Thursday, February 15, 2007

In defense of Skinner

Last night was clearly not BC’s best game. As a result, Al is getting some heat from the fans and message board posters. It was clearly not his best night either, but I think people are being too harsh on Skins. The one point where I agree with most people is that he mishandled Oates and Blair last night. Oates should always be on a short leash, but Al uses him for minutes and fouls. Essentially he tries to buy as much time with Oates as he can and was successful with that in the first half. The score was 32-35 with 2:33 to go despite the easy baskets we allowed and Dudley’s rough night. But like the Clemson game and the first Duke game, we let a team build up a big lead right before the half. I believe that if we had gone to Blair earlier we could have improved the defense without sacrificing any strength or production we get from Oats. That is my one big gripe.

But some of the other stuff about Al is off in my opinion. Here are some of the things I’m reading and hearing and my counter to the respective argument.

“Why didn’t he fire them up? This was a huge game!!!” -- This one is silly (to me). Al is not an emotional coach. His style works in the vast majority of our games. The composure helps us during tight games, helps us rally, and keeps the program on an even keel. The tradeoff is that, at times, we seem to treat the big games like any other. I am not happy about the loss, but don’t want Al to suddenly become emotional. In the last two years Skinner has beaten every ACC team but Duke. He is doing something right.

“Where were the half time adjustments?” As I pointed out, we weren’t that off until a little slip before half. I imagine Al just said “buckle down on D and get Jared the ball more.” The first few possessions of the second half we went low post. The half court defense improved too, however, the transition sucked because of sloppy play and foul trouble.

"Why didn’t Al use more timeouts?" He used them more often than he normally does.

“Why didn’t we pressure earlier?" I think it was a last minute resort. He didn’t pressure until the game started to get out of reach. I think he has been hesitant to use it since Williams left as SW was the safety valve.

Like I said, this was not Al’s best moment, but it is not all on him. He gives guys a system and a scheme and say: “go do it.” If we are happy when that style works the majority of the time, is it fair to bash him for it now? We still have some important games to play. If we continue to stumble, than Al will deserve more criticism. I think we steady ourselves and pick up at least two more regular season wins.


flutie22phelan20 said...

I think people honestly get on college coaches because they don't want to rip on 18-22 year old athletes. I certainly do it. For instance, I blame Skinner more for Oates' play than Oates himself.

Oates only role in the offense is to pass from the top of the key. He has stopped doing that. His coach should either make him start playing his role, or bench him, that simple.

Skinner's a good guy and runs a good program, and always gives the team a platform for success. He loses control of games too easily--he did last night--but that doesn't make him a bad coach by any stretch.

Last night was so frustrating to watch though. That's all people are complaining about. And Skinner's getting the brunt of it. They'll be fine, so long as last night's effort doesn't happen again on Saturday.

At some point though...when John Oates shoots more than Jared Dudley...well, that should never, ever, ever, ever, ever happen even if Dudley plays 5 minutes and Oates the whole game. Dook doesn't get all the credit for that. Some blame falls on the coach.

Bravesbill said...

There is no valid defense for Skinner. I have never been on the Al bandwagon. I have always thought he's been a terrible in-game coach and last night proved the thesis of my discontent. When was the last time he made a halftime adjustment? When was the last time he made an adjustment at all? When was the last time he has actually changed his starting lineup voluntarily? When was the last time he actually used timeouts? When was the last time he displayed any emotion whatsoever?

It's no wonder that BC has lost games to the likes of Providence, Vermont, Duquense this year and have had awful losses in years past (got destroyed by WVU 2 years ago in the Big East tourney in a game much similar to last night's game, the loss to UW-Milwaukee 2 years ago in the tourney in which he played the John Oates-esque Nate Doornekamp in the final minutes of that game, the loss by over 40 to UConn at home 4 years ago). Al's "strategy" will never allow BC to advance past the Sweet 16.

