Coaching Notes from John Chaney: No Turnovers


John Chaney teams, for the most part, had always carried the reputation of being tough hard-nosed defensive teams. Most college basketball analysts credited the success of Chaney’s Temple teams to their suffocating zone defenses. But the fact of the matter is, according to Chaney, the basis of everything he did was due to his philosophy of ‘No Turnovers’.

Since you cannot just stand up in front of your team before a game and simply say to them, “Ok guys, no turnovers tonight!” and expect them to go out there and follow through (ahh, if only it were that easy)…there are some things that can be done to get the players to improve on this no turnover philosophy.

Understanding angles

This is probably one of the most under-rated and under coached aspects of the game of basketball. There are a lot of assumptions that are made in regards to angles. I think many think this may be too simple of a concept to take the time to teach, but in fact it is very important for EVERYONE on the court to understand. If your point guard is dribbling at the top of the key, and wants to make a pass to one of the wings, it is both the wing’s and point guard’s responsibility to create the proper angle to avoid a bad pass. Never should a point guard dribble down toward the middle of the lane getting themselves caught parallel to the wing player (180 degree angle) and try to make that pass. There will be less chance of a turnover if the wing player created an angle by moving up or down the three-point line (depending on the side the penetration is going). Angles are key to breaking a press as well. 45 degree angles > 180 degree angles. We want the 45 degree angles. Understanding angles should never be underestimated.


Unlike the individual skills of shooting, dribbling, and rebounding, John Chaney describes passing as a great “team skill”. Coaches must teach their players to become not only good at passing the basketball, but also how to become great at calling for the pass and receiving the pass. It is also very important to teach the proper technique of a simple bounce, chest, lob, and over the head pass as well as pointing out the proper time to use each one.

Floor balance

John Chaney talks about having floor balance on offense. Keeping the proper spacing and keeping proper floor balance is critical to his philosophy of no turnovers. You create floor balance with your offense by having the players push away or pull toward the ball handler depending on which direction the ball handler is going. There should not be more than one offensive player in the same spot unless there is some screen action going on or maybe a dribble handoff.
Having proper floor balance will also ensure better transition defense. There should always be at least one player rotating to the top of the key for transition defense (having two players rotate up top would be even better).

The Four R’s

  1. Roles – Every player on the team must buy in to their roles. It is important that the coach define these roles early and define these roles to each player on the team. Every player should know the roles of everyone on the team. The more clear the roles are for each team member, the less confusion there will be on the court, which in turn should lead to less turnovers. Everyone must understand that there is more to basketball than just shooting. Everyone can’t shoot, but as a coach you should never tell a player not to shoot. Instead, just tell them where to shoot from. If players do not know their roles, they will be all over the place.
  2. Rules – This is simple. Know the rules of the game and make sure every player knows the rules as well. You would be surprised how many players are unclear about certain rules of the game they are out there playing almost everyday. As the kids say (or text rather) SMDH.
  3. Responsibility – Players and coaches should both take responsibility. When you make a mistake, recognize it and accept the responsibility for it. You cannot have coaches or players pass the blame on someone else for any shortcomings or any mistakes….whether this blame is verbalized or kept internally. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions.
  4. Respect –
    Respect the game.
    Respect the coaches.
    Respect the parents.
    Respect your teammates.
    Respect yourself.
  5. Putting it all together
    John Chaney’s ‘no turnover’ philosophy is not meant to be a conservative-like offensive philosophy. It is not meant to have the players too scared to do anything in fear that they will turn the ball over. This philosophy also ties into the defensive success his teams have always had. Thus, you can make the conclusion that great defense begins when your team is on offense. For every offensive possession you have without a turnover, the tougher your defense will be on the following possession because your team will already be set in good position to make the defensive stop. Turnovers may cause transition defense to be a step slower since they would automatically be at a disadvantage numbers wise going down the other end of the court. If you can get a team to commit minimal turnovers, chances are they will have a better chance of becoming a Chaney-like hard nosed defensive team.



2 thoughts on “Coaching Notes from John Chaney: No Turnovers”

  1. We in the Philly area were blessed to be able to watch Coach close-up during not only his “national” tenure at Temple but earlier at nearby Cheyney State, where he also accomplished great things both on and off the court. Great post.

    1. I’ve always admired the way John Chaney coached and had his Temple teams playing hard. They always played like the underdog that never backed down to anybody. I was born in South Philly, raised and still living in Jacksonville, Fl (where coincidentally, Chaney was born)…but this is football town here, so there isn’t alot of basketball talk unless it’s about the Florida Gators. I always try to keep up with the teams in the Philadelphia area. He is one of the coaches that I would definitely love to meet and just sit down and talk with. Thanks for stopping by to read and thanks for the comment!

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