Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jimmy Patsos' strategy for stopping Stephen Curry

Been thinking about Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos' strategy against Davidson in which he essentially double-teamed Davidson's Stephen Curry the entire game.

The strategy effectively shut down Curry, but left Loyola playing 4-on-3 against a very good Davidson team, which won the game easily, 78-48.

Coach Patsos (pictured here) has come under heavy fire for this. But understand what he was trying to do.

As a coach, you never want to let the opposing team's best player beat your team. The idea is to design a scheme that forces other players to take the bulk of the shots.

I've posted before about having special rules for special players. In the NBA, teams devise schemes that attempt to limit the damage guys like Kobe or LeBron can cause. It's the common strategy of "You might get beat, but at least make someone else on the team beat you."

In the three games leading up to the Loyola game, Curry scored 44, 30, and 39 points. In the game he scored 30, he also had 13 assists. Most would agree that Curry is a special player who deserves special attention.

In this game, Davidson had the better team and better players. But give Coach Patsos some credit. He made a difficult decision, but one that he believed would give his guys the best chance to win.

I didn't see the game, but once Davidson's lead swelled, it seems like it would have made sense to alter the game plan -- mixing up the defenses -- in an attempt to close the gap and get back into the game.

It's critical for a plan to be flexible enough to allow for changes during the heat of battle. Adjusting a game plan doesn't mean scrapping it. There's an old saying:

"It's a bad plan that admits of no modification."

But if before the game you told your team that Curry wouldn't score, it's likely you'd believe you'd have a good chance to win the game.

And, had Loyola shot better than 34% from the field, they may have had a chance to win.

Coach Patsos also got his guys to buy into the strategy. Yes, they lost the game, but they executed a game plan they believed would help them win.

Coach Patsos offered a candid, detailed explanation of the strategy against Loyola:

"The decision to deny Stephen Curry the ball for the entire game was a calculated risk and conscious choice by myself, our staff and our players. We had a tough win the night before vs James Madison and our best defender Tony Lewis is hurt and is out for a week.

The game plan to beat Davidson, a top 25 team with a lottery pick in Stephen Curry, and 6 of 8 players back from an Elite Eight team, was to keep Curry from touching the ball.

If this was last year, we would not have done this because Curry played shooting guard. The decision was based on the fact that he plays point guard now. He is tremendous, not only averaging 35 pts, but also 9 assists per game. This means he accounts for 53 points per game for Davidson.

My young, tired and inexperienced team met with the staff and we all felt this was our best chance to win the game. It was a risk, but we felt it was our only chance to win the game. The players were all for it, they have a say here at Loyola Basketball.

The game started well, and Davidson was forced to use two timeouts to deal with the situation. The lead of 9-4 was an impressive start for our young team. We used a combination of triangle and two, box and one and a full court press to stop Curry.

Unfortunately, we could not make open shots, and committed twenty-one turnovers (mostly unforced). At halftime, I asked the team if they wanted to play straight man to man, or stay with the game plan.

They wanted to stick to the game plan in hopes we could run better offense, make shots and maybe the Davidson players would cool off from the 3 PT line.

In the second half, a seldom-used Davidson freshman made 3 straight 3-pointers -- it was not the Greyhounds' night.

Loyola Basketball tries to WIN every game we play! We played hard until the end, diving for loose balls and running our offense, we just struggled offensively.

In closing, I take responsibility for the loss, however, this was not some self-serving promotional plan. Curry is a great player who controls the game much like Tiny Archibald. He is more dangerous now because he plays the point and can score and pass."