Our latest User Interview features Hoops Dynasty expert girt25. Why girt25? In the words of fellow HD user Weena, "He spearheaded the building of C-USA into a Big 6 conference in Rupp. He was very outspoken in leading the push to create many of the features of this game we enjoy today. He is a brilliant game planner and recruiter. He is both witty and wise." Dacj501 adds: "Some say his skin has the texture of a dolphin's, and that wherever you are in the world, if you tune your radio to 88.4, you can actually hear his thoughts...all we know is, he's called girt/dalter."
girt25 Hoops Dynasty Overall Records
|User Name||Seasons||Record||Conf. Champs||Ntl. Champs|
WIS: Who is girt25?
girt25: I'm originally from Michigan, but live in Chicago with my wife and our adorable 11-month-old daughter. I work for a large financial services firm, and on the side am a male model known for my "Blue Steel" pose. It's important to note that I still root for all of the Detroit teams, along with the Wisconsin Badgers, who somewhere along the line became more significant to me than the Detroit teams that I grew up with.
WIS: How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?
girt25: A friend introduced me years ago. I still haven't gotten him back for that...he lives in constant fear.
WIS: What are some of your interests and hobbies?
girt25: Sports, travel, reading, food, poker. I attend a lot of sporting events, including the Final Four every year. (I still don't understand why the coaches there aren't more impressed by my run at S. New Hampshire, but I'll keep handing out those resumes...) Chicago is an amazing food town, and we love trying new restaurants. I'd play a lot more poker if I were single (OK -- a lot, lot more), and I think there are a lot of similarities between poker and HD recruiting.
WIS: Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream sports roundtable discussion?
I'm interested in people who are opinionated, witty, interesting and maybe a bit brash and have really experienced and seen a lot.
WIS: Did you play any sports growing up?
girt25: I played everything growing up -- baseball, tennis, basketball, football. These days, I play racquetball and basketball more or less weekly. I've resisted the urge to take up golf, despite considerable peer pressure.
WIS: Who are your favorite all-time players?
girt25: There are so many. From their time at Wisconsin, I loved Devin Harris, Alando Tucker, Ron Dayne. I got a huge kick out of watching Russell Wilson this season, and was surprised to find myself rooting for the Seahawks in the playoffs because of him. (Stunningly, the Lions missed the postseason.) Barry Sanders was probably my #1 guy growing up and I've still never seen anyone else like him -- he was just incredible and made even bad teams into must-see TV. And then of course the Bad Boys Pistons teams -- Isaiah, Dumars, etc. And I really, really miss Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers, who were multi-time All Pros in the alternate football universe that I choose to inhabit.
WIS: Do you have any sports-related items on your bucket list that you have not yet done?
girt25: Oh, absolutely. I've been to pretty much all of the championship games in the major sports, college and pro. If I had to pick just a couple on the bucket list, I'd say Wimbledon, French Open and the Kentucky Derby.
WIS: What is your favorite WIS moment?
girt25: There are a lot that have been great. Before I ever won my first title, there was a season in Allen where I played in the D2 and D3 championship games in the same night with different IDs (daalter and dalter). Obviously the first title is a big one -- mine was at D2 Mansfield. I'd already been to a few F4s and title games, so I was very happy to win it all. And my first DI title (WMU in Tark under the johncannon ID that I helmed for a while) was cool. We had an awesome group of coaches in the MAC and that conference was a lot of fun. And while it's not a specific moment, my general domination of kelby in Allen.
WIS: You are credited with spearheading the building of Conference USA into a Big 6-level conference in the Rupp World. What motivated the movement? How was it accomplished?
girt25: It was really all about the challenge. I got back into Rupp when the whole big D2 movement started there -- there were a ton of fantastic coaches that joined D2 Rupp within a few seasons of one another. I recruited a bunch of guys to the ECC, and that was a great conference. I've really only been in top notch, competitive, active conferences -- that's a must for me. I'm not interested in beating up on sims -- I seek out strong conferences, or try to build them myself through people in HD I've come to be friendly with.
