Coaches know best most of the time

After officiating a difficult game, I’d sometimes ask myself, “Why does anyone officiate basketball?” I managed to stay with it for 40 years, so apparently I convinced myself that it was a good avocation. Truth be told, the good memories far outweigh the bad memories.

I suspect that coaches go through a similar kind of thought process. I’m told that one of the biggest challenges for high school coaches is dealing with parents. Imagine that!

“Why doesn’t Jane or Johnny get more playing time?” Never mind that parents don’t have the benefit of watching how their son or daughter performs in practice; they only know their child just needs to get more playing time.

Occasionally there’s some truth to that. One player may perform better in a particular style of offense or defense than the next person, whether it’s football or basketball.

Even casual sports fans can identify the best players on a team, especially in basketball. It’s much more difficult, however, knowing how to judge players who are relatively even in ability. Plus, some athletes develop later physically or improve more, which also can affect the amount of playing time an athlete gets.

A lot depends on how well the athlete does what the coach asks of him or her. In basketball, some kids may be adequate offensively, but if the coach puts a greater emphasis on defense and said player doesn’t work hard on defense, he or she will get more pine time, i.e., sitting and watching games from the bench.

Don’t get me wrong. Coaches aren’t perfect. Like officials, parents and fans, they have blind spots.

By acknowledging that coaches can make mistakes in judgment, I know I’ve opened the door to all parents and fans who have a gripe with coaches. Let me be quick to add, however, that more often than not, the coach knows better than anyone which players give the team its best chance of winning.

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Speaking of coaches—and as a veteran sports columnist, I’m entitled to give an opinion, no matter how wrong it may be—I am amused at how coaches sometimes outsmart themselves. On a Monday Night Football game in late October, the Chiefs were leading Denver 14-0, and were threatening to score again, when Kansas City tried some razzle-dazzle and it fizzled.

Quarterback Alex Smith handed the ball to Tyreek Hill, who ran to his left before throwing a weak pass right to a Denver defender in the end zone for an interception. It was a curious call because KC was moving the ball well at the time.

Hindsight is 20/20 and Coach Andy Reid has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know, but I’m not sure why he tried that play when there isn’t much room near the end zone for an inexperienced passer. Even if a defender is fooled, there’s little margin for error, as Hill and Reid discovered.

On the positive side, I like how A.J. Hinch managed the Astros relief pitchers in the World Series. On a couple of occasions he kept a relief pitcher in the game who was pitching effectively rather than automatically yank him and give the ball to a designated closer.

Now, maybe he did that because he doesn’t have a shut-down closer, but the way I look at it is this: as long as a pitcher is throwing the ball effectively and getting batters out, let him keep pitching.

The more often you change relief pitchers, the better chance there is that one of those pitchers isn’t going to be on his “A” game.

I realize the Royals won the World Series in 2015 with their relief pitcher per inning approach, which only goes to show that different approaches can accomplish the same goal.

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu.