Tag Archives: basketball

Ball Hogs and Blowhards

Anyone who knows anything about me will know why I'm writing about a Freakonomics blog post that uses basketball to help explain why meetings are long – I love hoops and hate long meetings. From the post:

On the surface, ball hogs and endless meetings might seem unrelated.  Research, though, indicates that players chucking shots at a basket and people prolonging a meeting with endless comments may actually be a function of something similar.  Specifically, how do we know someone is “competent”?..

A couple of years ago Cameron Anderson and Gavin J. Kilduff published a studyexamining how people in meetings evaluate each other.  Obviously we would like people in meetings to think we are competent.  And one might think, the best way to get people to think you are competent is to just be competent.  But that is not what Anderson and Kilduff found.  In a study of how people in a meeting – a meeting designed to answer math questions — were evaluated by their peers, these authors f0und (as Time reported) that actual competence wasn’t driving evaluations:

Repeatedly, the ones who emerged as leaders and were rated the highest in competence were not the ones who offered the greatest number of correct answers. Nor were they the ones whose SAT scores suggested they’d even be able to. What they did do was offer the most answers — period. 

“Dominant individuals behaved in ways that made them appear competent,” the researchers write, “above and beyond their actual competence.” Troublingly, group members seemed only too willing to follow these underqualified bosses. An overwhelming 94% of the time, the teams used the first answer anyone shouted out — often giving only perfunctory consideration to others that were offered.

This makes so much sense to me. I can't tell you how many times in my life I've been on a team with superior talent, including the guy who's obviously the best player in the gym, only to lose handily.  It happens because too many guys view themselves as the best shooters in the gym, so they make bad decisions about when to shoot because in their mind them shooting a bad shot is better than a less gifted player taking a good shot. Ask any basketball coach in the world and he'll tell you the good shot from an average player is better than a bad shot from a great player.

As far as meetings go, who among us hasn't been stuck in a meeting with a blow hard who thinks he knows everything and somehow convinces others in the room that he does? Anyone who wonders what's wrong with any company need only find the conference room and hang out for a while. It won't take long to identify the problem.

Ball hogs and blowhards – hate 'em both.

Saving the ACC from Itself

Dan Collins shares a great plan to help the ACC restore some of its historic luster:

But there’s still a way to retain the rivalries that have made the league what it is—or at least what it was before expansion. I wish I could say the idea was mine, but really I stole it from my buddy Al Featherston, the long-time ACC writer and historian. Like is said in songwriter circles: amateurs borrow, but professionals steal. Featherston’s proposal is to divide the conference into seven-team divisions, as is done for football. That would allow at least most of the rivalries to remain intact.

Each team would play teams in its division twice, of course, for a total of 12 games. And each would play the teams in the other divisions once, for seven more games. That’s 19 games, if my public school education hasn’t failed me.

The one flaw in the system could become its biggest selling point. The seven games against the other division would leave some teams with 10 home conference games and others with only nine. That is, unless one of the games against the other division was played at a neutral site.

So the way to make it all work for everybody—the fans, the media, the league and of course the television networks—would be to set aside a long weekend between mid-December and Christmas when all 14 ACC teams would congregate at a neutral site. One year it could be Greensboro, the next Atlanta, the next Charlotte, and the next Madison Square Garden. And over those three days the odd game against the other division could be played. It could be marketed and sold as an Early Bird Special of what fans can expect to see over the next 2 1/2 months and it would build up tremendous energy and enthusiasm at a time of the year any league—even the ACC—could use all it could get.

Pro Basketball Coming to Camel City

The American Basketball Association has three expansion teams slotted for North Carolina and one of them, the Triad Tre4 Cheetahs, will call Winston-Salem home.

One item of potential interest to a few guys down at the Y: tryouts for the three teams will be held May 21 in Durham. Registration is $125, but hey, dreams don't come cheap these days.

I don't know if they play with the red, white and blue ball of Dr. J's ABA, but they do have some wacky rules like the old ABA did.  My faves:

  • Four points for any shot taken from the backcourt.
  • Players can stay on after picking up a sixth foul, but each subsequent foul they commit leads to a free throw and ball possession for the other team. Basically it's unlimited technicals for "sixth foul" players.
  • 3-D Rule – I've read it once and I can honestly say it makes the NFL's QB rules seem straightforward.

