Monthly Archives: November 2014

THREE FOR BART: HBO, Boyle, Stanimal

  1. HBO Producer Reveals the Crazy Story of When Bob Dylan Tried to Make a TV Show – Yes. I read the insiders look at Saturday Night Live,  Live From New York. It was hundreds of pages filled with quips like this. Getting behind the scenes is always so exciting. It’s why the 30 for 30 series has been so fantastic. It’s why I’m so excited for the basketball version of The Drive.
  2. Q&A Part I: CU Coach Tad Boyle has fond memories of high school days and coaching in Greeley This is perhaps one of the most unique interview I’ve ever seen. It’s by no means groundbreaking and Boyle plays things pretty well buttoned up. That’s far – eons – from the point. This is Boyle’s hometown paper Q&A’ing him up and the guy being pretty candid, or at least open, about the whole thing. In a word: adorable.
  3. Stanley Johnson’s special skill set – You guys, I’m an Arizona fan. Shocker, right? And this article is intended to excite me and finger point because the dude talks about staring down and calling out LeBron. He’s got “exquisite swag” and he’s tossing the most svelte collegian I’ve seen (Kaleb Tarczewski is all of the Guile sonicboom that Medcalf doesn’t describe him to be). He is the Stanimal. But this article most closely highlights what Sean Miller recently highlighted in a recent, spicy, press conference. He called his team out for lacking leadership and holding personal agendas. Quiet practices, Miller noted, were a reason his team would struggle early on. This is a great article about a great player. It also just might afford us a glimpse into what Sean Miller was talking about.

THREE FOR BART: Sportsmanship, Net, Depth

  1. Angels and Angels: Lauren Hill, Mountain Ridge High, and the American Myth of Sportsmanship – This was was particularly current to me (although the almost week late linkage) because of I piece (possibly long form) I’m drafting. What is the role of sport? To teach or to entertain? We’ve so muddled the two and I appreciate Charles PIerce’s simplification of it here. It’s not the complex unless we make it so.
  2. Obama’s net neutrality push cheers some, riles others – Is that the least shocking title to a political article you can imagine? Coin tossed, could land heads or tails. Howland calls timeout, followed by media timeout or another timeout. Girlfriend makes plan, will be late or tardy. Nevertheless, net neutrality is an issue that can and/or will affect all of us. ISPs hold significant power and as we’re on the verge of significant changes to the way we intake media – between NetFlix and HBO Go and everyone else including Amazon becoming streaming services as well as content providers – a la carte is not far away. Let’s hope we’ll have the chance to afford it.
  3. Miller Continues to Work on Rotation – Find the quote in here that’s very telling. I think it’s the one where Miller basically says how many guys he’s going to play this season but maybe I’ve been wrong all summer long. Who knows? Anyhow, he brought Stanley Johnson off the bench in his first-ish college game and went deep into that bench for the exhibition. Based on performance, I’m sticking with my semblance-of-depth prediction. This is a six-man work horse.

THREE FOR BART: Askia, Interstellar, Galen

  1. As Ski Goes – Last season I wrote four different defenses of Askia Booker and what he means to the Colorado Buffaloes. I suppose it goes without saying that I’m a fan. Most certainly a proponent. My friend and yours, Will Whelan, does a great job here of telling more of that same story. Booker is beyond integral to this program and most certainly in a season like this where there are so many questions to be answered. Booker is going to be a big part of those answers.
  2. Should You See it? A Curious Consumer’s Decision-Making Guide to ‘Interstellar’ It was described to me as a combination of Inception and Gravity. I’m going to see it tonight. Also, is “Should You See It?” a regular piece on Grantland?
  3. USC Men’s Basketball: Young and Hungry – I don’t think we’re going to hear a ton about the USC team this season. I foresee them making fireworks once or twice but they’ll likely be deep into the latter half of the conference standings. All of that said, I really liked this preview from Neon Tommy and wanted everyone to familiarize with the Galen Dunk Center. Plus, it’s Monday morning and do you really need a heavy piece right now?

THREE FOR BART: 11/14, Conjecture, Etiquette (& bonus!)

