On a frosty Monday, Jan. 27, with each of them nervously frozen out of conducting practices by our state-of-emergency weather, Elkhart County boys high school basketball coaches were asked what one thing they would change about the game if they could.
Not including, of course, being able to practice right now.
I was able to reach nine of our 10 county head coaches with a round of calls.
I wouldn't have been surprised if that would've netted nine different answers, but, hey, we actually have a consensus of sorts, folks.
And that is, bring these coaches a shot clock.
ANTHONY’S TWINE 12
1. Penn (1) 10-1
2. SB Washington (3) 8-2
3. Northridge (2) 10-2
4. NorthWood (4) 11-1
5. Warsaw (5) 9-4
6. SB Adams (6) 10-4
7. SB St. Joseph (7) 7-4
8. West Noble (8) 11-0
9. Elkhart Christian (9) 8-3
10. Concord (10) 8-3
11. Westview (11) 6-3
12. Prairie Heights (—) 8-4
Last week’s ranking in parentheses. Dropped out: New Prairie (12). Teams chosen from among the 38 making up the NLC, NIC, NSC, NECC and independents Bethany and Elkhart Christian.
Four of the nine coaches mentioned a shot clock immediately, and a couple others were at least open to the idea when it was shared with them that the concept was getting considerable mention.
Bethany Christian's Jim Buller, Elkhart Central's Troy Noble, Elkhart Christian's Ryan Culp and Northridge's Ronnie Thomas were the coaches who quickly offered the shot-clock idea.
"I like the ability to control the (pace of) play as much as anybody, but I don't think the game of basketball is meant to be a game of keep-away," Buller said. "It doesn't end up being that very often, but I think what you have at the college level is at times a more pure game, because you have to try to score."
The NCAA Division I men's shot clock is 35 seconds, but it has varied over the years. The NBA has had a 24-second shot clock for nearly 60 years.
According to a recent Indianapolis Star story, eight states do have some version of a shot clock at the high school level.
"I think a 40 to 45-second shot clock would be good," Buller said. "I wouldn't advocate for 24 or 30."
"I believe a 35-second shot clock would enhance the game," Thomas said. "It would put the game in the hands of the players more, and coaches could worry more about player development and less about holding the ball. I highly doubt it's going to be anything we see soon because some purists just don't want to touch it, but I think it would create a better game."
"The idea of a shot clock has always intrigued me," Culp said, "and I think a game played at a quicker pace would keep it more exciting for players and fans."
Noble, meanwhile, had the answer I was really expecting to hear when I pitched this "change one thing" question to the coaches.
"Oh, man, just one?" the Blue Blazer coach asked. "I've got about five or six."
Don't almost all of us? But asked again to confine himself to one or two things, Noble offered up a shot clock as well, along with "playing more games than the 20 we have now."
"I'd like to see a shot clock, but I think it has to be a reasonable shot clock," Noble said. "I'd be in favor of 1 minute or 45 seconds, and I don't think that would have much impact on games in our area. We don't really have teams around here that just hold it much."
Until postseason anyway, which is when you can at times hear fans aching for a shot clock.
"Maybe we could have one in tournament games because that's when you see teams holding the ball four minutes," Noble said. "I've been guilty of that, but quite frankly, for coaches, that comes down to fear of not getting the ball back. A shot clock would change that."
While a shot clock in theory packs promise, a shot clock in reality also packs issues.
"People are not going to games today like they used to and I don't think there's anybody who wants to go see a 32-29 game," Memorial coach Mark Barnhizer said, "so I wouldn't mind seeing (a shot clock), but the reason you may not see it is logistics, and costs. Where would you put it? You'd have to hire a new person to operate the shot clock, which some schools possibly can't afford. Do you also do it for freshman games."
Barnhizer's own choice for "one change," if that is indeed the limit, is "getting rid of the NIC/NLC Shootout."
"Next year, we're going to play Penn two times in about a week because of it, and this year we played Mishawaka two times (in 19 days)," Barnhizer said. "I know part of how it came about was having trouble scheduling people, but with the Duneland (Conference going to single instead of double round-robin), maybe there's more people to play there. I think for a tournament or a shootout, kids would like to play some new teams. I think kids enjoy that. I don't think they're enjoying the NIC/NLC much."
Fairfield's Troy Beachy called the shot clock an interesting idea, but added that "I really don't have any major beefs right now."
Of course, that makes Beachy a rare breed as a coach, let alone as a person, Twine certainly included.
NorthWood's Aaron Wolfe offered perhaps the most fascinating proposal.
"I'd like to adjust the dribbling rules," Wolfe said. "If there's any hesitation in the dribble at all, where the hand goes to the side of the ball, it's a (violation). I think that would decrease the physicalness in the game, and turn it into less of a dribbling and into more of a passing game. I think it would lead to more points and an easier game to officiate."
