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Monmouth’s Geison: Cautious pessimism for the shot clock

Monmouth’s associate head coach provides some of his input on the recent addition of a shot clock to college lacrosse.

Monmouth Athletics



I know, I get; I’m a Debbie downer. I’m the guy that tells you to turn down your music and then lectures you about John Coltrane. Nobody wants to get stuck talking to the ‘unintended consequences’ guy at a party. So I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken a few minutes out of your day to hear what the fun police have to say.


Perhaps it’s the pugnacious nature of a defensive coordinator, but I want a street fight. I want a toe-to-toe battle for every inch of the field. There is nothing more invigorating than a possession in which the flow of the offense draws three or four slides, we are forced to rotate and recover in unison, and finally a well-timed double puts the ball on the ground leading to a scrum where we out-physical our opponent.

I don’t want the fight brought into a ring with timed rounds. I really don’t want to be saved by the bell. A permanent shot clock will change defensive mentality from ‘earn the ball back’ to ‘run the clock out on the offense.’


The new shot clock rule essentially acts as an 8th defender, allowing the defense to use the threat of the clock running out to speed the offense up, rather than using ball pressure and double teams to accomplish the same goal. We had reached a point where the threat of a shot clock being applied forced an offense to engage—which gave the defense a crack a trying to earn it back.

The issues of teams truly stalling and not even attacking the cage have been diminished significantly. Officials were improving every year on how to adjudicate the shot clock, and it was become a normal—if still nuanced—part of the game. We’ve obliterated all of this for the purpose of making our sport more like basketball. Now I love basketball, but lacrosse is not basketball by its nature. You cannot lob a ball over the defense to score in lacrosse.

As the shot clock gets later and later, offenses will get uglier and uglier as desperation sets in (I can’t help but think of hearing the buzzer ticking down in Scattergories and scribbling down some non-sense gibberish in a panic and then trying to sell that as a real answer…I must apologize to all past Scattergories opponents). End of shot clock lacrosse is far from appealing, and we have decided to infuse our game with a whole bunch of it.


Much has been made of the coaching that can be done with a shot clock—and to that point, I wholeheartedly agree. My concern isn’t that we won’t be able to coach—it’s that we are going to coach the ever-living heck out of the thing. Offenses will be isolations and quick hitters. Substituting defensive personnel while you have the ball and bailing out on a possession will become common. Teams will have very specific formulas for how they want to deal with end of game scenarios and whether they will engage or play hyper-conservative for the last four minutes. Defenses will incorporate more zone, they will shut off key players at certain times and change pick play rules at certain points in the shot clock.

There may be more transition (it remains to be seen), but most of these changes are going to lead to a less fluid and less interesting brand of lacrosse. Defenses will become more conservative and gimmicky, and offenses will become more stale and set play oriented. That does not sound ‘fan-friendly’ to me.


I’m not sure how we got to this current iteration as the best possible version of a shot clock. Last fall, teams were tasked with trying out some experimental versions of a shot clock to see how they liked it. Some teams used 60 or 90 second clocks starting on possession and some used a 60 second clock once a team touched it in the box. Reviews were mixed. I’m not sure that anyone experimented with the shot clock in the form that was approved, namely 20 to clear and 60 seconds once a team crossed the midline. In addition, when this option was given on a recent survey sent to coaches, very few voted for it. Many of us remain baffled by the arbitrary nature of the decision.

I do recognize that the committee had an extremely difficult task in trying to manage this; there were plenty of forces pushing for a shot clock, including a majority of both coaches and officials who wanted it. However, given the fact that we’ve arrived at a solution that almost no one has experimented with and few wanted, I think the best way to approach this would have been to continue experimenting and try some consensus building as we witnessed the pros and cons first hand.


Ok now it’s getting late in the clock and I only have time for a couple quick hitters:

  • Is the MLL great because of the rules? I always thought the talent in the league was what makes it compelling, and that the MLL actually thrived in spite of their rules.
  • What does this do to length of games? The women’s game incorporated a shot clock- without any intermediate step- and there were many more stoppages and games last a lot longer now. Longer games might turn off some would be fans.
  • Who is running the clock? No stipulation that I have seen makes it clear who the shot clock operator ought to be. There are many more issues with running a shot clock in lacrosse than in basketball. In basketball, the scorer’s table is inches from the court and communication between officials and the clock operator is relatively easy. In lacrosse, it is often in the press box. In basketball, the ball is big and slow, and it’s usually easy to tell when there has been a change of possession, ball hits the rim, etc. In lacrosse, it’s a small ball moving extremely fast and much more difficult to see or anticipate what is going to happen next. We may have just traded fans yelling at the officials to put on a shot clock for fans yelling up at some hungover work study kid running the shot clock.

Oh crap I’m out of time and now faced with the dilemma we will see played out 1,000 times this season- do I take a contested 14 yarder that will dribble to the cage or do I just roll the ball into the corner???

Are we having fun yet?