The Art of the Time Out

We’re back!

After a long summer with no Euroleague basketball action, the new season is almost here which means Euroleageeks posts are back! Unfortunately though, until the season starts there is no data for us to play with, so in today’s post, we’ll be digging into our archived data of the 16-17 season. Analysing past teams that have now been reshaped would be meaningless and evaluating players just didn’t feel right during the offseason so today we will be assessing coaches. To make this relevant for the upcoming season, we will only be looking at the coaches that got retained by their clubs.

But how can you even do that?

Assessing a coach quantitatively is extremely hard, mainly because there is no data about them. To overcome that obstacle we will focus on the only point of the game where the coach joins the players – or actually, the players join the coach – the Time Out (TO). Obviously, there is no data about the TO itself but comparing the game before and after coach’s instructions will allow us to quantify his impact. The data used for this analysis are the home games of every team during the 16-17 regular season (so 15 games per coach).

To measure the effectiveness of a TO we must first understand how TOs are used. TOs are called for primarily two reasons:

  1. To plan a quick play
  2. To put a stop in the momentum of the opposing team and convey some quick useful tips

As it is impossible for us to measure the success of a quick TO play, our analysis will focus on the latter objective.

How many Time Outs?

To begin with, which coach do you think called the most TOs last season? If you’re thinking, well it cannot be Saras as he recently retired and everyone knows players hate Time Outs, think again. Saras called 66 TOs in Zalgirio Arena, more than 4 per game. I guess that as a natural point guard, he couldn’t get used to just watching and he wanted to guide his team proactively. Perasovic closely followed with 64 whereas, at the other end of the spectrum, Lasso and Sfairopoulos couldn’t care less since they had Llull and Spanoulis do the job for them, so they called less than 50 TOs.

number of tos

How ’bout the +/- ?

At what point does each coach decide to call a TO though? It is not easy to find the balance between preventing the opponents of making a run and ruining your own team’s rhythm with continuous TOs. To quantify the different strategies that coaches may have, we measured the Plus / Minus of the team 120 seconds before each TO called.


As expected, within that period all teams are in the minus. On average teams are at -2.4 within the past two minutes when a coach decides to call a TO. Perasovic seems to be the outlier here. It looks like he places a lot of confidence that his players will react to small opponent runs and he only calls a TO when things get really bad. When he calls a TO his team is at nearly -3.5 points on average over the past two minutes. On the contrary, Itoudis doesn’t want to give even a small chance to CSKA’s opponents and he calls a TO with his team only down approximately 1.5 points over the past two minutes.

So who’s the best?

How effective are those TO though? This time we measured the Plus / Minus 120 seconds after the TO to quantify the effectiveness of the instructions. The numbers show that the coaches that we are evaluating really know what they are doing. On average they produce nearly a +1 simply by calling a TO.


If this metric was to be used to rank the coaches, the most impactful coach is Velimir Perasovic. The Croatian coach seems to produce an average of +1.6 in the two minutes after a TO which is a great number.  Truth is that Perasovic is well-known for staying calm relative to other coaches so maybe that allows him to convey information more efficiently to his players. Sfairopoulos, who also remains calm during in-game situations, follows closely in TO effectiveness. On the other hand, the two madmen of European basketball, Obradovic and Trinchieri, are the least effective and they average approximately +0.2 in the 120 seconds that follow the TO.

The most astonishing finding of this analysis is that Perasovic achieves on average a nearly +5 in 240 seconds that are split by a TO. Based on these numbers and in our humble opinion, the Croatian should probably take TOs sooner rather than waiting for the opponents to make a small run. Additionally, it was good to see that all coaches have a positive effect on their teams by calling a TO. Note that justice is not done for the coaches of the bad teams of this bunch (i.e. Zalgiris, Bamberg) since Trinchieri, for example, might be very effective in TOs but his players are just not that able to convert (so his +/- possibly doesn’t reflect his ability). If anyone wants to continue this analysis by normalizing based on that fact please do so and have a look at other papers in this topic. I’d also like to hear your comments on the coach evaluation. Did you see something that you did not expect?

Let me know with comments and… cheers to the new season!

# of Tos before the TO after the TO
Perasovic 64 -3.36 1.68
Sfairopoulos 47 -1.93 1.46
Lasso 41 -2.28 1.34
Pascual 50 -2.49 1.02
Itoudis 54 -1.73 0.86
Jasikevicius 66 -2.5 0.39
Trinchieri 60 -2.27 0.24
Obradovic 55 -2.6 0.19
Average -2.395 0.8975

P.S. We were able to complete this analysis due to our newly obtained play-by-play data. If there is anyone that is interested in this kind of data, let us know and we will be happy to share 😊




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s