Slowdown showdown: Coaches’ comments

Illustration by Kip Aoki/

Here are e-mail responses from coaches this week for this morning’s feature story about last week’s Maryknoll-‘Iolani boys basketball game, which ended with a 15-13 score. The response was overwhelming. Here’s what didn’t make it to print (limited space), plus full quotes of other coaches who were in the story.

Glenn Young, current ‘Iolani girls assistant coach, former ‘Iolani boys coach
I guess the ‘Iolani coach felt this strategy was the only way to give his team a chance to win. It almost worked because ‘Iolani had the last shot to win.

To everybody else it was a boring game. To prevent this from happening again we need a shot clock. It would take a lot of strategy out of the game but it will make the games more high scoring and exciting.

Bill Naylor, King Kekaulike boys coach
Of course, there are two sides to every conflict. (I did not see the game.) Coaches come up with a game plan or strategy to win every game any way they can. When I coached at St. Anthony back in the 1980s, we held the ball and won the game 18-13. Our opponent (Molokai) was bigger, quicker, and more talented than we were so I tried the slow down game. Real slow.

I hated it even though we won. I was ripped by the fans (away game). I had things thrown at me on the bench, but I really wanted to sty to outsmart the other coach and team and secure the win. Never did it again. I saw other teams do it over the years and had fans wanting their money back at halftime.

What do I really think? We need a shot clock in Hawaii.

Bob Morikuni, former McKinley boys coach, former ‘Iolani player
I wasn’t at the game. But I have no problems with what ‘Iolani did. They are trying to win. With the Internet, talk radio and pressures…some coaches feel the need and pressure to win more than others. And more people found out about what happened. Doc (Mugiishi) ran this type of strategy in the past but hardly anyone knew about it since the type of coverage back then was different. And that’s what ‘Iolani was doing trying to put themselves in the best position to win.

Maryknoll could have come out and played man even though they were winning but it was their strategy to stay in the zone.With no shot clock…it’s definitely a strategy I have no problem with. Notre dame and coach mike brey last year runs a Burn Offense where they run the shot clock all the way down to seconds before he takes the last shot…just to shorten the game and give their team the best chance to win.

Of course if ‘Iolani had won…the topic of conversation would still be there but different.

Alan Matsui, current Leilehua girls assistant coach, former Sacred Hearts girls coach
There are two side to every coin. The uneducated fan always wants to see a high scoring game. But that same fan would grumble if the score was lopsided. The better players have better skill development today and coaching strategies have come a long way. Lack of size will call for a team to spread the floor and hope to take advantage of back doors and freethrows. This strategy call for a team to have quick skilled ball handlers who are very disciplined. One player that is not dedicated to this strategy can undermine the whole effort.

All coaches want their teams to have a chance to win. ‘Iolani got that chance and the shot did not fall. Would we have this same conversation if they had won the game? Also remember that Maryknoll did not come out and pressure. It took two to tango.

A shot clock would speed up the game but it would also limit your strategic options. It would put more pressure on teams with less talent and sportsmanship in lop-sided games will be out the window.

If the game was 115-113 everyone would be saying where’s the defense? Don’t criticize ‘Iolani for spreading the floor, if your not going to criticize Maryknoll for not coming out and pressuring. Each coach played to their strengths and we got a close game that could have gone either way.

A shot clock would only serve to make the strong, stronger and put more pressure on recruiting. We all know there’s already too much of that.

Steve Hathaway, Roosevelt boys coach
I don’t see anything wrong with the strategy and game plan. ‘Iolani did what it needed to do to have a chance to win and had a good look at the win at the buzzer. If the kid makes that shot, are people questioning it? I don’t think so. They are calling Dean a genius for doing it. Didn’t they get blown out the last time they played? This time they had a chance.

Look at the opposite, like my team for example (and you don’t have to say my team, it could be any team like mine). We have no chance in a halfcourt style of game bc my biggest kid is 5-foot-9, so we have to run and make the game helter-skelter. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I know it gives us the best chance to win. Slowing the game down gave them the best chance to win.

BTW, I would love to have games in the 80s and 90s. I remember my high school team my freshman year losing a game I think 124-104 in what was the highest scoring game ever in that preseason tourney that we were in.

Bottom line is we are trying to win the game. Doesn’t matter if you win 2-0 or 100-98, a win is a win.

Sol Batoon, St. Francis boys coach
Yes, strategy trumps style. However, you must play the game. As coaches we work on moving the ball teaching our kids to move without the ball. Therefore, I can’t see holding the ball and not playing. Saying that, if ‘Iolani had won the game the fans would have embraced the style of play or strategy that they used. And who are we to second guess the coach, he did what he had to do. It takes a lot of work to prepare your team to hold the ball, it’s not as easy as it looks.

We always hold the ball in the last minute.

Rick Gonsalves, current Aiea girls assistant coach, former Moanalua girls coach
First of all, I did not see the game. My feeling is that at that level you need to try and put your team in the best position to win. Strategy involves taking away opponents’ strengths and attacking weaknesses as long as it is within the rules.

