Monday, April 26, 2010

Coaching Carousal Part 2010-02: Waiting for the Dominos to Fall

(Rumor Has it That) When Oregon Sneezed, Iowa State Caught a Cold...
The internet has brought many things, not the least includes the "democratization" of information. In decades gone by only insiders may have known that a coach's personal indiscretion was about to trigger a termination or a player's adjustment problem would lead him (or her) to transfer. Physical proximity was a prerequisite in the 1940's, 50's and 60's. The drop in long distance costs in the 1970's & 80's changed the dynamic slightly -- timely information (for personal consumption) could be obtained quickly via the phone, but someone still had to be (physically) close to the information source to initiate the transmission. And transmission may have been quadratically better than mouth-to-ear of earlier days, but still relatively less efficient than (say) newspaper circulation. The reaction to Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons' Cold Fusion experiments back in March of 1989 gave an early preview of the implications for a system of "democratized" information dissemination might work, and last weekend provided one of the more interesting examples of how an event can trigger a cascading sequence well before anything is made "public".

On Saturday several media outlet reports had Creighton's head coach Dana Altman poised to accept the month-long (and much discussed) vacancy in Eugene. The news triggered a maelstrom of reactions across a pair of heartland athletic conferences in the intervening two days. Omaha, Nebraska (home to Creighton, a Catholic University of 4,087 undergraduates), papers detailed Altman's last day on the job, speculated about Creighton's next head coach, reactions from current players and media (local and national) and ultimately, Altman's successor (Greg McDermott of Iowa State). Oh, and Oregon has yet to schedule a press conference to introduce Altman as their choice. Ironically the non-announced change has triggered three head coaching switches, the longest sequence of this off season. And if Iowa State follows it's previous pattern, at least one more D1 head coach will leave to take the job in Ames.

By the Numbers...
Counting both Creighton and Iowa State (press conferences pending?), there have been 50 vacancies since the start of Fall Practice (October 2009), 19 between Selection Sunday and the National Championship game, and another 17 since. Two in three vacancies created during the NCAA Tournament were employer-initiated (fired, contract not extended, internally relocated, etc), while 13 of 17 (76.5%) post NC were employee-initiated (mostly moving to other head coaching jobs). Approximately 14.7% of the available D1 head coaching jobs were turned over this season, a bit higher than 2009 (9.3%), but lower than 2007 (17.9%). To this point, (Oregon has announced Altman's hire, even as Creighton introduced McDermott as their new HC), 18% of the jobs are still to be filled. I had anticipated about 45-50 vacancies through the end of this off season, but that estimate was clearly low. I suspect it may reach 52-54 total.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Notes About the Title Games

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - It’s in the books. The championship games contested earlier this week gave us a new and defending titlist and in effect brought another outstanding season to a close.

The scores:

Men's Championship
Women's Championship

To deviate, instead of ‘ladies first’ let’s look at the games in chronological order beginning wthe men. In a 62 possession game (Duke 61 Butler 63) the Four Factors.


Duke was a little high on the turnover rate but made up with effective field goal shooting and a points per possession mark over 1.00. A priority for Butler was offensive rebounding. The Bulldogs did a good job in the first half but were gradually worn down the final twenty minutes.

Efficiency, the Martin Manley formula, adds points , made shots, rebounds, steals and blocks while subtracting missed shots and turnovers. A breakdown of Duke and Bulter follows.

Pts.Rtg.Per Min
K. Singler19250.625
B. Zoubek8170.548
J. Scheyer15200.541
N. Smith1340.100

Wanted to focus on the double figure scorers only but had to include Brian Zoubek, The Duke center did not hit doubles but was a major factor inside. Zoubek had 10 rebounds (6 on the offensive end) and rejected two shots. Nolan Smith hit a few big three throws late and provided inspiration to his teammates not measurable by a calculator. A 5 of 15 mark from the field and 3 turnovers definitely hindered his efficiency mark. Kyle Singler shot 7 of 13 but added 9 boards and blocked 2 shots which went a long way toward his very high efficiency grades.

