Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Roy Williams apologized to his team Wednesday night for not calling a timeout on its final possession in North Carolina’s 74-73 loss to Duke. That’s his right.
But on behalf of those of us without a rooting interest in the game at the Dean Dome and with a rooting interest in the final minutes of college basketball games not being soul-crushing exercises in tedium: Thank you, Roy!
The end of the game on ESPN was a revelation. Not only did Williams not call a timeout down the stretch, neither did Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, an unheard-of display of restraint.
The last timeout called by either team was one by Duke with 6:49 left, and the last of any kind was a media timeout with 3:52 on the clock.
But wait, there’s more: In the final 3 1/2 minutes, there were two combined free throws attempted by the teams. That’s incredible in a close college hoops game.
Again: Nothing to apologize for, Roy. College basketball — and basketball in general — would be better off if timeouts other than TV timeouts were eliminated altogether, actually.
Their primary point is to allow coaches to get camera time to burnish their brands and suck the spontaneity and joy out of players by micro-managing events on the court.
By the way, in the NHL each team is allowed one timeout per game. One. (See me after class for other reasons hockey is a better sport than basketball.)
The NCAA, to its credit, realized men’s college hoops was in trouble and instituted rules changes last summer that cut the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 and reduced coaches’ 30-second timeouts from four to three.
All good. But that did not go far enough. The guy who invented the sport, James Naismith, believed players should figure things out for themselves.
Roy Williams might as well have taken a seat in the stands and painted his face Carolina blue in the final minutes of Wednesday night’s game. Actually, that would have been kind of cool.
Coaching players during games originally was banned in 1910. It was not until 1948-49 that coaches were allowed to speak to players during timeouts. That was John Wooden’s first season as UCLA’s coach.
Poor Coach Williams seemed conflicted after the loss to Duke, first citing a principle instilled in him by the late former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, then saying he should not have followed it.
“Coach Smith taught me — and I believe this, I’m not blaming it on Coach Smith — it’s my call,” he said. “I think you should always attack before the defense gets set. I’ve always believed that, always taught that, the way I’ve always played.
“I told the kids I should’ve called the timeout.”
Why? Let ‘em play! Not doing so is more educational, more exciting, more in keeping with the origins of the game.
By the way, remember that Naismith was Canadian. Maybe he got his philosophy on timeouts from a certain other sport popular there.