NBA-ing High School Basketball, Hurrying-up the Game via Mandatory Shot-Clock

NBA-ing High School Hoops,
Hurrying-up the Game via Mandatory Shot-Clock

Since the inception of ESPN, much of basketball has become gimmick & hype. In part this is because ESPN now must fill 5 television channels, different-language magazines, and global radio talk shows with “content.” Daily a cache of cliches are offered up by recent-retired players and fired coaches, who serve as “analysts” and “commentators.” As a result, it is painful to watch/listen to ESPN, which is why the network is steadily losing money.

ESPN-speak now includes “one and done,” and novel approaches like “positionless ball,” and new names for old positions, like “stretch-4,” and (my favorite), being an “over and under guard, who can do it all” (whatever that means).

Not only has ESPN changed how we as basketball coaches speak, it has, rightly or wrongly, tied its success to the worldwide promotion of professional sports. The strategy is simple: as ESPN promotes them, they in turn carry ESPN. This is why ESPN is on a warpath to drive-down NBA-style basketball into every USA college and university, and now rural and urban high school. This “NBA-ing” of basketball has resulted in Elite & AAU tournaments replacing nearly all recruiting of players from high school games. Every guard in every US college and high school now wants to “play between the arches” (to quote ESPN), like Steph Curry. No player now wants to turn his back to the basket and play post. Zero players believe they can build their basketball careers by excelling at defense. Who wants to pass when I can dribble on my own?

The latest move to NBA-change high school basketball is (no surprise) supported by the majority of talking heads on ESPN. It is to make teenage boys run faster and shoot quicker from farther away, so that those in the stands do not get bored. The way to make 15 year olds run faster is to impose on them an NBA-like shot clock.

Let us be clear. Imposing a shot clock in high school has nothing to do with helping young players learn or execute the complex game of basketball. It has nothing to do with helping kids. In fact, kids be damned. This is about us! It is about excitement, offense, shooting, 3s! In the process, our making kids sprint faster, pass less, do less post work, and launching even more 3s, will result in nothing more than a rocket launch fest.

This is the worst way to improve the quality of high school play, and worse, coaching. If high school basketball is really, really all about helping kids, and developing young players (isnt that what we all say?), this stupid, short sighted move shows now our hypocrisy as nothing before.

While making kids run faster may titilate the analyst in all of us, it will decrease good shots taken, eliminate offensive rebounds, and lead in the end to a very boring style of play. It will also mean, also in line with NBA-ing of hoops, less defense, less team play, less traveling calls, more dribble drives via isolation plays, and more players standing around between the arches watching fellow teammates build up point totals.

To show the insanity that now surrounds this phantom issue of a shot clock, consider the fervor generated by a non-high school basketball coach in Australia, who hosts the facebook page “Basketball for Coaches.” Trevor McLean (a/k/a Coach Mac), admits he is a youth basketball coach with less than 10-years experience. He has never coached any team in USA, and never coached a high school team, even in his beloved country down under. And yet, on his facebook page with 79,000 followers he posts sensationalistic articles like, “Why High Schools Must Adopt Shooting Clocks.” He does so every 2 months or so, I think because each time it generates 300-700 replies. But ask yourself: WHY does a person 9429 miles away from America, who has never coached here, or in ANY high school, care what high school players, coaches and fans do in, say, Altoona, WI, or Murfreesboro, TN? It would be no different than if Russians tried to tell kids in Tasmania, Australia how they should play Cricket. And yet, Mac waxes eloquent.

This, really, is the key to this whole non-issue. The truth is this: a high school shot clock solves no real problem in high school basketball. If high school games take too long, then more-easy fixes are to reduce the number of time-out teams can call, or create stiffer penalties on intentional garbage fouls in the last, say, 2 minutes of a game. Or, better yet, eliminate any and all media-related timeouts.

There are no actual evils in HS ball than a shot clock will cure. There is no damsel it will rescue. Secretly, I believe it is coming about because analysts want higher point scores in games. So while coaches talk defense, analysts cry “3s!” Such crying will not quiet till games end 140-135.

Do you remember Rade from the movie “Hoosiers?” His basketball-ignorant dad & cadre of analyst-buds yelled to him “Shoot!” while his coach tried desperately (on way to state championship) to build a team. With the shot clock in place, now ALL the arena will shout “Shoot!” while the coach can do nothing but watch.

