Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Time Out? No!

All the chatter on the radio this morning, specifically on Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPNRadio, has been about the last 10 seconds of last night's Memphis vs Kansas NCAA basketball championship game.  Should Coach Calipari have called time out after the made free throw that put his Memphis team up by three points with 10 seconds left?  Should Memphis have fouled the Kansas player as he entered the front court with the ball and his team trailing by three points?

In listening to the arguments, it appears to me that the correct answer to both questions is yes, Calipari should have called time out to make sure that his players knew their roles and that the goal was to foul the Kansas player who had the ball once he crossed the half court line, provided that the player was not in the act of shooting.

That, however, is not the point of this post.  The point of this post is that I fundamentally agree with Digger Phelps on this.  Digger said that he, Digger, worked on this in practice at Notre Dame all the time and that the players should know what to do in this situation having practiced it over and over.  Provided that the goal was indeed to foul (as I believe Coach Calipari said in his post-game interview), then either Memphis failed to practice this scenario or the practice failed to carry over into the situation in which it was to be used.  This latter concern is a big one in coaching.  How do you train people for stressful situations?  It can be done, but it's not easy and the process does not guarantee successful execution at the moment of truth.

A timeout call very well may have changed the outcome of the game.  However, I think we as sports fans, players, and even coaches lose something very important when we call timeouts in those situations.  As fans we lose the excitement of the moment, the intensity of the nonstop action.  As players, we lose the autonomy to make or break the game through our actions.  As both players and coaches we lose the chance to see if our training paid off. 

Therefore, I propose a rule change for basketball.  No  timeouts.  By banning the timeout we would force coaches to do their coaching before games, during the now ubiquitous "media" timeouts, and during normal stoppages in play.  Coaches are too big a part of the drama of the games as it is, in my opinion, and removing one of the big in-game coaching tools, the timeout, would reduce that heavy presence.

Should Calipari have called timeout.  Yes.  So let's change the rules so he can't.  We'd have more entertaining games like the one last night, and less second guessing of at least one aspect of that great game.

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