  1. Pac-12 Networks announces talent assignments for “Full Court Friday” November 14 – This means that everything is getting real. Or at least a whole lot real-er. The talent we want to see was announced a long time ago (schedule release if you need a reminder of what I’m referencing) but just in case you got lost amidst college football voting shows, Madison Bumgarner hyperbole, or my birthday, the season starts next Friday. Your team will bounce a ball and it’s going to count against (or for) their record.
  2. Gregg Doyel on Tom Crean: It’s Not Personal – It seems it is because Doyel is new to the Indy Star and has already inked a few ‘Creans gotta go‘ articles. If you haven’t followed the IU incidents outside of their on court success (or otherwise), there have been a number of underage alcohol related events including one drunk teammate hitting another drunk teammate with a car. Doyel called it an epidemic. This relates to Pac-12 basketball. What if Doyel’s right and Crean is gone? He gets fired and then, let’s just say, UCLA has a solid season. They make the tournament and maybe even the second weekend. That’d be great for Westwood. But now Steve Alford’s alma mater has a vacancy and Alford has some high major success under his belt. Just some food for November thought.
  3. Why the etiquette of college basketball hiring and firing has changed – I thought this would be great placement for this piece considering the above blurb on complete and irresponsible speculation. It’s a storyline? Whatever the case, Nicole Auerbach outlines how and why coaching hunts have changed from a courtesy call to an Athletic Director to tracking speculative flights. I’ve heard stories about body doubles. But it also raises the question of how do you discuss big news? Is it through traditional communication means? The way we interact with one another is evolving and so too are the acceptable means to convey varying messages varying in significance. Tweet me your thoughts and I’ll facebook message ya back.
  4. Zach Clark and I discuss Arizona Hoops – Let’s start a campaign to get ESPN Tucson onto streaming. I dunno how we start this. Do we start a petition? Storm the studios? Let’s not get carried away but maybe the people demand PacHoops?

2015 Pre-Season All-Conference Ballot

Below you will find my submission to the Rush The Court Pac-12 All-Conference Voting. I’m not sold on this being a great Pac-12 but it isn’t 2012, either. Furthermore, run through that list of All-Conference performers. There’s plenty of heat in there. I had to keep Askia Booker, Shaq McKissic, Brandon Taylor, Andrew Andrews, Xavier Johnson, David Kravish, and other quality ball players off of that list. Nevertheless, here’s how I see things shaking out.

Wanna talk about it? COME AT ME BRO!!!!! [twitter link]

Predicted standings

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THREE FOR BART: Cuonzo, Tim, Homeless

  1. Cal’s Cuonzo Martin product of tough environment – And it shows. Well, I gathered as much in just a morning with the man but in what little interactions we had (he was leaving the kitchen as I was entering and he shook the two hands in front of me and then we awkwardly looked at each other and just carried on) the man carries that toughness. Repeatedly he discussed being comfortable while uncomfortable and getting outside of one’s comfort zone. He wants his team going hard at all times. Here’s why.
  2. Tim Miles denied position with Nebraska student group after humorous application – This is gold, utter gold, and reminds me of this blog post from Minnesota’s Richard Pitino. Always love it when coaches not only break the barrier, but do so in a human way.
  3. College basketball’s only ‘homeless’ team finds humor in misfortune – They say you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself and this squad has mastered just that. They’ll be stronger and better and – in a completely unrelated note – I’ve really enjoyed the off-the-beaten-path stories Eisenberg has been sharing in the lead to this season. Really good stuff.

Desperate Times: Tempo Variance and Job Security

In 2012, Ben Howland landed the best recruiting class in the nation. His program had been floundering but that year he amassed what appeared to be his most talented Westwood team in awhile. One of the concerns, however, was that this team wouldn’t have the  traditional Howland characteristics of toughness and defense. These traits have been both quantified and qualified but as a reminder, up until 2012, Howland teams were averaging a 65.8 adjusted tempo (this includes two Pitt seasons) and relentless defense. Until 2012 – and excluding the 2005 anomaly of a 70 AdjT – Howland rarely wavered off of that pace. The variance across tempos, again excluding the 2007 anomaly, was just 1.43. Variance, as a reminder, is a calculation of how far a set of numbers is spread out. It allows us to recognize how fickle a quantified act can be. A smaller number suggests a pretty consistent set of data. A bigger number, conversely, alerts us to a dataset with a great amount of fluctuation.

