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Coach's Challenge in the NBA - Hit or flop?

Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics' Brad Stevens
Rupam Nag
Modified 04 Sep 2020

The NBA introduced the Coach's Challenge for the first time in the 2019-20 season. The feature allowed NBA coaches to challenge one decision made by the referees that they feel was wrongly given - or in most cases, they decide whether to trust the accused player's plea of innocence!

Very rarely do NBA players get called for a foul, or any decision against them, and not respond with discontent. After all, it is the most natural reaction for any player in any sports league on this planet who has just been accused of a wrongdoing, not just the NBA.

Not only fouls, but out-of-bounds decisions and goal-tending violations are also reviewed.

The NBA has successfully implemented the Coach's Challenge system in the G-League for two seasons now, but what has been the verdict of the people upon whom the power to use the challenge has been vested? Let's find out.

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Coach's Challenge - what NBA coaches feel about it

Doc Rivers judges the player
Doc Rivers judges the player's past when taking a call

The point of view of the coaches in the NBA is simple to understand. There is only so much one can do from the sidelines. At the end of the day, the decision to challenge or opt against using it boils down to the coach trusting his player or not. One thing is a given - whether the player is guilty or not, he will at least try to prove his innocence.

This is what LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers emphasizes on.

"I'm awful at it with the players. I try to gauge who it is, meaning how often he has lied to me in the past and how adamant he is about it!"

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone had similar views on the topic of discussion.

"I would say almost every time a player insist to review it, I never reviewed it. I don't know how much to trust them."

How good are NBA coaches at using the Coach's Challenge?

LeBron James is a player who always demands a proper explanation to any call made by the referee
LeBron James is a player who always demands a proper explanation to any call made by the referee

In the regular season of the NBA, the Coach's Challenge was used 633 times. A healthy success-rate of 44% saw 281 of those questionable calls overturned.

As one would expect, the most successfully overturned decisions were those involving out-of-bounds calls, which were proven to be given illegitimately 75% of the times they were challenged. Goal-tending calls were next at 68%, while only 39% of the foul calls went in favor of the original guilty party.

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has a pretty poor record when it comes to using the Coach's Challenge, and he's aware of that.

"My challenge percentage is pretty low. So obviously my eyes aren't good."

The LA Lakers' Frank Vogel finds it difficult to use the feature until late in the game, unless a star player finds himself in early foul trouble due to it, or if the call has an extremely high chance of being overturned if challenged.

"It has to be of great value if I'm going to use it in the first half."

The Portland Trail Blazers' Terry Stotts is one of the best in the NBA at using the Coach's Challenge properly. He is one of the few coaches to have a success rate of over 50%, and he says trust in his players is the key behind it.

"At the beginning of the season I told the players, ‘I gotta be able to trust you. Don’t say you didn’t foul if you really fouled him.’ They have a better view of it than I do and I trust them on that.”

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Published 04 Sep 2020, 23:26 IST
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