PAWTUCKET â You could say Henry Coleman goes above and beyond the call of duty. Then again, when you have a zest for leaving no stone unturned and the passion is vehemently apparent, itâs never perceived as work.
Now in his third year as an assistant basketball coach at Shea High, Colemanâs true worth to the program stems from the cornucopia of information he collects and distributes to head coach Matt Pita and the players. From video taping each varsity game to cataloguing statistical data in easy-to-follow spreadsheets, Coleman unquestionably is the areaâs answer to Bill James, baseballâs famed sabermetrician.
âHe enjoys the scouting aspect and examining other teams,â notes Pita, whose Shea squad ventures to Roger Williams University Thursday night for a âRound of 16â state tournament matchup against Division III champ North Smithfield. âHenry puts in countless hours.â
The perception is that scouting is an art form that canât be faked; either youâre heavily invested in combing every possible angle or just dabbing a toe in the water. In Colemanâs case, the former hoops coach who had prior stints at the now-defunct Feinstein Academy and Central High has established a system where information is plentiful and only a couple of mouse clicks away.
How are these numbers obtained and calculated? Coleman commissions a crew of junior varsity players to keep tabs on the varsity game. Theyâre handed sheets of paper and asked to keep a shot chart and denote individual stats for Shea and the opposition.
âWe have the kids partner up with one person actually doing the writing and the other person can tell them âNo. 50, offensive rebound,ââ notes Coleman, a teacher at Hope High and also an assistant baseball coach at Shea (through a good word put in by school baseball mentor Dino Campopiano is how Coleman hooked on with Pita and emerged as his trusted and invaluable lieutenant).
âItâs kind of a rough estimate and not going to be 100 percent accurate, but (the stats kept by the varsityâs understudies) are very helpful, especially at halftime when looking at what areas weâre getting beaten up on or doing well with,â Coleman added.
To get a visual sense of whatâs going on, Coleman videotapes every Shea game. Jamiel Rodrigues, a junior varsity player, has been entrusted with the task of balancing a camera on top of a tripod. This season marked Rodriguesâ second straight of monitoring the action.
âOne of the main reasons for videotaping is to show the kids what mistakes theyâve made, what they did well and what they need to improve upon,â said Coleman. âWe can tell the kids in practice and point out mistakes, but the video serves as a great tool to give them an actual visual of themselves committing their miscues. Hopefully they can learn from it.â
By delegating responsibilities to the J.V. players he coaches, Coleman is able to sit on the bench during the varsity game and assist Pita with in-game strategy.
âBasketball is such a fast-moving game that youâre bound to miss something,â said Coleman about not having to worry about tabulating stats during the heat of the moment. âPlus, I think itâs a good learning tool for the J.V. kids. They may pick up on different aspects and when itâs their time for varsity, they can apply it.â
After the final horn sounds is when Colemanâs true sabermetric side comes alive. Heâll take the game tape â Rodrigues has it down pat to pause the recording whenever thereâs a timeout â and review with a notepad, pen and the sheets filled in by his junior varsity players by his side.
âIâll get the actual stats themselves so we know specifically as far as how well we actually did,â says Coleman. âWith the video, you try and pick up what the team does offensively and defensively and notice individual tendencies â what they do with the ball and how well they handle it.â
Once the numbers are up to specification, Coleman enters them into a data bank in his computer. For every Division II school, individual player stats are denoted along with box scores from as many games as he can procure. To be expected, the individual stat lines for the Shea players is far more expansive and includes field-goal percentage, offensive and defensive rebounds and charges, both taken and attempted.
While the numerical side of the game is near and dear to Coleman, heâs also a visual person in the sense that heâll head to gyms and scout the opposition. Of the 15 opponents Shea has faced in 2012-13, Coleman has seen 13 of them up close.
The information gathered is not just for the coachesâ benefit. Coleman will concoct a thorough scouting report that is distributed to the players. A teacher at Shea High, Pita says he will pass a player in the hallway and notice the sheets with keys to the opposition sticking out of books or notepads.
âIt is a lot of information that weâre throwing at them, but it does seem to be sinking in,â Coleman feels. âWe want to put the players in the best position to succeed.â
Breaking down a North Smithfield squad that represents new terrain for Shea to mine hasnât proven too taxing a chore for Coleman. With the Interscholastic League streaming Sundayâs divisional finals on the Internet, the assistant coach had something to go off of besides phoning Division III coaches.
âWe havenât seen (the Northmen) at all this year so weâre just trying to get a better look as far as different areas we can attack,â Coleman said.
Judging by the time and energy Coleman devotes to his craft â or perhaps it should be dubbed a labor of love â the Shea players will no doubt have a leg up on North Smithfield come Thursdayâs 6 p.m. tip.
âHeâs a very organized person,â was Pitaâs ode to his diligent assistant.View more articles in: