Special Situations: Breaking Zone Presses

Breaking presses are all about great spacing, simple reads, and solid decision-making. In this post, we'll look at our zone Press Breaking concepts; Regular & Stretch.

Breaking full-court pressure is one special situation that all coaches need to be prepared for. There is perhaps no quicker way to lose a game than to allow teams to go on extended runs due to your inability to handle full-court pressure. Outside of preparation breaking presses always boils down to having great spacing, creating simple reads, and making solid decisions when we are inevitably trapped. As we put together our plan for breaking presses we want to have a find a way to allow our players to do these things in the most simple manner possible.

My approach to breaking presses has always been to keep things as similar to our normal transition offense as possible. In a typical 18-20 game season, we will only see 4-6 teams who truly emphasize pressing. Knowing that heavy pressing teams are in the minority I think it makes the most sense to create a press break that is only slightly different than what we do in transition offense every single day. Whether we are facing an entry trap, a half-court trap, 3/4 court pressure, or a full-court man, we will use the same simple concepts that can be applied to them all. In this post, we will take a look at our basic concepts for breaking zone Presses; mainly our Regular Press Break & Stretch concepts.

Other Special Situations Series Posts to Check Out:

Regular Press Break Positioning -

As we mentioned in the introduction the goal of our Press Break Strategy is to keep it consistent with our transition offense. The inbounder, outlet, sideline player, and middle man are all going to be in the same pace as they would be in our normal Transition Offense. Theoretically when we need to call on our Press Break we would prefer to have minimal change,


Regular Press Break -

Inbound & Outlet:

Just as in transition offense we are going to ask our 4 Man to take the ball out of bounds and our 1 Man to be our outlet.

Typically our 4 Man is going to be one of our more athletic wing players, so it also needs to be a player who can become our "Check Down" player vs the Presses.

Sideline & Backside:

Our two wing players are going to occupy the Sideline Pitch Ahead & Backside roles. Just as in transition offense we are hunting opportunities for the ball side pitch ahead as soon as the ball is inbounded.

In our Regular Press Break alignment, we are asking our Backside Player to stay in the backcourt so we have a player to swing the basketball to.

Middle Man:

Our 5 Man occupies the middle of the floor. As he typically serves as the Rim Runner in our Transition System, all he has to do is simply come back to the basketball.

Press Break Options -

There are a number of different options that we can use to break whatever press we are facing. From a coaching perspective, we are encouraging our players to simply "take what the defense gives us". If they are taking away the pitch ahead passes then we simply check the ball down and beat it with the Dribble. If they are looking to trap in the backcourt then we are going to encourage guys to look over the defense and hit the Sideline & Middle Pitch Ahead players.

Sideline & Middle Pitch -

Sideline Pitch Ahead:

Most presses make it a priority to take away the sideline Pitch Ahead pass.

Getting the basketball pitched ahead along the sideline immediately puts 2-3 players behind the basketball and can often turn into an offensive advantage.

Teaching Point:

  • One thing I would caution players about would be that immediate corner three-point shots off of this pass. I feel strongly that those shots need to be reserved only for elite shooters.

Hit the Middle Man:

Perhaps the best way to beat any press defense is to get the basketball to the middle of the floor. That is why we would like players with the ball to be hunting that pitch ahead pass to the Middle Man right away. One of the true advantages of the Sideline & Middle pitch ahead passes is that we are putting multiple defenders behind the basketball and getting the defense in scramble mode.