I agree with this coach’s decision to think out of the box no matter what public opinion would dictate. He almost pulled it out. Congrats to him. His opponent had the opportunity to force tempo, but evidently did not. He is also a good coach and must have felt he had to put his team in the best position to win, which he did. My hat’s off to both of them.

Philip Baclayon, Kapaa boys coach
Yes, strategy over style. I think we should bring in the shot clock. It’s already in some parts of the mainland. YES, shot clock in the high schools. I too don’t like those four-corner kill the clock games its boring, its NOT basketball anymore.

Chad Kalehuawehe, Kamehameha-Maui boys coach
I feel like you. The rules are the rules here in Hawaii and so strategy will always be a “style” of play to win a game. Fans don’t like that kind of low scoring game. It’s boring but this is a game where teams compete to win not not a concert to entertain. Coaches and players want to win and if you take a strength away from your opponent then good for you.

You are now learning to “find a way to win” and that can be a life lesson that players can take with them after they finish school. It’s not the fan favorite, but it works.

Abe Villanueva, former Waipahu boys coach (now assistant football coach at Waipahu)
I know i’m not coaching basketball (at least high school) anymore. but, i’d like to share my opinon. The “stall” or “slow down” is quite unique in our game today. However, it is VERY difficult to do. (You) need a lot of good ball handlers and patience on offense. and, defensively, you gotta be patient too as well as be on your “toes”.It’s a great strategy for teams, obviously, that don’t have the talent/skills as their opponents.

For fans. not exciting and could be boring. but, for the “purists” (I guess that’s us!), the “stall” is just another strategy to try to WIN the game. and for coaches….at least at the high school level and above, winning is what you do or try to do and teach your players to do….winning!

As a teacher now for 26 years, I believe the process to teaching winning or rather to teach “how to be successful” comes in many different forms.

Hats off to the two coaches. They know the strengths/weaknesses of each other.

It may not be a popular or regular style, but at certain key moments (last few minutes or so) of a close game….that is VERY exciting!!

Ryan Hogue, former AOP boys assistant coach
First off Pete (Smith) was not necessarily a run-n-gun guy as you know. But he was a coach that ran a system that best suited the players he had. I am sure when they put up 102 (against Farrington, 1985) they had guys who could run and shoot. Any good coach would adjust their strategy to what gives them the best chance to win.

When I was at Kalaheo, we would see many team run a slowdown variation of (North) Carolina with a weave action to keep the score as low as possible and draw the bigs away from the basket. Many OIA teams didn’t have the patience to take minutes in chunks off the clock like ‘Iolani will do but they would stall out for about a minute at a time. So you need kids who are willing to hold the ball and be patient.

Finally, there are offenses that allow you to be very patient, slow the game down, take high-percentage shots while being aggressive (not just holding the ball at half court). This being said, I think what Coach Dean (Shimamoto) did was fair. He was doing the best he could to get his team a win, but I think there are other ways of executing a similar game plan that are more entertaining.

Wayne Gushiken, Baldwin boys coach
Credit ‘Iolani for trying! Why not? As long as the rules provide for different strategies……running the score to 100 or keeping it in the teens, only thing that matters is the score at the end of game!

Jason Hopkins, Mid-Pacific boys coach
If it hasn’t been evident already, it’s time for a shot clock.There is nothing wrong with patiently executing in order to work for a defensive breakdown, however, when the strategy doesn’t involve attempting to find a way to score the basketball then the game has lost it’s way.

Unless Maryknoll’s (gym) included retro themed peach baskets, stalling has no place in today’s game. It robs the kids of the chance to truly compete, regardless of the score.Looking at it from the standpoint of being ambassador’s of the game, as long as we have fans that are paying money to watch our athletic contests, it does nothing but help our sport lose footing in an already difficult market dominated by football, baseball and leisure sports.

As pleasant as 2-0 scores at the end of halves are, if we want to ensure the continued growth of the sport of basketball in Hawaii we need to install the shot clock; it’s time and the kids deserve the chance to play.

Bob Hogue, PacWest Conference Commissioner, former AOP boys coach
I’m with you on shot clock. My high school team (which won a CIF title back in the early 1970s) averaged nearly 80 points a game and I rarely remember us running the offense all the way through before taking a shot. (In fact, as a player, I often wondered why we practiced plays so much since we shot the ball as soon as we had the chance and took good shots.) Then again, that was a different era in which college teams were scoring much more, too. (And we didn’t have a 3-point line.)

Duane Omori, McKinley boys coach
Being a new head coach, I’m learning and realizing the difficult decisions we are responsible for. Dean and Adam are brilliant coaches always putting their players in the best position to be successful.I believe magnifying your team’s strengths and making your opponents play your style of basketball. ‘Iolani has the personnel and discipline to control the time of possession (my players at Mckinley would never be able to accomplish that feat).

