention of trying to “make it” out here in the world of basketball, either as a player or as a coach. And although there was never a definition for success or failure I am happy with my progression to this point. One of the more concrete objectives was to complete the education/training that is available out here for coaches provided by the Federacion Española de Baloncesto (FEB) which I am on course to complete next summer. I was able to skip “initiation” because of my playing experience so in the summer of 2008 I complete “Primer Nivel” or first level which went over in depth all of the basic terminology and ideas in basketball and other subjects related to basketball such as psychology, practice planning, a bit of kinesiology and all the “fundamentals” for every movement in basketball from shooting to closing out to offensive rebounding from a perimeter position. Then this past summer I completed the “Segundo Nivel” which was significantly more in depth in what the course covered as well as the projects that we were required to complete. My favorite assignemnt was probably diagramming all of the offensive and defensive sets from a game between Greece and Slovenia. Ok well the objective of this blog was to talk about non basketball things and the first paragraph has ben only basketball lol I will finish the idea, next summe I will go somewhere in Spain for 3 weeks to live and get the highest certification “National.” This is the highest title or “titulo” a coach can have internationally.

Although when I referenced this coach education back home when I met with some college coaches they did not seem to be too interested in that. I am not sure why, I guess because no one really has it back home they just aren’t that interested. But for me it has been perfect because I know that I want to be a head coach and basically you are exposed in a very organized fashion all ideas and concepts involved in coaching basketball and I have used this as a time to really try to define myself as a coach in terms of the tactics to be used on the court. So I am very excited about next summer and one of the main motivations behind the basketball library at elcoachtim.com was to document this information so that I don’t learn it once and forget about it.

By the way this is going to be a lifelong project I think this documentation of plays and basketball information but I think it is the right decision as I can see that my practices are getting alot better as I am constantly going over and digitalizing exercises or concept. Right now I am finishing up a book from a clinic Bobby Knight did here in Spain in the 70′s so as you can imagine there is alot in there about defending the basketball.

This year I have returned to coach the first team I ever coached out here and now they are grown up! Juniors in their second year so this will almost certaibly be their last year playing together the whole group. We have just started the season with a victory and I think will have possibilities to compete for the championship of Catalunya although I have not mentioned that to them yet as today we will write down our objectives for the season (as we had a couple guys on vacation since the start of the season until now and I want everyone to be there when we define what our goals are). I am also playing on the Senior A team at the club and currently coming in off the bench as the 6th man. This is fine, I wish I was starting but honestly I am at the point where I am enjoying much more coaching than I am playing but I still enjoy playing and I am getting paid for it so I can’t really complain.

Right now in Barcelona begins the Fiesta for the city, every city/town has a patron saint and the whole city celebrates that Saint’s Day by closing down and having Fiesta or parties. So as you can imagine Barcelona is not gonna have a small picnic, 5 days of non stop parties and events throughout the city for people of all ages and interests in a spectacular city. So that is what is going on in my life right now.


Doesn't Matter What Page, What Matters is Everyone is On iI.

Posted by Tim on September 21, 2009

I really believe this when it comes to working in groups towards a common goal as is the objective (or should be) in team sports, businesses and other ventures. There are many ways to do things in this life, most of which do not fall into a category of correct or incorrect, in a category of right or wrong. What matters is the ability of the organization to get everyone on the same page, to get everyone to believe and work towards an objective by means of a common path. And when everyone is working on this path together that is when you have a group that will be successful (assuming the path is well thought out and led by a competent person or better yet group of people)

In In our first game I had a player, a player who normally has a great head on his shoulders and is one of the first to understand what we are trying to do, tell me I’m not doing this because of a “personal difference in opinion.” I think because we were in a game and it was a player who normally is very in tune with the team concept I looked for the quick fix and told him that it is not an option for us to have an argument or disagreement in opinion. We are talking about pressing on defense in man to man, I want the 1, 2, and 3 to get a man as soon as possible, I don’t care if it is the PG, the 1 or the 2 and if someone is doing alot of damage than we will make an adjustment but until then I wan the offense covered from the moment they have the ball in hopes that from the beginning they will have to work to receive a pass and looking for your man allows them to make that first pass easily which is absolutely necessary to get transition baskets. So if we can make them work to make that first pass to the guard than we essentially eliminate their easy baskets in transition. And on a larger scale it is very tiring to have to constantly work to receive the ball and over the course of the game this pressure will take a mental and physical toll.