Pts.Rtg.Per Min
A. Jukes10100.556
S. Mack12100.323
G. Hayward12120.300
M. Howard1150.263

Butler did not have anyone outstanding from the efficiency metric. True to form given their balance. Avery Jukes posted a high per minute mark thanks to 4 of 6 shooting, 4 rebounds in 18 minutes.

Physics. With degrees in the humanities yours truly did not enroll in a physics course. Not in high school. Not in college. The day after the final a few officiating friends called to tell me how close Gordon Haywood’s last shot, Terms as trajectory velocity and force were used to prove how incredibly close Butler came to cutting down the nets on that last shot.

Chances. And related to that last shot is the debate shout Brian Zoubek intentionally missed that last shot or tried to hit it. Butler was out of time outs so hitting the shot allows them to inbound the ball with about three seconds left and set up a better look. On the other hand Duke would have a three point lead so a trey at the buzzer means overtime.

Zoubek’s miss (with no time outs left to use) forced the Bulldogs to get the rebound and try to get a decent look. If they buried the last shot, game over. Analysts have been going back and forth on this in recent days. Players trying to miss often throw it hard off the rim. Not hitting the rim is a violation. What often happens, as did on Monday, the opponent gets a longer rebound that a shot that misses normally and falls to the first opponent in position. That long rebound gave Butler a split second or so to get a closer shot than if they rebounded 80 something feet from their basket. In the final analysis it all comes down to trust. If you are worthy of the national championship put the trust in your defense to get that final necessary stop.

On to the Women….

In a 68 possession contest (UConn 69 Stanford 67) focused on the Four Factors.


How do you post a 77 for offensive efficiency and win? Simple, play the lockdown defense, a trademark of your program and what you have done all year. UConn’s defensive effort as displayed by Stanford’s offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage. The turnover rate was not high for the Cardinal as UConn showed little full court pressure. This defensive effort, like so many others by UConn was simple contesting shots and forcing the opponent to settle for shots they may not have wanted.

In an incredibly poor offensive performance UConn had 12 points (trailing 20-12) at the half. The Huskies did not even hit double figures until just before the four minute media time out. They went scoreless one ten minute stretch that first half. Credit Stanford’s defense which doubled the low post, eliminated transition and forced UConn to beat them from outside. While UConn defended well on their own behalf, Stanford did miss some good looks and Geno Auriemma’s club was fortunate to be down only eight at the half.

The efficiency numbers and efficiency divided by minutes of the marquee players, Nnemkadi Ogwumike of Stanford and UConn’s Maya Moore.

Pts.Rtg.Per Min
N. Ogwunike11130.342
M. Moore23230.622

Ogwumike had a game high 13 rebounds but shot only 5 of 14 from the floor. Moore started slowly but finished with a game high 23 points on 9 of 18 shooting. She tied teammate Tina Charles for rebounding honors with 11.

Early in the second half. Moore came out, finished a penetration then hit a few jumpers and the Huskies were revitalized. Ogwumike , an outstanding inside threat, struggled for the most part as the UCONN defense was more attentive of her presence. Jayne Appel, an excellent ‘interior decorator; in her own right shot 0 for 12, primarily due to a very bad ankle. With Appel ineffective the Huskies simply converge on Ogwumike.

FT rate had a disparity. As noted the Cardinal struggled to get an inside game going. Once UConn regained the lead the second half they pushed it to double digits forcing Stanford to shoot from beyond the arc. Late in the game, Stanford was in a fouling mode trying to extend with a three possession affair.

