Sports

Zags thrive on their version of scouting combine

Gonzaga sophomore guard Kevin Pangos had a discussion with assistant coach Tommy Lloyd on Monday about a specific play from the BYU game that resulted in a Cougars’ turnover.

Pangos did exactly what the coaches had told him earlier in the week and “in the game it worked perfectly,” he said. “We were talking about how that scouting and execution worked so well for us.”

Like many things that unfold in a basketball game, it was probably something mentioned on the scouting report compiled by an assistant coach.

For example, sixth-year assistant Ray Giacoletti had the BYU scout. He watched four videos of BYU games and a couple of Bulldogs-Cougars contests. He put together several pages containing an overview of BYU’s offense and defense, and a section on individual players with three or four of their tendencies.

While watching game videos, coaches mark plays of particular interest and those clips are organized onto a video shown to the players in 5-15 minute segments in the days leading up to the game.

“The first thing you do is prepare for what you want to work on in practice,” Lloyd said.

A scout team runs the opponent’s offense and defense, going through their primary sets. Sometimes that involves redshirts and walk-ons. Sometimes to get the best possible look, starters or key players portray an opposing player. Last week Drew Barham spent time as BYU high-scoring wing Tyler Haws and several of GU’s bigs represented forward Brandon Davies. Something that might appear promising on paper or video doesn’t work quite right on the court and requires an adjustment.

Lloyd has scouted Saint Mary’s and San Francisco for years so he has familiarity with their personnel and philosophies. Giacoletti, who coached at Utah from 2004-07 and matched up against BYU and coach Dave Rose when he was first hired in 2005, prepares the BYU scout.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with scouting reports. We’re going to do what we do really well and implement it into the plan,” third-year assistant Donny Daniels said. “Our guys have done a great job of executing it. We spend hours on the information we give the kids for 25 minutes. I forgot what game but Ray watched nine tapes just to get a great feel.”

Giacoletti saw something in a Saint Mary’s-BYU game that caught his eye.

“We stole something that Saint Mary’s did against Haws,” he said. “It was, ‘Why can’t we do that?’ I put something on the board today, a nice wrinkle someone had done against LMU. When I was (head coach) at Eastern Washington, if we found something from somebody else we’d name it after that school so it was, ‘Run Cornell here.’ We called our inbound defense ‘Vandy.’ We stole it from Vanderbilt.”

Players study the scouting report, watch the video clips and try to transfer that knowledge to the court.

“It’s pretty detailed,” senior wing Mike Hart said. “It can get in-depth.”

No matter how thorough the scouting report, the flow of the game always demands modifications. Gonzaga plays every WCC opponent twice and teams frequently tweak a few things offensively and defensively between meetings. Like most schools, Gonzaga self-scouts and tinkers with its sets or schemes if necessary.

“When they start doing something with their coverage or something to our bigs, we need to have an answer,” coach Mark Few said. “We have a Plan A and Plan B all the time.”

Notes

Gonzaga (19-2) moved up three spots to No. 7 in the AP and USA Today polls. “It’s great for us, especially after we dropped one (to Butler) two games ago, to still be respected that much,” forward Kelly Olynyk said. “The ranking doesn’t mean a lot but it shows we’re on an elite level.” … All-session tickets for the WCC men’s and women’s tournaments are sold out. Limited numbers of single-game tickets and women’s session general admission packages will be available each morning beginning at 10 at the Orleans Arena box office in Las Vegas.



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