Calling Timeout to Talk About Timeouts

UCLA Coach Ben Howland prepares to call Timeout so his players can pull up their socks.


 by Craig “The Consigliere” Salner


I think it’s time to take a timeout to discuss, well….. timeouts. As we talked about last week during our trip through The Dumbest Rules in Sports, for most casual fans, March Madness is the first significant dose of college basketball watched since the previous year’s tournament! As we watch, we slowly get reminded of the little nuances of the game, kind of like seeing relatives once a year for the holidays and thinking things like, “Oh yeah, I forgot Cousin Rob always gets shitfaced before Christmas Eve dinner!”

For me, a guy who watches a lot of NBA hoops in the regular season and playoffs, one of the biggest differences I see are college coaches’ paranoid insistence on calling 2-3 needless timeouts per game.

Let’s go over a few important facts. The college game is 40 minutes long, with 2 20-minute halves. FOUR times each half (first dead ball after the 16, 12, 8 and 4 minute marks), the game is stopped for about 3 minutes for a TV timeout. Aside from these 8 scheduled timeouts, each team gets 5 timeouts to use for the entire game.

Let’s agree on something else while we’re at it. Timeouts are really damn important late in games! Whether you need to set up a big play, set up your defense on a big possession, call timeout if you’re having difficulty inbounding or are caught in a press defense. I think having at least 2 timeouts for the last 2 minutes of a tight game is hyper-critical.

Billy D , the Motivating Timoutsman

Let’s also make a few concessions here. I have never coached anything in my life. I have never played organized basketball beyond intramurals. And I know that college players are not equal to professionals, where every athlete is elite and 90% have at least a competent basketball IQ. I get that sometimes a college player needs to be told something more than once.

STILL, are you watching these games???! Have you seen how many times these coaches are pointlessly wasting timeouts!? I have teased friend and fellow Horn contributor “The Dors” about his favorite team’s (UCLA) coach, Ben Howland, who is in a league of his own when it comes to wasting timeouts. Having watched about 50 hours of tournament hoops so far, I think the rest of the country has caught up to him! Every time I look up, another coach is calling timeout with 8:06 to go in the first half. Memo to you geniuses: you’re better off having your 8th man take a foul with 7:58 left on the clock than wasting a timeout right now.

These timeouts are called for a variety of reasons. Some coaches get skittish anytime the opposing team goes on a 5-0 run. Some really don’t think another possession can go by w/o making a critical substitution. Some see an aimless possession in progress and feel it’s a good time for a team chat.

My BFF Billy “the Kid” Donovan loves burning one with about a minute to go every first half to make sure we go into the locker room on a high note. (Billy, when you’re huddled up with the team for 3 minutes with 3:30 left in the half, can’t you just tell them then?).

Only Dors’ boy Ben Howland calls timeouts for which no explanation can be given. Like in the Pac-12 tournament a few weeks ago, UCLA hit a bucket with 7:30 left in the game to go up 18 and next thing you hear is UCLA whistling for a timeout. Mind you, we had just come back from a TV timeout. And I repeat, UCLA had just scored to go up 18.

Marquette Coach Buzz Williams calls Timeout to change his shirt

Thursday night’s Florida-Marquette game was another perfect example. With about 6:30 minutes left and Marquette trying to stage a comeback, coach Buzz “Stop looking at my sweat stains” Williams strolled onto the court and called his next-to-last timeout in the midst of a Marquette possession. Sure enough, about 2 minutes later, Marquette made a great hustle play and, just before a tie ball occurred, a Marquette player called a “heady” timeout. The only problem was it was Marquette’s last! With about 4 minutes still left. You get the picture…

Yes, this is nit-picking. Yes, I’m in the office and should be working right now. BUT, over these final days of games, watch for these pointless interruptions. When you see them, think of The Consigliere. Also note all these ignorant former jocks in the announcing booth who never once second-guess the coaches on this!

If only they followed me on Twitter.


Be sure to follow Craig on Twitter @CSalner

One Comment

  1. I think Howland called timeout twice while reading your article