Steve Alford wins the Pac12 Championship by going 2-for-1 late in the game

The best coaching decision that I saw all weekend was made by Steve Alford of UCLA. With 50 seconds left in a tie game, Alford set up a play to go 2-for-1:

Jordan Adams hit a tough three-point shot, and that turned the game. However, had Adams missed the shot, the decision to go 2-for-1 was the correct decision, but one that few college coaches tend to make.

College coaches tend to ignore 2-for-1 situations for three major reasons: (1) Don’t trust their players; (2) Longer shot clock (35 seconds) means fewer opportunities; and (3) College basketball uses halves, not quarters, meaning fewer opportunities per game and per season. Because of the limited opportunities that a coach or team may face this situation during a season, I imagine that few coaches practice or emphasize it.

Coaching in Europe, with quarters and a 24-second shot clock, it is something that we have talked about and emphasized since September, as the situation occurs almost once per game. In our two-game play-off series last week, we had the last possession at the end of 4 or 5 of the 6 quarters (we won both by double digits, so the fourth quarter didn’t count). We even executed for a lay-up after our opponent’s made free throw with four seconds left in the quarter, a situation that we had discussed and walked through the night before the game.

Alford gave his team the best chance to win the game by going 2-for-1 in that situation. In terms of game coaching, that is a coach’s job: put your players and team in the best possible situation to be successful. Whereas many ignore these types of situations, Alford capitalized on the situation and maximized his team’s opportunity to win.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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