Did anyone happen to catch the end of the Thunder-Mavericks game last night? Down by a basket with just under a minute left to play, Oklahoma City (backup) pg Eric Maynor had the ball at the top of the key on a critical possession for his team. Off a defensive switch, Maynor believes he has a mismatch against a much slower (but much taller however) Dirk Nowitzki and proceeds to wave everybody off calling for a clear-out. He has now made the decision that he was going to take it upon himself to take the big shot. The result? Air-ball. Mavs gain possession and proceed to race down the other end of the court for a dunk plus the foul for a three-point play. The 4 point lead becomes insurmountable for Oklahoma City.
Maynor’s decision to call for a clear-out on that crucial possession would have been ok if it was 2007 and he was still playing for VCU going against Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately for Maynor, and Oklahoma City, it’s 2011 and this situation was in an elimination game in the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Also, the players he waved off included Kevin Durant (NBA’s top scorer), Russell Westbrook (OKC’s second leading scorer), and James Harden (who scored 23 points already in the game)…all of whom would have been more desirable options for Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
But what can you do as a coach? You teach these ball players to take advantage of situations starting from the time they started playing in grade school. You as a coach want all of your players to have that killer instinct in them. You want them to believe that they can do it, that they can score, and that they can dominate this situation. As a coach, you are in the best position to sense if a certain player is ready for that one big moment. You come up with a strategy that you have developed quickly in your head based off your knowledge, prior experiences, and mostly just a certain overall feel of the game and/or players on the court. You control the situation. And let’s face it, all of us coaches are control freaks.
The very moment a player turns to a coach and says the phrase, “I got this coach”, the heart instantly jumps into the throat. It is because the coach knows that they’ve just lost control over the situation. It’s now up to the player to make the right decision and the coach can only hope that their prior coaching resonates in that player somehow.
“I got this coach” only becomes more comforting for a coach to hear as you climb up in skill level. However, even at the highest level, I’m pretty sure that some NBA coaches get a little nervous when they hear this deadly godforsaken phrase…especially when the phrase isn’t coming from someone named Kobe, Lebron, or Dirk. As you move down each level, the phrase becomes less and less desirable. At the high school level, it is down right frightening. I remember the first time I heard this phrase from one of my players in a late game situation. I started to sweat uncontrollably almost as if I was actually playing in the game myself. I must have nearly passed out. I was able to keep my composure and proceeded to watch my player hit the game winning shot. Even though I was elated about the result, during the following practice I politely asked him to bury that sickening phrase for the remainder of the season. He smiled and agreed to adhere to my request. Thank goodness!