I was very curious how The Drive was going to be introduced. The Pac-12 Networks cuts up so much content that I was really excited to see what they came up with. Naturally things opened with a Wooden shot. Makes sense. But could there have been an any more fitting opening to behind the scene’s 2014-15 Pac-12 footage than Tad Boyle telling the most disappointing team in the conference that “it’s time for us to start playing the way we’re capable of playing.” I love you Pac-12 Networks. Continue reading
Spencer and I took to Maples and Haas last week. Live sports are great. We actually don’t delve deep into those experiences but rather turn our attention to how the Utes responded this weekend after being called soft by Titus; we explore 1-seed scenarios for the Wildcats; we postulate on any seeding options for the Beavers; and go on zero tangents about first-floor restrooms.
WANE (and on SoundCloud):
Before embarking on our fourth week of Pac-12 play, allow me a brief State of the Pac address. SOTP, if you will: Continue reading
The game of the year was played this week and it wasn’t in Seattle (I see you, Russ) and it wasn’t in Tucson (though I see you, Stanley). If on Wednesday I’d written that the GotW was going to be played during #Pac12AfterDark in Pullman, you’d have thought me crazy. But Ernie got his first win over his old team and it was full on crazy. Further, Arizona rolled up on Utah just to remind everyone where the Pac-12 is won. February 28, however. The one thing that delivered on its promise of greatness was Bilas-Walton on Thursday night. They talked about medicine and got into creationism. The duo delivered.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.
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|
|Ben Braun||4.5||5.1* / 3.3**|
|Mike Davis||4.5||3.8^ / 4.9^^|
- 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.
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.
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).
I couldn’t do it. I’ve previewed eleven of the twelve teams in this conference but I knew that I couldn’t preview the Arizona Wildcats without egregious, alienating amounts of bias. I mean, I could do it, I’m just not sure you’d want me to. In a season like this I had to step back for fear of alienating you, my friends. So I asked – well – my friends to preview the Wildcats for us! Section by section, fellow interneters and real-life friends preview the 2014-15 Arizona Wildcats. The World According to You:
What exactly is a Giant Death Robot? Well, it’s the apex predator of the Civilization word of Sid Meier, a hulking killing machine noted for being ‘a towering mass of guns, rockets and futuristic death-rays.’ It’s also my pet name for the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats. Considering how badly they thrashed my Buffs in three meetings, I’m possibly biased by circumstance, but that bunch certainly was a writhing machine of death for many of their opponents. The whole melange of destruction was based on a ferocious defense that stood as one of the best I’ve ever witnessed in person. They would expel all their energy by the Elite Eight, falling in overtime to Wisconsin, but I don’t necessarily hold that against them. Last season’s Tournament was especially bonkers, and Frank Kaminsky was born to give them fits. C’est la vie.
The trick then becomes, how does Sean Miller and crew reform the GDR after losing probably their two best players in consensus All-American Nick Johnson and athletic wunderkind Aaron Gordon? *laughs* Just kidding, there’s no trick, it’s just the typical tango of some elite returners and a top-5 recruiting class. I guess that’s life at the top…
Why Brad Loves Them (friend of the program):
I’ll leave that to Stanley Johnson:
“I love to win; that’s why I came to school here. I thought we have the tools to win and the people that are here love to win as well. I think winning is an attribute. It’s a mentality and it comes with competitiveness.”
He’s right. For his part, Johnson is the reigning California Mr. Basketball (succeeding Aaron Gordon) and has won 70 straight high school games. As for “the people that are here,” they won 33 games last year and lost just 5 – by a combined 12 points. Maybe a coincidence, but they didn’t lose a game until they they lost Brandon Ashley to injury – he was averaging 12 points a game. Arizona is starting three McDonald’s All-Americans. The other two have seven years of experience and 13 feet between them. Of those one was a Cousy Award finalist (best collegiate PG) as a junior, and the other is a 7-foot center who averaged 9 and 6 last year (in just 28 minutes). For depth, Arizona will sprinkle in a bench with another seven footer, a 39% 3-point shooter (and another one that might be better), a five-star PG, and the top JuCo player in the country. So, why do I love them? Because they’re climbin’ a ladder in Lucas Oil. Besides, I’m not the only one:
I see you Rondae #ShoulderShimmythempeoples
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 24, 2014
So, obviously there is a lot to like about this team. But my job isn’t to tell you why the Wildcats are so good. Adam can do that, or any number of the preseason publications can. I have been called upon to nitpick this team, and so I will direct you to their backcourt. Sure, it is a talented one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is one of the top groups of guards in the country towards the end of the year. But there are also a lot of fresh faces, and I’m not sure if the group will gel enough in time to perform at peak potential early on in the season when Arizona has to play against teams like Gonzaga, Michigan, or any number of the quality opponents out at the Maui Invitational. To be honest, I would rather have a duo of Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson to navigate my team through that challenging non-conference slate. That combo is the elite, experienced mix of players I want running my offense.
- “Tookie” Williams
Here is where I make my triumphant return to preview. I wanted to keep it brief and poignant. It’s me again.
Mountain High (best possible season):
Win their last six games and finish ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games out of the eight seed.
Rock Bottom (worst possible season):
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.
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
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