But now having time to reflect on this comment it is driving me absolutely crazy and I must adress this issue ASAP. Originally I was going to speak to the player privately and in a very straight forward manner but I am not sure if that is the best way because I don’t want this situation to arise again with another player. So I will adress the whole group and adress the specific situation anonymously but with very clear consequences for this type of situation. And to tell the kids that I am not doing anything for “no reason” or because I feel like doing it. There is a reason and I will share that reason with you if you want to know it and I like to hear their opinions on things as well. During the middle of practice is probably not the best time to ask that kind of question and during the game for me is unthinkable to be thinking like that. These players need to understand that when it is game time we need to be really focused and thinking as one, and that one being the team and what we are working on, not the page you think we should be on.


NCAA Tournament 2011

Posted by Tim on March 21, 2011           

As I’ve been watching the NCAA tournament it’s hard not to notice how many timeouts these teams get per game. In the NCAA they get 5 timeouts per half with the possibility of 4 timeouts which can be carried over from the first half to the second half. Plus the TV timeouts at the first whistle after the 16, 12, 8, and 4 minute mark. That’s up to 14 timeouts per half! In Europe we are each given 2 timeouts per half and at the level I am at there are no TV timeouts. So the flow is different and what goes on in the huddle must be different.

Here in Europe it is a great opportunity at time outs to try and communicate strategic changes or adjustments you would like the team to make in addition to specific information for the next offensive and or defensive possessions but it’s also important the long term communication because it may be longer before the next time that you will be in the huddle again.

Regardless of the number of time outs at your disposal, it is an opportunity for a coach to try and get a good shot for the team and keep them motivated and focused.

Whereas in the NCAA I imagine the main focus of the timeout is the next possession, drawing up a set to try and get a bucket or making a defensive adjustment to try and get a stop in the next few possessions. Obviously each coach has his or her own strategy but if the game is the same length but the number of timeouts at your disposal is 4 compared to 18 (5 per half plus 8 TV), the information communicated will take these factors into account. Nevertheless as a coach one thing (personally) to improve on is getting buckets for my team out of timeouts. Drawing up a set that the guys are familiar with and running it well. And this goes far beyond simply drawing up the play on the clipboard during the timeout. It involves running the play in practice and running timeout like situations during scrimmages in practice.

In yesterdays loss on the road we had an 8 minute stretch to start the fourth quarter when we didn’t get a bucket and I can’t help but think about ways that I should have been more effective in getting our guys an easy bucket. And this preparation goes beyond the play drawn in the huddle. It is a process of continuing to try and improve and this is the next step.


College Hoops

Adidas Super 64: Tons of Athletes but Tons of Turnovers

Posted on July 27, 2011 by Tim

* This last weekend I had a chance to check out the second to last day of the Adidas Super 64 tournament, an AAU event featuring the top high school prospects in the country.  The majority of these players are going into their Senior year of high school.

I wanted to compile a list of the top prospects who I saw and liked, similar to what I did with the Basketball Without Borders event in Barcelona  but I incorrectly believed that the rosters would be online.

So instead I’ll just try to compare the two events.  Without a doubt the biggest difference between the players at the Super 64 and their european counterpart is the superior athleticism in the States.  There are countless more big and athletic players in the states than in Europe.  The players are faster, stronger, quicker, and jump higher.  But are they better basketball players?  That I’m not so sure of.  The decision making and skill sets of those same athletes I think is inferior to the skill sets of their European counterparts.

Despite the superior athleticism in the States, the decision making and skill sets in players coming out of Europe makes it extremely difficult to try and answer the question of where are the better players.  I don’t know but if you put some of those athletes in front of some of the top coaches in Europe I think it would be a lethal combination.

