This article was written by USC men's basketball coach Chris Capko. Coach Capko has been a part of the Trojan's staff since 2013. Before that he held coaching positions at Georgia Southern University, Stetson University, and Marshall University. Chris is an up and coming coach in the college ranks.
Special situations are an integral part of any game. They are generally very well rehearsed on both sides of the basketball. For each team I scout, I will specifically clip up anything a team does from a baseline-out-of-bounds perspective or a sideline-out-of-bounds perspective. Generally I will clip every possession a team has in the final two minutes of the game to pick up on tendencies, such as who do they run plays for, or what actions to do they like to run.
Many people also look at ATO’s (After Time Outs) as something that’s only important at the end of games. While they are emphasized at the end of games, there are opportunities to either score or be scored on all throughout the game. Lets do the math. In a college game there are four media time outs per half. Each team is also allotted five time outs of their own. Depending on how many timeouts each team has, that equates to 18 timeouts or ATO’s per game. A game can definitely be decided on these possessions.
Let’s look at ATO’s from both sides of the ball:
Like I said, when scouting ATO’S on the defensive side of the ball, I will pay attention to every possession that a particular team has. What do they like to do on the baseline? What do they like to do on the sideline? Will they look to just inbound the ball from either position and run a set, or will they look to score immediately? Who do they like to run actions for out of these situations? These are situations that I might not even show our team during scouting, but I will know as a coach when faced with this.
These are also situations you should meet as a staff on. A lot of the time you will go with your gut and what has been working to date in the game, but you also know actions that you might have trouble defending. Are they actions you could see in an ATO?
What about practice? Have you practiced possible ATO scenarios with your team? For example: your team is up two with five seconds on the clock. Do you switch everything or do you stay with your man? Baseline-out-of-bounds and you are up two with 1 second remaining (See Below). How would you defend that? There is no right answer to these scenarios. Each coach can do at his discretion, but these are situations that can define a game or even a season.
As a head coach, what do you have on your sheet for these situations? What are your plays and who do you run them for when you need a basket? Remember these are not just for end of the game. The opposition is on a 10-0 run, and you need to stop the momentum and get a score. The coach that I played for in college had some “go to” plays that we would run off the baseline. So, anytime we needed to stop a run we would not call a timeout in the full court or on the side. Instead, I would dribble beneath the free throw line and call a timeout so we could run those plays on the baseline.
As a game progresses, these situations become magnified. Do you have sideline plays for a three with under 1,3,5 seconds? What about a play at the rim from either the sideline or the baseline? Who do you want to run them for? Who are your best passers, screeners and shooters in these situations? Do you have a play that could work against a zone or a man when coming out of an ATO to avoid confusion? Just like any other aspect of a game, these plays must be drilled, filmed and talked about.
Again, there is no right amount of time to spend on this aspect of the game. Each coach has a different philosophy when it comes to this. I have been on both sides of it and thought there were things I would have done differently. Figure out what works for you and what your players can comprehend and live with the outcome!