The Importance of Coaching

Thursday night, UT Martin (18-12, 10-5) wrecked Tennessee State (19,9 10-5) with a rugged display underneath the rim by both teams, 72-56.

Tennessee State Head Coach Dana Ford had many decisions to make, most of them in an instant.  How did he do?

DECISION #1

Christian Griggs-Williams started the game.  He started the second half.  According to Coach Ford he earned the start with his play lately and in practice.

“I thought he had been playing well the last five games,” said Coach Ford.  “He is a senior.  We are trying to send him out with a bang.”

To begin the second half, Tennessee State was out-rebounded on several defensive possessions.  Kedar Edwards, in particular, hopped over the flat-footed Griggs-Williams.

Any criticism of Griggs-Williams’ rebounding prowess must be tempered with the first half, during which TSU destroyed the hosting Skyhawks on the glass.  At one point the Tigers were up 10-1 on the boards, and CGW played heavily during that pounding.

The alternative to starting CGW is clearly Wayne Martin.  Though Martin is the better rebounder, he still got his 21 minutes.  Even when Martin was starting he only played 23-25 minutes.

“I don’t think our starting lineup had much to do with the outcome,” said Coach Ford.  “I don’t think it is good or bad either way.”

Coach Ford is partially correct here.

If CGW did anything offensively, then the decision to start him would have been smart.  Unfortunately, Griggs-Williams shot 1-6, 0-3 3-pointers.  He collected a single rebound.  His main contribution was bodying up Myles Taylor, and disallowing the hungry Taylor a pathway towards the Skyhawk misses.

You can’t penalize Coach Ford for a guy who entered shooting 61.1% from deep missing all three attempts.

GRADE: B

DECISION #2

Already saddled with two fouls, Keron DeShields stayed on the floor when he picked up his second personal foul with 15:34 left in the first half.

This was intentional, and Coach Ford elected to play his horse despite the burdensome saddle.

DeShields is very important to Tennessee State, and arguably their most critical player to have on the floor.  But, ultimately, if faced with DeShields not playing in the stretch run you have to sit him during the first half.

Tennessee State was leading 23-19 when DeShields left the game.  The Skyhawks went on a 14-8 run to close the half without DeShields on the court.  It is entirely possible the Skyhawks make that run at 15:34, if Coach Ford removed his star then.

The main dilemma is…’Did you inhibit your chances for winning the game in the second half by leaving your top 2 player on the court too long in the first?’

The short answer is yes.

GRADE: D

DECISION #3

Coach Ford brought Keron back into the game early in the second half.  In order to make this decision, Coach Ford quickly consulted Assistant Coach Rodney Hamilton.  They agreed and he was inserted into the game.  It should be mentioned Xavier Richards was forced from the game with a sore left hamstring (he did return).

DeShields was able to play plenty with those three fouls in the second half.

His offensive impact was limited.  He scored four points and offered two assists in 14 second-half minutes.

He did not play well, but Coach Ford made the perfect move bringing him back in when he did.  If anything, maybe you bring KD in to start the second half.  With three fouls already, that would have been another big gamble, but blessed with 20/20 vision in hindsight UT Martin exploded out of the locker room (10-0 run) and never looked back.

GRADE: A+

DECISION #4

Head Coach Ford cut Darreon Reddick’s minutes.  In two years Reddick has already earned 52 starts, but lately he can’t shoot.  Not, Reddick has been a little cold.  He can not shoot.

Would you believe the formerly 44.9% outside shooter (2014-2015) has not hit any kind of shot since Valentine’s Day?  He has missed every single field goal taken in four straight games.

Fifteen straight shots is a slump by any standards, and Reddick’s are higher than most.  He is certainly a top 3 outside shooter on this squad.

By all accounts Reddick is a team player, who doesn’t complain.  He never creates friction, but when a guy is missing that many shots your team suffers.

So, a player averaging 24.4 mpg only saw the floor for 16 minutes tonight.

Coach Ford made the right move to search for another scorer in his place.

There is one small asterisk though.  Reddick hauled in seven rebounds in those limited minutes.  Reddick collected three second-half rebounds in limited action after the break.

There is an argument that pulling Reddick left a weaker rebounding unit on the court.  Overall, the offense was slipping and Reddick was not helping.

This was a tough, but correct decision.

GRADE: A-

OVERALL

Unprompted Coach Ford offered the following assessment of the 72-56 loss.

“I think they were probably a little better coached for this game,” said Coach Ford.  “They were prepared more.  They had a better gameplan and they obviously executed it a little better than we did ours.”

Coach Ford taking the blame is noble, but two things made the difference in this game.  Rebounding and shooting.

In the first half, TSU rebounded very well and lead most of the time.  In the second half…they did not and did not.

UT Martin had 24 second half rebounds.  Unforgivable and that is on the players.  Coach Ford can’t jump for the basketball.

OVERALL GRADE: B

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