Two sides of Coach Krzyzewski

Basketball is about efficient use of possesions.

– Dean Oliver

There is not a single sentence I’ve found to sum up the sport better. It would stand to reason that the coach of the collection of the NBA’s finest would understand this.

You have to take a shot every 24 seconds, and the shots we took happened to be hit.

– Coach Krzyzewski after USA rout of Nigeria

In basketball each team is obligated to shoot. The teams that win are those that do some combination of:

  • Shooting well
  • keeping the ball
  • getting the ball
  • Keeping the opponent from shooting well

You’ll notice these line up with Dean Oliver’s four factors. In the USA’s victory over Nigeria team USA shot the ball amazing well, in particular Carmelo Anthony shot well. Nigeria also shot terribly. Team USA also did remarkably well in keeping the ball with only seven turnovers and even more importantly, Nigeria turned the ball over twenty-five times! An almost perfect performance may indicate that Coach K is a genius that may be able to get Carmelo’s true potential to shine. (I’d also argue moving the three point line closer helps too.)

Over at Courtside Analyst, Ty has a slightly more critical take of Coach K after a narrow win against Lithuania.

Coach K is proving to be one of those coaches who doesn’t understand the importance of size and possessionary basketball, and overvalues scoring and the mythical “shot creation”.

Running down the box score there’s a pretty simple explanation – team USA had a pretty bad shooting night and Lithuania shot very well. In terms of possesion basketball, team USA did the same thing they did against Nigeria, they forced a lot of turnovers and didn’t turn the ball over.

Of course, Ty’s point is very simple – Coach K doesn’t value rebounding (and defense). Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler are both top 15 in rebounding in the NBA. Yet, Coach K played them a mere 20 minutes. In fact, Lithuania out-rebounded team USA.

Coach K, like many, recognizes that efficient use of possesions can mean superior scoring. However, there are other ways to be effective. Rebounding is valuable because it gets you the ball. In fact, it’s not really any different than a steal. In both cases you have the ball and the opponent doesn’t. However, the research suggests that rebounding has no significant value when it comes to getting players drafted out of the NCAA. It’s not surprising that Coach K, a prominent NCAA coach, doesn’t seem to notice them. Still, the USA has a huge advantage with them and if they want to avoid more close calls maybe they can have less Kobe and more rebounding?


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