Late Clock Terminology from the NBA

By Kyle Gilreath

Today I am going to briefly discuss a term that I heard an NBA team use last summer at the Orlando Summer League. Since I did talk a little more in depth with the assistant of this team about their philosophy on this and I don’t want to ruin my relationship with him, I am just going to refer to this team as the “Tropics” throughout this post (No I did not talk to Will Ferrell).
While I was watching the Tropics play, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, when the clock/shot clock got down to 10 seconds, every player and the entire bench started yelling out “RED, RED, RED!”. On defense, “Red” meant that they were going to switch everything on the court because the clock was running down and they didn’t want to give up anything easy. During one of my prior coaching stints, we used the term “10″ only on defense; same philosophy, switching everything. “10″ may be easier to use for your younger teams as they can correlate that a lot easier with the clock rather than using a color. There are a few things that I like about switching everything late in the clock and giving it a term:

1. By naming it, you can actually go to this type of defense in the middle of a game without calling a time-out or yelling out on the floor “Switch Everything!” so the opposing coach can hear you.

2. By installing this into your defensive regime, it also gives you time to practice it. One thing that terrifies a lot of coaches with switching during late game situations is the failure of their players to come together on the switch and get beat by a slip. It is ESSENTIAL that when teaching switching, that you teach the defenders to come together; meaning hip to hip to prevent any easy splits…and COMMUNICATE!!

3. Many young players get a little flustered when they start hearing things yelled out to them, especially when its the defense. They start thinking, “Oh no what is red, what does that mean, what are they going to do…” and could possibly start panicking. Furthermore, if your players do a great job communicating, it is possible that this could drown out the opposing coaches voice and the offense will fail to set up a play.

Going back to my initial paragraph, remember I also said the Tropics used the term “Red” on offense as well when the clock got down to 10 seconds. This was just an indicator to the offense to make them aware of the clock but not to panic and allowed them get a good shot off. One of the cardinal sins of basketball is not getting a shot off during late clock situations. Many times I see this happen and the coach goes nuts and starts screaming and yelling at the player(s). But as a coach, it is your job to make everyone on the team aware of the clock and have them prepared. Remember, these are teenagers and twenty-somethings we are talking about here; there is a ton of info going through their brains. If you coach younger teams I think this is even more important; at my school we use a head tap during certain late clock situations, this just means we are taking the last shot. However, sometimes the head tap is hard to see or a player may miss it running down the court; this year I plan on using a verbal term for late clock situations to prevent that.

One idea I will give you on offense is to put in a simple quick hitter for late clock situations and give it a name like “red…special…flow”, anything you want really. Anytime your players hear this play call they will know exactly what to do on offense to get a good shot off. This will also come in handy late in the game when you need a quick score and either don’t have any timeouts or you want to save them.

Some of you are probably sitting in your offices reading this saying to yourself, “Yeah the NBA does this because they have about 200 possessions (off/def) a game in which they face a shot clock running down…and college teams have it happen about 114 times (off/def) a game…in high school this happens FOUR times A GAME…I would rather focus on something else!”

I will answer your question with this; How many times last year did you lose a game by 7 points or less last season? Two years ago our varsity team lost NINE (9) games by 7 points or less. Every possession on the court is special, treat them like they’re the last play(s) of your season and convey this to your players.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you like switching late in the game?

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VP of Coaching Development @PureSweat| Astronaut High School Varsity Coach - Always learning!

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One Comment;

  1. Ethan said:

    Great article! It only took me one season of coaching on the JV level to install a “go to” play at end of quarters. It is amazing how much momentum an easy bucket at the end of a quarter can give you.