When You Evaluate, Be Sure To Evaluate What You Evaluate

By Don Kelbick

Here in the land of “LeBronica” (formerly know as Miami), a Miami Heat game is occasion to reinvent the game. Nowhere, in my memory, has a team been over-analyzed, over dissected, reconstructed and otherwise ridiculously evaluated.

Each loss is a reason to fire the coach and break up the team. Each win is a reason to cancel the rest of the season and hand them a championship.

The latest evaluation is the fact they are 5-14 (at this writing) in “close” games (decided by 5 points or less) and 1-19 when taking the last shot for the game (keep in mind that some of the games were tied and went into overtime).

While that statistic might be true, keep in mind that in this world there are 3 kinds of people, liars, damn liars and statisticians. Statistics like that are useless unless put in some type of context. As I listen to the radio every day, watch ESPN, NBATV and other analysts discuss their ideas, as usual, mine are different.

I have sat in countless coaching meetings, listening to coaches massage their egos with statistics, trying to find reasons for wins and losses. Usually the answer is not found in statistics. I remember Jim Valvano, the late great NC State coach and TV broadcaster telling me a story about the football team when he was the athletic director at NC State. Their team had just been beaten 44-3. In the press conference, the Head Football coach was answering questions about the loss in the press conference with, ”I don’t know. I have to look at the film.” Valvano stood up in the back of the room and said, “I’ll tell you what happened and I don’t have to watch the film.” The coach said, “Okay, what happened?” Valvano said, “You got your ass kicked!” Sometimes it is just that simple.

In evaluating teams, others will evaluate results. As coaches and players, we should evaluate process. Statistics (and score is a statistic), are meaningless unless we relate them to something. Is losing at the buzzer by missing a shot really losing a close game? Maybe you think that is a strange question. But, let’s look a little deeper.

In examining the Heat’s close losses look like this. Against the Knicks, they had a 23 point lead in the third quarter, lost by 3. Against Orlando, had a 24 point lead in the 3rd quarter, lost by 2. Against the Bulls, had a 12 point lead deep into the 4th quarter, lost by 2. Against Utah, had a 23 point lead in the 3rd quarter, lost by 4 in overtime. In fact, in 11 of their 14 loses, they had double digit leads deep in the 2nd half. Now you tell me, are those really close games?

I am not evaluating the Heat’s play, players, coaches or anything else. Nor am I criticizing the evaluators. What I am saying is you have to look beyond the final score to get at what the real problems are.

Last second shots are rare. Some go in, some don’t. Walk into a gym, pick up a ball and throw it at the basket. Some will go in, some won’t. It is not an indicator of talent or ability. But when you consistently have the same problem, and it is a bigger problem but not a bigger situation, true causes, effects and fixes are often hidden. It seems to me, if the Heat are able to get at the cause of losing such large leads consistently, what happens at the end of the game will straighten itself out.

In the Orlando game, they were outscored 41 – 19 over the last 14 minutes of the game. That is not very good play. So, was the fact that they missed the game tying jumper indicative of not being able to play in the last minute or was it just a continuation of the poor play over the last 14 minutes. Though we try, we really can’t isolate the last minute or 30 seconds or 10 seconds from the rest of the game. When you have missed 12 shots in a row, why do you expect you will hit number 13? Because it is the last one? When you have played poorly for 13 minutes and 50 seconds, why would you be surprised by playing poorly in the last 10 seconds?

I am not talking about the belief that the next shot will go in. We all have to have that belief or we can’t play. I am talking about evaluating the game and improving your team. If you have not screened well the whole game and you miss the last shot, don’t work on last second plays, work on screening. If you haven’t defended over the last 10 minutes of the game and miss the last shot, don’t fix your offense, fix your defense.

Here is the danger in evaluating the result instead of the game. I was listening to an interview with Chris Bosh after the Chicago lost. In this game, they missed a box out on a defensive foul shot and Mike Miller fouled on the rebound giving the Bulls 2 foul shots for the game. Bosh said it is difficult to get over the fact that they missed 1 box out and it cost them the game. No Chris! You lost because you lost a 12 point lead with 5 minutes to go by taking bad shots and turning the ball over. That is why the last play was significant. Not a bigger problem but a bigger situation. If they hadn’t lost the 12 point lead, the last play is incidental.

By focusing on the last play, the bigger, more consistently occurring issues will never get solved.

To view coaching products from Don Kelbick, go to Don Kelbick Products.

For more information on Don Kelbick, go to www.DonKelbickBasketball.com.

Does Each Player Dribble The Ball On Your Youth Team

By Joe Haefner

Here is a short commentary between Jim Bado and one of the girls on his youth team. It discusses the importance of having everybody handle the ball on your youth teams…

Before Saturday’s game started, Michele plopped beside me on the bench.

“Coach,” she said, “do I have to play guard today?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “everyone plays guard on our team.”
“But I don’t want to. I’m not any good at dribbling. Can’t I just play forward? I’m better at that.”
“You’re playing guard. You get better at dribbling by doing it.”
“But I always lose the ball or they take it from me — I don’t want to do that in the game today.”
“Michele,” I said. “Remember when you started with our team two seasons ago?”
“You’d never played basketball before and didn’t know how to shoot a lay-up, did you?”
“And you didn’t know how to pass or play defense either, right?”
“And now, because you’ve done those things in games, you can do all of them, right?”
“No,” she said, before catching herself, “I mean yeah, yeah, I can.”
“Well, it’s the same way with dribbling. That’s why I want you to bring the ball up in games, so you’ll get better at it. And I know you can do it.”
She thought about that for a second and said. “Ok, but can I just do it once or twice today?”

It took everything I had not to crack up. Seeing her, and all the girls improve, is why you coach youth sports.

You can find more articles from Jim Bado that are usually non-basketball related at the LOSER Report.

4 Things You Can Learn From State Competition

By Jeff Haefner

I don’t know about you but I watched quite a few of the state playoff games in Iowa recently.  I noticed a few things we could all learn from.  I’m sure if you watched in other states you noticed the same things happened all across the country.

Every team that made it far in the state tournament and into the championship rounds had GREAT guards!  (Duh)   They usually had good inside players too – but every single team had TWO, THREE, FOUR, or even FIVE really good guards that could handle the ball and control the game.

I noticed these guards were very well schooled and could do 4 things extremely well…

1 – They could handle the ball with either hand effortlessly going at any speed.  You could tell they spent a lot of time working on their feel and control of the ball.

2 – They changed speed beautifully keeping the defense off balance and controlling the game.  They constantly used a variety of speeds, not just slow and fast.

3 – They used the back up dribble consistently to get out of trouble, keep their dribble alive, keep the defense off balance, create good passing angles, and control the game.

4 – They used change of direction cross-over moves skillfully and effortlessly keeping the defense off balance, penetrating at will, getting where they want, and controlling the game.  They almost always changed speed when they made the cross over dribble and change of direction.

It was a beautiful thing to watch these skilled guards play at such a high level and control the game.  It is no coincidence that you see these skills at such a high level.

As a coach, you are NUTS if you’re not proactively developing these skills with your players.  And not just the point guard!  You need at least three players on your team (and preferably more) that can do all those skills above.  It’s not rocket science.  It just takes practice.

Use the off season to develop these skills and maybe at some point you’ll find your team at the state tournament too.