Jim Crowley, head basketball coach for the women's basketball team at St. Bonaventure in upstate New York was on the verge of losing his job. That's when he found, and read, the 2003 Michael Lewis book, Moneyball. That was in 2005. The Bonnies won nine games all year for the second season in a row. Crowley needed a new approach. He was struck with inspiration.
In a Time story on Crowley and the St. Bonaventure women's basketball team, the Moneyball strategy is broken down:
In Moneyball, many of the A's decisions came down to one key statistic - on-base-percentage, which is quite simply a measure of a player's ability to get on base. The more feet Oakland could put on the basepaths, the better chance they had to score. So players who could draw walks - even if they looked like bar-leaguers - were celebrated in the A's system.
In thinking along the same lines, Crowley began to focus on a stat that football coaches obsesses over, but basketball largely ignores: time-of-possession. The longer St. Bonaventure kept the ball in its hands - and, importantly, away from its opponents - the better their chances. Just as Oakland relished walks, St. Bonaventure would come to loathe turnovers.
Crowley began to focus his recruiting strategies on finding players that held on to the ball, could beat double teams, and were tough enough to avoid turnovers. The result?
St. Bonaventure has surrendered 11.7 turnovers per game this year, the lowest total in the nation. The result? Crowley's team owns a 26-2 overall record, and is a perfect 13-0 in the Atlantic 10. For the first time in school history, the St. Bonaventure women have both cracked the Top 25 national rankings - the Bonnies are 19th - and will make the NCAA Tournament. Before he read Moneyball in 2005, Crowley was 44-96 as head coach. In the first post- Moneyball season, St. Bonaventure finished 9-18, as Crowley gathered his first class of recruits tailored to his new philosophy. Since 2007, however, St. Bonaventure is an astonishing 127-62. The Bonnies have won more than 20-games in each of the last four seasons. Total 20-win seasons before this streak: zero.
It's a pretty amazing story, and make sure you head over to Time.com and read more.