In basketball, much attention is paid to the players, and rightfully so. But watching a good coaching duel develop can be like watching a work of art being created in front of you.
TheDribbleDrop has always appreciated all facets of the game and will be linking with a distinguished high school basketball coaches every week to discuss the ins and outs of the game and what happens in-between the lines.
This week, Ranney head coach Tahj Holden. During our interview he discusses the her offensive philosophy, the importance of remaining composed as a coach, his thoughts on the shot clock and more .
By Christian Mordi / @thedribbledrop on IG and Twitter
TheDribbleDrop: Coach for those who don’t know, tell us a little bit about your coaching background and how long u have been at
Coach Tahj Holden: I grew up in New Jersey. I went to the University of Maryland and I played there. I went to the Final Four in 2001 and we won a national championship in 2002. Went overseas to Turkey to play for a year, but then I got injured. I took a year off and then started to coach.
In 2005 I was out in San DIego coaching an AAU program for awhile. I also coached a high school called La Jolla Country Day in San DIego. That school is like the west coast counterpart of Ranney. I came back to the East coast and coached at Monmouth University. I then went on to work at Christian Brothers Academy. We had Pat Andree during that time. Phenomenal kid and phenomenal player. I got to the Ranney School three years ago. This is my 3rd year here.
TheDribbleDrop: If you were use one word to describe your coaching style, what would it be and why?
Coach Tahj Holden: Relaxed. I think kids today generally respond to you talking to them instead of yelling at them. In the heat of the game, if I’m going crazy on the sidelines it can be hard to get your message across. I think remaining calm is extremely important at the high school level, as most players are still trying to figure out how to play the game the right way. I would say I’m more calm on the sidelines than most coaches, or at least I portray that to keep the kids even mentally during the game.
TheDribbleDrop: How you prepare the team for the style of play in early season practices
Coach Tahj Holden: Early season is a lot of repetition. We do a lot ot fundamental stuff. It’s important to spend time on that so that we have a solid foundation for the rest of the stuff we are going to do the rest of the season.
We also do a lot of breakdown drills of our offense. We take a portion of guys and just run a specific part of our offense. It’s important for them to understand why we are doing what we are doing before we jump into a 5-on-5 situation. You want to slow things down before you jump into a full live situation because most kids want to go just score. It’s important to break things down offensively and defensively.
TheDribbleDrop: Offensively, what is your ideal style of play?
Coach Tahj Holden: Ideally we want to get up and pressure on defense. We work in a nice mix of zone and man presses. Offensively, we have a ton of athletes that can create in space, so we like to push in transition. With that being said, we also are okay with slowing it down and running sets. Understanding the right pace is key. You want players fresh in the 4th quarter.
TheDribbleDrop: In the half court, do you prefer a “less structure is more” approach offensively?
Coach Tahj Holden: We have a bunch of quick hitters. All of our stuff leads into motion. Today we played with a shot clock, so you can’t take 45 seconds or more to find the perfect shot. I teach my guys to make reads and create in space. We are comfortable playing at this speed with our set of plays.
TheDribbleDrop: You mentioned the shot clock. New Jersey doesn’t have one. Ideally, what do you think is best for the players?
Coach Tahj Holden: I think we are doing our kids a disservice by not having a shot clock. Everywhere else has one. On the next level the kids will have to play within the confines of one. We want our kids ready to play on the next level. I think as coaches we all should be pushing for one. It can be a four point game and some coaches go to a 4 corners style set to hold the ball.
To me that’s not true basketball. By that I mean in the sense of seeing what our kids can actually do in the standard time frame on the next level. It’s a factor on offense but it’s equally as important to the game defensively. The standard time will give our kids a more realistic feel timewise to that side of the floor as well.
TheDribbleDrop: You have a tremendous collection of players that can score in a variety of ways. What are some things you try to do to free Bryan, Scottie and Alex up?
Coach Tahj Holden: To free up Bryan, we run him off a ton of screens. He has the uncanny ability of making shots going left and right. He’s a scorer. He’s a guy that finds a way to get his 20 points every night. Scottie is a player that I like to get out in space. He is a mismatch for whoever is guarding him for the most part right now. We like to get him in the mid-post in the half court at times and create. Alex is a special player. He plays well with those guys and he knows how to play off those guys. He sees the floor well and get to the right spots on the floor at the right time to get off his shot.
TheDribbleDrop: If I was a new first year coach about to hit the floor for the first time, what piece of advice would you give me?
Coach Tahj Holden: Have a philosophy. Whatever it is that you believe in is what you have to do. You can’t be someone else. You have to do what you are comfortable with. If not it will show in the moments it matters most. If you are a pressing type of coach and you’re sitting in the half court playing a slow-tempo type of game, you’re going to get frustrated. Have a philosophy and put them in the right spots to succeed within that.
TheDribbleDrop: How do you gauge success at Ranney?
Coach Tahj Holden: Coming in, Ranney didn’t have a lot of basketball history. Right now we are taking steps to becoming the best basketball program we can be. Today we got a win against an amazing Westtown team without one of my starters. That’s a step in the right direction as a program. We don’t want to just be Scottie and Bryan and when they leave their isn’t a program anymore. We want to build a true program and that starts with the guys not named Scottie and Bryan.