Friday, January 29, 2010

Coaches Part #4

My initial impression was that running the Four Factors for defense was not going to be as fun. After all, good defense is good defense. Would the best coaches really have different styles? It turns out they do.

First, there’s a set of coaches who depend significantly on forcing turnovers. These are mostly full court pressure teams. See Mike Anderson (1st in turnovers forced), Oliver Purnell (2nd), Bruce Pearl (5th), and Tubby Smith (12th), ect.

Then there are still other coaches who force turnovers by playing quirky 1-3-1 zone defense like Bill Carmody (6th) and John Beilein (16th). The importance of turnovers to Northwestern often gets lost when you look at the turnover totals. But in their slow-paced games, every turnover is critical, and their high forced turnover rate keeps a horrible interior defense at a respectable level.

I’m most amazed by the coaches that force turnovers in a half-court, less chaotic situation, i.e. Matt Painter (4th), and Doc Sadler (8th). Painter’s teams play some of the best pressure man-to-man defense in the country, but when I mention how good Nebraska is at forcing turnovers, most people give me a funny look. Nebraska doesn’t use full court pressure all the time, but they will occasionally. They don’t trap in the half-court, but they will occasionally. And they haven’t had a particularly tall team, so they often need to draw charges to keep people out of the paint. Perhaps the secret has simply been having guards with quick hands and quick feet. Regardless, turnovers forced remain a Sadler secret.

But the Bo Ryan secret is simply defensive rebounding. (And when I eventually get to the coaching trees in a few days, you’ll be reminded that Tony Bennett coached under Ryan at Wisconsin after Bennett’s father retired. So perhaps it is no shock that Bennett’s teams have been the second best defensive rebounding teams in the nation.) Every year we ask how a Bo Ryan team can be so good without the most talented players, but possessions are the key. By giving their opponents less second chance looks, by out-working them for rebounds, Bo Ryan’s teams can play at an elite level without a slew of McDonald’s All-Americans.

Also, it has been well-established that there is a trade-off between crashing the boards and getting out in transition. And you see that some of the fastest paced teams in the nation are the worst defensive rebounding teams. Mike Anderson (72nd), Darrin Horn (66th), and Keno Davis (64th) come to mind. Zone defense is also typically horrible at getting defensive rebounds. Bill Carmody (70th), John Beilein (69th), and Jim Boeheim (67th) confirm that.

Finally, is it a good thing if your team doesn’t commit any fouls? I think sometimes you need to foul or your opponent is getting off too easy. And that’s exactly what John Calipari and Rick Pitino’s teams do. They foul at an above average rate, but they make sure their opponents don’t get clean shots or find a rhythm offensively. But that’s where Jim Calhoun (and lately Rick Stansbury) are unique animals. By having their teams go for blocks and avoiding fouls, they can keep their opponents eFG% low while not sending their opponent to the line.

But as with offense, the bottom line remains eFG%. Why are Ed DeChellis and Bill Carmody constantly scratching to stay out of the cellar in the Big Ten? They give up too many open looks to their opponents. Why are Bill Self and John Calipari at the top of their games? It isn’t because Kansas and Kentucky have great traditions. It isn’t because Kansas and Kentucky have the most talent, though that helps. The reason they are so successful is that year after year, their teams force tougher shots. Their teams have the 2nd and 3rd lowest eFG% defense on average over the last 7 years. And if your opponents have to take tougher shots, you always have a chance.

The next table shows the key information as at
eFG% is FG% but it gives 3 / 2 weight to made 3’s.
TO% is the percentage of turnovers forced.
OFFREB% is the percentage of offensive rebounds allowed.
FTA/FGA is the rate at which the other team is fouled.
RK represents the rank out of 72 active BCS coaches for each category.
YRS represents the number of years of tempo free data available for the coach at multiple schools.