NCAA Timeouts and the Definition of the #Howland

You don’t have to watch UCLA basketball very long to know that Bruins head coach Ben Howland uses his timeouts differently than most other coaches. Howland rarely chooses to save his timeouts for the end of games and often calls them after his team has scored, even when UCLA ostensibly has control of momentum.

There’s one thing in particular that Howland does that drives me, as a disciple of the Dean Smith school of saving timeouts, nuts. When he does use his timeouts to stop other teams’ runs, he habitually calls them in situations where the next dead ball would be a mandatory timeout. This is my definition of a #Howland, and the man himself is hardly the only coach guilty of calling them on a regular basis.

As an aside, a quick primer on NCAA timeouts. Each team gets five timeouts to spend at its discretion. One of these must be called before halftime or it is lost. In addition, there are so-called “media” or “TV” timeouts — beat writers are clamoring for a stoppage! — that take place at the first dead ball after the 16-, 12-, 8- and 4-minute marks of each half. (Note that if the clock stops at precisely the minute mark, like 4:00, that is not a mandatory timeout. Hence, it’s the “under-4” timeout or so on.)

Now, the NBA has media timeouts too, but the current rules dictate that a timeout called ahead of the mark replaces the mandatory NBA timeout. This means the NBA avoids that scourge of college fandom — a stretch with a timeout called from the bench, one play, a stoppage and immediately the mandatory timeout. It also makes the #Howland impossible.

To maintain a strict definition of the #Howland, I only count timeouts called to stop runs. (Other interpretations may be more liberal.) Basically, calling a timeout in this scenario is something of a waste because the next dead ball will stop the momentum just the same without costing the team a precious timeout. In fact, I’d advocate in situations like this that the team ought to gamble for a foul or try to kick the ball, which would force a timeout at no cost to the team.

There are those who argue in defense of the #Howland, noting that the double-timeout is sure to quiet even the loudest of road crowds. So one a game might be acceptable, especially in the first half when the timeout won’t carry over anyway, but Howland himself has a habit of calling multiple and running out of stoppages with plenty of game time remaining. Of course, even when Howland does save a timeout, he doesn’t always use it. When it comes to timeouts, Howland just can’t win.

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