I had a really nice program going at Concordia (four titles in six or seven seasons), but felt like I wanted a challenge. A lot of the chatter at the time (some by me, admittedly) centered around how much tougher it had become to win on a national level in DI at non-BCS conferences. So I wanted to test that, and see if we could build an elite conference outside of the BCS. Some of the original ECC guys came with me to C-USA -- which I chose largely because it was fairly spread out geographically -- and then I recruited some others. It's a really top-notch group.
We've undoubtedly succeeded at the original goal; we have a B conference prestige, and in Rupp there's only one conference above that. We are routinely in the top 3 in conference RPI (having finished first several times), and have been getting roughly half a dozen NT teams and 9-10 postseason teams regularly. That said, only a couple of the teams have cracked the elite or semi-elite level, and I think the last step is to get more teams there, recruiting big-time players, etc. as you'd see in the ACC, Big Ten, etc. We're close, but that final step is a big one.
WIS: In the Allen World, you coached Michigan State to a national championship in Season 25, then disappeared from the college ranks for several years (perhaps coaching in the NBA?), before resurfacing at North Carolina in Season 42. What prompted the return to coaching in the Allen world?
girt25: Honestly, that was due to frustration with the game. Well, not so much with the game itself, but the person running it. I hated how he treated people (myself in particular) who were legitimately pushing to make HD better. It was treated as a personal attack, and I simply tired of not only the constant uphill battle, but the nasty treatment I'd receive behind the scenes because at the time I was extremely vocal about the game and trying to improve it.
That said, I did come back to Allen a good bit before that -- Montana in the Big Sky. That conference was really the precursor to C-USA-Rupp -- we were definitely competing on a BCS level, although at the time, it was significantly easier to do so then it is now. We had one team (Southern) win it all, and numerous others make deep NT runs. I then left after getting the UNC job, mostly because I didn't want to have two DI teams in the same world.
WIS: You won back-to-back national championships in your fourth and fifth seasons at North Carolina in the Allen world. How important were your inaugural recruiting classes to the success of those teams?
girt25: Well, very important, of course. That's the backbone of your team -- recruiting. You can certainly augment with game planning, etc. but I think we all know you have to have the horses in order to have a chance. That said, my teams at UNC that have won it all have not been my very best teams there. To win the NT you need talent, but it's also highly dependent on your draw and good luck. My best few teams at UNC have all fallen just short, while three of the good-but-not-great ones (comparatively, at least) have been fortunate enough to win it all.
WIS: What is your strategy for recruiting? Do you utilize redshirts?
girt25: At D2, D3 and low DI, I'm a huge redshirt proponent. If you plan on staying at a program long term and you're not using redshirts, you're putting yourself at a clear disadvantage. At high DI it's pretty rare to get a redshirt, unless you sign a kid with major potential who's not very highly rated to begin with.
I take recruiting very seriously -- both because it's by far my favorite part of the game and since it's so important. I think it's key to have a plan going in, but I think it's perhaps even more important to be able to remain flexible and opportunistic. And I mean that in both directions -- flexible enough to abandon a guy who was a top target if you realize you're not likely to sign him, and flexible enough to switch up and perhaps go after someone who was never on your radar but now looks signable.
I also never overextend myself -- I can generally spot which coaches are going to get picked on in a given recruiting cycle, because they more or less invite other teams to do it. Understanding which battles to go after and which to avoid is a skill that even many of the veteran coaches don't seem to have mastered, and it's crucial. Like poker, a lot of fuzzy math goes into making that determination. And when you're going through that math, it's smart to err on the conservative side; if you think a guy has $40-50K to spend, then assume it's $50K, etc. If you think his prestige advantage is worth 1.25x to 1.35x, assume 1.35x.
And look at the teams around you -- what do they need, what are their tendencies, do they battle a lot, etc.? You can't always predict those things perfectly, but being able to even take educated guesses will help your recruiting a lot.
WIS: What is your general strategy for game planning?
girt25: I used to really, really get into the minutiae of game planning. Going back to look at DT tendencies, +/- tendencies, shot selection vs. different defenses, you name it. Two things have shortened my game planning routine -- getting to understand HD better overall, and simply not having enough time to go that overboard.
That said, I still look at tempo, +/-, distribution/3pt settings and depth chart before every game. It's very rare that I don't make any tweaks. These are the main strategic tools at our disposal -- why wouldn't you utilize them?
coach_billyg: When you are game planning for a very serious game, say late in the National Tournament, what are your focal points and what options are on the table? Do you mess with depth chart, fatigue substitution settings, foul aggressiveness, player distribution and three-point settings? Or is it really limited to the team game planning page stuff?
girt25: I am definitely more likely to tweak a little more for big games and deep in the NT -- both because I'll spend a little more time looking at my opponents' tendencies and weaknesses, and also because of the importance of the game.
I'll spend more time looking for recent trends that defy the season long numbers -- i.e. maybe a team takes 30% of their shots from 3pt range, but over the last 5-10 games, it's only been 15-20% (or vice versa). Recent strategic changes that a coach may have made that aren't necessarily obvious just from examining their overall season statistics.
I'll also do a more complete evaluation of individual player performance on my side, which sometimes (but not always) will lead to additional tweaking of distribution and/or 3pt settings. I'll rarely change fatigue settings during the regular season, but would be more likely to play with them in the NT based on something that I see in the matchup.
I'm also more likely to get creative with the depth chart. A handful of seasons back, I made a starting lineup change in the S16 and ended up rolling with it all the way to the title. It was a specific matchup that first caught my eye, but in evaluating the move, I realized I probably should have made it even sooner (it involved a couple guys playing out of position, but just made a lot of sense).
coach_billyg: In both team setup and game planning, how do you approach end game settings?
girt25: I think that most coaches either wait too long or have the point total too high on their end-of-game settings. I've subbed for a couple top coaches and was surprised to see thing like "10 points with four minutes remaining." It's not impossible to come back from that, but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of times that you’re down 10 with four to play, the game is over. So I think most coaches could benefit from programming those changes to be made sooner and/or with a lower point threshold.
tarvolon: Are there any game planning options that you never use, regardless of situation, or is everything fair game at the right time?
girt25: I think just about anything is in play. I suppose there are options that I simply consider to be so strategically inferior that I'd never consider using, but perhaps others might. Like telling the sim to take your star players out more quickly on the foul settings, or double teaming someone who isn't by far their team's biggest scorer.
WIS: Do you have any favorite players from any of your HD teams?
girt25: Two guys stick out. Richard Kisner was a member of my first big recruiting class at W. Connecticut State, which was also my first HD program. (I say my first "big class" because in my first season there, I had one schollie and signed a guard with single digit speed.) But Kisner was an Alaskan big man with a lp rating in the teens. However, he was great everywhere else for a D3 big -- reb, ath, bl, def and was a great passer, too. I think he's still in the top 5-10 in school history in a handful of categories. My WConn teams were full of scorers, and he was the "glue guy."
Carl Keller was a Canadian pf at Montana, part of my first class there. He's the only guy I've had who won Defensive POY three times. He was much more highly skilled than my man Kisner though, ultimately getting drafted after leading Montana to the E8 and really putting that program on the path to big things.
WIS: How much time do you spend on your Hoops Dynasty teams? How much do you think is necessary to be competitive?
girt25: Not nearly as much as I used to. Now it's largely a nice diversion at work. I don't think you need to spend a ton of time to be competitive. I do think that, at least initially, you probably need to spend a lot of time to be better than just "competitive." It takes time to understand the game, the engine, the nuances. That said, once you've reached that echelon, I think you can have very good teams without spending a ton of time on them during the season. Recruiting is a little different though, I do think you need to me more involved there.
WIS: If you were to give one piece of advice to a new user, what would it be?
girt25: Take a look at the highly successful coaches in your division/world, and reach out to them for pointers. (And beyond just reaching out, study their teams and try to emulate what you think is making them successful.) Reading the forums is key, too, as there's a lot of good info there. But honestly, if I had to choose between randomly reading the forums and sitemailing with a few high powered coaches willing to provide honest feedback, I'd go with the latter.
WIS: What is your favorite aspect of Hoops Dynasty?
girt25: Recruiting and the camaraderie. Although there is luck involved in recruiting, I still think it's by far the most strategic and interesting aspect of the game. And I really love the interaction with the other coaches -- talking shop, talking smack, giving advice, etc. It's not a coincidence that the two conferences that I'm in have arguably the best coaching talent in all of HD -- competing against those guys is what keeps things interesting and challenging.
