(photo courtesy: Maine athletics)

Maine’s Bob Walsh On His Experience In Lebanon

While most of the college basketball world was fixated on postseason play last weekend, Maine head coach Bob Walsh was on the other side of the world.

The first year head coach of the Black Bears traveled to Beirut, Lebanon and spoke at a two day clinic organized by the Lebanese basketball federation.

“It was amazing,” Walsh said of his first trip to the Middle East. “It was really cool to see a part of the world that I don’t know much about and was very different than the impression we have of what Lebanon is like and what Beirut is like.”

Walsh spoke at the camp run by Milan Opacic, who also runs YUBAC in Serbia and is a former general manager of the Serbian top-level team Red Star. The Lebanese game is similar to the European game, in that the rules are governed by FIBA, which means a shorter shot clock, wider lane and no live ball timeouts among other differences from the American college game.

“They feel like they have the best talent that Lebanese basketball has ever had,” Walsh said. “They want to capitalize on that as far as championships.”

Lebanon currently ranks 34th in FIBA’s rankings after the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

There have been plenty of experiments over the last two seasons in the American college game. After experimenting with freedom of movement two seasons ago, the NCAA rules committee reversed plenty of those changes this past season. During postseason tournaments that are not the NCAA tournament, a 30 second shot clock was imposed as to try to improve scoring in the game. Having watched the 24 second shot clock FIBA game in Lebanon, Walsh said a shorter shot clock in the American college game would not help offense.

“I think what needs to change for us is the way the game is called,” Walsh said. “I think that comes down to the coaches more than the officials, I think our coaches have too much influence over the officiating.”

“I think the game’s just not called physically the way it was meant to be called and what you can do defensively, from a physical standpoint, is too much.”

The NBA clarified their hand-check rules prior to the 2004-05 season in order to open up the game, and after players adjusted the game appears to have reached more of a free flowing offensive game, which is what many who criticize the college game say it lacks right now.

“There’s so much contact that should just be immediately called on the defense that we’ve just accepted as incidental contact that gets let go,” Walsh said. “From a FIBA standpoint, most of that stuff when somebody is going to the rim with the basketball there’s contact, it’s a foul on the defense and that’s it.”

“I just think we’re letting the defense get away with too much and, ultimately, the coaches have to be the ones willing to accept change to allow the officials to call it. It comes with growing pains, but you give us a 24 second shot clock and then I think you have very uncreative offenses right now and 24 seconds, you’re going to just have less time for that.”

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.