Dave Hopla, acknowledged as the best shooting coach in the US, was brought in to help the Raps improve their percentages in what was to be a season of 100 shots a game average. The reasoning was obvious. If you could get that many shots, and your % was in the high 40’s, you were going to score 106 – 110 per game. And your lack of defence would not be such an issue. And your lack of offensive rebounds wouldn’t hurt as much, because there would be fewer rebounds under the opponents basket to get.
I did a little looking around the internet and found out a little more about Mr. Hopla. He is a regular on the motivational speakers circuit. His talks are entertaining because he shoots hoops all through his talks, making close to 99% of his shots. His theme is Success requires Practice. Here’s a summary I found from a website featuring Massie Lectures about learning:
“Dave’s message is pure – learning is about memory, and skills need to be practiced to be learned. Most of what we learn fades quickly from short-term memory. To push learning from short to long-term memory, you need to practice, regularly and often. The lesson we have to learn is that the ‘sheep-dip’ experience is wildly unproductive, unless there is follow-through and practice. If those in the learning game have one lesson to learn – this is it. The classroom and many business courses completely ignore this principle, yet it is the formula for success in most types of learning.”
Hopla has played ball professionally, just never in the NBA. He spent his time toiling away in the CBA, Europe and South America. I couldn’t find references to how he graduated from playing to coaching, but when Ray Allen was at Uconn, he was working with Hopla to perfect his stroke. Dave has worked with NBA, WNBA, college and high school teams. He has worked with individual players from the NBA and the WNBA:
“Dave has not only helped my shooting but he improved my overall game. He has given me the confidence in all phases of my game.”Ray Allen, Seattle Supersonics
“I never miss an opportunity to work with Dave. He’s the best in the business.”Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
“Dave has helped me achieve many of my goals and improved my overall game.”Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards
(promo material from Hopla’s website)
So what has his impact been on the Raptors players he is supposed to be helping. Well, there are a lot of complimentary quotes floating around:
“Morris Peterson, who has tweaked his mechanics under the guru’s watch, calls Hopla’s contribution “tremendous.” Jorge Garbajosa, who has struggled to break out of a season-long slump, lauds Hopla for inspiring him to persevere.”
“‘He’s helped a lot,’ says Chris Bosh, who has markedly increased his shooting range this year. ‘I had a lot of things I was doing wrong in my mechanics, my preparation to shoot. And he got with me. I took his criticism and it’s been paying off.'”
But the payoff is in the numbers. What do the numbers say? Here’s the breakdown on some of the Raps shooters, from the start of the season to now:
Player (Start of the season %) [Current %] Improvement?
Jose Calderon (53.4 per cent), [ 53.5%] – Same
T.J. Ford (47.3) [44.1] – Worse
Chris Bosh (47.2) [50.5%] – Better
Jorge Garbajosa (42.1) [42%] – Marginal Improvement
Anthony Parker (43.7) [46.9%] – Better
Morris Peterson (40.0) [44.5%] – Better
The Raptors have increased their field-goal shooting percentage every month this season, from 44.2 per cent in November to 47.5 per cent in January.They’ve increased their three-point percentage every month, from 30 per cent in November to 40 per cent in January
In doing the research for this post I ran across this anecdote by Paul Jones talking about coaching shooting:
“One well-respected veteran assistant coach and former head coach told me last year that ‘I don’t know how to teach shooting. I go to Europe and they got these kids sitting in classrooms, practicing without basketballs and doing all kinds of stuff and hey, they are pretty good shooters.'”
Makes you wonder. I’ve heard numerous times that pro teams don’t spend any time on fundamentals. You are supposed to have all that after your high school and college careers. Of course, with so many athletes only spending one year or less at college, one wonders where they will get the instruction. During the summer, on their own time? I know the Players Association has restricitions on what clubs can and can’t do with regards to off-season work with their players. I also know that the pre-season in Europe isn’t just 6 weeks long. The teams are together for months before the season starts. And many players come up through the club system, where they get the fundamental coaching they need.
At any rate, I would say that Hopla has clearly helped the Raps. Positive endoresements from the players; only one retrogression and some significant improvements in others. We all know that the Raps shooting has won them a pile of games. Their defense sure hasn’t. Now where can they get a coach for that?