Derek Gentile: The shot clock and its changes


Last week, I took a call from Hoosac girls basketball coach Ron Wojcik, who was reporting a game his team had played in a tournament in Florida.

I was taking the information and as he was describing the game to me, he said, "There's no shot clock in the game, so when they took the lead, we had to foul."

I remember thinking, Jeez, why no shot clock? Why play the game that way?

Well, because, after further research (which surfaced in a story that ran Jan. 1), I discovered that Massachusetts is in the minority when it comes to having a shot clock in high school. Our state is one of only eight out of 50 that uses a shot clock.

I also discovered that the debate in other states is a loud one. Many high school coaches throughout the country would like to see a shot clock, but so far, the legislation has not been passed. Expense (about $2,000 per clock these days) and tradition are two of the big reasons.

I prefer the shot clock. But if other states don't want to use it, that's the way it goes.

Watching and playing basketball pre-shot clock, I agree with the players and coaches to whom I talked in the story: It was a much different game.

Teams pre-shot clock were more deliberate in their set offenses. I remember the Drury teams of the early 1970s were very deliberate and ran outstanding half-court offenses.

Lenox was another team that worked relentlessly for an open shot. I think Fred LaFave, who coached Lenox for many years, was a master of tempo.

I must emphasize that teams also ran all the time. But if it benefited them, they would slow it down. The end of games was the most obvious situation.

I think many pre-shot clock teams ran more intricate offenses. If the play didn't work the first time, they could recycle it and start over.

I remember that, in the early 1970s, Cathedral had a very strong set offense, with picks and back cuts and quick interior passes. They had a guard named Mike Julian -- who later played at Dartmouth -- running it, and he ran it well.

When I was researching the New Year's Day story, I remembered an interview in an old basketball magazine with former Syracuse Nats great Dolph Schayes, whose career began in the NBA's pre-shot clock era and ended a few years after the clock came into the league.

"The year it was introduced," he recalled, "we rushed a lot of shots. We ran through our offense in 10-12 seconds because we were all afraid we'd get a shot-clock violation. But after a while, we realized that we could run our regular offense, that we had enough time."

Former Adams great Al Skrocki reminded me that North Carolina ran the best stalling offense of all time in college, the famed "Four-Corner Offense." It was infuriating for anyone who wasn't a UNC fan to watch the Tar Heels control the tempo.

It didn't always work. I remember an interview I had with former NBA schedule-maker Harvey Pollack. He was also the public relations guy for the 76ers for years, and he recalled that when Wilt Chamberlain was in high school, he scored 95 points in a game -- while the other team was trying to hold the ball.

Anyway, it's here to stay, I think. I'm okay with it.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions