When handicapping games, sports bettors need to spend a lot of time looking at the stats, the matchups, the star players, and so on. What often doesn’t get as much attention, though, is the coaching matchup. Quite often the coaches aren’t particularly relevant because they are fairly evenly matched, or they won’t have a direct impact on the game. Sometimes, though, savvy sports handicappers find that the coaches have a direct and significant impact on the outcome of the game. Here’s a look at four things for sports bettors to keep in mind when they are trying to determine if there is a coaching mismatch that creates a potential betting opportunity:
How do the coaches actually match up? – There are few things that the media overstates more than the role of the coaches in a game. Coaches are obviously important, but the difference between coaches is often significantly overstated. People get a perception about how good or bad a coach is, and they act on that perception instead of reality. Before you choose to factor a coaching mismatch into your handicapping you need to do the work to make sure that what you think of the coaches is actually real. Often times the reputation of a coach was built in the past when they enjoyed particular success, but the recent performance of that coach hasn’t lived up to the reputation. If a coach like that – a fading legend – is matched up against a new coach who has yet to do anything of note then you may be able to have a betting edge over those who just base their decisions on the names. To truly assess how coaches perform sports handicappers want to look at how they have been doing recently, and how they perform in different situations – road games, when their stars are injured, and so on. Until you have a true statistical basis for making a betting decision you can easily find yourself giving a coach more or less credit than they deserve.
Is a bad coach actually bad? – Sometimes bettors will read that one team is sure to beat the other team because the bad team has a terrible coach. The thing sports bettors have to remember, though, is that in the major sports there really aren’t any truly terrible coaches. There are only 30 or so head coaches in each of the major sports, so people who hold those jobs are in an elite fraternity that is extremely hard to enter. Some coaches are obviously better than others, and some are in situations which give them a better chance of success than others, but the idea that there are truly incompetent coaches out there that will cause their team to lose because of their presence is naive. If you are basing your betting decision on the incompetence of a coach then you are almost certainly overestimating your edge in the game.
Does something give the coach a particular edge in the game? – Verteran sports handicappers know that sometimes a coach can have a huge impact in a game, while other times their edge is going to be far less significant. For example, a new head coach in the NFL who was previously a coordinator for another team could give his team a big edge when they are preparing to face his former team. Like most coaching scenarios, though, that impact can be overstated unless the team is operating the same basic schemes with the same basic personnel in place. A coach can also give his team an even bigger edge – and one that is often less noticed by the betting public – if he is facing an opponent that plays a style of play that he is comfortable and familiar with from his past experience – like if a football coach facing an opponent that runs the spread used to be an offensive coordinator who ran the spread himself, or if a basketball coach is facing a unique offensive system that he has had past exposure to.
What role does the coach play in the game? – To be successful, sports handicappers need to realize that this is the biggest factor of all. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how big the gap is between coaches because within the confines of a game the coach doesn’t have a huge impact on the game. For example, a football coach doesn’t have a whole lot of impact on the game directly if he doesn’t call the offensive or defensive plays. He’ll obviously be a factor in the preparation for the game, but he won’t impact the game when it comes to crunch time. Because of that it could be very easy to overstate the impact of the coach in the game. Sports bettors tend to assume that coaches are more powerful than they really are, so before you make a betting decision based on a coach be sure to understand what role the coach actually plays in the game.