Sunday, January 20, 2013

Calling the Non-Obvious Stuff

82 FGAs
40 Threes
36% ORBs
29 Turnovers
+18 Shots

As you can see, we met only one of five goals, yet managed to pull out the win. Still, the game wasn't as close as the final score indicates, with North Park hitting three treys in the final two minutes to make it close, after we'd gone to our "lead protection" plan (2-3 zone and delay offense).  There's a never-ending debate about the wisdom of a System team choosing to hold the ball, and we were the poster child for how not to do it last night.  But all's well that ends well.

You may also have noticed the lower FGAs (82), which seems odd because NP ran with us, and we had only 18 turnovers.  So our low FGA number can be traced to the fact that we shot 45 free throws (to NP's 34).  Which brings me to a sensitive topic: officiating styles.

Last week we played Augustana College at home and had the best crew we've had all year.  What do I mean by "best?"  They kept the game moving, and recognized that both teams were playing hard, aggressively and reasonably clean.  They called what needed to be called, and let the incidental contact go while keeping things fair for both teams.  Yesterday at North Park, on the other hand, the crew seemed determined to "control" the game right from the start... and not in a good way.  Let me elaborate:

First of all, officials generally do a great job at our level and we coaches are not the most objective observers anyway.  Second, though it's okay to discuss calls with the referees during the game, and to argue your case, blaming the officiating for your team's deficiencies is generally a losing proposition.  Any time you take the focus off your own execution (which you can control) and place it on some outside agency like a referee (who you cannot control), you are violating an important System principle:  just being responsible for your own destiny and playing your game.

With that said, a problem arises when on rare occasions a crew confuses "controlling the game" with "controlling the tempo," almost as if they are irritated with the pace of play. My belief has always been that the best officials are the ones who do two things:  a) keep one team from gaining an unfair advantage, and b) keep the game moving, while remaining almost anonomous (i.e. you hardly notice them, because they call the obvious stuff, and let the un-obvious/inconsequencial stuff go). 

But sometimes a game is called in such a way that is simply disruptive.  Play is stopped almost constantly for the non-obvious stuff:  borderline violations and minimal-contact fouls. Maybe the crew is hypnotized or keyed up by the tempo and just can't help calling something on every possession, but there seems to be no allowance for the instances of incidental contact that truly provide neither team an advantage, and are to be expected in an uptempo game.  In my humble opinion, this was the case yesterday.

So, without blaming the crew we had in yesterday's game, or denying our own responsibility for playing in a less mistake-prone and foul-prone manner, and while admitting that no official consciously favors one team over another (after all, we did shoot 11 more free throws than NP), I'll just say--as diplomatically as I can...

It sure was a long game!  :-)

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