"I'm old school, but I'd like to have another week or two of (preseason) practice," Concord's Steve Austin said. "I go back to when we had five, but two and a half's not enough with what you want to put in on both offense and defense. I don't think it will happen, because then we won't be equal with the other sports, but I'd like to see it."
"I would not allow coaches to practice and play games with their teams in the summer," Goshen's Brian Bechtel offered. "The current set-up has taken away traditional open gyms, where current players and graduates get together and play the game. That is where kids learn to make plays in game situations. And since we practice in the summer for a couple hours per day, kids don't go out and play pick-up games anymore."
Twine was a bit stunned Monday that not a single coach mentioned ending class basketball — 15 years ago, about eight out of nine coaches might have suggested that — but maybe it's just part of the human element not to spend your "one thing" on something that is now widely seen as never having a chance to happen anyway.
Myself, I heartily echo the shot clock sentiments shared here, and love Wolfe's vision, fantasy that it may be.
But, setting the class debate aside, my one change right now would be to see players allotted six fouls. Given the styles and some of the officiating entailed in today's game, it's time. If not six in regulation, at least allow one extra foul for each overtime period in a game.
IHSAA AREA BOYS RECORDS
W-L Off. Def.
NorthWood 11-1 58.8 45.4
Penn 10-1 71.2 55.7
Northridge 10-2 60.9 55.3
Concord 8-3 55.5 48.7
Elk. Christian 8-3 69.6 47.5
Westview 6-3 60.9 54.7
Fairfield 7-4 58.2 52.0
Jimtown 5-5 45.9 40.5
Memorial 6-6 53.9 55.5
Marian 4-6 56.5 56.0
Central 4-8 56.4 57.3
Goshen 4-8 43.9 51.3
Bethany 3-8 45.6 60.6
Wawasee 2-9 45.3 52.5
G Pts Avg
Nate Ritchie, Nridge 12 287 23.9
Devin Cannady, Marian 10 237 23.7
Jordyn Bontrager, Wview 9 194 21.6
Ramon Johnson, Concord 11 218 19.8
Zach Zurcher, NWood 12 232 19.3
Joe Line, Fairfield 11 194 17.6
Cory Waycaster, ECA 11 188 17.1
Ryan Kupferschmid, ECA 11 185 16.8
Jordan Geist, Penn 11 178 16.2
Jon Wilkinson, NWood 12 194 16.2
Chandler Aspy, Wview 8 125 15.6
Dimitri Giger, Memorial 12 187 15.6
Filip Serwatka, Concord 11 161 14.6
Treyton Harris, Central 12 173 14.4
Alex Clark, Wawasee 11 143 13.3
Deric Haynes, Goshen 12 156 13.0
Billy Doslak, Penn 11 133 12.1
Abe Thorne, Bethany 11 132 12.0
Pete Smith, Nridge 12 138 11.5
A.J. Gary, Memorial 12 133 11.1
Will Stueve, NWood 12 133 11.1
Gage Reinhard, Wawasee 11 113 10.3
Nick Floyd, Jimtown 10 101 10.1
Ryan Lutz, Penn 11 110 10.0
Cam Maxwell, Memorial 12 119 9.9
Sol Brenneman, Bethany 11 109 9.9
Taylor Brooks, Penn 11 107 9.7
Kenny Bearss, ECA 11 105 9.5
Austin Woolett, Goshen 12 114 9.5
Brady Bechtel, Goshen 2 19 9.5
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Tuesday, Jan. 28
• Elkhart Christian at Bremen (2-7)
• Lakeland (3-7) at Bethany Christian
• Penn at SB Riley (6-5), 7 p.m. varsity only
• Chesterton (9-4) at Marian
Wednesday, Jan. 29
• Memorial at Northridge
• Westview at Central Noble (1-11)
Friday, Jan. 31
• Goshen vs. Memorial at North Side Gym (girl/boy varsity DH beginning with girls game at 6:15 p.m.)
• Central at Penn
• Concord at Wawasee
• Jimtown at Triton (6-5)
• Northridge at Plymouth (4-7)
• Warsaw (9-4) at NorthWood
• West Noble (11-0 before Churubusco Jan. 28) at Fairfield
• Mishawawka (3-8) at Marian (girl/boy varsity DH beginning with girls game at 6 p.m.)
• Westview at Eastside (6-6 before Fremont Jan. 28)
Saturday, Feb. 1
• Jimtown vs. Central at North Side Gym
• LaPorte (9-4 before Crown Point Jan. 31) at Concord
• Fairfield at Northridge
• Elkhart Christian at Lakewood Park (5-6) (girl/boy varsity DH beginning with girls game at 6 p.m.)
• FW Blackhawk (8-6) at Bethany Christian
• Lakeland (3-7 before Bethany Jan. 28 and Hamilton Jan. 29) at Wawasee
• East Noble (1-10 before Norwell Jan. 31) at Westview