Howland’s 2012 Bruins would play to a 69.2 adjusted tempo, 5% greater than his average career tempo (including 2005). He significantly deviated from how he’d previously been successful. Three days after the season ended, Ben Howland was fired.

Why Look at This?

I understand that there are a lot of factors that come into a firing. The 2012 Bruins actually won the conference title. They earned a six-seed in the NCAA tournament. Howland was fired nevertheless. While that maybe isn’t directly correlated to adjusted tempo, it would seem that a consistent pace might be a good indicator of prolonged success. A coach presumably gets his job (particularly in the Pac-12) because he has amassed success. He’s probably good at coaching a style he’s become an expert in and gets his players to buy into that style, that system.

Howland’s career tempo variance (including 2005) is 3.9. Need context? Me too. So I found the career variance for every active coach in the Pac-12:

Coach Variance Average Tempo
Dawkins 1.14 67.37
Martin 1.3 64.11
Miller 2.4 66.13
Boyle 2.61 67.38
Enfield 2.67 69.55
Alford 3.51 67.57
Altman 4.24 66.97
Tinkle 5.24 64.24
Kent 6.45 68.5
Romar 7.58 70.9
Sendek 8.02 65.03
Krystkowiak 8.42 65.63

This suggests that Howland was about the median amongst current Pac-12 coaches. Of course none of these men have been fired, so it seems there isn’t a great deal to take away from this regarding the understanding of whether varying from one’s career tempo foretells anything about job security.

The above data will come into play as we monitor the 2014-15 season. Will Krystokowiak begin to normalize as his plan comes into effect? He’s had so little talent at times in Utah that he probably hasn’t been able to dictate tempo. The rest of the Pac dictated Utah’s pace. I predict this season will look a lot more like what a K team wants to be. Will Sendek continue to push the gas pedal? He’s notably played both sides of the continuum. Thus high variance. What’s Ernie’s plan? More to come.

Our Hypothesis

The hypothesis is that greatly deviating from one’s established norm is indicative of a hot seat (if not an already fired man). A desperate times call for desperate measures type theory. So I developed a list of fired Pac-12 coaches and some other notable leads who were relieved of their duties. Here’s what I found:

Coach Variance % dev. In fired year
Ken Bone 11.4 6.2
Ben Howland 3.9 5
Ernie Kent 6.5 1.9
Kevin O’Neill 5.2 5.3
Seth Greenberg 8.3 6.6
Sydney Lowe 1.9 2.5
Ben Braun 4.5 5.1* / 3.3**
Mike Davis 4.5 3.8^ / 4.9^^
Average 5.775 4.46
  • Average Variance: 5.8
  • Average % Change in final season vs. average season: 4.5%
  • *Fired at Cal, **Fired at Rice
  • ^Fired at IU, ^^Fired at UAB

The major variance culprits were Ken Bone and Seth Greenberg. Each of their last teams played greater than 6% differently (based on AdjT) than their respective career averages. In both cases it was the coach’s slowest team.

Ben Braun significantly deviated from his average tempo, 66, prior to being fired, too. But what I found interesting here was that in each of his final seasons, he tried both extremes: 69.5 in his last season at Cal was the fastest team he’s ever coached, 63.9 at Rice was the second slowest. Mike Davis tried the same extremes in his final campaigns in Bloomington and Birmingham, respectively. Desperate times, desperate measures.

ben braun

Ben Braun was fired by Cal in 2008

I’d like to reiterate that this is far from an exact science. I’ve already cited Ben Howland’s fastest season, 2005. It was his first dance with UCLA before reverting to his norm and rattling off three straight Final Fours. Clearly, he was not fired after losing to Texas Tech in the 2005 tournament.

The Big-ish Takeaway

But this is an interesting exercise in understanding what makes a given coach good at what he does. So often we’re thrown coach speak about ‘staying the course’ and ‘respecting the process,’ practices I don’t disagree with. It’s therefore interesting to me the times these guys do deviate from what seems to be their course; the paths that made them successful to this point. So while I’m not necessarily saying that a change of pace is indicative of a coach’s impending fall from grace, I do think it can be a telling sign.