Al's "patience" and "consistency" is pure poppycock. If a coach can't be flexible, he will not be successful. After getting outscored 30-13 at FSU with Oates on the floor, one would think Al might make an adjustment and maybe start Blair, or if not starting Blair, then giving him more than 17 minutes! After McRoberts crapped on Oates in their first game this year, one might think Al might make an adjustment for last night's game and play Blair more than 17 minutes! There is no excuse as to how Oates gets 6 more minutes than Blair! And don't give me this crap of how Oates is in there to steal minutes and use his fouls. Oates should not be in the game until Blair gets until foul trouble (1 foul in 17 mins yesterday. And even if you need to steal minutes, don't throw in Oates. Put in the turnover machine. He might be as offensively inept as Oates, but at least he can play defense. And don't give me this BS of how it's not Al's style to display emotion. It looks like he doesn't even care half the time, especially last night. The mild-mannered and reserved Coach K displayed great emotion, and guess what, his team won. If you're not flexible, you will not be a good coach. Now we will see if Skinner will make adjustments for next game (ie. starting Blair). My prediction is that he will not and BC will lose by double digits as a result. And Skinner will further prove my discontent. If he doesn't change soon, the NIT might be calling.

GordonsLeftFoot said...

Bill, if you consider yourself a BC basketball fan then there is no valid defense to consider Al a bad coach. Skinner has achieved what no other coach has at BC. They have made the tournament 5 out of the past 6 years and, in his first year in the ACC BC beat UNC twice and came within 2 points of beating Duke in a classic ACC Championship Game.

Yes, last night was awful. He got outcoached by one of, if not the, best college basketball coaches in the country. He played Oates way too long which ultimately cost them the game. I admit I frequently question his in game decisions (use of timeouts, not benching Oates for taking those prayer 3's, not getting on the refs after garbage calls, etc.). BUT, fact of the matter is they are still 9-3 atop the ACC with victories over FSU (2), V. Tech, Maryland, Virginia, NC State and Wake (both of whom beat UNC). They bounced back from their previous two conference losses this season (credit the coaching) and are still primed for another NCAA Tournament Berth.

If BC does tumble down the stretch and misses out of the tourney bid, then you have every reason to vent. Personally, though, the notion of them ending up in the NIT is pure poppycock.

Bravesbill said...

Your point addresses nothing Gordon. Yes, they beat UNC twice last year but they had an equally talented and even more experienced team than UNC did. Yes, they came close to Duke last year twice, but ultimately fell short both times. BC had just as an experienced team as Duke. A good team wins those close games. I like how you have ignored every point I have made. Just because you come close to beating a good team does not make you a good coach. Lousy teams beat highly ranked teams. Does that mean that its coach is good? Probably not. The past 6 years, Skinner has been pulling the "patience" and "consistent" crap. Up until 2 years ago, they were a mediocre team at best who had very terrible losses. Two years ago, the program turned the corner because of Skinner's recruiting. He is probably one of the best coaches in the country in terms of recruiting and player development. That only goes so far though. Lacking a coherent coaching strategy and lacking in-game and game to game adjustments will ultimately be the downfall of BC. Those losses to WVU and UW-Milwaukee two years ago, losses to lousy teams this year only further my point. A good coach would make adjustments that would prove beneficial to the team. And he would not let his team come out flat to start the second half on a consistent basis as BC has done frequently this year.

flutie22phelan20 said...

Bravesbill, who cares if your points are answered. If you think that Al Skinner is not a good basketball coach, you simply don't know anything about basketball.

Stop cherry picking certain games and look at the whole record. Giving Skinner the three years that was necessary to rebuild after Jim O'Brien's dismantling of the program...look at his record, and then compare it to all other major conference coaches. He is the top twenty, if not the top five. So, let's repeat that: BC basketball, over the past 7 years, has been a consistently top 20 team. Name one other time that's happened here.

He's won in the ACC, and he's won in the Big East. He's won in the A-10, and he'd win in the Pac-10, the SEC or wherever else. He's a system guy who doesn't micromanage. And he runs a damn good system, developing players pretty damn well. Other than the two coaches in the ACC currently wearing championship rings, tell me who you would rather have at the helm of our team.

Skip Prosser? Dave Leaito? Lowe? Leonard Hamilton? C'mon.

Maybe, maybe you'd have an argument with Seth Greenberg. But, oops, he's accomplished WAY LESS than Al Skinner. Hmm, looks like your standard for a good coach is a national champion. Not sure we're gonna meet that around here boss.

Bravesbill said...

