Timeout in Basketball - 6 Crucial Times you need to call it

Timeout is a vital part of a basketball game and can be the separation between ending a game with a win or a loss. Yes, you are correct, they are that important.

There are two things that you need to know in order to have a successful basketball timeout strategy:

  1. When to Call a Timeout
  2. What to say on the Timeout

Timeout in Basketball

Timeout basketball

How many times did you witnessed that the timeouts are used for yelling, cursing and, if we think about it, trying to make your players feel bad instead of trying to explain to them what needs to be done better, what were the errors and how to overcome a certain problem.

If any of you/us coaches think that yelling is going to change anything, it is not. By doing it, you are just going to add more bad energy into the situation that is already bad. Players know their mistakes, tams know their mistakes, there is nothing good going to come out of you raging in front of your kids.

When to call a timeout in basketball?

1. When you spot a mistake/mistakes

Mistakes are a crucial part of the game of basketball because we learn off of them.

What are the errors/why you called a TO? The first thing that you need to tell your players is why you've called a timeout. The usual reason is the errors made by your team. Let's say that the opponents just had 2 fast break buckets, and the reason is that 4 of the guys went for the ball and a shooter was alone defending the basket. This is my timeout:

"Guys, they are killing us with the running. I know that you want to provide us with the second-chance points and that you want to put the pressure on the glass, but we need to make some kind of balance. Let's try with two people on the rebound but the rest need to get back early. I want the guards to get back on defense and stop their running. Let's not beat ourselves up by wanting to do too much. This is good energy but we want to be smart. "

Basketball timeout needs to be called whenever there is the repetition of a mistake that lead the opposing team to an easy bucket/open shot, and it is very important to call a timeout even if you somehow managed not to receive a bucket.
Let's say you have defended the pick and roll poor two times, and two times a player with the ball took an open mid-range jumper and missed. If I see this repeat 2 times in the game, I'm calling a timeout and letting my players know how I want them to defend the ball screen action.

2. To stop the momentum of the opposing team

Momentum runs are something that happens regularly throughout the games and it is something that if not stopped can win games. The momentum starts with your team mistakes and opposing team scoring off of the fast break. If your team receives another easy bucket like this, usually they will try to redeem themselves by hitting a fast three-pointer or by some hero ball penetration that usually ends with a bad floater or a turnover that then leads again to a transition and more easy buckets.

Another thing that can fire up the opponents is the crowd. If the opponents are getting few easy buckets, the crowd is going to get crazy and they are going to make an atmosphere that is going to give energy to their team. Basketball timeout is all you need to take back the control of the environment.

You must call a timeout every time a basketball game takes this path. I usually call the next 3 positions just to make my guys focus on something else rather than to let them think about the mistakes that just happened.
If you give them strict guidelines, and you insist on respecting the ball and the play, usually you will refresh their confidence and score some points and by doing so, you will eventually stop the momentum of the opposing team.

3. To change the strategy both on offense and defense

The coach sees the game with different eyes. There are times when your team is not going to see all of the opportunities that they have, both on offense and defense, that can be exploited in order to produce some easy points or to play some good defense. This is a good time for a timeout basketball stuff.

The team strategy needs to be modified and changed according to the needs and happenings on the court.

Timeouts should be called when:

  1. Your team does not see opportunities: There is a big but slow player camping inside the paint. Call your player that is guarded by this player for some ball screen action and make him play some defense on the perimeter.
  2. A certain player on the opponent team is in foul trouble and nobody is attacking him.
  3. Opponents are small and we do not play through the low post.
  4. Opponents are fast and we play defense too close.
  5. There is a press defense and we are letting just one player do all of the work.
  6. Opponents play zone and we are not organized so we are taking bad shots.

4. To draw a play

The last three minutes of the game is the timeout basketball time. At the end of the close games, we can see 3 or 4 timeouts called and this is the best time to evaluate the quality of those timeouts. Here we can see how the teams respond to a timeout and here we can see how a coach can influence his team.
If you require a quick basket then you must be prepared to draw the play, explain to the players what the play is about and what we want to get from it, and on top of that, you want to know that your players know what is expected of them.
These situations need to be practiced.

5. To boost the energy of your team

These situations are going to occur usually when you are winning or losing by a big margin and in these times all the team. So its timeout basketball time once again where you'll have to be creative in order to motivate your team.

There are two things that I like to do.

  1. When we are up and when the game is safe: I get in the reserves who do not have much playing time. Usually, they are all fired up to use the minutes in order to prove to me that they deserve more playtime.
  2. When I am down and I know that the game is hard to win: I call a timeout, I say to my team that from this moment the score is 0:0 and that from now on I want to see if they can win our little game.

6. Rest a team

By saying this, I don't mean to rest them and not let other players play. Some teams have short benches and they are forced to play with 5, 6 players. If you are in a position to not have supstitutions, you can divide your timeouts and produce some rest time for your players.


Some of the timeout basketball moments can be very interesting, some of the timeouts in basketball are a performance for the crowd, but every time they should serve a purpose for teaching your players something new and help them overcome obstacles. This game should be thought in a manner: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn", so we must take timeouts seriously if we want to make our players better.

If you want to learn more about a timeout in basketball, go rent a DVD by clicking on the link below:

Timeout basketball
Dec 01, 2019 Viktor Sadikovic

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