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Just The Sports: Two Overlooked Coaches

Just The Sports

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Two Overlooked Coaches

Even though I do follow end of the year awards for sports, I never expect the sports media to get the winners correct, but despite my lowered expectations, I am still surprised at just how far away the voters come from selecting the most deserving candidates. Case in point is the AP voters who selected Tony Bennett as their coach of the year by an astonishing margin. I have already spoken about why Bennett had an easier job coaching Washington State than many would like to admit so I will not be focusing on that subject again. What I find exceedingly difficult to fathom is how the AP voters, if they and their award desire to taken seriously, made the decision to cast nary a vote for Mike Brey of Notre Dame or Tim Floyd of USC.

Last year, there were two schools of thought for why the Fighting Irish finished with only a 16-14 record. Either you thought the basketball team were notorious underachievers or you just felt they ran into a lot of bad luck by losing so many close games. The latter school is closer to the truth. Although Notre Dame outscored their opponents by 8.8 points per 100 posssessions, they only finished one game above .500 due to losing fourteen games by an average of 4.1 points per loss.

Notre Dame reversed that trend in a big way in 2006-07 by dramatically improving their defensive efficiency by forcing more turnovers, allowing 8.7 points per 100 possessions less than in 2005-06, while maintaining their offensive play. By playing better defense, Notre Dame avoiding leaving the outcomes of their games up to chance and instead dominated their competition, outscoring their opponents by 19.0 points per 100 possessions. The Irish accomplished this feat with a roster stability of only .73 (a loss of almost 1 1/2 position players from the previous season), although some might say getting rid of Chris Quinn was actually quite the boon. Yet, despite this turnaround, not one single vote for Brey. Go figure.

USC under Tim Floyd made even a more dramatic improvement from last season to the one that just ended while working with a team with a lowly roster stability of .59 (a loss of two position players from the previous season). Their largest increase in efficiency came on offense. Better field goal shooting aided the USC Trojans in jumping from an offensive efficiency of 100.4 to 106.2. Their defense also improved even if it was not up to a statistically significant level. When both seasons were said and done, the Trojans outscored their opponents by 1.3 points per 100 possessions in 2005-06 and then 9.7 points per 100 possessions in 2006-07, enough for the Trojans to go from a 17-13 record to a 25-12 one.

Taking everything into consideration, what these coaches did is even more impressive than what Washington State's Tony Bennett was able to accomplish as Brey and Floyd were able to oversee their teams' improvements with fewer advantages.



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