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Joe Jares
March 13, 1967
Every few years a basketball coach decides to play hide-and-seek, and the opposition doesn't seek. Spectators demand refunds, and the cry goes up for a pro-type 24-second clock to compel action
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March 13, 1967

Stallball—a Game To Sleep By

Every few years a basketball coach decides to play hide-and-seek, and the opposition doesn't seek. Spectators demand refunds, and the cry goes up for a pro-type 24-second clock to compel action

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No other college coach has anyone as tall or as effective as Alcindor, yet Wooden is not alone in wanting a clock (one set for 30 seconds already is required in international amateur play). Kentucky's Adolph Rupp does, too, but "only after a team has made no attempt to score within one minute. And the clock should stay in effect only until the last three minutes. That would give a team a chance to protect its lead." Oldham of Western Kentucky agrees. Surprisingly, slowdown artist Lou Henson of New Mexico State wants to be a clock watcher, too. "We've been holding the ball a lot this year because we're so small, and maybe you'd expect me to favor the stall," he said. "But actually I don't. We're trying to make a favorable impression on the public, and I don't believe fans enjoy a slow game. We believe it's up to us to get the boys to compete."

"I'm certain some coaches use the stall merely to keep the margin respectable," said Fred Taylor of Ohio State, another advocate of the 30-second clock, "They know, going into certain games, that they have little or no chance to win, and they further know that if they get into a baseline-to-baseline chase they'll get run out of the place."

The roster of coaches who favor some sort of clock also includes Vic Bu-bas of Duke, Ray Mears of Tennessee, Roy Skinner of Vanderbilt and Ken Norton of Manhattan. But for the present, at least, they will have to depend on their own wristwatches. The stall will stay—or at least be available. A SPORTS ILLUSTRATED survey of officials, coaches and ex-coaches showed that there is overwhelming antipathy toward any sort of time limit on freezing the ball. There were 15 for some type of clock, seven undecided and more than 60 against. "I'm the area representative on the rules committee for coaches," said Villanova's Jack Kraft, "and I can tell you now that of the 130 or so schools in the area there was only one coach who suggested a time limit."

One reason is that stall games are relatively rare, and most coaches feel their shooters are too quick on the trigger already. Dr. Edward Steitz, athletic director at Springfield College and top researcher for NCAA basketball coaches, has statistics going back to 1956, which show that at the college level the ball has changed hands within 10 seconds (back-court and front-court, shots and turnovers) 94.3% of the time. Within 30 seconds the ball has changed hands 99.68% of the time. "Change without research is fallacious," said Dr. Steitz. "Our figures show that since 1960 field-goal attempts are up two-and-one-half shots per game."

In addition there already are rules concerning "lack of sufficient action," and if they were properly enforced there would at least be less standing around in stall games and some thawing of the freeze. There would be running, chasing and attempts at ball stealing. Rule 10, Section I says, "A team shall not delay the allowing the game to develop into an actionless contest." Teams must be "reasonably active" in trying to get the ball if on defense, or advance the ball if on offense.

"Under our present rules you can't stall," said John Benington of Michigan State. "If you hold the ball, the rules say the defense must come out and force you to advance it. So there can't be a 30-16 game unless the defense doesn't come out."

Norvall Neve, commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference, disagrees slightly: "It's perfectly possible to stall by moving the ball from the midcourt area into the front-court area and then back out. No rule violation is involved. But the lack of action rules do enforce movement of the ball. A man can't just stand out beyond the free-throw line, holding the ball or dribbling it. So a team may not do much shooting, but it can't refuse to move the ball."

Most coaches do not want college basketball to emulate the nonstop NBA teams, which race up and down the court and fire at will. The coaches want to keep the variety of defenses (including the zone) and keep their own hands on the gearshifts—drive, reverse, low and even park. "The pro teams play so much alike," said Houston's Guy Lewis, "that a player can be traded from one team to another between halves and never miss a pass."

"If they put the 24-second rule in, UCLA won't lose a game in three years," said Michigan State's Benington. "Upsets would be something of the past. The teams with the big recruiting programs would win, and the little guy wouldn't have a chance. And if they took the 24-second rule out of pro basketball, Philadelphia and Boston wouldn't win all the time. They've got Chamberlain and Russell to get the ball for them, so they just fire away."

"If a 24-or 30-second law was adopted, I imagine everybody would play a zone defense," said Belko of Oregon, "and force the offense to take the 20-foot shot. When everybody adopts a zone to force more outside shooting you have then taken the driving shot out of basketball. You can't drive against a good zone."

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