Don’t Sleep on the Bearcats’ Associate Head Coach – He Can X and O

Suppose I told you there was a coach that lived in Cincinnati that: (A) recruited and coached three All-Americans, (B) as a high school coach was responsible for the player development of a fourth All-American , and that (C) all four of those All-Americans were drafted in the first round of the NBA draft (Bobby Jackson, Hot Rod Strickland, Rodney Rodgers and Randolph Childress – see clip here).  Could you name that coach?  Even now you might be scratching your head to think about which retiree decided to call Cincinnati home (much like no one knows that Tom Jackson lives in Kenwood).  Well, that coach is none other than the Bearcats’ Associate Head Coach Larry Davis.

Let’s start by saying what this article is not – a post arguing that Mick should be replaced.  There is no coaching controversy, and there shouldn’t be one.  We continue to pull for Coach Cronin and his family and look forward to his healthy return to the sidelines.

Even so, Larry Davis deserves some credit for the win at N.C. State.

Coach Davis took a UC team mired in offensive mediocrity into NC State yesterday and coached them to a robust offensive output. There are a lot of reasons that this team has been mediocre to less-than-mediocre on offense this season.  Poor shooting.  Inexperience.  Great defensive efforts from competitors.  All of those are to blame.  But, some of this team’s offensive struggles may be cultural and historic.

Historically, Cronin-coached teams have a certain approach or method to the game: defense first, recruit athletes/put them in places where they can succeed early, and last – build the offense as the players develop. This has been the UC brand of basketball throughout the Cronin years.  This brand has molded the Bearcats into a tenacious defensive squad.  But it has also made them one of the lower scoring teams in the NCAA and one of the safest “bet the under” Vegas bets since the Charlie Cole-coached Miami RedHawks.

Contrast that with a team yesterday that shot 54% from the field and 68% from the foul line. Though putting up 76 points was not a team high (we scored 78 against Stonybrook), considering the opponent and the pace that the UC defense forces other teams to play, this was a much-improved offensive performance. Outside shooters came confidently and OPEN off screens, while the Bearcats’ bigs were put into spots through the offense spacing to score, with each of the bigs shooting at or above 50%. For me, the game plan demonstrated Davis’ elite coaching abilities.  Against N.C. State, the Bearcats attacked through a clear and simple game plan, taking advantage of what each of the players do well.

Two stats stood out to me that highlight a stellar coaching game by Davis:

1) After the 6 timeouts in the second half, the Bearcats scored 5 times off set plays from high percentage shots. Of course, give credit to the players on the court, but set plays are set plays.  And those come from coach’s clipboard.  Great coaches get their teams good looks out of the timeout.  That happened in Raleigh, North Carolina yesterday.

2) The Bearcats shot 48% in the first half, and improved to 61% in the second half. All of the talking heads always talk about “adjustments at halftime” – that improvement in shooting % is exactly that, making the right adjustments at the half. Even when your team is up by 15.

On Saturday SMU comes into 5/3rd for the “Battle of the Larry’s” – Davis vs. Brown, with one being a hall-of-fame coach with a long and distinguished resume and the other being barely known within his own fan base.  But don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk, the lesser known Larry can X and O as well.

By Guest Contributor: John Ryan McCarty (@jrmccarty)