Monday, May 13, 2013

Coaching Strategies

In February I looked at Bucknell's extremely conservative style of play in detail. One of the interesting ideas I took away from the post was Bucknell's contradicting strategies. On offense, they value possessions by taking care of the basketball. On defense, they allow their opponent to freely take care of the basketball by not going for steals. Here is what I wrote back in February:

"If you don't like watching teams turn the ball over, Bucknell games are the ones for you. If you think about this strategy a little deeper, it's a very odd concept. On offense, Paulsen stresses not turning the ball over and not crashing the glass (presumably to focus on getting back on defense). On defense, Paulsen forces his opponents to use the same exact strategy he uses! If Paulsen believes taking care of the ball and getting back on defense is the best way to play basketball, why does he enable his opponent to do exactly that? The answer here is probably that he believes that Bucknell can play Bucknell basketball better than their opponents play Bucknell basketball. Confusing, I know."

There's no one absolutely correct way to coach a basketball team. There's a trade-off involved in every four factor. For example, you can increase your shooting percentage by being more patient and passing up looks to get a better shot. However, this would in turn increase your turnover percentage. The Dave Paulsens and Bo Ryans of the world choose to make their opponent play their brand of basketball. In this post, I tried to quantify the top 10 most "consistent" coaches in the country and the top 10 most "contradicting" coaches in the country (i.e. - Paulsen).

First, I looked at teams in the top 100 in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency in the 2013 season. I didn't want talent to be a major factor and the coaches of bad teams aren't a good fit for this analysis. With 61 eligible coaches remaining, I simply subtracted each four factor defensive ranking with the corresponding four factor offensive ranking. By adding together the absolute values of these four differences, I developed a very basic metric to measure coaching consistency. If my explanation is confusing now, the charts below should clear things up visually.


In 2013, Bill Self had the most consistent strategy and Bo Ryan had the most contradicting. It should be noted Bucknell did not qualify, because their offense was not in the top 100.  The tables help visualize the concept. Take a look at Kansas' coloring on offense and defense in the four columns. KU's offensive and defensive ranks are essentially the same. Now look at Wisconsin. Where there is green there is red and where there is red there is green. The list of most consistent coaches is loaded with coaching stars: Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Tom Crean, Mark Few, Brad Stevens, etc. However, it's by no means a bad thing to be on the right. John Beilein nearly won the national championship with a contradicting strategy (first in the country at not fouling, 329th in drawing fouls!) and Bo Ryan has had amazing success with his style of play. If anything, this shows how many different ways there are to win at the college level.

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