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During the 1960's, the Boston Celtics were successful in winning a longer string of consecutive championships than any team in the history of professional sports running the zipper offense.  This offense has been used for a variety of reasons to either enter into an offense or to run it as an offense all to its own.  This article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the zipper offense as well as ways to run it, some plays that go along with it, and ways to teach this outstanding offense to your players.

Advantages of the Zipper Offense

There are a number of reasons as to why a coach would want to run the zipper offense.  They include:

  1. Versatility.  The zipper offense can be run from a number of different sets.  Anything from a 2-1-2 set to a 1-2-2 box to a 1-4 high set can be used to get into the offense.  This allows the coach to use different formations to run the same basic plays.

  2. The ability to run multiple plays.  Because there are several plays that can be run using the zipper set, you can adjust the offense to your personnel.  I will show a myriad of plays that will provide some ideas as to how you can run the offense to best fit what your players can do well.

  3. The ability to enter into another offense.  The zipper preset can be used to get into motion offense, flex offense, shuffle offense, or a pick-and-roll offense easily.  By running the basic preset, the zipper offense can be used as a quick hitter to score right away or to get into the offense if the quick hitter doesn't score right away.

Disadvantages of the Zipper Offense

However, like most set offenses, the zipper offense does have its disadvantages which include the following:

  1. Like most set offenses, the zipper offense can be easily scouted.  Because the offense relies on specific calls to run specific plays, the offense is tipped off to the people in the stands, including opposing coaches watching the game.  The only way to counteract coaches from picking up on your calls and tendencies is to have a high volume of offensive plays from the set.

  2. The zipper offense also requires that you need to have certain elements of offense that your defense sees on a regular basis.  This requires that your team spend separate practice time working on other offensive concepts that are not incorporated in your set offense.

  3. Putting in the zipper offense also means that you will need to have another offense that you can enter into once you have run the quick hitting play without attempting a shot.  If you choose not to have an offense that your team can easily flow into, your team will require quick shots out of the zipper offense.  Those quick shots could ultimately mean the difference between winning and losing games.

Basic Zipper Plays

When entering the zipper offense, we have four basic reads for our point guard when entering into the offense.  The first read is the back cut by the wing.  If we are playing a pressure defense, we can look to get this entry by having the wing fake high then cut back door (Diagram 1).  A defender actively denying the wing will be brought out away from the basket creating a moment of separation where our point guard can enter the ball to the cutter for a lay-up.

The second option for the point guard is to turn the corner if his defender is guarding him too high.  In Diagram 2, the defender is shown as being too high and too far behind the dribbler.  We give the point guard some latitude to attack the rim if this develops; however, we will hold the point guard accountable.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

The third option is how we read the down screen.  This works two ways:  The first is that the cutter comes off of the down screen cleanly and the defense doesn't switch the screen as shown in Diagram 3.  We look for the cutter first and will pass him the ball.  If he gets the ball, we will run the play.  If he gets overplayed, we will dribble him out with a back cut as shown in Diagram 4.

Diagram 3

Diagram 4

The fourth option is the post up.  This works one of two ways:  The first is that the post man comes open after setting the screen and the cutter receives the pass.  We only look for this post up if the screener does not have to get involved in the play as a screener (Diagram 5).

The other is when the screen gets switched by the defense.  Here, we want to go right inside and exploit the switch to our advantage (Diagram 6).

Diagram 5

Diagram 6

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