Tag Archives: Dana Altman

Pac-12 Tournament Day 3: Monster Threes

We knew the games were going to be good. It’s championship time and this was the semifinals. But that? Stanley’s three. Kevon’s three. Both Brandon’s games. Norman’s night.  Delon and then Joseph. Let’s have a championship.

Day 3: Continue reading

Pac-12 Tournament Day 2: Chalk

 The second day of Pac-12 hoops was chalk. The day following the near advancement of the 12, 11, and 10 seeds we saw – pretty definitively – the 1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds move to the semis. I suppose that makes sense. The bad teams got beat by the good teams and one of the really good teams brought a whole lotta friends.

Day 2: Continue reading

The Drive Ep 4 Recap: It’s All Ernie

I knew this episode was going to be cut off. College basketball’s closing minutes aren’t just exhaustively long they’re post-game DVR destructive. I went 36-hours off the grid and was welcomed to technology with this fair warning:

Alas, I quickly understood. While The Drive is grand entertainment it’s also a propaganda agent. And if half the episode is going to feature a team coached by former friend of the Networks, Ernie Kent, why not put him on extended viewing? Forget behind-the-scenes, let’s just get WSU max screen time. Basically it seems that Kent muscled Oregon out of The Drive so that I now have 3 minutes and 36 seconds of Washington State Cougar road winning basketball on my DVR and 15-minutes behind the scenes of his program. Continue reading

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).

Pac-12 Basketball Media: Vini, Vidi, Vici

First off a big thanks to Rush The Court for the opportunity, again, to attend Pac-12 Media Day. Appreciate getting to go and their trust in me to cover the event.

MY RTC THOUGHTS ON LAST YEAR’S BOTTOM HALF OF THE CONFERENCE.

MY RTC THOUGHTS ON LAST YEAR’S TOP HALF OF THE CONFERENCE.

For me, Media Day is about the experience. Larry Scott noted as much in his opening remarks, that it’s an opportunity for the student-athletes to do something they don’t necessarily always get to do. For Brandon Ashley, it was the chance to come home and answer to his mom. She asked the last question of the Power Forward, confirming that he was taking his vitamins and that he was ready for the season. You should’ve seen how Brandon beamed, smiled, and got embarrassed all at the same time. I call it 2015’s first shining moment. Continue reading

Platitudes Revisited for Pac-12 Basketball Media Day

Tomorrow, for the third straight year, I will be attending the Pac-12’s Basketball Media Day. Can’t wait. In all honesty, it’s a little boring. I love the opportunity to go but there are platitudes abound. More gets said by the Guilty Remnant.

The fun part is reading between the lines. Like knowing Andy Enfield ripped UCLA and hearing him have to then praise UCLA. Or listening to Bob Dibler discuss Ed Rush and trips to Cancun. Basically, nothing will be said tomorrow that shocks us.

But what if it didn’t play out that way?

I’ve scripted the questions I’d like to ask and provided what I think coaches will respond with and what I wish they’d respond with. Continue reading

Oregon Ducks Basketball Preview: Mighty Joe Young

I’m not sure whether or not to post this preview. Day by day it becomes increasingly difficult to follow what’s going on around this program. One day it’s Jaquan Lyle – the prized recruit and presumed starting PG – being removed from the online roster. The next day it’s two more arrests and ‘internal discipline” (Dana’s words). And then Lyle’s back in the mix, attending the IMG Academy, with an open opportunity to rejoin the Ducks in January. None of which notes the transgressions of last March and the subsequent muddled timeline of who knew what and when but that ultimately resulted in the dismissal of Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis, and Brandon Austin. So there’s all that and Dana has to deal with the third largest (amongst 133 major conference teams) roster turnover in the land. The latter has been a common theme during the Altman era and two-straight NCAA tournaments suggest he can handle that. But the peripheral stuff? The school president resigned. This is a serious and brand new distraction. An issue. But you’ve got Joe Young!

 Why I Love Them:

Continue reading

THREE FOR BART: Bioethics, Arrests, Joe

  1. Players union looks at data protection – One of the most interesting classes I took in college was genetics. It was miserably hard but Ali and I passed notes and next weekend I’m going to her wedding. It’s going to be great but I digress. What became evident in this class and the other biology classes I took was the issue of bioethics. If my entire DNA is mapped, what do I do with it? Can insurance companies refuse me coverage because I’m predisposed to X, Y, or Z? We’ve noted it before but as we become privy to more and more data, what are we going to do with it? The closing quote from the attorney well versed in bioethics is very interesting. Parts of this remind me of a clause the Chicago White Sox once pulled on Frank Thomas – a diminished skills clause. They got out of his contract. What if teams began to data mine for specific trends that would suggest a player’s diminished skills? Or an impending injury? And when this trickles into the college ranks, what of all that talk about guaranteed scholarships? Continue reading

Week 10 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I’ve been pumping this “weird things in March” dialogue because it’s pretty central to why we’re such big fans of college basketball. We watch this month through a different lens with even the minutiae dramatized. But Saturday did happen. A regular season finale that saw two overtime games, the Bay schools win by a combined two points, #3 go down, and a good old fashioned whooping in the Palouse (hint: UCLA scored 55 points). Prior to that day I was pretty caught up in the sudden winning ways of road teams. A deviation from the Pac-12’s norm. So naturally Saturday saw a home sweep but not without the aforementioned drama and March. Don’t you love it? And don’t you hate Daylight Savings?

