Revisiting the Wisdom of Hubie Brown

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The research that Wins Produced is based on is point differential, which is also used by both Dean Oliver and John Hollinger (at the team level) — see Calculating Wins Produced. And this method works remarkably well at explaining wins. We should note that Berri, Oliver and Hollinger have all become names in advanced statistics in the last decade and a half. Which is why Hubie Brown is remarkable.

In Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto, there are some great quotes by Hubie Brown. Enjoy!

Getting Wins Produced

To me, a crucial statistic is point differential. If you average 100 points and give up 100 points, then you’ll win half of your games. If your point differential is three— you score 103 and give up 100— you have a very good chance of winning 50 games. You want to win 55 games? Then score 105 and give up 100. I’m telling you right now, a team that has a point differential of five will win at least 50 games. You can write that in cement. By the end of the season, our point differential was seven— 109 to 102. That’s astronomical. That’s the stuff of champions. And in the last 25 games where we won 22, we averaged 108 points and allowed 92, which is off the charts.

Amazingly Hubie Brown was able to get the stats behind what wins games. It’s important to note he was coaching in the 70s, when the modern box score had not been around for that long.

On Usage

CI thought the ball wasn’t being distributed correctly before I came to Kentucky. Artis was taking only seven to nine shots a game (actually 14, averaging 18.7 points) and we raised that (to 16 per game and 23.6 points). Artis just had to see the ball more. I thought he had an unfair rap when people said he had bad hands. But you had to figure out what he could do. Put him on the low block, the right-hand side. Get him the ball and watch him shoot that little left-handed hook. Aside from Wilt Chamberlain, Artis Gilmore is the strongest man ever to play this game.

I do enjoy that Hubie Brown also proves that his memory isn’t perfect. I also like the idea that Hubie Brown thought that giving the big man the ball more (and notice that it wasn’t dramatic) was a good idea.

Clutch

I like Artis immensely. He was never late, always coachable, and got along with the other guys. He was terrific, period. And look at the progress he made. The guy had huge games in the clutch. He had 33 rebounds when we beat New York in the one-game playoff for the division title. In the five-game series against Indiana in the finals, he never had fewer than 13 rebounds and he had games of 28 and 31 rebounds. Those numbers have to blow your mind.”

First, we like Artis Gilmore around here and I always like people that recognize him as a great. Next, I more than appreciate that his view of clutch is not restricted to scoring. Yes, it’s awesome to hit the last second shot, but getting the ball for your team can matter hugely as well.

Last Note

Seeing these quotes made me appreciate Hubie Brown and his understanding of the game. One other interesting thing to note is that when we examine coaches that were able to change player performance significantly, Hubie Brown (in his time in the NBA) was not found to impact player performance. And this makes me revisit a thought I’ve had before. Understanding a problem may not always translate to solving the problem. Things like lineups and chemistry may not be as easy to solve as we’d like. That said, it’s refreshing to see that Brown was able to recognize what wins games a full 20-30 years before the “advanced” stats movement came about.

-Dre

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