A repeat winner UConn coach Geno Auriemma is on a "wizardesque" streak (78 and counting). Even if the Huskies eclipse UCLA’s 88 game winning streak next season Auriemma defers any talk that he should be grouped with the legendary John Wooden. As the Huskies cut down the nets in San Antonio Auriemma said, “John Wooden is just in a class by himself.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Coaching Carousal Part 2010-01: The 11 Week "Off Season"

September 24 to December 03...
From Jim Crews' termination in late September to Dereck Whittenburg's termination in early December, the Coaching Carousal stopped for just over ten weeks this (pre?) season, just long enough to kick off fall practice and get the season underway. Jack Styczynski over at the New York Times' Quad Blog posted a thought piece, "Looking for the Benefit of a Midseason Coaching Change", in the aftermath of Benny Moss' 1/29/2010 termination at NC - Wilmington. Styczynski, while recounting briefly the list of terminated coaches during the season, could find no value in the timing. While his analysis considered the interim coaches' won-loss records and subsequent inability to remove the "interim" tag from each's title, his premise, that these four Athletic Directors acted "too quickly" struck me as very odd. Styczynski frames the window in which the situations at each institution evolved from roughly the beginning of the season to the point of termination, and wonders if waiting another 10 or so weeks would really be that bad. And within that context his arguments persuade...perhaps. I can't speak to the situation at NC-Wilmington, but with respect to DePaul, Penn and Fordham, the question ("to terminate or not to terminate"), was in discussion for at least the two off seasons that preceded the 2009-10 season. The question should be "Why so slow?", rather than "Why so fast?" Why, in the case of Fordham, DePaul and Penn, did the AD drag out a termination process that was clearly in motion the preceding spring? The grievances and shortcomings of Wainwright (DePaul), Miller (Penn) and Whittenburg (Fordham) were publicly discussed and examined in excruciating detail for months (even years) before the beginning of the 2009-2010 season, as each landed on at least one "Hot Seat" list in the preseason.

When Army's AD decided, for reasons never given a extensive public airing (most likely because he acted quickly?), it was time for Coach Jim Crews to go, he notified Crews, conducted a search and hired a replacement inside of 72 hours. Three weeks before fall practice was certainly inconvenient timing, for the team, for the candidate who agreed to take the job (Zach Spiker, one of Steve Donahue's assistant coaches at Cornell) and for the AD who found himself staring into a candidate pool far smaller than he would have had had he waited six months (or acted six months earlier). The Black Knights of the Hudson recorded a 4-10 record in their conference (the Patriot League) and logged a 14-15 record for the season. Disappointing perhaps had that record been accumulated under Crews, but replacing a coach as late in the off season as Army dampens expectations (and they did split on the season with Navy, so all was not lost).

Why the Wait?
The benefit of waiting six or seven monthes to terminate Whittenburg, Miller and Wainwright was most likely that all three would, with the exception of Fordham (see Jio Fontan -- Whittenburg could not hang on to Jio, who left for Southern Cal), hang onto their rosters. Retaining Jared Grasso as the interim coach most likely allowed the Rams to hang on to A10 Rookie of the Year (in the making) Chris Gaston. Would the Rams have held onto both had they replaced Whittenburg in the spring of 2009? Maybe, but Fontan was clearly mulling transfer options during the summer of 2009 and had he bolted after meeting with a summer of 2009 replacement (most likely not Pecora), Gaston, who had not yet started at Fordham, could very possibly asked for his release. It would have been difficult for Fordham to deny that request. Retaining Jared Grasso as interim most likely helped them keep Gaston through the end of the season. Now it is up to Tom Pecora who moved over from Hofstra to take the position on Rose Hill, to persuade Gaston to stay with the Rams. Penn bucked Styczynski's "interim coaches never get the nod" trend when they elevated Jerome Allen to full-time head coaching status. Given the state of the economy in the first and second quarters of 2009, economics may well have played a role in delaying the exits of Miller, Wainwright and Whittenburg.

By the Numbers...
Through April 9, there have been 37 head coaching vacancies among the 348 D1 programs. Given that 33 occurred before the National Championship game was played, the total number of vacancies in this cycle will probably reach 45-to-50 positions, well above last year (36), but well below 2007's all-time high of 60. Typical of the post tournament phase (though admittedly the sample size is very small), vacancies this week were initiated more by coaches (3-to-1) than by Administrators, in contrast to in-season and during the post season, when Administrators initiate the vacancies (25-to-7).

Rumors, Unfinished Business
As of this afternoon, the Rutgers situation continues unresolved, though it appears that for Hill the question has become "When" rather than "If".

Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the NIT -- The Last Waltz?

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - It was championship number three. Dayton defeated North Carolina 79-68 to win the 73rd NIT at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers previously won in 1962 and ‘68.

Madison Square Garden, NYC
The skies may have been Carolina Blue...
...but the sun shined on Dayton

The factors and numbers from a 70 (UNC 72 Dayton 68) possession game:

North Carolina9449132721

Dayton had an outstanding offensive showing but the staples of defense and poise were crucial for the Atlantic Ten representatives. The Tar Heels were solid from the perimeter shooting 8 of 20 (40%) from beyond the arc. Junior forward Will graves did appreciable damage with a game high 25 points punctuated with a 7 of 13 performance from downtown. In the stretch when Dayton finally achieved game winning separation, the percentages from the perimeter caught up with UNC, a 26% three point shooting team in four prior NIT contests. Flyers did a significant job inside the arc limiting the Tar Heels to a 44% (18 of 41) night on two point field goals.

Turnovers, those forced by Dayton, was a significant factor. Brian Gregory’s club forced 10 first half TOs (a 26% rate) en route to a 45-32 halftime lead. Carolina cared for the ball better the final twenty minutes (only 5 turnovers) which helped get them back in it. A 7-0 opening run the first two minutes after intermission was very significant as well.

In the end that Dayton offensive efficiency was supported by a creditable 35% from three and of greater note, 62% (18 of 29) from two point range as the Flyers attacked the basket with a vengeance.

At the half UNC enjoyed a 38%-21% edge in offensive rebounding percentage. Dayton hit the boards harder the second half limiting the Tar Heels to two offensive boards the final 20 minutes and securing the edge on the offensive glass.

The double figure scorers and efficiency. The Martin Manley and NBA efficiency model adds points, rebounds, made shots, blocked shots, steals, and assists while subtracting turnovers and missed shots.

Marcus Johnson20160.533
Chris Johnson14181.06
Chris Wright14210.750
Paul Williams16170.654

North CarolinaPts.RtgMin.
Will Graves25170.567
Deon Thompson13180.581
Larry Drew II12110.333
Tyler Zeller1150.217

Dayton numbers were solid across the board. Chris Johnson’s efficiency per minute metric was on a ’superstar’ level. Johnson added 9 boards in a 17 minute outing that was limited due to a hip injury suffered in the game. Drew II of UNC had 8 assists but his 6 turnovers were detrimental. Tyler Zeller, the tar Heels 7-foot soph who came on strong in the NIT, scored in doubles but his efficiency was hurt by a shutout in the rebounding department in a 23 minute evening.

Not in the box score. Deon Thompson set an NCAA record in the final. It was the UNC senior’s 152nd career game breaking the record shared by Kentucky’s Wayne turner (1996-99) and Walter Hodge of Florida (2006-09).

Not in the Box Score Part Two. Dayton led 17-8 in second chance points. A key stat considering rebounding was a Flyer concern entering the final.

The last...waltz? With talk of NCAA expansion to 96 teams the idea the NIT might have seen its last tournament was a topic of discussion. Both coaches felt the NIT being phased out would be unfortunate. As Brian Gregory said, “Dayton built its national brand name (years ago) here in the NIT at Madison Square Garden.”

Dayton is tempo free. Dayton assistant Jon Borovich said the Flyers study tempo free statistics closely. “Coach (Brian) Gregory will bring them up in staff meetings citing turnover rates and points per possession,” Borovich said before Tuesday’s semifinal. “We chart possessions on the bench as a staff and points per possession and other (tempo free) stats we pay close attention to.”

