Monday, July 14, 2008

"Communicating" with your opponent during the game

I read where White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was "taunting" a Rangers' pitcher last night.

According to the report I saw, the pitcher "was in the midst a of potential meltdown – having already allowed three runs on five hits in the ninth inning – when he heard Guillen taunting him from the visiting dugout."

Said the the pitcher, C.J. Wilson:

"I didn't have good stuff, and then I got angry when Ozzie Guillen started yelling at me, and I just took it to another level."

Of course, players talk trash during the game. But coaches will, from time to time, say some things -- directly and indirectly -- to opposing players during the course of a game, as well. At times, it's simply conversation. At other times, it's more strategic.

[At the same time, opposing players will sometimes say things -- directly or indirectly -- to the other team's coach or bench. I recall Patriots' DB Rodney Harrison and Ravens coach Brian Billick going at it last season during a game.]

From a coaching perspective, I prefer not to talk directly to the opposing team's players as Guillen did last night. However, you can say things to your team that -- intentionally or not -- will be heard by the guys on the other team.

The key is picking your spots.

For instance, as a rookie, Dwyane Wade struggled with his outside shot, but he was (and still is) devastating on the dribble-drive.

So at Golden State we had a rule: When Wade had the ball, all five of our guys had to get a "foot in the lane." When he'd catch the ball, I'd call out, "back off." We respected his drive that much.

Of course, Dwyane heard the call. And he's such a competitor that he wanted to prove that he could shoot, so he took more perimeter shots against us, something that (at that point in his career) we really preferred because stopping him off the drive is nearly impossible.

Today, teams can't do that against Wade as he's improved so much as a shooter.

Another example: My Dad used to isolate Karl Malone offensively. He'd call "Ice Malone" versus a quicker guy like Sam Mitchell. Two things happened when he did this: First, it let the refs know that we were attacking someone.

Second, Karl was so competitive that when he heard the call he'd get up and really try to crowd Mitchell, which is what we wanted as Sam was looking to dribble drive. Malone was an intense competitor and would get real low in his defensive stance, but Sam was much quicker and could usually get by Karl and get to the rim.

Regardless of your goal, be careful not to inspire your opponent so that you regret it later.