I must mention that Shabazz Muhammed is a name that we will be hearing about in the coming years.  But one of the problems that came to mind when watching some of these “men among boys” athletes is that they have really bad habits.  Being bigger and stronger and faster than everyone else can be a blessing or a curse, depending on when that point arrives (if you grow early or late) and how it is used.  Many of the most physically gifted players had some of the worst habits because they can get by using their athleticism and are never forced to learn the proper fundamentals.

At 6-6 Shabazz was the most complete player in Las Vegas at the Super 64 in terms of combining athleticism, size and skill set.


DMM: Disposition, Mindset, Motivation

Posted on May 30, 2011 by Tim

While listening to the Passing Game Podcast and an interview with Florida Coach Billy Donnovan he talked about things that he likes to look for when he’s recruiting: Disposition, Mindset and Motivation.

What does this player feel about life?  About basketball?  What is his disposition towards

What is this guy thinking about?  What’s his mindset in different situations.

Why does this guy play basketball?  What motivates this guy.

Getting to know your players is key to creating a team and then building them into Champions.

What ever the words you use, the point is to really get to know your guys before you recruit them or get them on the team.  Developing the team with the right kind of guys will eventually make things much much easier.  As we’re getting ready to make some tough decisions on who to keep for next year and which new players to sign I’m trying to get to know my guys as much as possible.  It is not quite the same to sign someone to a club team as it is to a University Program but the underlying principle is the same:

Get to know your players before you put them on your team so that 1- You know what motivates them and  2- You have the right kind of guys on your team, guys that you feel comfortable and confident working with.


Not Day 1, Minute 1

Posted on December 23, 2011 by Tim

The other day I substituted a class for a former co-worker and it was my first time back in the classroom since last June.  After being warned extensively about the bad behavior of the class I went into there with a clear objective of establishing order from the very first moment.  With a very serious face and attitude from the first moment they came into the class I was in charge, they were the students and we were going to be productive.  And it worked.

It starts with minute 1.  What are you going to do with your team or your class the first minute you are with them and in charge?  I am convinced this is the most important moment and will be a very determining factor for the team’s work ethic and attitude for the rest of the time you are together.  And one thing is a guarantee, you can’t go back and redo minute 1.

The other day I was talking to a coaching friend about different hypothetical situations and it came up if one was coaching the Lakers and the problems that could arise if from the first moment you demand things from Kobe Bryant or other star players.  But I think the problem isn’t if you demand things the first moment, the problem is if you don’t make demands in the first minute but gradually make more and more demands as the time goes on.

In terms of effort and energy, it’s necessary to mark the line in the sand from the first moment.  Not on day 1, but in minute 1, what are you going to do?

From day 1 Mike Brown has not been afraid to coach any and all of the Lakers, including Kobe Bryant.



Posted on December 31, 2011 by Tim

As the last moments of 2011 count down and we bring in 2012 it’s important to take a moment and reflect. One of the things I love about coaching and teaching is the cycles of a season. There is a natural time for reflection and adjustments that many other professions don’t allow. As coaches and teachers we constantly need to reflect and make adjustments on the go and when the year finishes we have some time to take a step back and then try to take a couple steps forward.

New Year’s is one of those times when most people do some reflecting and make some New Year’s Resolutions, some they stick to, others don’t see February. I am very thankful for all of the people who I have had relationships with in 2011 (both in basketball and outside of it). Happy New Year to everybody and if there is one thing I am looking forward to in 2012 it would have to be the 2012 London Olympics. Feliz año nuevo!


What’s Your Philosophy

Posted on January 2, 2012 by Tim

What’s your philosophy as a coach? Prove it.

One way to clearly define your philosophy is to try and organize it in a place outside of your head. It will really help in clarifying things for yourself and also in any situation where you may need to share your knowledge with others.

Barcelona has created a "Bible" of digital media for their coaches in the "cantera" to use as a reference.

Anybody that follows professional sports right now is aware of what FC Barcelona is doing in professional soccer, and many are aware of what they are doing with their “cantera.” I saw this article in today’s paper and it has my brain working up a storm…

One of the things that stands out most is that when you write something down you are forced to make decisions.  You are defining what you want, where you want the players to go, why you wan’t to play shooting games at the end of practice.  And making decisions is the first step towards improvement.