The RULES The person running the clock will need to know…

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Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at, or call/text at 317.643-6042

2 Great Coaches: John Wooden and Ernest Blood

Basketball’s First Wizard
Chic Hess

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John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, is the coach by whom modern-day coaches are measured. Winning ten of twelve NCAA Championships has immortalized his place in basketball history. History, on the other hand, has not been as kind to another basketball wizard. Ernest Blood, who dominated his peers to an even greater degree a few generations earlier in New Jersey, was called the Grey Thatched Wizard.
Few basketball purists in California are aware of this first wizard of the hardwood. “Prof” was a shortened version of Professor, and it was the name his players and students called him, but they spoke it reverently. Passaic High School’s Grey Thatched Wizard was known for his all-around coaching acumen. His teams enjoyed six undefeated seasons, and during another season, his team lost one game. His truncated stay at Passaic High School was a nonpareil 188-1, and his teams would have undoubtedly won many more if jealous administrators and school board members hadn’t interfered.
A recently published book investigates the life of Prof Blood from his precocious athletic youth to the development of his avant-garde system of coaching. In Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, California coaches can learn how and why this man was a generation ahead of his peers. Unfortunately his methods and philosophies, which are not always followed today, are still very much worth learning and implementing.
Winning streaks followed these two coaching wizards. Wooden’s UCLA teams once compiled 88 consecutive victories, while a couple of generations earlier, Blood’s boys went five seasons in-a-row in-route to 159 straight, topping the latter-day wizard’s mark by 71 games. Besides the length of their winning steaks, these two coaching wizards had much in common.
For starters, Blood and Wooden were astrological Libras. Their birth dates were October 5, 1872, and October 14, 1910, respectively. If self-confidence is an essential ingredient to be a successful coach, then that explains the reason for their success, and their confidence was reflected in their teams’ demeanor. Other similarities of these two Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers include:
Excellent, accomplished athletes—one of Wooden’s two inductions into the hall of fame was for his accomplishments as a player.
Great free throw shooters–Wooden once made 134 straight in professional game competition with the Kautsky Athletic Club, while Blood at age seventy-four, calmly sank 484 out of 500 after a practice session.
Physical conditioning enthusiasts. With Wooden, it was an obsession.
Adherence to clean living was a must.
Adamantly stressed the importance of teamwork.
Recognized the importance of speed and quickness as essentials.
Strange eating habits.
Proponents of a controlled offense, fastbreak, and full court pressing defense. Blood pioneered these innovations and referred to his full court defense as “offensive defense.”
Shy in social situations.
Honest to a fault.
Far ahead of their time as basketball tacticians.
The only enemies they had were people who were jealous of their success.
Neither believed in charging a team up before a game. They wanted a calm assurance in the dressing room and in the pre-game warm-ups.

Prof Blood was often quoted saying that “I train boys for the game of life—not to win basketball games. If I succeed in that, I have accomplished something worthwhile.” In Prof’s way of thinking, winning was incidental.
Before little John Wooden was a twinkle in Joshua Hugh Wooden’s eye, Prof was equating basketball to the more important game of life. While reading John Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach, you could insert Blood’s name for Wooden’s, and you would be accurately describing Blood’s philosophy as well.
The major differences between the two behemoths of the game were their eras of dominance (20s and 60s) and their arenas (high school and college). They had their priorities straight; they were teachers of the game of life. The differences between the two lay in society’s memory. Wooden has become a household name synonymous with basketball coaching excellence while Blood’s story has never accurately been told until now. His accomplishments, contributions to the game and tribulations that have been lost in the annals of basketball have been resurrected in Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach.
There isn’t a basketball coach who knows an X from an O who wouldn’t benefit from becoming more familiar with basketball’s first great coach. Prof’s biography should be required reading for all high school coaches and fans.

Some Good Reads.   Coach Wooden Pyramid of Success 

Prof Blood and Wonder Teams

For Free Basketball drills, videos, practice plans and much more CLICK HERE

Chic Hess, Ed. D. is the author of Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, available at . Hess is a former NAIA College District and NABC-Kodak National Junior College Coach of the Year.

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