The Byrd Cage

Inside the Prohm Dome

In Game Posts on March 11, 2013 at 4:04 pm


“Good coaching facilitates overachievement.” –Adrian Branch, ESPN OVC Title Game Broadcast

The OVC championship featured two very different coaches. One remembers a time when there was no three point line and one remembers the ‘old’ three point line. One wears a sweater vest and one wears neck ties at awkward lengths. One built a program from nothing while one inherited a mid-major Maserati. You have to search long and hard for any similarities that Rick and Coach Prohm share. This was never more evident than what we witnessed on Saturday night in one of the most drama filled games in Bruin history, and we have Prohm to thank.

I am going to try and highlight some important coaching gaffes that led to one of the biggest comebacks in Belmont history (Belmont’s win probability at the 2:25 mark in the second half was 5.4%!!). This post could really be Bill Simmons-esque, but I’ll try to be brief..


Murray State managed to string together 26 turnovers. In a game that featured 72 possessions, the math says the Racers turned the ball over about 36% of time! To put that in perspective, during conference play they only turned the ball over 20% of the time. That being understood, let’s focus on two different types of turnovers in the game of basketball: hustle turnovers and unforced turnovers. As a coach, while you don’t enjoy any turnover, you have an easier time stomaching a turnover where your player is giving maximum effort. For example, with 2:34 left in regulation Isaiah broke down the defense and found Ed Daniel on the low block who then juggled it, fell to the floor, and ultimately traveled. And within the Prohm offense, those types of plays happen. That’s ok.  The unforced turnovers however, are absolutely killer. It was astonishing to see the lack of discipline that Murray showcased on basic basketball moves. For instance, putting the ball on the floor before taking steps to initiate your move. At the 10:50 mark in the second half, Latreze Mushatt caught the ball at the top of the key and took off running before the ball ever hit the floor. This is a basic skill taught by coaches at all levels.  Another example of terrible, unforced turnovers is basic court awareness.  In the first half, Stacy Wilson drove baseline with no daylight and walked out of bounds. When you have 26 turnovers in a game, you pretty much turned it over in every possible way. But the unforced turnovers are simply lack of detail and discipline from players and coach.

Special teams

Rick Byrd has made a living capitalizing on out of bounds plays and special situations. The man pays great attention to detail. Prohm, on the other hand (and to his partial credit for knowing his strengths and weaknesses), would rather get into his “Isaiah-pound-the-ball-for-30-seconds” offense and not bother running out of bounds plays with any type of conviction. Sure they get in their sets, half-ass their way through them only to throw the ball forty feet away from the hoop and reset. They have no intention of executing the play. This is not to say that it’s crucial to have a high success rate on out of bounds plays, but it is clear Prohm feels his chances of scoring are higher when Isaiah can run the offense and that is great. He knows his team far better than I do. But when you don’t put importance on special situations consistently, execution becomes that much more difficult in high leverage situations. For example, after Kerron hit the game tying shot over Ed with 9.1 seconds left, the clock went a little haywire. The refs properly stopped the game, reset the clock and Prohm found himself in a special situation. He was terrified. So terrified in fact that he didn’t even know where the ball was going to be inbounded from until the ball was ready for play (Rick talked about this situation in the press conference and had some thoughts). Prohm knows that his success is directly correlated to Isaiah’s ability to create and would have rather him take the ball up the court without a set Belmont defense. When the situation went awry, Prohm was forced into action and failed miserably. The play (and regulation) ended with a 17 percent three point shooter taking a long range jumper to win a tie ball game. Oh, there was over 6 seconds on clock. Six! It was inexcusable. Special situations are easy to ignore, until they are all that’s left. That’s what separates the good coaches from the great coaches.

Find the Shooter

Free throw shooting at the end of regulation is where Murray State lost the game. At the 2:07 mark with the Racers up 7, Stacy Wilson went to the line in a bonus situation. He missed the front end effectively making it a 0-2 trip. At the 1:17 mark, much to the delight of Rick, the ball found the hands of Ed Daniel on the offensive end.  Ed gets fouled and doesn’t want to feel left out, so he misses the front end of a one and one.  In a two minute stretch, the Racers went 0-4 from the line and only shot 2 free throws. Impressive, I know. During that stretch, Ian Clark and JJ Mann both went to the line and calmly sank two free throws apiece. That potentially is an eight point swing. It gets worse for Murray as Ed had a chance to stretch it to a two possession game with 20 seconds left and could not convert. But why in the world does Ed have the ball in his hands with 20 seconds left?? When the Bruins took a timeout with 36 seconds left to set up their defensive strategy by making substitutions, Prohm decided he needed Ed on the floor when it was a clear foul situation for Belmont. Now Isaiah should have never given the ball up in that situation, but Ed should NOT have been on the floor. Again, when detail mattered, Prohm was nowhere to be found.