Maryknoll wasn’t prepared for this tactic and unsure how to counter ‘Iolani’s game plan. Probably another goal ‘Iolani wanted to accomplish. ‘Iolani were successful playing to their strengths, made Maryknoll play their game, and place Maryknoll in a foreign and uncomfortable position.At the end, ‘Iolani gave themselves a chance to win missing a 3 pointer at the end of regulation. Wow, ‘Iolani did everything but win the game. Can you imagine if they won?

With that saying, I am not sure if I would have use that strategy in a regular season game. Maybe save it as my trump card in an important playoff or championship game.

Nathan Davis, Kalani boys coach
I give Coach Dean credit for trying out a strategy that ultimately gave his team an opportunity to win at the end, on the road, against the No. 1 team.

Wes Masuda, former Mid-Pacific girls coach
As you know, in the ILH, winning is the objective for most programs. Making States, for some schools is the expectation, and anything less is a failure. In my opinion, Dean is an awesome coach, and he put his team in position to win, and although Kelly wanted to play his style, Dean did not allow it.

Don’t get me wrong, as a fan, I would rather watch a high scoring game rather than what was exhibited on the court a few nights ago, however, if Dean doesn’t adjust to the opponent, then he isn’t doing his job. Also don’t make any mistake, if they both lose, their positions are in jeopardy.

Dean absolutely coached by the rules, he did not cheat. If it is a problem, then there needs to be a rule change, ie North Carolina’s Dean Smith’s use of the four-corner offense, not to mention Wilt Chamberlain camping out in the key (widening the key from 12-16 feet) and even outlawing zone defenses in the NBA, only to bring it back in a different form. We should not fault coaches for following the rules, instead adjustments could be made.

Although currently a shot clock is not feasible (cost), then the officials need to look at other possible rules that might need to be tweaked, maybe a three-touch rule, where a player is not allowed to handle the ball more than three times per possession.Whatever the case, nothing will or should change as long as coaches feel the pressure to win. Questions to ask would be: Are the ‘Iolani parents upset? If yes, because they lost and had to watch a boring game? What if they had won, would they be upset? If a lower ranked team upsets a higher ranked team, and they play by the rules, is it not celebrated?

(Note: I later asked Coach Masuda about the “three-touch rule.”)

It’s the rule we use for PE, and it would create many problems. The point is that without a shot clock, stalling is part of the game, and if the rule isn’t changed, then we need to live with it.

Glenn Flores, former Campbell boys coach
I thought it was great strategy. It might be boring to watch but if you want this to not happen again, put in a shot clock. We tried to do this in 1967 against St. Louis when I was at ‘Iolani. They had Jim Nicholson and Howard Dunham, two 6-5 plus guys and sharpshooter Ray Lum, Glenn Hookano, Larry Frank and many more weapons. We lost something like 20-18, I can’t remember. We just could not match up with them.

I think the strategy and management part of the game is gone. You hardly see a team take the last shot at the end of a quarter. The final minutes of a close game is played like it was the start of the game. Guys taking ill conceived shots when thay are ahead at the end of the game. I think a team needs to know how to play from behind and how to play when they are ahead. It is run and gun till the end.

Frank Mauz, former Advertiser sportswriter
I can’t remember a low scoring aka boring girls’ game like that. Farrington scored 103 points in a 1985 state tournament game. Not sure who the coach was — I know that Harry “run, gun and have a lot of fun” Pacarro coached boys.

Back in the late ’70s when I covered ILH Division II, Mid-Pacific slowed it down like that and their coach — a fine gentleman, Ken Proctor — thought it was the only way to win.

My opinion — it was overcoaching by Iolani. Let them play the game! If the “good strategy” had produced a win, it would have been a hollow victory.Too bad that the cost factor is preventing use of a shot clock in high school (I hear that eight states have it).

Nick Abramo, Star-Advertiser sportswriter
I’m not a coach, but I figured I’d give you my opinion anyway (again). Not for the story, but just for the sake of coaches’ freedom to run their own game plan in the U.S.A.:

A coach can have his kids play the game any way he or she chooses as long as it’s in the rules.

It’s a story because it doesn’t happen often. It’s not a story because it goes against the spirit of basketball. Scoring points is only one part of the game. That’s why the Europeans play defense. People talk about defense in the U.S., but nobody concentrates on it and gets CELEBRATED for it.

I happen to like defense and strategy — and it almost worked.

I like 6-3 football games and 1-0 hockey and baseball games. Whatever it takes to keep the other team from scoring, I’m all for it.

One of my favorite NFL playoff games EVER was: Pupule Paul’s St. Louis Rams 11, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6. The Bucs were outstanding the whole game against Pupule’s Greatest Show on Turf — until Ricky Proehl got open down the sideline near the end.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser


  1. lahainalunas January 31, 2013 2:49 pm

    I agree with many coaches there needs to be a shot clock, however until that time comes coaches will do what they think is the best way to win not entertain.  If a coach feels the best way to win is play a zone against a certain team then they use it. I am sure that the Iolani coaches thought this was the best strategy to use and did it extremely well.

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