Some Boys’ Basketball Coaches Would Like a Shot Clock; Others Like Things as They Are : Whether to Limit the Seconds to Shoot Becomes Timely Debate for Boys’ Basketball Coaches


Other than bringing up a perceived bad call, it’s the quickest and easiest way to start an argument among high school boys’ basketball coaches.

Does their game need a shot clock?

Well, the NBA uses one. Its rule is the ball cannot be held for more than 24 seconds before a shot hits the rim. The men’s college game also uses a shot clock, giving the offense 35 seconds with the ball. And a 30-second clock is used in the women’s game at the college and high school levels.

But the high school boys’ game remains without one.

“I really wish there was a clock,” Sonora Coach Mike Murphy said. “I don’t know when they will put it in, but everybody else has it. What are we waiting for?


“I don’t care if it’s 45 seconds. It won’t change the game dramatically. I hear arguments all the time [that a clock] doesn’t give less-talented teams a chance to win. But it doesn’t take that much coaching.”

Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight agreed. “I don’t know why it hasn’t been done before,” he said. “They are always changing the rules, so why hasn’t this one been changed? Sometimes they make silly rules that make no sense. Who would not want to speed it up a bit? We’re not talking the NBA.”

Certainly the shot clock has played a major role in basketball’s evolution.

The NBA--and, more importantly, its fans--decided it could no longer endure stalling styles and delay tactics, such as the ones employed by the the Fort Wayne Pistons to defeat the Minneapolis Lakers, 19-18, in 1950. Four years later, the league instituted its 24-second clock.

In college women’s basketball, a 30-second clock was adopted in 1971-72 after a two-year experiment. The NCAA approved a 45-second clock for the men in 1985. In 1993, the men’s clock was reduced to 35 seconds.

Each time the measure was looked upon as a method to speed up play and keep fans interested.

Coach Paul Orris, who led Corona del Mar to a Southern Section title last season, doesn’t think the high school boys’ game needs to bend to anyone’s need for speed.


“I think one of the reasons they put clocks in is because of fans,” Orris said. “It’s filtered down from the pros to college and now they’re trying to get it into high school, turning it into a more up-tempo and wide-open game. For some it’s exciting, but I think it hurts the game of basketball.

“They’re trying to make the game too uniform. All the little things--zones, man to man, passing offenses--make the game exciting. That’s why I’d be against a clock. They’re trying to change the game, and [instead] they’re taking away from it.”

Brea Olinda Coach Gene Lloyd disagrees.

“I’ve come from as far as an ultra-conservative can,” Lloyd said. “When [the shot clock] was first proposed, I was definitely against it. I believe it takes away from the coaching ability to control tempo, which I consider the most important part of the game. But as the years go on, I’ve realized basketball is not only a participation sport but an observer’s sport. And the shot clock does add something extra as far as crowd involvement.”

If high school boys’ basketball in California eventually gets a shot clock, the state would need to get permission from the National Federation of State High School Athletic Assns. to “experiment” with a clock for up to three years.

California has never petitioned the National Federation to use a shot clock for boys’ games, according to Margaret Davis, CIF associate executive director.

Dean Crowley, Southern Section commissioner, said the state office could decide to implement a clock if all 10 of its sections agreed.


Dick Schindler, an assistant director and head of the National Federation’s basketball rules committee since 1980, said there have been few calls to add a clock to the boys’ game on a nationwide basis.

“It’s been on the committee agenda a number of times,” Schindler said. “The committee discusses it but . . . it takes seven of 11 votes to pass. In straw votes, seven to eight have been against a clock for boys.

“It’s not that we don’t know what the clock will do, [but] it will cost money to buy, and it will bring in problems because officials have to make judgments if shots were taken in time. I also think it takes away some strategies, especially when one team is more dominant with talent.

“In order for a rule to change, the people representing the states have to feel the game is in bad shape--that we need a clock. We’re not getting that kind of push from our state representatives.”

At present, only Illinois and Rhode Island use a shot clock in their boys’ games. Illinois has used it in a few tournaments this season. Rhode Island has used it full-time since 1987.

“We started at 45 seconds and we’re now at 35,” said Richard Lynch, executive director of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. “It has not drastically changed the game. We’ve heard no complaints. It’s working well.”


Though a 30-second shot clock in girls’ basketball has been used off and on in California since 1975, high schools nationwide have been far less embracing of the clock in the girls’ game, according to the National Federation.

Bruce Howard, publications and communications director for the federation, said there are annual discussions regarding clocks “but it’s never approved” as a national high school rule.

Pat Quinn has coached prep basketball with and without a shot clock. He led the Saddleback boys’ team for 17 years before taking over the Woodbridge girls’ program this season.

“In the long run, I think it would make [the boys’ game] a much more pleasurable game,” Quinn said. “The good teams seem to fall within the 30 seconds anyway, but I think it would really help the average teams. You get a lot more shots to take, and you get more kids involved.”

While the girls’ game in California is doing fine with the shot clock, some coaches don’t want to see it cross over to the boys’ game.

Orange Coach Richard Bossenmeyer, for one, believes a clock gives too much an advantage to a team with superior athletes.


“A clock can even up possessions,” Bossenmeyer said, “That favors the more athletic team. To me, basketball is not a track meet; the best doesn’t always win. But with the institution of a clock, it makes the likelihood of an upset unlikely.

“You don’t see teams outright holding ball that often, so I don’t see the need.”

Century Coach Greg Coombs agrees.

“I like the game the way it is,” Coombs said. “It’s not that we’re deliberate, but we do the things that give our kids a chance to win. I’ve had teams that could [run], and have had some shooters. But as a whole, you look at different styles, and I think that’s fun to watch.

“Orange and us can even the field. You do what’s effective for you and not the other team. None of us stall; you don’t see 16-14 games. Even ‘deliberate’ game scores are not that much lower than other game scores.”

Still, Santa Margarita Coach Jerry DeBusk believes those coaches who don’t like shot clocks might change their minds if they tried coaching under one.

“I did,” DeBusk said. “Years ago I did not favor [a clock]. When I left Newport Harbor to be an assistant at Chapman University, I found [a shot clock] really acceptable. We could still run our offense, but it helped the game. It was a plus. It was not until I coached with it that I found it to be a good thing.

“I’d love to see a clock to stay consistent with collegiate basketball. And whether it would be a 45-second or 35-second clock, it’s good for the game. Even 35 seconds would not take away from those teams who want to slow it to a half-court situation. But it does eliminate the all-out stall. I want to see that gone.”


* Staff writer Martin Henderson contributed to this story.