Conclusion: Who is in charge?

The player/coach dynamic is always a tough one to figure out. Are you a player’s coach? Do you run a tight ship? The answer obviously lies in the middle but it is easy to see what Prohm defers to. Looking back to the first matchup against Murray, Isaiah said post game that he told Coach to give him the ball and clear it out. Prohm obliged (isn’t this what they always do?). The players clearly expect their coach to facilitate to their individual needs and that was seen again on Saturday.  Four minutes into the second half, with a media timeout on the horizon, Ed forced Prohm to take a timeout because he was winded from all the dunking and flexing. Instead of waiting for the media timeout, Prohm burned a timeout and in the process, his team’s momentum (@prohmschapstick agrees). You cannot convince me that Ed was physically incapable of playing another 30 seconds. I was embarrassed for Ed and Coach Prohm. What happened after the timeout? The Bruins went on a 13-3 to take the lead. Again, it is the little things that make or break a team and a season. You can embrace the details or you can allow your talent to hide the details. Rick chooses details. Prohm hides details.

This dynamic presents a tricky situation for the Racers moving forward. Prohm inherited a Maserati and drove it to two championship game appearances, one title, and one painful crash. He has shown the ability to win with Isaiah in the passenger seat.  Now his safety blanket is gone. He will be forced to take  complete control. Can he build a team from the ground up?  Will he ever facilitate overachievement? Hope the young coach was taking notes.


  1. this is damning…

    we should also ask respectfully:
    why the hell did you concede all your free throws in the last 3 minutes?!?!?!?

  2. I just wish this was playing the whole time I was reading this article:

  3. Nick was too gracious to mention Prohm’s most frequently called play: ‘The Cheerleader.’ You’ll know when he call’s it when he waves his straightened arms out and together above his head. At first glance, it looks like he’s attempting to get the crowd into it – but its really a play call . . . promise.

  4. Not sure why you’re pouring salt in the wound here, Nick. Yes, you have a good coach. We have a good one too, that is still learning. You point out the obvious here, but for what purpose?
    Also, you point out something that a LOT of people have referenced in regard to Daniel being on the court in a “foul situation”. My question for you is, who would you put in the game to replace Ed in that situation? You act like Rick Barry was waiting in the wings and CSP just forgot about him. Dexter Fields our other starting guard has shot 10fts ALL YEAR, and has hit half of those. Ed Daniel has shot 226 fts this year and is shooting them at a 61% clip. Prohm had the right lineup out there. Canaan, Moss, and Wilson should have been the only ones who touched the ball in that situation. On that much we can agree.

  5. @RacerRambler – While I see your point, you have to give us some space to thoughtfully enjoy the victory. Also keep in mind that in our earlier contest this year, The Byrd Cage was stormed with gloating Racer fans, distastefully demanding that we eat crow.

    Fair enough.

    This time around, instead of stampeding your message boards to taunt, I think Nick pretty tastefully presents a critique of what seemed to me to be one of the deciding factors of the game. One of our goals here is to (at least sometimes) inform our fan base. With that in mind, the game on Saturday night was pretty confusing considering the unbelievably good offensive numbers Murray put up – and still lost. I think this post extracts some meaning and order out of what seemed like chaos.

    That being said, like Bert said earlier, I’m glad you hang around to keep the conversation going. Keep coming back!

  6. Can we make the woman in the pic the ByrdCage mascot?

  7. Nick, from a Racer fan’s perspective your analysis is spot on. Coach Prohm is a good recruiter and a great motivator. His coaching philosophy is that of, I’ll stay out of the way and let the boys play. (It’s all about defense!)
    We have struggled with senseless unforced turnovers all season (i.e. beat down by EKU at home on 1/9).
    We struggled all season getting the ball in bounds whenever pressure was applied. That’s why so many Racer fans were upset with the officials/clock operator when they stopped play, taking the ball from Isaiah and placing it on the sideline. No doubt that misshap favored the Bruins.
    Two point lead, 20 seconds to go I just kept repeating “Canaan keep the ball”. But no the second Ed gets the ball your Bruins are on him like vulchers on road kill. What were we thinking? GAME OVER!
    I could sense Coach Byrd’s impact on the last 4 minutes of the game & OT, wished I could say the same for Coach Prohm. But Byrd has 20+ years more coaching experience. Coach P will get there, I just hope he’s still with us when he does.
    Congratulations on the victory, many Racer fans still frustrated over the loss. All the makings of a great rivalry. Good luck in the Big Dance!

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