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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Seven Great "Hubie-isms"

You don't really want an analysis of Chicago's 101-68 win over Washington, do you? For those who do, I'll keep it brief: Chicago has a very good chance to win the Eastern Conference and Washington is not very good without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. Now, what to do with the rest of this post? Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown handled ABC's broadcast of Chicago's rout, so now is as good a time as any to list some of the best "Hubie-isms" (not necessarily from this game, but ones that he has emphasized for many years). Hubie Brown is my favorite NBA analyst of all-time and I was fortunate enough to interview him last year. He is very analytical, he knows his stuff and he is able to explain things clearly and briefly during stoppages of play so that he is not constantly talking over the action. Brown led the Kentucky Colonels to the 1975 ABA championship and he won NBA Coach of the Year awards in 1978 with Atlanta and 2005 with Memphis; he also coached some strong New York Knicks teams in the early 1980s that featured Bernard King: in 1983 and 1984 those squads were eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual NBA champions. Without further ado, words of wisdom from Coach Brown:

1) The importance of point differential as an indicator of a team's strength

Long before Bill James or "Moneyball," Brown focused on certain key statistics, with point differential at the top of the list. When the Colonels brought him in for an interview, he had charts and diagrams showing what statistical indicators corresponded to certain won-loss records and he explained exactly what he would do to get the Colonels to perform at the highest possible level. Kentucky hired him and Brown led the team--which had fallen just short of a championship for several years--to a title. Brown emphasizes that you don't only look at how many points a team gives up but that you must focus on the point differential.

2) Distance is not a factor

Brown mainly uses this one in reference to Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, two players who can score from any distance and against any kind of defensive pressure.

3) Dunk the ball with two hands in traffic so that you don't get knocked off balance and so that you might have an opportunity for a three point play

Brown mentioned this during the Bulls game. Too many players go for the fancy one handed dunk but the slightest body contact causes them to lose the ball, meaning that at best they get two free throw attempts and at worst they get a turnover if the official does not deem the contact worthy of a foul call.

4) There is plenty of time

Brown says this both when a team trails early in a game and also at the end of contests when a team is only one or two possessions behind. Brown then explains exactly what the trailing team needs to do: it might be better screen and roll defense, taking care of the defensive boards or (in a late game situation) calling a play to get the ball to the team's best scorer in one of his high percentage areas.

5) It depends on the philosophy of the coaching staff

This sounds like a cop-out, but not the way that Brown says it. Two examples: (1) Tirico asked Brown if a team should shorten its rotation during the playoffs. Brown stated that it depends on the philosophy of the coaching staff but he went on to explain the rationale behind two different ways of doing things: Brown's approach was to go 10 deep all season and to constantly rotate in fresh players but some coaches prefer to rely on just their top seven or eight guys; the difference stems from what kind of system the team is using (Brown's teams played a lot of pressure defense, so he needed to have fresh bodies on the court every few minutes). (2) Whenever a team is up three and on defense with less than 10 seconds left there is always a question of whether or not they should foul to prevent a tying three pointer from being shot (Charles Barkley is a big advocate of fouling). Brown always explains that some coaches believe in playing good fundamental defense, forcing the other team to make a difficult, contested shot, while other coaches think that the better percentage play is to foul, forcing the other team to make a free throw, miss a free throw, get the rebound and then score (my opinion is that it depends on the personnel that each team has. If the trailing team has excellent three point shooters, then fouling probably is the way to go--but if the trailing team does not have good three point shooters or if the defending team is a young squad that might mess up and foul someone while he is shooting instead of before he shoots then simply switching on all screens and contesting the shot is probably the way to go).

6) The NBA game is played a foot above the rim, at the top of the box

Brown brought this up near the end of the Bulls game, acknowledging that he has said this many times before (he told me the same thing in the interview referenced above). The high school, college and FIBA games are played around rim level, but the athleticism in the NBA is off of the charts. The speed, quickness, power and jumping ability of NBA players are things that you have to see in person to fully appreciate but Brown constantly emphasizes these aspects of the NBA game; there is a reason that many college stars end up sitting on the bench in the NBA or not even making it to the league at all.

7) Will you please...?

When a player does not do what he should be doing, Brown often begins, "Will you please...?" and then follows that with an explanation of what he should have done. When Dick Stockton did play by play alongside Brown he would often wait for Brown to finish and then say, "As long as you say please."

posted by David Friedman @ 9:32 PM



At Sunday, April 15, 2007 10:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great. Hubie is my favourite analyst and it's a real pain in the ass to get so much Bill Walton in the colour seat on ESPN.

At Monday, April 16, 2007 12:35:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

"Will you please" is by far the best. Constant laughter.

Also when he says so and so is the best we have in this league.

At Monday, April 16, 2007 2:58:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Hubie is excellent. Anyone who likes hear basketball analysis from a technical, coaching standpoint should love Hubie.

Walton is the best though. No one is more entertaining to listen to. Sometimes I'll keep watching blowouts just to hear Walton go on about John Wooden or Kareem or call any random former UCLA player a "legend" or compare someone like Boris Diaw to Mozart.

I wish someone would get Rick Barry back on as a color guy. His bluntness never failed to amuse me.

At Monday, April 16, 2007 4:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Walton is probably the most polarizing commentator--people either love him or hate him, as can be seen by the two comments here that mention him. Walton is entertaining but sometimes he goes off the deep end; also, I think that on occasion he says outlandish things just to be outlandish and when you do that people can't always tell when you are being serious and when you are joking. I wish that he would be a little bit more serious and really get into explaining the technical aspects of the game, which he clearly understood very well to play the way that he did.

Brown tries to explain from a technical standpoint exactly what is happening and that is the way that I have always tried to understand the game from when I first started watching. I like to know why certain players and teams are greater than others. When the Bulls first started running the Triangle Offense years ago, all you had to do was listen to Hubie and it was like getting a crash course in the theory and practice of the Triangle. He told you where everybody was going and why.

Barry is highly intelligent and extremely opinionated. You can learn a lot about basketball by listening to him but his personality is a bit abrasive. He has his own radio show and every so often he pops up on NBA TV. The last time I saw him on TV I immediately did a post to discuss some of the interesting comments that he made.

At Tuesday, April 17, 2007 4:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog for some time now and i finaly had to chime in on this post. Im a huge Hubie fan and he's been my favorite analyst since i first heard him in the early 90's. I have learnt some much from his broadcasts, much of which i put into practice on the court. One of his phases that will always stick in my head is "never pass the ball to the player posting up until he calls for the ball", it seems so simple but its amazing how many times you see players ignore it.

Great blog.


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