Man-to-Man Defense

Push or Pack Man-to-Man Defense (Dick Bennett Man-to-Man)

Dick Bennett is the father of most of the man-to-man defensive systems being played today. His famous “push defense” featuring on-the-line and up-the-line help denial positioning originated during his tenure as the head coach at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The “pack defense,” also commonly known as the pack-line defense, originated out of necessity after Coach Bennett’s move to Wisconsin-Green Bay.

This newsletter is simply not capable of explaining either of these systems of defense in detail. The purpose of this article is to help you, the coach, decide which of these two versions of man-to-man defense would suit your program or team better.

To learn more about these two defensive systems I suggest you purchase the following two DVDs from Championship Productions or Syskos Sports: Pressure Defense: A System and Dick Bennett: The Pack-line Pressure Defense. I also have a set of clinic notes available for FREE on my Handouts/Clinic Notes page on this website.

I have used both of these styles of man-to-man defense. Let me warn you right now. I am one of those coaches who can be really stubborn and never play zone defense. In fact, I believe to succeed with the Push version of this defense, you have to be that stubborn. Do not give the players an out.

Bennett’s Push defense is super high intensity and is designed to:

1) force action

2) disrupt the opponent’s offense

3) force turnovers

The strengths of this defense include:

1) It will take your opponent out of their offense!

2) It will force turnovers!

3) Opponents will not be able to dictate the pace of the game.

4) Opponents seldom see man-to-man defense with this kind of pressure and positioning, making it difficult to prepare for.

Some weaknesses to Push defense include:

1) It forces action. If your opponent is capable of making athletic players, they will score when you take them out of their offense.

2) You will be in poor rebounding position. If you cannot force turnovers, you will pay a price on the boards.

3) It requires significant amounts of practice time to teach this defense and you must commit to the entire system.

Strengths of the Pack defensive system:

1) Fantastic against penetrating offenses.

2) Better rebounding coverage

3) Can play man-to-man with less athletic players.

Some of the weaknesses of the Pack defense include:

1) Extremely hard to force turnovers – very difficult to come from behind with this defense.

2) Opponent can dictate the tempo of the game.

3) Must invest significant practice time to teaching and mastering the system.

4) Does not disrupt the opponent’s offense.

A note about using the Pack Defense at the high school and middle school levels: The college coaches who have adapted this defense, including Coach Bennett himself, often forget high school and middle school basketball teams do not play with a shot clock! College teams can afford to sit back in a Pack Defense – the shot clock is an extra defensive player for them! If they can keep their opponent from taking a good shot, the opponent will be forced to take a bad shot to beat the shot clock in order to avoid a clock violation. The shot clock forces action for the team playing Pack Defense!

Both of these systems are outstanding. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. There are strong similarities between each system.

Based on experience, I want to issue this warning. Despite the strong similarities between the two systems and the high level of skill carry over, it is very difficult to successfully utilize both defensive systems in a single season. Players have a hard time going from a force action type of defense to a contain type of defense and execute either with effectiveness. Pick one defense and stick with it for that season.

For additional concepts and drills on teaching man-to-man defense, you may want to consider obtaining a copy of Fine Tuning Your Man-to-Man Defense.

Nine Man-to-Man Daily Defensive Drills

To really play man-to-man defense well, it has to be practiced on a daily basis. Coaches must focus on technique, positioning and repositioning, and INTENSITY!

The skills learned playing man-to-man defense apply to any other defense, zone, traps, full court presses or combo defenses.

Coaches at any level can use these drills. These drills are great for youth basketball, girls basketball, middle school basketball or high school basketball.