04 October, 2022
14 May, 2023
Sito Alonso (UCAM)
Diccon Lloyd-Smeath's Champions League Insider
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Timeouts and the race for Coach of the Year

MADRID (Spain) -  The World Cup Qualifying Window is done and it's nearly December. Even though it still feels like the season only just got started, we have already reached the first checkpoint of the MVP Race. If there were checkpoints for Coach of the Year, how would we judge them? For players, we can argue about scoring, rebounds, blocks, steals, efficiency, and all that kind of stuff. With coaches, we can always talk about results - because ultimately that is what coaches are hired (and fired) for - but is there anything in-game that is more directly related to the way that coaches impact winning and losing?

Whilst lineups and substitute patterns are major tools in a coach's arsenal when it comes to impacting the game, the easiest way for us to measure is almost certainly the way teams play immediately after a timeout. If we measure a team's points per possession in the two possessions instantly after a timeout, or at the start of a quarter, we get a pretty clear picture of how well a team is connected to and able to execute their coach's instructions. The data viz above shows us what percentage of those possessions result in a score and how many points per possession (PPP) they score. Using those two metrics, we have two early frontrunners for the Coach of the Year.

Sito Alonso - UCAM Murcia

Score%: 53.1 percent (1st), Points Per Possession: 1.19 (1st)


Sito Alonso's offense is hard enough to keep up with at the best of times. Murcia are a blur of shooters running off screens and actions to make it impossible to guard their playmakers in the pick-and-roll. Coming out of a timeout or to start a quarter, Alonso is able to add even more deception. Watch the clip above and notice the play looks like it's designed to be a ball screen for #0, Travis Trice, used as misdirection for #1, Jordan Davis, running off a staggered screen. Only it isn't. Instead, keep an eye on #4, Ryan Luther setting the low screen for Davis. His defender clearly knows the scout on this play and takes his eyes off Luther. This is exactly what Luther and Murcia were looking for.  Davis exits out to the corner and Luther uses the second screen from #13 Artem Pustovyi instead. 

in the clip below we see Murcia start the fourth quarter with exactly the same play and exactly the same option. Strasbourg were alive to it and switched everything to snuff out the open shot. No problem for Murcia, though. They just rolled straight into the next option as #25, David Jelinek, turns and exits back where he came from via another screen from Pustovyi.


Tuomas Iisalo - Telekom Baskets Bonn

Score%: 47.1 percent (3rd), Points Per Possession: 1.09 (2nd)

Now, you might be wondering why Iisalo is the clear candidate here when the data viz shows that Bonn have such similar stats to Anders Sommer's Bakken Bears. The reason for that is two-fold; firstly Bakken are 0-3 in Group E and whilst Sommer is clearly coaching every drop out of his roster, you can't be a Coach of the Year candidate without winning a game, and secondly, we used defense as our independent adjudicator. Bonn are conceding just 0.72 PPP (8th) coming out of timeouts, allowing their opponents to score on just 31 percent of plays (7th). Neither Murcia nor Bakken come anywhere close to Bonn on defense out of a timeout. 


The play above is clearly one of Iisalo's favorites when he wants to get a good look coming out of a timeout. The idea is to get into a "Horns" alignment with both corners filled and two screeners at the elbows but they want to mask it and try to get defenders out of position first. In the clip above they do that by running #20, Jeremy Morgan along the free-throw line (using what is known as an "Iverson" cut) with the help of a screen from #70, Finn Delany. Delany then follows Morgan to clear space for a Kratzer and T.J. Shorts pick-and-roll. Pay extra attention to #21, Leon Kratzer's defender before he screens for Shorts. All the extra stuff going on before means his defender is in the middle of the floor and late to defend the pick-and-roll. Kratzer gets behind him for the lob.


In the clip above, it's exactly the same action later on in the quarter against AEK. This time Iisalo has tweaked his lineup so Finn Delany is playing the small-ball center and setting the ball screen for Shorts. Instead of rolling, he pops and his defender is too focused on Shorts to be anywhere near contesting the shot. Also, notice that Delany gets five steps in to separate from the action when he pops. When Bonn execute the concept and the details, they are tough to guard.

Now, of course, Alonso and Iisalo aren't the only candidates for Coach of the Year and we can't judge the race on timeouts alone. Josh King is coaching MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg into the best team statistically in the BCL this season, and with Hapoel Atsmon Holon, Surne Bilbao, and Baxi Manresa also sitting at 3-0 atop their respective groups, Guy Goodes, Jaume Ponsarnau, and Pedro Martinez all have very strong claims so far. Just as well it is very early in the season and we don't have to judge this award just yet. 

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon Lloyd-Smeath

Diccon is a basketball coach and analyst living in Madrid. Constantly digging in the crates of box scores and clicking through hours of game footage. Diccon is on the hunt for the stories within the stories. If you like to get a closer look at what’s going in the Basketball Champions League, you have found it.