the sixth man, overconfidence, and the bubble

Red Auerbach won sixteen titles.  He was arguably the best coach in the history of sport.  Auerbach was the beneficiary of having incredible talent, and his greatest gift was knowing how to manage that talent.  I read his biography “Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game” by John Feinsten a couple years ago.  It’s a great, quick book to go through, and I highly recommend you pick it up for some beach reading.

Of all the innovations Auerbach brought to basketball, the one thing he felt made the biggest difference in his teams was that he invented and employed the use of the sixth man.  The sixth man is an often misunderstood concept.  Many people think that a sixth man is the sixth best player on the team, and sometimes that guy just happens to do well and gets dubbed “sixth man”. For Auerbach, the role of the sixth man was much more purposeful. Red would take one of his best players and intentionally reserve him.  He used Hall of Famer John Havlicek in this capacity.  When the other team would tire they would have to go to their scrubs, and in would come Havlicek to abuse them.

Steve Yanda did a great job of highlighting Eric Hayes’s new role as sixth man in today’s Post.  Everybody wants to start, and the role of sixth man has been greatly marginalized in basketball today.  I think this role is a perfect fit for Hayes.  Hayes is a scorer that can also create for his teammates.  He’s matured into a decent defender that can turnover weaker opponents.  He’s quick.  He’s exactly the kind of guy that can abuse the opposition’s second team.  We’re going to see big things from Hayes coming off the bench.  It started with UNC, and we should see it continue tonight against Duke when he gets matched-up against Greg Paulus.

Speaking of Duke, I was on such a high this week that I almost forgot this game was coming-up.  Vegas currently has Duke as a six point favorite.  Wait, is it just me, or didn’t Duke embarrass us a month ago?  I know we just pulled off a big upset, but Duke looked really good against Wake the other night.  The UNC win provided the Terps with a lot of confidence, and that’s what scares me.  They usually play much better when the chips are down.  It’s going to take another superhuman effort on the part of Greivis Vasquez to pull off this upset.  Tonight we’ll see how much gas he has left in the tank.

The spread might be so close because we’re officially on the bubble.  The one man Tournament Committee known as Joe Lunardi updated his Bracketology site on Monday.  Who was the last team in?  You guessed it, the Terps baby.  Win tonight and they might even move up to the first of the Last Four In. Did you know Joe Lunardi successfully picked the entire field last year?  His word is bond.


2 Responses to “the sixth man, overconfidence, and the bubble”

  1. February 25, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Biggest question: What would you rather have as *your* 6th man… a shooter that will get you 20+ points, or a lockdown defender (assume you can’t have both)?


  2. March 1, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I would rather have the shooter. I like a guy that heats-up quick in the Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson mold of the sixth man. Basketball is a series of runs, and it’s always good to demoralize the opposition with a flurry of points. What do you think?

    It looks like Hayes was comfortable in his new role being that he had 10pts on 4-5 shooting.

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