Posted January 14th, 2011
All these years, we have been assuming that coaches were too conservative in benching starters with foul trouble. If you're scared they'd be kept off the floor, what's the wisdom in keeping them off the floor?
Researchers have dug into this question, and found something surprising: The reason to take starters off the floor with foul trouble is because when they're playing with lots of fouls, they don't play as well.
"Our analysis shows that a starter in foul trouble should be yanked from the game," write Allan Maymin, Philip Maymin and Eugene Shen. "If left in the game, the player may become a liability, since he is afraid of picking up another foul."
I wonder if coaching could help that. If you just told your players to play their brains out, fouls be damned, you might moderate the effect the researchers discovered. (They also found evidence that Don Nelson apparently did something like what I'm describing. He was a major outlier, bless his unconventional self.)