Eurobasket Final 2007 – The Decision of the Coach


Montserrat Dominguez used "Matchpoint" from Woody Allen, to comment on (the last two seconds of) the Eurobasket final; Pao Gasol thread the ball and after circling around on the ring it seemed to enter but it did not finally … The Russian team won by only one point.

Another view on the game is this; the last two seconds in which Gasol thread the ball was symbolic for the rest of the game, at least for the last quarter. Everybody was enjoying that Pao would, that he would save the game, but he did not.

The Spanish team led the game in the first three quarters. It was noticeable that during the third quarter and the fourth Pao was underperforming. "I admit I was not at my best," he said afterwards (1). This caused a dilemma for the team. Pao is the star player of Basket in Spain, so this knowledge serves the team and the coach to trust on his abilities.

Why was not he changed? Is what I ask myself. There are enough top players in the Spanish team, why trust on someone with a track record who is not performing as he should ?.

"But I take responsibility for that," is what Pao added when he got interviewed. That is strange. He is not responsible for the team to loose the game. They could have won easily if they continued as they played in the first two-and-a-half quarters.

Leaving Pao in the game is a decision of the coach, in a decision where he is to weigh creativity and innovation on one hand versus tradition on the other. But it is also about balancing between performance management and competency management.

In the first view the challenge for the coach is to measure the impact of a new team that is not centered around the star player. Where will this lead to? It is the same uncertainty as with leaving the best player in, but with the risk that he will under perform. It is common for any business to trust on proven methods, to trust on what worked in the past.

On the other dimension the coach will have to choose between performance management and competency management. In the performance management approach someone who is under-performing in the team will be changed for another team-player. In the competency management approach this is not required as long as the star is believed to hold the team together. But with the risk to loose when the star "is not at his best."
Any sport today requires a performance management approach.

I would there afore argument that the responsibility for the defeat is closer to the coach than to Pao. But that is from a management point of view.


© 2007 Hans Bool


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