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Sue Phillips

Ask the Expert: Sue Phillips Answers Your Questions

  • Date:
    Oct 24, 2014

Coach Phillips: Making Positive Impact

• VIDEO: Rewarding Hustle

Sue Phillips, who led the USA Basketball Women’s U17 National Team to gold at the 2014 FIBA World Championship in the Czech Republic in July, is entering her 22nd season as head coach of the girls basketball team at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California. Phillips, who was named USA Basketball’s 2013 co-Developmental Coach of the Year, has compiled at Archbishop Mitty an incredible 601-115 record to go along with five state titles.

We asked youth players and coaches to submit questions for Coach Phillips this week via Facebook and Twitter, and here are her responses:

How do we recover from a bad game, having no time to practice and with a new game scheduled the day after? -- @luis_cristovao

Relative to the previous game, search for any positive aspects of the game to point out to your team. Always applaud stellar effort and intensity, regardless of the outcome. Address those additional aspects of the game that need adjusting, and then move on. Your players will follow your lead. If you take the approach to "get the next one," they will too.

What is your offensive system/philosophy? -- @De11eDonne (Editor’s note: Yes, this is the Twitter handle for WNBA all-star and USA Women’s National Team member Elena Delle Donne)

Thanks Elena for the question. I am a big fan of yours. My offensive philosophy is to promote balance, versatility, and efficiency within our system. Balance represents our ability to score from different parts of the floor in a myriad of ways: scores in the paint, off post hits or penetration from the perimeter. Versatility refers to our personnel and their ability to be a triple threat and keep the defense off-balance. Lastly, efficiency is measured by our points scored divided by our number of possessions. We strive to make that a ratio of one-to-one.

What Coach have you learned the most from? -- @notfilcadnama

I have learned from so many different coaches, it would be too difficult for me to pinpoint. I will say that I have always admired (former University of Tennessee head coach) Pat Summitt and her ability to remain highly successful on and off the court without ever sacrificing her integrity.

What did you take from the international game that will help your local Archbishop Mitty H.S. team? Or the USA team also? -- @natshtib

With a 24-second shot clock and an 8-second backcourt for international competition, there was a greater need for quicker tempo, very efficient movement, and decisive reads. I hope to instill the same level of tempo and attention to detail on our AMHS team's movements and reads.

My daughter is in 8th grade. What is the best route to get her involved in USA bball? A camp? Or recommendation? Other?? Thanks -- Robbi Swafford Simmons

Next year, I recommend that your daughter apply to attend a regional camp sponsored by USA Basketball for the U16 development team. Check out the USA Basketball website for the application process, specific dates, and times.

Hi, i am a youth basketball coach from Portugal and my question is, What are the fundamental teachings for girls from 11-14 years playing bball?? -- Gonçalo Sá

Developing a well-rounded skill set is important regardless of age or position. Footwork and proper shooting mechanics is also essential at a young age to reinforce good habits.

What are your feelings on the value of playing zone versus man to man? Are you strictly a man to man coach? -- @RonNicoletti

I prefer player-to-player defense, but as educators we owe it to our players to teach them to play varied defensive schemes like a traditional 2-3 zone or a match-up zone. By teaching varied defenses, your team becomes more effective on game day at attacking changing schemes and you can also incorporate some of these zone looks versus certain opponents.

Dear Coach Sue,
I am a young athlete and would like to ask a few questions...

How can I improve my defense and my speed to stay in front of a defender?


Jumping rope and training on the agility ladder can improve quickness if done on a regular basis and at an uncomfortably quick tempo. Taking better angles to beat the offensive player to a spot will assist in keeping your opponent in front of you.

What is the mindset a basketball player should have to be a great?

Good players want to be coached, but great players want to be told the truth. Have the mindset that those coaches who keep it real believe in your potential greatness and are providing a roadmap to the mountaintop.

Anything you suggest I could do to increase my reaction time?

Reaction time is generally considered a genetic predisposition. However, you can slightly improve this ability with proper training. Over-speed training can help. Guarding a quicker offensive player than your typical opponent can improve your reaction time.

Have you ever met Geno Auriemma and did you go to UConn?

Yes, I have met Coach Auriemma and no I did not go to UConn. I played softball at Northwestern University.

Lastly, what do you look for in a female athlete who loves basketball?

Coachability, quality of character, and a noteworthy work ethic are characteristics I value in a player. Coachability isn't having a good attitude and playing hard -- that is the price of admission at the door. It is having the willingness and ability to make the immediate corrective measure upon feedback.

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