Gentry, D’Antoni superb in most quantifiable coaching stat: doling out minutes

Posted by on September 21st, 12:49 am

Some years it seems like a coach or manager has the Midas Touch, whereby every player they put in the game produces at a high level.

Other times a coach establishes roles to the extent you know exactly what point in the game is occurring based on the players on the floor.

And still other times it might seem as if a coach tries a bizarre lineup because nothing else is working.

In August I took a look Jeremias Engelmann’s method of judging coaches, which “compares how players performed under previous and future coaches with how they performed with the coach at hand to see how the coach improved or hurt the team’s respective offense and defense,” as I wrote previously.

Ian Levy over at Hickory-High sees the most measurable contribution of a coach being in determining who plays and who sits the bench.

Levy writes, “It’s one of a coach’s most basic duties – deciding who will play, when, for how long, and in what combination. Other than in cases of injury or suspension, this distribution is usually the sole discretion of the coach, and therefore provides a set of statistics which can be attributed directly to them. The question then becomes – Can you quantify how adept a coach is at distributing those minutes?”

To answer that question Levy ran a correlation between the effectiveness of each unit a coach played and the number of minutes they played. Effectiveness was gauged by analyzing Net Rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), as provided by Basketball Value‘s five-man unit data for the past four years.

Levy’s numbers ranked Alvin Gentry as the sixth-most effective coach at playing the right players of the 45 who worked a full season in the past four years with a cumulative correlation of 0.660.

Doc Rivers, Phil Jackson, Sam Mitchell, Stan Van Gundy and Flip Saunders make up the top five. It should come as no surprise that Rivers and Jackson topped the list since it’s doesn’t take an Ivy League degree to figure out which Celtics and Lakers deserve floor time.

It also should come as no surprise that Gentry’s 2009-10 season ranked 13th among all coaching seasons in the past four years with a 0.793 correlation. That team knew its roles so well and the right players always seemed to be on the floor for Phoenix. It was one of those Midas Touch years where every move Gentry made just seemed to work out.

That certainly passes the smell test, and so does the fact that Gentry plummeted down to a .407 correlation with all the moving parts he had to deal with last season. Nerd Numbers’ Dre Alvarez was just talking about the Suns’ issues with playing the wrong players on the ValleyoftheSuns podcast last week, and this correlation provides further proof of that.

Of course, there was so much roster chaos that Gentry could never develop the kind of roles the 2009-10 team possessed, and as we can see through this data all too often the wrong players received too many minutes.

Mike D’Antoni’s 2007-08 season was also a dandy, scoring just below Gentry’s 2009-10 with a 0.752 correlation. Failing to develop a bench remains one of the biggest criticisms of Mike D’s tenure, but at least the guys he did play were generally the right ones. I would assume if this data came from 2004-08 he would rank among the top coaches in the NBA.

Quants will never be able to reduce rah-rah speeches and halftime adjustments to algorithmic form, and there are too many nuances to the coaching profession to ever truly quantify them.

But the one measurable entity that we know coaches control is playing time, and aside from some issues last season with the constantly changing roster Suns coaches have done a superb job in this regard.

Dudley throws down alley-oop as part of monster Impact game

We knew Jared Dudley was working on his pull-up ‘J’ and left hand in the Impact Competitive Training Series, but who knew he was perfecting the alley-oop dunk as well?

Dudley threw down an oop from Austin Daye in Tuesday’s action to highlight a stellar game in which he exploded for 31 points on 13-for-15 shooting (5-for-5 on threes) to complement his 10 boards, and of course he celebrated the crush like only JD can.

“The best ally oop of the SUMMER!!!!!! I got BOUNCE,” Dudley tweeted.

He also told The Washington Post’s Michael Lee that he high-fived the entire front row after the dunk because it was his first alley-oop since high school.

“I’m not a jumper,” Dudley told Lee. “No one expects me to do that.”

Don’t believe it? See for yourself below:

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Alvin Gentry · Jared Dudley · Mike D'Antoni · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

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