Make the decision – Execute it – Evaluate it – Revise It


CB La Roca

Posted on January 25, 2012 by Tim

Here is a video from a dribbling exhibition I did last month at CB La Roca, just outside Barcelona.  It was a great time!


Siempre Util

Posted on February 9, 2012 by Tim

A thought that has been in my mind when it comes to time management and productivity:

Always Useful.

And as basketball coaches and teachers we need to be good at those two things.

This is a video I have found useful for a number of reasons. In ESL situations, and also Coach Tom Thibodeau is a fantastic coach and his ideas are very clear and has a lot of experience coaching at a high level.


Self Talk Motivational Styles:

Posted by Tim on March 13, 2012

“Motivational Styles: Examining the Impact of Personality on hte Self-Talk Patterns of Adolescent Female Soccer Players” by Burton, Fillham and Glen 2011.

What is self talk and why does it matter?

Self-talk is the way an athlete talks to himself/herself.  Self-talk has been proven to have strong effects and ability to enhance: (a) motivation, (b) self-confidence, (c) energy management, (d) attention, (e) stress management, (f) skill development and performance.  Ulmer (2010) found that self-talk was the most effective mental training tool for enhancing performance.

In other words self-talk goes hand in hand with everything related to motivation and performance in sports. That being said it is

something that we should be aware of while coaching, how does this player talk to themselves?

One of the key indicators of self talk identified in the article was the motivational style of the athlete. In other words, in order to understand how an athlete talks to himself it is important to understand first why that athlete participates in sports.  There are three main motivational styles in athletes that we will go over.

Mastery-Oriented (MO) Athletes focus on the process more than the product

  • Self-Talk-Positive, encouraging and corrective
  • Competitions-Opportunities to improve
  • Goal Setting-They set difficult goals to maximize learning and improvement
  • Performance-Optimal because their focus is on constant improvement

These are the players that come to practice and want to get better and in the games they play well and are constantly pushing themselves to new heights.  Even when they are facing a superior opponent they give it 100%

Success-Oriented (SO) Athletes base their success on the competetive outcome, driven by winning.  They believe talent is fixed.

Self-Talk-  positive, encouraging, and task- focused when winning and encountering few problems, but they may become more negative, critical, outcome-focused and self-destructive when losing and encountering adversity.   Focuses on winning or appearing superior to the competition.

  • Competitions-Opportunities to show supremacy compared to competitors.
  • Goal Setting-Prefer to set moderate goals which they know they will be successful
  • Performance-Good in situations of low to moderate difficulty but below that of MO athletes in situations of high difficulty

These are the players who are always trying to win and come in first.  They play great against weaker competition but are quick to find excuses when they are faced with real adversity.  They are talented but never quite reach their potential.

Failure-Oriented (FO) Athletes also define success in terms of social comparison.  However FO athletes have low perceived ability.

Self-Talk-Decrease the risk of failure or providing an excuse in the event of failure.  Negative, critical and counterproductive.

  • Competition-Lots of anxiety
  • Goal Setting- Avoid failure
  • Performance-Below capabilities

These are the players who practice great but struggle in games because they don’t have much self-confidence.  They remember their failures much more than they remember their successes.

And even if it is not realistic to try and change every athelete to be an MO athlete as coaches it should help us in dealing with our players to be aware of these different motivational profiles to try and help our players to overcome the challenges that they face.  But not as we see those challenges…as they see those challenges.

Although it is difficult to try and change the motivational style of a given athlete I think that it is possible to influence the motivational style of the team. As a coach you can define the success to the team based on what you express to them on a daily basis and what you reward the team for.  This article really just solidifies from a more academic point of view all of the things that the great John Wooden preached: It’s all about the process. He said that he didn’t coach in the games, he coached in practice and the games were a direct result of wether or not the team was working well in practice.

As this article suggests.  The way to achieve your potential is to focus on the process and not the product.  The road to winning is a road where you do not spend alot of time thinking about winning, you spend alot of time thinking about how to get better.  How to improve, how to maximize the talents that I have in the situation that I am in…not think about the talents that I don’t have or the great situation that the other guys is in.  That brings to mind only one person: