By Rich Figel
OC12 SCHEDULE CHANGES: The new March episode of Career Changers TV was preempted by high school wrestling this weekend, but now that we have new time slots on OC12 (er, OC16 which is shown on channel 12/high def 1012) you have additional viewing options each day. Click here for the new times under "When to Watch." On this month's show, we have segments on the Job Quest job fair and Farmlovers Farmers' Markets -- btw, despite the rain there was a great turnout for their Cacao Fest in Kailua on Sunday!
Diehard sports fans love to play armchair quarterback (which really should be "armchair coach" or "backseat coach" since QBs rarely call their own plays anymore, unless it's an audible at the line). That includes me and my wife, who had an interesting suggestion when the UH men's basketball team was leading Long Beach State by one point with about 18 seconds remaining in the game last Thursday. LBSU had the ball and called a timeout. It was obvious The Beach could hold out for the last shot to win or lose the game. She said, "They (UH) should foul!" I agreed.
Here's why: UH had committed seven team fouls, putting them in a 1-and-1 penalty situation; odds favored LB getting off a decent shot and even if it missed, there's a good chance the player could be fouled while taking that shot. Give average players two foul throws, most will make at least one. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, the home team -- Long Beach State -- usually has the edge in overtime. If UH had fouled right away before LB got off a shot -- possibly a 3-point attempt -- the player would shoot a 1-and-1. Make the first, you get a second foul throw. Miss, and the edge goes to UH players who have inside position for a rebound. Worst case scenario, foul and LB makes both foul shots; UH down by 1 with around 12-15 seconds left. Best case scenario, LB player misses first foul throw, UH rebounds, gets fouled and the advantage shifts to UH...
But apparently UH head coach Gib Arnold decided to let LB take the final shot without fouling. Time ticked off, and the LB player was left wide open to hit a 3-pointer. UH goes down by two points and had to rush a shot to tie or win with around 8 seconds left. Gib still had a timeout in his pocket, but they had already decided not to use it since that could have given LB time to set up a defensive play. The UH guard made a desperate attempt at putting up a prayer of a shot... it missed. Worse, it looked ugly because the ball wasn't in the hands of their best shooters at the end. With that loss came a lot more second-guessing about coaching decisions, particularly in close games decided in the final minute or two. Some of it just comes down to luck. In at least two or three UH losses this season, had the ball bounced differently on the last shot of the game, they would have won.
What's frustrating for fans is we've seen bad clock management and examples of bad math not just in basketball, but in football and also questionable baseball odds strategy as well (eg., when to sacrifice and bunt runners over in low-scoring games). In b-ball, there have been opportunities for the Bows to play 2-for-1 shots in the final minute before halftime. You hear ESPN announcers say it all the time -- since there's a 35-second clock in college, if the team with the ball gets off a shot and leaves at least 40-secs, odds are they will wind up taking the last shot. Do the math. Put up two shots in less than a minute compared to the opponents one shot, and you're more likely to come out ahead. But if you use up the 35-seconds to get off just one shot and leave your opponent time to score, you go from a chance of a 6-0 scoring run to being down 0-3 in that final minute.
UH football clock management was downright awful at times this past year. I think part of the problem is the head coach is expected to make the calls on timeouts, but with so much going on, you really need another brain calculating the numbers stuff. For instance, I have seen very good coaches and players fail to realize that the opponents were going to let them score so they could get the ball back and have a chance to tie or win the game. In those games, the running back or quarterback should have just taken a knee at the goal line so they maintained control of the ball and could run the clock out. But the players got so excited, they high-stepped into the end zone, not realizing they were giving their opponent a chance to snatch victory from defeat. However, it falls on the coaching staff to alert their players about those possibilities in the waning moments of a game.
Anyhow, maybe what the UH sports teams needs is an assistant coach to be the Designated Screamer -- someone like us fans who yell at the TV screen or shout from the stands advice on when to call timeout or purposely foul an opponent. In the end though, I keep reminding myself it's only a game... and no one feels worse about losing the close ones than the coaches and players themselves.