No layups. No 3-pointers. No transition baskets. Pull the ball out. Ten passes before you shoot. Stay in your flat 2-3 zone defense. Run to condition and not to score. Hope the other team agrees to a running clock.
And here Sheryl Krmpotich thought she was coaching basketball.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “I’m now coaching some games looking at the scoreboard more than concentrating on the court. It’s a lose-lose. We’re trying to do everything possible not to run up a score, and yet the (margin) gets to 50 and I’m writing a letter about it.
“Sometimes, younger players who put in the time and don’t get to play a lot want to shoot and want to score and want to get after it, and we end up saying, ‘No.’ It’s hard to coach that way.”
Krmpotich is the highly successful girls coach at Bishop Gorman, and there isn’t a soul within state limits who would feel sorry for anyone with her team’s annual talent level having to discover creative ways not to humiliate others over 32 minutes of play. No one is shedding tears over her plight and that of other teams with superior skill.
But there is a bigger issue to the tactics that Krmpotich and other coaches of the area’s best boys and girls teams must now employ: Is it right for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association to regulate sportsmanship?
It’s a question raised after coaches this season received a letter from NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine, which said any coach whose team wins by 50 or more points must submit an “explanation of safeguards that were implemented in that game which should have prevented the point differential.”
Translation: Tell us how you kicked the snot out of someone.
The short of it: There is a right way and a wrong way to beat another in basketball by 50, and any coach worth his or her whistle understands both. Even those who try everything possible not to run up scores often play starters too long and are late in calling off defensive pressure.
What they do in terms of substitutions and scheme in the fourth quarter could still be done at halftime and the outcome wouldn’t change.
There were a combined 15 boys and girls games decided by 50 or more points from Jan. 4 to Jan. 14. Centennial’s girls won by scores of 97-43 and 100-23 and 79-15. Bishop Gorman’s girls won by margins of 52 and 64 and 63. The boys team at Agassi Prep beat Calvary Chapel, 101-46.
What shouldn’t happen is what has in some instances, with reports of better teams avoiding having to write an explanation letter by doing things such as scoring at their own basket or laying the ball down for the opponent to pick up or deliberately throwing it out of bounds.
That isn’t playing basketball.
It’s making a mockery of the game.
“The letter was to re-emphasize that high school athletics is about participation and sportsmanship and citizenship,” said Donnie Nelson, assistant director of the NIAA. “It was to remind coaches to do their best to honor the game by treating opponents with respect so as to not blatantly run up a score … .
“Above all, whether the margin reaches 50 or not, we want them playing the right way. We understand based on ability there are going to be some of these large discrepancies in score no matter how teams play.”
Bonine reads every explanation letter and to this point has approved each one, not coming close to the potential sanctions suggested in his letter to those teams that offer a pattern of winning big.
Truth is, he overreacted to a handful of complaints.
Of those 15 games decided by 50 or more the first few weeks of January, three teams accounted for eight of them. This isn’t a widespread problem by any means.
Blowouts are going to happen, especially in the girls game, in which the difference in talent between the top few teams and most others is massive.
This has, will and always should come back to the coach whose team is ruling the scoreboard.
What level of integrity does he or she own?
What level of class?
What lessons are they teaching kids?
“I understand coaches want their kids to play hard until the final buzzer and the teams (winning) big have kids playing at the end who might not get into games that much,” said Calvary Chapel boys coach David Tautofi, whose team has been on the losing end of games decided by 70 and 55 points. “I’m not one to sit and whine about how much we get beat by. You deal with the cards you are dealt and coach them the best you can.
“It comes down to individual coaches. If you’re up 30 and still pressing just to win by 60 … that’s wrong and unfortunate. I mean, what’s the point? What are you accomplishing?”
There is a right way to do it.
There is a wrong way.
Believe me, coaches know the difference, and those who exhibit the latter have much bigger issues than some letter will solve.