Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Managing the clock

Interesting story in ESPN The Magazine about clock management. The article is about managing the clock in NFL games, but has relevance for basketball.

According to the writer, "Clock mismanagement occurs every week in the NFL. Even in the playoffs, when you'd expect coaches to be extra vigilant about each precious second. After all, these are the guys who burn upward of 100 hours each week micromanaging game plans, scripting plays for near-infinite scenarios, dissecting film and anticipating an opponent's every possible move. But when it comes to one of the most direct factors in wins and losses—how and when the clock is stopped in crunch time—coaches are often clueless."

In his book, "Football Clock Management," John Reed contends that "Every second you leave on the clock unnecessarily may be the one your opponent uses to beat you." And while a number of NFL coaches reportedly own Reed's book, most won't admit it.

That's because, according to Reed, "Coaches are reluctant to admit they don't know everything about anything."

Interesting to know that "a few coaches even enlist a quantitative research analyst," who "spend game days in a luxury box, clutching complex charts, breaking down info about time intervals between plays and relaying advice to the field. (Using computers during games is illegal.)"

These math geeks prefer to remain anonymous; it's an unwritten rule that only coaches should make strategic in-game decisions. But to some bosses, like Bill Belichick, there's no one more valuable. The Patriots head coach lets only one voice come through his headset in a game's final minutes: that of Ernie Adams, New England's research chief, a boarding school friend of Belichick's who's fairly obsessed with the technical, historical and numerical minutiae that win and lose games.

While it's not a guarantee of success, experience certainly helps. As Titans coach Jeff Fisher (pictured above) puts it:

"The longer you've done it, the better prepared you are. You've experienced everything."