In his own words: Hal Wissel

By Ian Thomsen  INSIDE THE NBA

 Posted: Friday March 17, 2006 11:02AM

Dr. Hal Wissel is one of the league’s top experts on shooting. Until last season he was an assistant coach to Hubie Brown with the Grizzlies. He previously worked for the Hawks, Nets, Bucks and Mavericks. Wissel was also a college coach for 24 years. His Basketball Shooting videos and instruction manuals are available on his Web site,

On why he isn’t a “shot doctor”:

“I hate that term. It infers your shot is sick. I start the other way. I like to be positive about a player’s shot because most are doing something well. When a player misses, he should have an understanding of his own shot so that when he misses he can correct a shot with a positive word. For example, if the shot was long, he can say, ‘Up’ for a higher arc, a simple one-word correction.”

On why he focused on improving his players’ shooting:

“I was a college coach, and when I got to Fordham [in 1971] we went after the best players in the country. But we were always second in recruiting, because the players were getting paid [to attend other schools]. I had a decision to make. For me to survive — without being part of that system of paying for players and not graduating players — we had to work on teaching our players to get better.”

On who he believes are the best shooters in the NBA:

Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton. Why Hamilton? Because he has the quick release and he moves without the ball. I just picked up a quote of his; he says, ‘I know before I get the ball if the shot is going in or not.’ So how does he know? Because good passes and good catches make good shots. He has to catch it ready to shoot it, and he’s great at that. He gets his hands and his feet ready, and as soon as he gets the ball it’s going up.”

On the importance of teaching teammates how to pass:

“When I [worked] with the Grizzlies, the first thing Hubie wanted to do was get them in condition. Then we started on the fundamentals. My [job] was to get them to make good passes and good catches; we didn’t even talk about shots. We started with the pass and the catch. The reason some of these teams don’t shoot well is that people don’t pass to help their teammates’ shots. You [should] pass it above the receivers’ shoulder. The pass should go to where the player would start his shot. Good passes make good shots.

“Watch some games and see where the passes go. Picture Hamilton running guys off screens: He’s going to be open for maybe a split second. If he has to reach for a bad pass, the defender is going to be right on top of him.”

On unusual shooters:

Peja Stojakovic shoots from the left side of his head. Most people would teach that it should be to the right side, between your ear and your shoulder. But where you release it can make up for other errors, and Peja releases the ball to the right of his head.

Walt Frazier used to do the same thing. But he was releasing it from the same spot every time and his hand was facing the rim, so he was in good shape.”

On Larry Bird’s flawed technique:

“He had a ‘throw’ in his shot, but he always followed through. Let’s say you start with the ball by your head; he would bring the ball back further before beginning his shot. Most people would not teach that, but I’m OK with it if the player follows through. That would be something you might want to talk about, but if [a guy is] shooting well I don’t bring it up because then you’re overcoaching, and if you overcoach you get paralysis by analysis.”

On Michael Jordan:

“When he was out jumping everybody, he’d hang in the air and get his hands set in the air.

“When he made his last comeback with Washington, he didn’t jump as high. So when he jumped in the air he didn’t have the time to get that hand where he wanted it while he was in the air, so he didn’t shoot as well. I’m not sure if he didn’t know why he wasn’t shooting as well, but that was my observation. He needed to get his hands set before he went up in the air.”

On the deceptive size of the basket:

“The basket is big. It surprises most players, but if you get up on the ladder you could put three balls in the basket with just a little bit of each ball hanging over the rim. If you measure the circumference of the basket, 3.67 balls can fit in the rim.”

On how Shaq could improve his miserable free-throw shooting:

“He needs to get a better rhythm, though his rhythm has been a little better lately. He used to pause, his legs would go straight and it [would] become an arm shot. [He needs to] get the rhythm so it’s free flowing, smooth and with no pause in it. And he wants to try for a higher arc in the shot. So you use words like ‘up and in,’ ‘high and straight.’ Words he associates positively with his shots.

“I don’t know where his confidence level is. He can talk about making them when he has to, but he’s still below 50 percent, isn’t he? So how do you develop confidence? If you’re successful you can have confidence, but you want to have it first in practice. I’m of the belief that every player should shoot at least 100 free throws every day and record the results.

“Every NBA team should be shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line. Unfortunately, if you’re over 80 percent today you’re a leader. But there’s no reason why [the minimum] shouldn’t be 77-78 percent. And there’s no reason for any player not to be over 70 percent.”