One cool thing is that two of the coaches now in C-USA, shqipta and dedhed, are guys who helped/influenced me early on. Shqipta had ridiculous superclass teams at Eastern Oregon and taught me the importance of IQ and (more specifically in a sitemail from many years ago that he no doubt doesn't remember) targeting weak IQ in other teams. Dedhed had some absurdly talented St. Thomas Aquinas squads, and I learned from him that some things I was overlooking at the time were more important than I realized.
WIS: Least favorite?
girt25: It's still frustrating to me the glacial pace with which improvements and upgrades seem to be made. On the one hand, we all need to understand that WIS is understaffed...on the other hand, when it feels as though we're being totally (or mostly) ignored, that's a major negative. Even just some basic, consistent communication with users would go a very long way. That's a bit of wisdom I've long tried to impart on the WIS folks.
twjared: What improvements would you like to see the most in HD?
girt25: My answer is going to be DI-centric, because that's where both of my teams have been for awhile. I think they need to fix prestige so that it's more dependent on what happens on the court, and less about what conference you're in or how good your team was in real life 10 years ago. Not only is the over reliance on baseline prestige silly on its face, but it's even sillier because many of the baseline prestiges they've come to rely upon no longer even reflect reality.
And I want them to fix EEs. As it stands, some teams can lose 4/5/6 players, and other teams can lose no one despite having comparably talented players who might've left. It's gotten to the point where the EE list that comes out after the championship is one of the most crucial things in all of HD. Being fortunate to avoid (or mostly avoid) the EE bug vs. getting stuck with numerous EEs is literally the difference between having a title-contending team vs. rebuilding the following season. I think it's tragic that something so important is still decided in large part by sheer luck.
And there are a lot of smaller items, but one that wouldn't be too difficult is to make recruits available to view two seasons out. There are so many great strategic implications here, it would really enrich the game at the DI level.
cburton23: What do you think the biggest mistake or biggest misconception coaches make/have when game planning?
girt25: I think people make a lot mistakes with tempo, defensive positioning and distribution.
I see teams playing the same tempo and defensive positioning every game, and I think that's a mistake and clearly not optimum strategy. And even those who change it often appear to be doing so based on incorrect reasoning/assumptions. I'll see inferior road teams running up-tempo, or teams playing a +2 vs. a team that barely shoots 3ps.
When it comes to distro, again I think it's often a mistake in how coaches are evaluating success. Three examples: Looking at only fg% to determine a player's effectiveness; thinking that 3pt% is equal to 50% 2pt% percentage (i.e. that shooting 40% from 3pt is equivalent to 60% from 2pt); making changes based on results in a small sample size, rather than staying faithful to the ratings.
WIS: Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?
girt25: There are a lot of guys I've become friendly with over the years. For a good while, oldresorter and I would sitemail quite frequently, and we competed against each in Allen going back a lot of years. (Thinking back to when Allen D3 was just loaded and non-con schedules were ridiculous; every season I used to play OR, Rails, joelhall, etc...just a Murderer's Row, and I'd feel good to emerge at 6-4.) He's obviously one of the greats and a guy whose opinion I respect. It also helps that he's a Badger fan.
I've also become quite friendly (and/or developed friendly rivalries) with many of the long-time Allen and Rupp coaches. I'm sure that I'll leave some off, but (in no particular order) umpikes, reinsel, acn24, iguana, cal_bears, brikeisco, wang35, kelby, jamespastine, cornfused, billyg, rogers, tianyi, zags27, groomsie, dacj501, weena -- those are all coaches that come to mind that I've competed against, swapped strategy, etc. and are all good guys (despite the fact that kelby and umpikes root for the Illini and Wolverines, respectively).
WIS: If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position, and what would you be rated?
girt25: I've only played HD, so I have to say I'd be a gritty but athletically challenged point forward.
- A - 30
- SPD - 50
- REB - 60
- DE - 75
- BLK - 20
- LP - 40
- PE - 40
- BH - 55
- P - 75
- WE - 80
- ST - 80
- DU – 65
WIS: Thanks to girt25 for sharing your insights with the community. Also, special thanks to all HD players that voted for interview candidates and submitted questions.