The Rise and Fall of the Flex Offense

Also: Looking back at our in-depth interview with Jon Scheyer.

The times are changing in college basketball.

With name, image, and likeness rules set to pass in five on July 1st, more minor rule changes were also implemented this week — including the use of technology on the bench and the allowance of on-court instruction for non-coaching staff members.

And the biggest news of all, of course, was the announcement of the impending retirement of (arguably) the face of the sport: Mike Krzyzewski.

In a week full of changes, we — somewhat ironically — dove deep on one of the oldest offensive schemes in college basketball. So while we will have a newsletter later this summer on the future of the sport, we spend some time today looking back.

In today’s edition:

  • Our new Flex offense video out now on YouTube

  • Four ways to follow a flex screen

  • Duke head coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer’s Solving Basketball appearance

  • What’s up next at Hoop Vision PLUS

The Rise and Fall of the Flex Offense

Growing up in upstate New York during the early 2000’s, “organized basketball” and “the Flex offense” were synonymous terms. From middle school all the way up to the Varsity level, I played on teams that ran the Flex.

Around that same time, college programs were winning big with the offense, the most notable being Maryland under Gary Williams and their 2002 national championship run.

Feeling nostalgic, a video on the history and X’s and O’s of the Flex offense had been on the top of my to-do list for the better part of a year — and now it’s here.

This week, we published the 22-minute voiceover breakdown, including film from over a dozen different DI schools… as well as my high school basketball team.

Video topics include:

  • 0:00 Intro to the Flex

  • 3:34 The History of the Flex

  • 6:04 The Maryland National Championship

  • 9:14 Boston College and the Tight Flex

  • 14:01 A High School Offense?

  • 17:06 Shot Selection and the Future of the Flex

Four ways to follow a flex screen

When you think of the Flex, screen-the-screener action is likely what comes to mind. That’s the version of the offense that infiltrated high school teams around the country.

There are several other variations and counters after the flex screen occurs, however, and we’ll go into four of them here.

1] Flex and Cut

There is an old cliche in basketball: the easiest way to get yourself open is by setting screens for your teammates. The logic is relatively simple: setting a screen diverts your defender’s attention.

That cliche was at the core of Gary Williams’ Flex at Maryland. After setting flex screens, the Maryland big would duck-in for a post touch.

Here’s an example of the flex and duck-in concept from the 2002 national championship game.

Another variation of this concept is to pop to the three-point line instead of ducking in. We’ve seen this quite a bit from Bruce Pearl, Bo Ryan, and Greg Gard teams over the years.

Above, you see the Louisville players miscommunicate the switch on the flex screen, which allows Micah Potter to get loose for the three.

2] Flex and Flare

Another option for the flex screener is to set a second screen.

Watch #0 on Morehead State during the clip below. The initial flex screen draws his attention, forcing him to be late on the eventual flare screen.

The flex and flare concept has been a staple for Chris Mack and Travis Steele teams after baseline out of bounds situations. It was also a counter option in Al Skinner’s Flex offense at Boston College.

3] Flex and Ball Screen

One thing that was left out of the full Flex video was Maryland’s use of ball screens within their Flex offense.

Instead of ducking in, Maryland bigs also had set plays where they would set a ball screen in the middle of the floor after the flex screen.

Here’s an example from the 2002 Elite Eight.

While #33 Ryan Randle is rolling to the basket after the ball screen, #12 Drew Nicholas replaces up to the top — forming roll-replace action.

4] Flex and Sneak

This was one of my favorite clips from the Flex video, because it takes advantage of the defense’s expectations.

On the play below, Stanford is expecting Gonzaga’s regular screen-the-screener flex action.

Instead of setting the pin down screen, the Gonzaga sneaks behind the ball for a pitch three-pointer.

Solving Basketball with Jon Scheyer

Back in August of 2019, Jon Scheyer joined me on the Solving Basketball podcast.

In an episode that has become relevant once again as Scheyer has been named the next head coach at Duke, we discussed:

  • Free throws out of 100: Jon is the most prolific Solving Basketball guest free throw shooter yet

  • Duke’s X’s and O’s: How the system has involved from Jon’s playing days to now

  • Duke’s historically strong three-point defense

  • The scouting decision to be the first team to switch everything against Virginia’s Blocker-Mover offense during the 2019 season

  • The use of analytics for both coaches and players

Solving Basketball is available on all podcasting apps; click/tap for the YouTube and Apple podcasts versions.

What’s new at HV+

A few weeks ago, we released the third installment of Hoops Dictionary for our Hoop Vision PLUS subscribers — this time on the Iverson Cut.

The topics from that newsletter included:

  • What is the Iverson cut?

  • The 1-4 high alignment used to get into the cut

  • Getting downhill of the cut

  • The Iverson lob set play

  • Iverson into a ball screen

  • Iverson as a decoy

  • A bonus voiceover video on Lafayette’s Iverson series from Hoop Vision contributor Jason Fang

Click/tap to read Hoops Dictionary

Next week, I’ll be recording and releasing a bonus video for HV+ subscribers on different ideas and concepts that were left out of the Flex video.

The bonus video will be in the style of our tutorial videos from last summer — raw and (relatively) unedited like a coaching film session.

If you’d like to receive access to this exclusive content and support Hoop Vision, please subscribe to Hoop Vision PLUS. For $10/month or $100/year, your subscription unlocks access to exclusive offseason content and helps Hoop Vision stay independent and ad-free.