All Tournament...
Delroy JamesRhode Island
Will GravesNorth Carolina
Deon ThompsonNorth Carolina
Marcus JohnsonDayton
Most Outstanding Player - Chris Johnson Dayton

“You can’t measure heart and this team had the biggest heart of any team I coached” - Dayton coach Brian Gregory

“We just didn’t finish the job….I thought Brian’s (Gregory) team was so active, you just have to congratulate them.” - UNC coach Roy Williams

Dayton players greet their fans

The Fans. “It was like a home game,” Gregory said,” our fans are absolutely great and we put them through a lot this year.” Dayton players truly appreciated their outstanding and passionately devoted followers. Part of the celebration saw the players recognize the band and cheerleaders for their great support. They then went into the stands at the Garden to personally say thanks to their fans. The exclamation point on a wonderful night for Dayton and its faithful.

Flyer squad poses with
the Dayton Cheering Squad

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Semifinals at the NIT

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - The nation’s oldest post season tournament has had its share of criticism. Make no mistake however, the NIT has history a wonderful tradition and last night four teams put it all on the line at the Garden. The NIT semifinal scores:

TeamScore TeamScore
Dayton68 Mississippi63
North Carolina68 Rhode island67 (OT)

The factors and numbers from a 74 possession game:


As has been the case throughout this tournament, Dayton did a great job on the defensive end. The Flyers haven’t forced teams into turning the ball over but get at you with tough man to man defense, contesting shots or forcing you to take a less advantageous shot.

The Flyers limited Mississippi to 6 of 23 shooting beyond the arc. Chris warren, Mississippi’s three point threat, scored 15 points but was 3 of 10 beyond the arc. Terrico White, another threat from downtown, led Ole Miss with 19 points but was an icy 1 of 7 from three.

Dayton does a good job getting in the lane and conversely getting to the line. The Flyers made the most of those opportunities from the charity stripe as the FT Rate and a 24 of 32 mark from the charity stripe attests. The Flyers hit 3 of 4 the final 11 seconds to punch their ticket to the final. Chris Johnson, Dayton’s 6-6 sophomore forward, led the way with a game high 22 points while adding 9 rebounds.

Competitiveness of the game is shown in these ‘enhanced scoring totals’

Points...DaytonOle Miss
Off TOs1515
in Paint2020
fro. Bench1212

Outside the Garden
The four factors in an 81 possession game.

North Carolina8436104721
Rhode island8440183123

Rhode Island looks to push the pace and even for an overtime game this was a rapid tempo. An area of concern for URI was the offensive glass. The OREB Percentage shows Carolina’s dominance there. In raw numbers UNC had a 27-15 offensive rebounding edge. That led to the Tar Heels getting 15 more shot attempts (83 to 68) than URI.

Free throws were deceptive. URI had the edge in the FT rate and shot 12 of 18 from the line. In the stretch Rhody missed several from the charity stripe that could have iced the game while Carolina, 8 of 16 on the night, hit the key ones late and in OT.

Rhode Island, as expected, forced turnovers but had an unusually high TO Rate on their own. In ‘enhanced scoring’ North Carolina had huge edges in points in the paint (50-30) and bench scoring (23-4).

Deon Thompson struggled from the field shooting 6 of 20 but did lead UNC with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Keith Cothran led URI and all scorers with 23 points. Lsmont Ulmer had a solid night for Jim Baron’s club adding 18 points, 10 boards while shooting 8 of 12 from the floor.

A-10 Allegiance. During the NIT press conference on Monday, Dayton and Rhode island coaches and players in attendance I spoke with, to a person, all said they stayed up a little late last Thursday to watch and root for Xavier in their Sweet 16 OT loss to Kansas State. Even Dayton’s Chris Wright said, “I am a friend of (K-State guard Jacob)Pullen but I was on the edge of my couch pulling for Xavier. It’s good that people see how tough this (Atlantic Ten) league is.”

Some Dayton students I spoke with did not hold the same regard of Xavier. Especially members of the cheer squad who would “never root for Xavier”. It’s the rivalry as on telling them my alma mater, St.Bonaventure, is also in the A-10 they didn’t mind getting a picture.

“We played a tough, physical team and found a way to pull it out. It was mental toughness”- Dayton coach Brian Gregory

“At halftime we emphasized finishing inside and staying on the backboards” - North Carolina coach Roy Williams

Ray Floriani with Dayton Cheering Squad