Leader in the Clubhouse: I’ll take this thing back to the hottest team model in order to effuse on the run the Oregon Ducks are on. They were dead. Essentially written off, lingering only because at one point they were ranked tenth in the nation and their collapse was a fun fact you could toss around with other topsy turvy teams like Baylor and Oklahoma State. But then they won one. And another. And another. And now it’s seven straight including a road win at UCLA and the biggest win of their season, Arizona. The Oregon Ducks will be in the NCAA tournament. They’re playing their best ball of the season right now and are only the seventh team to ever hit 10-or-more threes against a Sean Miller, Arizona team. The Ducks make threes at an elite level (38.9% 3FG% is 25th best in the nation and Calliste and Young have made 125 total threes at a combined 45% clip. wow) which has led me to call them a “Mid-major with a budget.” Living and dying by the three is a tried and true method to winning games and certainly tournament success. During their seven game win streak, the Ducks are shooting 44% from distance. Of course mixing in some defense doesn’t hurt. And by some I really mean a literally just a little. Their defense over this seven game win streak has been actually worse than their season average. The Ducks’ season long defensive efficiency is 99.6. During this streak it’s 101.8. The thing to note, however, is 101 is better than the 119 efficiency they posted during their previous 5 game losing streak. All of that said, and however they’re doing it, they’ve collected seven straight of my favorite stat as we head into the post-season. The portion of the year where the only choice is to streak.

Biggest Loser: Vegas is set. The seedings are done and games will soon commence. I don’t really have the need to pick a biggest loser because upon commencement of said games, everyone has an equal shot. Clean slate. Unless of course:

Tough. Sometimes the narratives write themselves.

What We Learned: It’s over. Beds have been made and teams are now sleeping in them. Some more comfortably than others but there are now 108 games in the rearview mirror and it looks something like this:Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 6.17.51 PM

In Defense Of: My prediction of seven Pac-12 teams in the NCAA tournament. As we headed into Saturday’s slate, my prediction looked shaky. I wasn’t sure things would or could play out in the necessary fashion for everyone to survive the bubble. We are, of course, a week away from Selection Sunday when predictions of invitations will no longer be relevant. But as we sit today – with Colorado showing well in the Bay, Cal and Stanford narrowly avoiding sweeps, and Oregon beating Arizona – the Pac is a very real candidate to see more than half its members dancing. Now I certainly felt it would be a more convincing seven teams when I made this guess four months ago. But, as noted, this is how they’ve made their beds.

The YouTuber: Let’s just blame it all, everything.

Fun Facts on the Pac-12’s Penultimate Day

This weekend we’ll spring our clock’s forward which is something I don’t generally like. But think of it this way: we’re one hour closer to the tournaments! But before that, we must get through tomorrow’s regular season finale. There are still infinite permutations of what seed which teams will garner for Vegas and I’m not going to break it down. It’s insane. On Monday we’ll have our All-Conference teams announced and the madness will begin. Or has it already begun? The calendar turned three months old last Saturday and the Pac has been anything but predictable. Utah won on the road. USC won.

We’ve got one day left, here’s a quick run through some fun facts of what you can expect to see, not see, or prepare for:

  • Oregon State hasn’t been swept on the weekend at home this season. Doesn’t bode well for ASU keeping the three seed
  • The Pac-12 has a road winning percentage of 67%. Since March, Pac-12 that home win percentage is 45%. Doesn’t bode well for Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, Cal, or Washington State.
  • The last time the Wildcats won in Eugene it was called Mac Court and the Pac-12 was a twinkle in Larry’s eye. Oregon has since built an entirely new arena. Doesn’t bode well for the Wildcats.
  • The last time I went to a Colorado-Cal game, Cal’s best player went 2-17 and still won. Doesn’t bode well for Justin Cobbs or Colorado.
  • Utah hasn’t won consecutive road conference games since visiting TCU and Wyoming in February 2009. Doesn’t bode well for the Utes.
  • In two hosting events of the Colorado Buffaloes, Cal has yielded an average of 49 points per game or 0.77 points per possession. Doesn’t bode well for the Buffs.
  • Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis, Stefan Nastic, John Gage, and soon-to-be-fifth-years Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown are all celebrating their senior night in Palo Alto, Saturday. Doesn’t bode well for the Utes.
  • USC is playing a game. Doesn’t bode well for the Trojans.
  • Arizona is +74 in scoring differential when playing a team for the second time this season (5-1). Doesn’t bode well for the Ducks.
  • I have an Arizona-Oregon bet with Matt. It’s cumulative points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks of Aaron Gordon vs. Mike Moser. The first match up lead to an underwhelming 16 (Moser) vs. 14 (Gordon). I’m not winning right now and Moser is averaging 18 & 11 during this 6-game winning streak by the Ducks. Doesn’t bode well for Adam.
  • There are six Pac-12 games to behold on Saturday. Bodes well for us.

What did I miss?