Should a Coach Bench Their Stars?


“Uh-oh!” My two-year-old son’s words resonated in my ears as they broke the silence I was enjoying while drinking my morning coffee. After setting down my coffee and getting out of my comfortable leather chair I walked into the bathroom where my son stood there sheepishly after dropping my wife’s new earrings in the toilet. He knew he was in trouble, and rightfully so. Before I could say a word he looked up and said “I sorry.”

As a father one of the things I have learned quickly is that when your child acts up there needs to be swift consequences for the trouble they are causing. Whether they’re pulling the dogs tail, flushing mommy’s brand new earrings down the toilet, throwing a temper tantrum because you don’t get them that new toy, or just being outright defiant, there has to be structured and appropriate consequences for the poor decisions that they are making.


For a basketball coach and his players it is the same. If a player is showing up late for practice, fighting with teammates, breaking team rules, or not following instructions during practice or games, the player needs to see direct and immediate consequences for his actions. Nobody is above the rules or the consequences.


Russ Pennell demonstrated that by benching Nic Wise and Jordan Hill for being a few moments late for practice.


Lute Olson did it several times, one of the most notable was when he benched Pete Williams, Joe Turner and Morgan Taylor for missing curfew before a big game. After the rules were broken, Olson benched the three stars for the entire first half in a late-season match-up with UCLA.


Ultimately what causes the coach to bench a player and a parent to discipline their child is the fact that that the player/child is hurting themselves and those that count on them. When players aren’t hustling, like Jamelle Horne earlier this season, they’re hurting their team by not giving 100%. Pennell laid the consequences out by taking away Horne’s starting spot. Horne got the message and has since been averaging around 10 points and 10 rebounds a game.

But what do you do when a player isn’t hustling because they’re frustrated with their performance? That’s the exact case Pennell is dealing with in regards to Chase Budinger who is currently mired in a four-game slump. Frankly, benching him isn’t the answer. When deciding what action to take with a player and the negative effects they’re having on the team, you have to consider the root. If Pennell were to bench Budinger it would only amplify the problem by demoralizing Chase’s confidence even further. So, while benching a player is often a good solution to lack of effort or poor decision making, it isn’t the case here. The only solution that Pennell has within his means is to run a few set plays early in the next game to find Budinger coming off a screen or rolling towards the basket.

Coaching, as with parenting, requires appropriate responses to player/child problems. Occasionally a player must be benched, suspended, forced to run extra wind sprints in practice, or even be kicked off the team all together. Coaches have to take careful consideration as to the effects of the issue at hand and the consequences they implement.


3 Responses to “Should a Coach Bench Their Stars?”

  1. 1 Andy January 7, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I think Bud has not shown great effort in the last 4 games. UNLV was the last game in which he played well(offensively).
    He jogs through the lane, comes around screens set FOR HIM as lazy as I’ve ever seen and stays on the perimeter 75% of the time.
    His effort against Cal was crap. I was there. He got caught on several screens trying to get open, and when he couldn’t get the ball clean or at all, he gave up. He’d look at the ref with a ‘C’mon ref, call something’ look on his face, then start jogging across the lane to the other side of the court. He’s just not fighting for position. It looks as if he has no heart.
    If this were his freshman campaign, I’d agree with you. But this has been an EVERY YEAR OCCURRENCE. Once we get to league play his effort goes in the toilet. He plays very well for the most part against out of conference opponents because they haven’t seen him 2, sometimes 3, times per season. And even against teams we play once a year (NAU, SDSU, UNLV), he hasn’t particularly played as one of the most anticipated players to ever don an Arizona jersey coming out of high school.
    How many times does one team play another in conference in the NBA? 4 times, not including the playoffs where he’ll see the same damn team up to SEVEN TIMES in the span of 2 weeks!!!
    He seems to have a bit of a Salim-mentality. He gets down on himself when he starts missing shots. Although I do give him credit for trying to up his efforts defensively by rebounding more and trying for steals, and even in the assist column.
    Whatever happened to Coach Olson’s way of breaking a player out of a shooting slump???
    -get him to the isolated post position and draw fouls, getting him to the line TO START THE GAME is incredibly important!
    Once he feels the crowd on his side after making his free throws the first 2-3 possessions, he’ll feed off that energy and come alive.
    The Bud I saw in the last 7 minutes at Stanford is the Bud I want to see at the beginning of games for the rest of the season.
    His confidence, which he readily admits, is down. Why not get it up to start a game rather than ‘letting the game come to him’ which really is a poor excuse in his situation now?

    Later Nater

  2. 2 Andy January 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    BTW- I love the paddle in the guy’s hands above.
    My father made one in the garage when I was 4. THEN drilled about [15] 1/2 inch diameter holes in the head so it would cut through the wind.
    When I did something pretty bad, I always dreaded The Paddle.
    I learned awfully quick, though, from a good butt paddling. LOL
    Where are we in society when we have turned that kind of discipline into what is now described as ‘child abuse’? What a load of B.S.!!!

  3. 3 naterb January 7, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Getting him the ball early and trying to put him in a position to get to the free throw line is exactly what I’m talking about with Pennell’s only real options.
    There’s no denying that Budinger has some terrible slumps, usually starting during the final week of non-conference play. And you said it yourself, he is lacking confidence just like Salim did.
    With that lack of confidence, what do you think is going to happen if you bench the guy? Nine times out of ten the guy will give up or will be taken down another peg and it will delay the process even further.

    My parents didn’t have the paddle. They had a 2 inch wide, 1/4 inch thick metal ruler with the ridges on the back side. Apparently my uncle was watching us (four kids) one time and we were getting out of sorts. So he starts digging around in the drawer and pulls out this ruler. He had no idea what it was, but knew it worked when he saw all of our eyes as big as saucers and our mouths going absolutely silent! LOL And I agree with you about discipline and child abuse – though with some people they don’t know where the line is drawn and that’s where the problem lies.

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January 2009
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