Do You Save a Time Out for a Last Second Shot in the Game?

By Ken Sartini
Before I get into these game strategies... let me say that the lower level coaches... 5 to 12 year olds should spend a lot more time on the fundamentals and basics of the game. As you move up the ladder, it becomes more important for you to understand how to handle different game time situations that arise.

Do you save a time out for a last second shot in the game?

Handling time outs are a very important part of the game. How many games have you watched and at the end of the game, when the coach needed one he didn't have any? Here's how I handle time outs...

At the high school level we get one 20 second time out and three full time outs. My first time out was ALWAYS the 20 second one. Most of the time it was for a minor adjustment and if I felt that I couldn't handle that with a sub, I would call the TO.

I believe coaches should use their time outs wisely, try to save one for the last 10- 30 seconds of the game if you can. There are many times that you may need to discuss offense or defense to try and ensure the win. While it doesn't ensure the victory it will give your team the best chance of getting the W.

I know some coaches don't believe in saving times outs won't hesitate to use them up very quickly. What's your opinion? Do you save time outs? What's your reasoning?

Please leave your comments below...

Coaching Resources

How To Win at the End - Volume 1 - Over 35 situational end of game plays.

How To Win at the End - Volume 2 - Over 45 situational end of game plays for different situations than Volume 1.

Tempo Control & Delay Sets - Control the game and protect the lead with 12 different sets to choose from.


Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

Ken Sartini says:
4/21/2013 at 1:45:34 PM

Colin & Others...

I ran into this article today... and I guess I was / am in good company. I am not trying to compare myself to Tom Izzo ( I don't want to make him look bad haha ) seriously, we are thinking along the same lines - I think you might find this interesting.

Here is some philosophy on special situations from Tom Izzo. I received this notes from Steve Smiley. they were originally taken by Coach Jim Ponchak at the 2010 Clinic to End all Clinics .

The Anatomy of a Timeout

Try to save timeouts in the 1st half so you can utilize them in the second half
See what your opponent is doing and think
1. What do I want to do?
2. What do I need?

NBA is a great resource if you are looking for Sideline Out of Bounds plays (SLOB's)

• In his first two seasons at MSU, they lost 14 games by 1 to 4 points.

• Izzo reflected on what he could do to become a better coach and help his teams win those games• He took a football view to coaching his team in that there were 3 phases of the game; offense, defense, and special teams

• He felt that if they focused on Special Teams that they could gain an advantage that would help them win the close games

• Izzo views timeouts and all other dead ball situations as Special Teams

• Special Teams 1) Jump Ball 2) Timeout 3) BLOBs 4) SLOBs 5) Free Throws

• It's not necessarily the play you run that is important, but the theory/philosophy that is important.
• Need to make sure you're focused on what's going on the floor every second of the game
• Aggressive approach – never relax

• Special Teams Objectives

1. Score
2. Go inside or outside?
3. Attack a player in foul trouble?


Ken Sartini says:
1/28/2013 at 4:26:19 PM

Colin -

You make some good points, but its not always about drawing up a play. Many times it was about what we were going to do defensively and what to do when we got the ball offensively... what offense... usually it was our open post or one of our set plays that we ran.

Maybe its to calm your player down so they can refocus. There can be many reasons. I drew up a few plays at the end of games that worked well.... and then a few that stunk. Its all about the players that you have that year. ( I coached varstiy boys basketball )

My first year at the high school level... the head coach seemed to save them for the end of the year... he hated calling TOs.

I agree with your last sentence regarding being prepared.... that makes things a lot easier when push comes to shove. We ran "situations" at the end of evey practice.... we tried to cover a lot of things.. you just can cover them all.

But, with all this being said.... I would still want that TO for the end of the game. Of course I do, I wrote the article. haha (did I use them all before that situation, sure, sometimes you have to)


Colin Driscoll says:
1/28/2013 at 3:28:32 PM

Hi guys, I also play under FIBA rules and have coached at international age group.I find it interesting that a number of you talk about saving a TO. Save it for what. End game? And sacrifice changing the game earlier. Losing a game or stopping a change in momentum because you saved a TO has cost many a coach a game. Each game is different, yes some times you need to draw up a play at the end, but and i
it is a big but, more games have been lost cause of poor execution of a play drawn up by a coach when it is tight. Preparing your players to handle end game situations in my humble opinion is far more important than saving a TO just so you have a To at the end.


Pete says:
7/27/2012 at 9:12:21 PM

I coach with FIBA rules so as a coach I am the only one able to call timeouts for my team. It's nice to have control of the timeout situations. This works very well and I always try to save one or two for the end of the game if things are remotely close. I will sometimes try to use one near the last couple of minutes to give my players a quick breather if we're in a close game as well - we get 3 timeouts in the 2nd half, 2 in the first half. They can only be called in a dead ball situation. FIBA makes the game much more interesting.


Ken says:
1/31/2012 at 11:36:39 AM

Jeff, I agree regarding Dougs comments. You can win at this level by doing that... and its great that you get every kid into the game.... my question is also this... "are you getting them ready to play at the next level?" Wins are great but if your kids aren't prepared for high school ball, what have you gained. IF your high school team plays that way and the head coach is on board with this... so be it.

As for time outs.... my first time out was always a 30 second time out and YES, I always tried to save 1 or 2 for late in the game for special situations. I wanted to make sure that I had 1 or 2 so we could discuss strategy to help win a game. JMO


jeffrey says:
1/31/2012 at 3:16:16 AM

well! for me i do really save my last time out, to win the game. :-)


jeffrey says:
1/31/2012 at 3:14:26 AM

well, for me i do really save my last time out.just to get a big win! :-)


Dan says:
10/10/2011 at 1:37:10 AM

I try to save a TO for late game situations, preferably more than one. However, I think using them wisely in earlier parts of the game is even more important. I will often burn one early in a game, if I don't like what I'm seeing on the court, in an effort to refocus our team or slow down an opponent's run. I've seen too many coaches save their TO's and then not need them in the 4th quarter because they were afraid to use them earlier in the game and the game got away from them.


Alanna says:
3/24/2011 at 7:31:17 PM

I coach youth girls grades 5th - 8th grade. My TO strategy is to save 1 full TO for the end of the half/ game. The other TO is uses for motivation, correction, or a play. I have learn to understand my players strengths and weaknesses and I sub in that pattern allowing them all time to develop (5 mins. minimum). It does get chanllenging at times but my goal is fundamentals especially DEFENSE! I love it!


james bethea says:
9/8/2010 at 8:57:41 PM

Yes,I save my time out,i use them spearingly as needed.


Show More

Leave a Comment
Email (not published)
Eighteen plus three is equal to?  (Prevents Spam)
 Load New Question
Leave this Blank
    Check this box to receive an email notification when someone else comments on this page.