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Coaches opine about changes with shot clock

Most of us have assumed that the 35-second clock, adopted next year for boys basketball by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, will abet an offensive explosion. And many believe there will be increased fan interest as a result.

“Everyone likes a buzzer-beater and now we have a chance for one at the end of every 35 seconds,” said University coach Garrick Phillips, one of the clock’s proponents.

But in conversation and e-mail exchanges, several area coaches say that the impact may come more on defense.

Most seemed ambivalent about the change. More were for it than against it, and others said the jury is still out or that it didn’t matter.

“I’m against it from the standpoint that if the reason is fans want run-and-gun, I think that’s a bad reason,” outgoing Mt. Spokane coach Bill Ayers said. “First and foremost, coaches have an obligation to give their kids a chance to win.”

Coaches agree the clock will benefit the more talented team.

“This thing really takes away the opportunity of a so-called lesser team to have the ability to win, it really does,” Shadle Park’s Tim Gaebe said.

That said, teams generally hoist a shot quicker than the allotted 35 seconds anyway, so it probably won’t affect the majority of games.

It will, however, alter the coaching approach.

“I like the addition of the shot clock and maybe not for the obvious reason,” said Mead coach Glenn Williams, another up-tempo-style coach. “This new rule has several ramifications that add strategic elements to coaching.”

Among them are termination plays at the end of the clock and using the clock on defense by forcing shots under duress, he said.

Gaebe and Ayers believe we’ll see more pressure, extended defenses and zones in an attempt to burn as much clock as possible before a team can get into its sets.

“One thing you’ll see are a lot more 2-2-1 type presses, not so much to steal the ball, but to eat up clock,” Ayers said.

“A lot of teams will go automatically to a set play at 10 seconds,” Gaebe said, adding that teams must emphasize forcing the ball into a lesser shooter’s hands on defense.

Some coaches believe that time spent on teaching fundamentals could suffer as more time is spent on time management and working on specific plays to accommodate the clock.

“To me, the last two or three minutes of a game are going to be very, very interesting. That’s where you’ll really see a change in the game,” Gaebe said.

Statewide coaches weren’t necessarily for the clock, even though the rule was passed. Progress marches on. Teams such as Washington State showed you can still play tempo basketball and succeed within a 35-second framework.

With the clock and 3-point arc, leads that maybe were safe late in game before won’t be – although experience has shown teams that stall to protect a lead late can lose momentum and fritter it away.

Purists take heart. Even if the stall, per se, is a thing of the past, those minutes can be still taken off the clock. It merely will happen during 35-second increments throughout the entire course of a game.

Track gets serious

District meets and season-ending league championships take center stage this week in track and field. The District 8 4A and 3A meets – today at 3 p.m., and Friday at 3:30 at Spokane Falls Community College – send five and eight runners, respectively, to regional.

Unbeaten West Valley, Pullman and Cheney boys race, jump and throw at WV at 3:30 today for the Great Northern League title.

Softball showdowns

GSL district softball begins today at Whitworth University with loser-out games. The championships are Friday: Shadle Park vs. Mt. Spokane for the 3A title at 3 p.m., followed by the 4A with University vs. Central Valley.

•The District 4A baseball final is 7 p.m. Friday at Avista Stadium.