Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Regress your view of your coach toward the mean
#5 in a series of last-day posts

There's a hoary old chestnut that says a quarterback receives too much credit when his team wins and too much blame when they lose. Said chestnut needs to be multiplied 100-fold and applied to college basketball coaches.

A coach in basketball has significantly less in-game control than a football coach (who calls the play or the defense before each snap) or a manager in baseball (who can call each pitch). Yet we talk about basketball coaches like they're each a modern-day Beethoven: not just conducting the orchestra but writing the music as well.

In fact, a coach's most significant achievement (or failure) takes place before the opening tip: recruiting. And while it's fun to talk X's and O's, the significance of play-calling in hoops surely pales in comparison to much less cerebral concerns, most notably personnel and their shooting accuracy on a given day or night.

The next time you hear an analyst talking about a coach in glowing terms more appropriate for a chess grand master, think of said coach instead as having roughly the same degree of control over his team that you have over your golf shots.

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