I figured my one loyal reader (hi mom) was getting sick of what I had to say so I'm renting my space to people who actually know what they're talking about.
I asked area boys' and girls' basketball coaches five questions, three concerning current hot topics and two to quell my own curiosity.
Question No. 1: With the Pequot Lakes boys' basketball team finally losing a regular-season game after 36 straight; is it better to lose a game in the regular season or is there no extra pressure when you are undefeated?
Staples-Motley boys' coach Lynn Peterson: "I am not sure if that can ever be proven one way or the other. I think that if you have a very mature group of kids with a common goal, you strive for the best and that means winning, but if you have a team that does not handle their success very well, maybe a setback to let them know they are still human is good for them."
Pequot Lakes boys' basketball coach Garry Grewe watched his team in Friday's game against Verndale. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Brainerd girls' coach Carl Hendrickson: "The more games you win, the more confidence your team and players have. There is pressure in every game to perform to the expectations you have set for your team and players. Winning with confidence takes a lot of the pressure away."
Pierz girls' coach Rick Sczublewski: "Winning builds confidence. Confidence is so essential in sports at any level. I think losing a game sometimes enables a coach to gain the attention of his or her players in practice and refocus them. It probably is a good thing in the long run. I hate to lose games, though."
Brainerd boys' coach Matt Urbanek: "There might be less pressure after losing a game, but you always want to win every game you play. I think if a team is undefeated they will play with a great deal of confidence. There will be lots of pressure in the playoffs no matter what a team's record is. I don't think the "undefeated" label adds enough extra pressure to be able to say it's better to lose a game."
Pine River-Backus boys' coach Matt Moen: "I would say that it is better to lose a game during the regular season so the pressure is off your players. That way they have been in a tight/losing situation and when those situations come up in the playoffs your kids have some experience with how to handle it. For instance what worked and what didn't."
Pequot Lakes boys' coach Garry Grewe: "I think there is really no extra pressure on the kids. It's about being motivated to play your best. Sometimes a loss will bring kids back to reality and make them focus on practice and preparation better."
Question No. 2: The old saying is offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. I've also heard the argument that too much stock is placed on defense and you still need to score points in order to win. Which is it?
Peterson: "The makeup of your team depends on what is best for you. At a recent clinic I attended, the most consistent correlation to winning was field goal percentage and No. 2 was free throws."
Hendrickson: "You have to be able to score points to win games and be able to play some defense as you go along. If you score more points than your opponents, you'll probably win a lot of games. Dribble, pass, shoot - that's it."
Sczublewski: "I feel a team needs to be committed to defense in order to win a championship. There will be nights when shots won't drop. Defense can be a constant no matter what, if that philosophy is established from day one of the season."
Urbanek: "You need to be successful in both areas of the game, but the defensive end is what wins games. Offense is a matter of timing and touch in basketball, and it will be more consistent on some nights. However, defense is a matter of hustle, heart, and effort. Defense can be there every single night, keep you in the game and still give you a chance to win when shots aren't falling."
Moen: "I feel you need to place importance on the defensive end, because if you are unable to stop anyone you will never win. You can't count on your shots dropping every night and when they don't, you have to have something to fall back on when you are struggling on offense.
Grewe: "Defense wins championships. Defense is effort and you can always control effort. You can't always control shooting."
Question No. 3: If you could create a team from scratch what would be the first attribute you would want:
Peterson: "If I were drafting a team, my first pick would be a point guard who is a fierce competitor with a great understanding of the game. My next pick would be a post player. If you have those two, you can be very good."
Hendrickson: "Good shooters would be my first choice. If you have enough of them, you have to defend all of them instead of one, two, or three players that most teams have."
Sczublewski: "I want players that are hard workers and are willing to give everything they have every night for the team. A positive attitude and solid work habits are critical. Obviously, Pierz girls' basketball has not been blessed with a lot of height over the years so I'd love to have a big post player in the 6-foot-2/6-3 range once before I die. However, the guard position, to me, is the most important element in basketball. If you can have a solid point guard with quickness and a solid post, you can be very competitive. Players knowing and accepting their roles is also a major factor in team success."
Urbanek: "The first thing I would look for is high-character players who put the team ahead of themselves and work hard. It doesn't matter how much size or talent a player has if they are selfish and unable to work as part of a team. I believe chemistry, attitude, and work ethic are very underrated."
Moen: "I would want players with a high basketball IQ. If they understand the game they are able to improve on areas that they struggle in. If you have a great scorer but he can't stop anyone, what is his value to the team? Can you play him in a tight game when you need a stop? No. I have seen tall/quick players that don't make the greatest basketball players because they don't understand how to incorporate it into playing basketball."
Grewe: "Point guard and a post. You have both, you'll at least always be competitive. You have to have a good point guard or you'll never get the ball up the court without a turnover. A post gives you some type of inside presence."
Next week look for coaches replies to: What are your thoughts on halves as opposed to quarters? How has it changed your coaching style?
And, the final question, whose answer surprised me a bit: There has been talk about shot clocks and other things. What changes would you like to see to the game? Or do you like the game the way it is now and you wouldn't make any changes?
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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