Are basketball coaches still in the Dark Ages?

Submitted by Ron S. Feltenberger

Guest columnist

The entire world of basketball remains the same. The closer you get to 4 or 5-star type players the better your team is. The teams that win championships at all levels repeat this formula over and over again. In fact, it has become a “mentality” … Bigger, faster, stronger! There are even TV programs about recruiting to show how important it is. But what about all those teams (and players) that aren’t loaded with 4 and 5-star players? Are they destined to be just practice fodder? Maybe not! There may be a new dimension in basketball coming in the near future.

Historically, when it comes to shooting a basketball, we have to give a nod to the players because they are the ones who invented the different shots. Historians of the game don’t always agree on the inventors. On the other hand, coaches manage their teams and provide leadership and direction. It’s direction which comes under scrutiny. The subject in question is consistency. How does Ohio State beat Penn State by over 30 points and a couple weeks later lose by double figures in the re-match? How many times do we see a team put in 15 3-pointers one game and only two the next game? As a team, when you’re behind and the game is on the line, how do you win? Launch a bunch of 3’s, try pressing when it’s too late? Or … hope? Closing out a game on either side becomes problematic. Most often the winner is the team that is the least stupid … not most brilliant!

Speaking of brilliancy, shot selection stands out as a most misunderstood item. If you can’t understand probability, you can’t understand shot selection. How many times do we shake our heads after poor shot selections? Today’s launch-a-matic offenses show a basic misunderstanding of how to win basketball games. When you’re facing a more talented team, do you just give up? How do you neutralize home court advantage when playing away? Few coaches have satisfactory answers to these questions. After all, didn’t they learn from their coaches who in turn learned from their coaches? Here is where a good deal of the problem exists with coaches and players. Basketball IQ. Most people think it means someone with an overall good understanding of the game. While that’s true, it’s also too much of a generality. Here’s the correct definition. “The ability to create high percentage scoring opportunities on both sides of the ball.” That gives you a basic datum to build a basketball team. That’s something you can measure and make statistics of, not something nebulous.

For the past 55 years, I’ve done some original work in basketball. During my basketball playing days I noticed that when I’d miss a shot, it would be slightly to the left or right of the hoop more so than too long or too short. Nobody knew why. Actually, nobody even cared. Except me! For some reason, it just bothered me and I just wanted to know why. Little did I know that it would take a lifetime search. Eventually, I discovered the “WHY.” Then, came the method to eliminate those left/right misses, which represent the majority of missed basketball shots. During the past 55 years not one basketball coach at any level had any interest in my work. Back in the Dark Ages new ways of doing things were looked upon like heresy. After all, wasn’t everything already known about everything? Today, all basketball coaches have the same viewpoint … everything there is to know about basketball is already known.

How would it to be if you had a basketball team that could outshoot every team you play? How would it be if you didn’t have to have 4 and 5-star players to win championships? How would it be to outsmart opponents with skills no one else has? These things belong to the 21st century … not the Dark Ages!

Ron Feltenberger lives in West Akron. He is a retired teacher and athletic director. He has coached four high school sports: football, basketball, track and field, and bowling.

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