Could be fun to watch.

The Heel from Dumfries

I ignore UNC hoops as much as possible.  Why?  Because I live in NC and am surrounded by Carolina fans in much the same way a day old bologna sandwich left on the counter overnight is surrounded by roaches, especially if those roaches happen to pregame with chardonnay and brie and cry like babies if someone says something mean about their baby blue uniforms.  

Anyway, my shunning of all things Heels is the reason why I'm just now realizing that UNC's latest phenom Kendall Marshall hails from the same small NoVa town that we lived in the 10 years before we moved to Winston-Salem.  Dumfries has produced some nice players over the years including Rolan Roberts (Va Tech/So Illinois in the 90s) and Cliff Hawkins (Point guard for Kentucky from 00-04).  FWIW, I like Marshall's game; too bad he has to play for the wrong team.

Krzyzewski, Izzo, Williams, Larranaga

Winston-Salem Journal sportswriter Dan Collins had a sit down with Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman to discuss the tough (to say the least) season that WFU's basketball program is enduring.  Collins used his blog to share a bunch of the Q&A that couldn't be squeezed into the article that appeared in the paper, and I particularly liked Wellman's answer to the question, "You're well-versed in college basketball. Do you see parallel among cultures of successful programs? In other words, do the teams that keep getting to the Final Four, are there parts of their culture that you see as consistent?…What are those?"


 First of all they have a great coach. If you look at the Final Four teams for the last six years, and they all do certain things very similar. Mike Krzyzewksi, Brad Stevens, Bob Huggins, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, Jay Wright, Bill Self, John Calipari, Ben Howland, Billy Donovan, Thad Matta, John Thompson, Jim Larranaga, Bruce Weber, Rick Pitino at Louisville. They’re all really outstanding coaches who have great coaching ability and have great relationships with their players. They’re different relationships with their players. If you look at Bob Huggins and compare him to Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams, it’s totally different. But it’s a relationship that gets those players to play their hearts out for those coaches. Their attention to detail is beyond anything that you could imagine, to the point where maybe the greatest coach in the history of college basketball – I think we’ve got a couple of great ones in this conference, but I think everyone looks at John Wooden and it would be difficult to argue with that. Remember what he used to do in his first practice? He had the players sit down and he showed them how to put their socks on. My goodness. You talk about attention to detail. Jeff is doing a good job with those types of details. You look at our team today, there’s a certain way he wants them to wear their uniform. How important can that be? It’s very important, because that’s what he believes in. How important is it for us to conduct ourselves in a certain way on the floor? Remember J.T. the first three he made in one of the first games? And there was quite a celebration by J.T. when he did. J.T. isn’t doing that anymore. Jeff’s idea, and strong suggestion to the players, to get out of yourself and into the team, or into your teammates is becoming evident. It’s more and more evident every practice and every game. So those types of details are going to be the building blocks of this program. They’re important. To some they might be `That’s incidental. That isn’t important.’ But we think it’s important. Jeff thinks it’s important. That’s why those details are being covered on a daily basis. (Emphasis mine).

I think Wellman makes a great point with the quote, but I also think wanted to highlight that one of the coaches he mentions is George Mason's Jim Larranaga.  Mason's only made one Final Four but I'd argue that Larranaga's built one of the better programs you'll find at a "mid-major" school and I think it's high praise for him to be included in Wellman's list of coaches who have built a great culture.  

Also for what it's worth, and that ain't much, I'm much less pessimistic about Wake's medium and distant future than other fans seem to be. The next couple of years probably won't be great, but I do think that if they can keep the current crop of kids around through graduation and add one or two strong recruits the program could be back in the top half of the ACC in three or four years.

Here's a fun fact for you: the season that Mason made the Final Four (beating Michigan State and UNC on the way) they lost in overtime at Wake Forest.  

Ish Getting Some Minutes

I stumbled on this article about one of my favorite Wake Forest alums, Ish Smith, who wound up his college career last spring.  He went undrafted, was picked up as a free agent by the Rockets, was third on the depth chart at his position, and now thanks to injuries to the guys in front of him is playing some real significant minutes and handling himself well so far.  That's great news for a guy who proved himself to be a class act during his time at Wake.