I never said that Skinner wasn't a good recruiter or player developer. In fact, I said he was one of the best in the country. My gripe with him is that he is not a good in-game coach. And a consistent Top 20 team? What have you been looking at? In 2001, he had a good year winning the Big East. Then they fell off the table again, not even making the tourney in 2002. They finally got good again 2 years ago but ended up under-achieving in the Big East tourney and losing to UW-Milwaukee in the Round of 32. In both games Skinner blew it using his players in questionable ways. Last year Skinner got a little further after almost losing to Pacific and Nevada in the tourney. Still, they lost to a Nova team they should have beat. I'd take Skinner any day as a recreuiter over most of the ACC coaches but as a game manager, I would certainly take over half of the ACC coaches: Coach K, both Williams, Hamilton, Greenberg, Hewitt, Prosser, Purnell, and Leitao. Combine Skinner's recruiting and player development with these coachs' game management and you would have one hell of a coach. I'm not saying Skinner should be fired, but he definitely needs to feel the heat. He's been getting a little too comfortable in his job. I'd like to see a little fire from him once in a while and maybe an adjustment as well.

BCNorCal07 said...

First off, bill we did not almost lose to Montana (not Nevada) in the tournament last year. We blew the Grizzlies out of the building. I was there. It wasn't close. Secondly, 'Nove was one of the top FOUR teams in the country, something BC clearly was not. It was not a game we should have one, but a game we could have one. Big difference. And how can you cherry-pick coaching qualities, combining one's recruiting and teaching with another's game management. look at VaTech, a team that--UNC notwithstanding--has been horrible on the road. Or Prosser who hasn't recruited a talent since Chris Paul. The fact is, Skinner has had his team ahead of those teams for two years now. There was supposed to be a steep learning curve when BC joined the ACC, then without Criag Smith and Louis Hinnant, and finally post-Sean Williams. I agree that Skinner isn't the best in-game coach. However, that doesn't mean he's a horrible coach. He has a team that performs above its talent level (John Oates, Marquez Haynes, Sean Marshall?) and those kinds of teams sometimes flame out. Look at Coach K. His team this year often plays beyond itself (like on Wednesday night), but sometimes they're really bad (like against Maryland). BC is not a blue-blood program which makes its standards different. Not low, just different.

Bravesbill said...

When did I ever cherry-pick qualities? All I said was that Al Skinner was a horrible in-game coach. I did give him props though for being a fantastic recruiter and player developer.

ATL_eagle said...

Bravesbill, I am really going to take the contrarian view here and say Skinner is also one of the better in game coaches in college basketball. Yes, he doesn’t make tons of adjustments, but he gets results. His style and focus is to play his way, his lineup, and given time, he’ll beat you. And it works. Aside from his win loss record, look at our record in close games (decided by 5 points or less) over the past six year. It is probably one of the best in the country. Duke was not a good game, but Skinner is still a great coach.

BCLou said...

bravesbill, I could comment on some of your other points but it's unnecessary if you seriously think Hewitt or Prosser are better game coaches than Al. Float that nonsense in Atlanta or Winston-Salem and they'll bust a gut laughing at you. Most Wake folks would be ecstatic for someone to take Skippy off their hands.

ATL_eagle said...

Exactly, Lou. Hewitt changes lineups like a Hockey coach. He is constantly fiddling. Who has the better record? Who gets more out of his talent?

Angry Eagle said...

Bravesbill, you have no idea what you are talking about. I have a friend who talks that crap about Skinner and I'm going to say to you what I say to him: at what point are you going to admit that he's a great coach? Will it take 7 straight NCAA tourneys? 15? 20? After the breakout year with Troy Bell, et al, I'll give you that that could have been a fluke. But all those players from that team are long gone, but we're still seeing sustained success, and his best class is coming in next year. Additionally, look around the country and show me another program outside of the perennial powers like Duke, Kansas, UConn, Arizona, who have enjoyed the success of BC the past 7 years. People criticize Skinner for BC not making the Sweet 16 more often, but I read last year that there are only 4 teams that have won their 1st round NCAA game from 2003-2006 (BC is one of em). Look at the post I just put up on my blog and maybe you'll have a little more appreciation for what he's accomplished.

oerd said...

I am not sure Blair is much better that Oates. Maybe a bit better yes but still... The problem is that Al doesn't have enough talent in the team, thanx to akida and SWilliams

Yes he is not the best ingame coach but you people are blaming him unfairly. Oates pulled 7 boards in 23 min. Noone else was pulling boards. Blair had one in 17 min. Oates actually had a really good game (by Oates standard 0-0-0). Maybe Blair deserves to start compared to Oates but that doesnt change the fact that our best player, Dudley (awesome guy wish him all the very best), couldn't beat the #1 defence in the ACC. Now that cannot shock us.
Show appreciation for Al Skinner. He is the reason we think we have a chance to begin with.