Jeff Pearlman

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Really bad coaching

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In case you missed this, the UConn women’s basketball team opened the NCAA Tournament with a 140-52 win over No. 16 St. Francis (Pa.). The Huskies led 94-31 at halftime. Which, really, should be said again: The Huskies led 94-31 at halftime.

Afterward, Joe Haigh, the losing coach, was unapologetic for his decision to have his players dash up and down the court and huck up as many three pointers as humanly possible. The Red Flash actually set a women’s tournament record by shooting 57 threes (and making 10). Which—truly—is batshit crazy. I get that your players like to shoot. I get that you prefer a quick pace. I get that this is what you know and how you approach the game.

But, Jesus Christ, man, you’re facing UConn—a team that lives to run.

When this sort of thing happens, I tend to think back to Bum Phillips, the ol’ Houston Oilers coach who found great success running Earl Campbell out of the I Formation. The Tyler Rose would line up deep in the I, take the handoff and slam, slam, slam into opposing defenses. It worked well, because … Earl Campbell was a hoss. When Phillips then coached the Saints, he continued with the same offense. And it was a disaster. Why? Because the personnel and circumstance didn’t match the idea.

The point is, good coaches adjust. And while. St. Francis wouldn’t have even beaten UConn’s backups’ backups’ backups, they could have at least tried slowing things down, testing the Huskies’ patience, relaxing, waiting, waiting, waiting, letting the shot clock come toward its completion.

They could have at least given themselves a chance.

  • Vegas Independent

    I thought Coach Haigh’s game plan was great. I am sure many of UConn’s opponents have tried to play a “Princeton” style game against UConn. It does not work. Your team has about a 1,000 times less of chance than UMBC did the other night, so why not try to bomb away and possibly have a chance of being close at halftime. It did not work, but they did not lay down. It was basically like playing NBA2k against a teenager who plays it all the time. You know you are not going to win, but you will try to score as much as you can, even if you cannot win.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life