Which might draw our attention to the warmer seats in this year’s conference, namely Lorenzo Romar. For the record, I think his job is relatively secure. He’s garnered enough good juju to weather the storm he’s in. But three straight seasons of decreasing win totals isn’t exactly deserving a vote of confidence. He’s had one of the higher degrees of tempo variance amongst current Pac-12 coaches (7.58) and had never coached a Washington team to a sub-70 tempo until…the last three seasons when we’ve seen the bottom begin to fall out. Two seasons ago was the slowest UW team he’s ever coached (65.7). He survived that turn and KenPom actually projects the Huskies at a 70.5 AdjT this season. Further, he’s got the forthcoming recruiting classes and so I reiterate, Romar has banked some good merit in the Athletic Department. He’s coached an NCAA one-seed. But if he’d never had that success, it’s easy to imagine his slowest team and their 17-15 record earning him a pink slip.

BoneReax

Ken Bone was let go my WSU after a slow season.

We could ask Ken Bone about it. He’s now an assistant at Montana after coaching Washington State to a 10-21 record at the second slowest pace he’s ever coached. They were 6.2% slower than the average Ken Bone team. It’s also worth noting here (with reverence to Romar’s 2014 Huskies) that last season was a historically fast paced season. Examine this KPI spreadsheet for more. Scoring was up at to a four-year high. Rules changes behooved the fast and I looked into it, too. Which is all to say that Bone likely was playing at an even slower pace than what was calculated. Rules changes helped his offense. Just as it did Romar and any other coach flirting with a style change last year. Of course, these trends suggest that speeding up your offense, forcing the defense to make a play and thus more likely to commit a foul (FTA/game was up 13% vs. 2013). Alas, that’s not the strategic changes these men chose to make. It may have cost Ken Bone his job.

Of course Bone also had the highest variance of any coach studied, perhaps giving merit to the idea that it’s really tough to get talent to Pullman. And which also begs the question of whether or not there is a correlation between winning and tempo variance (we’ll examine that next and take into consideration the rules changes with their affect on tempo).

It can’t go overstated that this is not an exact science. A slowing or accelerated tempo doesn’t necessarily mean the axe is coming. But it just might be the Blue Mountains on a Coors Light: an indicator that a shitty beer is trying just a little harder to be less bad.

(I still enjoy a tailgating with a CL).

THREE FOR BART: Work, Drive, Recovery

  1. The Art of Not Working At Work – No comment.
  2. Basketball version of ‘The Drive’ a positive for UA, Athletic Director Greg Byrne says – I mean, color me excited to watch. But fear not, many – if not all – programs will be featured. The thing about these kinds of shows isn’t that they provide that in-depth of a look, but rather the production value. I find that these shows have been put together really well. They tell a nice story. And maybe I’m blurring the lines behind going behind the lines and production, but the interations of such shows have all been quite enjoyable (namely: HBO’s 24/7, Hard Knocks, and the P12N’s The Drive)
  3. Brandon Ashley is over the hurt – I found this to be a surprisingly insightful and open article about Ashley’s recovery from injury. I spoke with him and he didn’t give me nearly this much introspection. I’m also not a terrific asker of questions. Perhaps Medcalf is. Whatever the case, this is a well done one.

THREE FOR BART: MadBum, Platoon, Kindness

  1. ‘OMG. You’re so much more than awesome.” – This is the perfect story. It’s got the father-son baseball narrative to which I had to hold back tears on a Brooklyn bound train. Secondly, it’s got a parent text message in which a grown man living in rural Carolina who built the house he raised his bad ass son in writes “OMG.” Madison Bumgarner is the sports god du jour and that’s ok. This story just further humanizes him and probably strikes a chord close to your own heart.
  2. Why an obscure DIII team can offer a blueprint for Kentucky –  I’m very curious to see how this works. I don’t know how you feel about Calipari but I kind of love him. He’s such a great quote and I love how he frames this as doing what’s best for the kids. He’s dynamite behind the mic. But in all seriousness, PR and whatever aside, this is an interesting concept. Forty minutes of hell could be…hell. Particularly when we consider Kentucky’s talent.
  3. On Kindness – I don’t know Cord Jefferson but we both grew up in Tucson and have that as common ground. I appreciate his perspective on different things and in this case he effuses on kindness. And on his mother. We’ve previously linked to a lot of father-son tales but here Cord really captures the story of his mother. It’s a good one.