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MANAGING FOULS DURING THE GAME

One of the most overlooked things that several coaches need to take into consideration with game strategy is how they manage their fouls.  This is not just the team fouls, but the individual fouls as well.  Coaches make mistakes in handling player fouls and team fouls and this proves costly as players pick up their fifth personal foul and they are forced to sit and watch the rest of the game from the bench.

Take this into consideration: In the 1983 NCAA Championship Game between the University of Houston and North Carolina State University, the mismanagement of fouls by Houston head coach Guy Lewis may have helped NC State win the national championship in one of the biggest upsets in the history of college basketball.  In the first half of that game, Clyde Drexler picked up four personal fouls.  In what could have been a better-managed situation, Drexler was effectively shelved and Houston struggled to play though the remainder of the game.  Had Guy Lewis managed the situation better, Drexler could have played more minutes in the second half and that would have likely led Houston to winning the national championship.

This article will focus on how coaches can better handle the situations regarding player fouls and team fouls.  I will also focus on the differences between the high school rules, the college rules, and the rules in professional basketball.  I will also discuss how coaches can better manage the game.

Handling Fouls in High School and College

The goal for any player is to commit no more than one personal foul in the first half of any high school or college basketball game.  The ideal situation would be to commit fewer than seven team fouls as a team in the first half and to only foul on made baskets if fouling in the act of shooting.  During the first half, should a player pick up his second personal foul, that should be an automatic to take the player out of the game no matter what the circumstance.  There will be plenty of time left to get the player back into the game during the second half.

Entering the second half of games, we want to have our players with one personal foul or fewer.  The second half is the half in which you are more likely to want to have fouls committed as opposed to the first half.  This is because of late-game free throws that could give your team an opportunity to get back into the game.

If you are in the fortunate situation of no player with more than three fouls entering the final ten minutes of a college game or final eight minutes of a high school game, you are in great shape going forward and you can commit more fouls late in the game without the risk of players fouling out.  That puts you in the advantageous position of fouling on or away from the ball when you must foul to lengthen the game to come from behind late.

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