User Interview: Rails

Q&A with noted Hoops Dynasty user Rails

We recently contacted Hoops Dynasty standout Rails to discuss recruiting, the new scouting service, Kirby Puckett, setting depth charts and practice plans, the Minnesota Gophers, Pete and Repeat.

WIS

Thanks for taking the time out to meet with us.

WIS

Who is Rails?

Rails

I'm a 42 year-old financial advisor. My wife teaches fourth grade and we have two boys (6&4). We call them Pete and Repeat. We live in the Minneapolis area.

WIS

How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Rails

I was checking some scores on mlb.com and stumbled onto a link for SimLeague Baseball. After a few seasons of that, I took the plunge into HD.

WIS

Which WIS games have you played?

Rails

SimLeague baseball, Hardball Dynasty and Hoops Dynasty. I play HD and have one HBD team now because it's more fun for me to follow imaginary players!

WIS

Besides simulation sports websites, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Rails

I'm a fairly simple person. I like going to games, spending time with my family and going to our lake cabin. I coach my kid's baseball and basketball teams and I'm sure life will get busier.

WIS

Why do you think it is that sports are so big in our culture?

Rails

For fans, I think it's an escape from the "real world." I think most fans wish they could still play or coach. I think that's why the phone lines are always lit up — everybody thinks they could do better than the coach! I also think that’s why fantasy football and WIS are so popular—because we dream about being actual coaches! As a player it's just fun to compete. The friendships one develops with their teammates last a lifetime.

WIS

Who are your favorite player(s) of all-time?

Rails

Kirby Puckett — hands down. It was hard to hear about his off-the-field issues after he was forced to retire and was hard for Twins fans when he died. But on the field, he was the greatest Twins player ever.

WIS

What is your most memorable sports moment?

Rails

1987 and 1991 Twins Championships. I also enjoyed the Gophers' Final Four run in 1997, but that season didn't actually happen due to NCAA violations.

WIS

Which are your favorite teams of all-time?

Rails

I'm pretty much a local. The Gophers and Twins. I'm not too much of a pro basketball fan. It's rigged.

WIS

Did you play basketball (or any other sports) growing up?

Rails

I played both baseball and basketball in H.S. and college.

WIS

What is the top sports related thing you want to do in life that you have not yet done?

Rails

It'd probably be going to a once-in-a-lifetime event like the Olympics.

WIS

What is your greatest WIS moment?

Rails

There have been many. I think the consecutive national titles at West Chester and St. Olaf.

WIS

In Hoops Dynasty, how do you approach recruiting? How much of an edge do you think your strategy?

Rails

With the addition of potential, that's changing and is a work-in progress. But basically I try to recruit two years ahead. I never want to rely on true frosh. For returning players, I always want to have 3 guards, 3 PF/Cs, one SF, and at least one that can play a few different positions. I think it's important to not only have your classes balanced, but also your positions balanced by class (e.g. your three returning guards shouldn't all be sophomores). I try not to have more than 4 open schollies to fill. I'm not a fan of the superclass because I want to be able to compete every season. I've tried all of the offensive and defensive sets and I pretty much recruit the same type of kids irrespective of the sets I'm running. I like trying different things — always running the same thing is boring.

WIS

What, if anything, do you change when winning/losing late?

Rails

I go + in the final minutes if leading.

WIS

What is your basic strategy for setting your depth chart?

Rails

I think the biggest thing for me is having several key players returning. Every team is different. Sometimes I'll have a player that is the first backup for multiple positions. Sometimes I have one backup for each position.

WIS

Approximately how much practice time do you devote to offensive/defensive sets?

Rails

20 minutes. I think that's an area where WIS could loosen the restrictions on IQ development. I don't think there should be the diminished returns at 20-25 minutes as it relates to team practice.

WIS

How do you approach allotting individual practice time?

Rails

Again, this may be changing, but I think you have to look at the core ratings and go from there. I don't like missing FTs so most players will get at least 12 minutes there. I try to give 20 minutes in a player's core categories (LP, PE, REB). I give 10 minutes of SH to incoming frosh and then alter after midterms.

WIS

Do you have any favorite players from any of your HD teams?

Rails

Not really. I have a least favorite. Gale Dutton, the prized recruit (402 rating) during my first season at St. Olaf got injured 21 minutes into his career and sat out the next 18 games.

WIS

Have any other coaches sought you out for help? Do you mind helping other users?

Rails

Yes. I did the same when I first started. I site mailed a few coaches — Stunoell and vandydave stick out as those that helped me the most early on. And more recently I've picked sordie's brain. I have received site mails from others and try to answer them in a timely fashion. Hopefully I've helped some users become better. I think that's one of the neat things about the WIS. Most users are willing to help newer players. I remember reading a post when I first started about the 7 highly effective habits of successful HD coaches. I think it was Ibob who compiled it. Oldresorter started a thread in the Tark Forum that is very helpful and the new player's guide is also very good. There is so much more information on the forums now than when I started. Reading the forums and coaches corners are quite enjoyable.

WIS

Who are the users you respect the most?

Rails

Stunoell, oldresorter, sordie, bluespruce, weena, plumpy, Ibob. I know I'm missing some (sorry), but there are some very classy users out there. You can tell from their posts and site mails that many are intelligent and funny - people you'd want to hang out with. Lostmyth2 has certainly figured some things out too! Basically anyone who has the game's best interest in mind and who is appreciative and considerate of others has my respect.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of HD?

Rails

The entire site is really amazing. I remember when Pong was big so maybe it's not that hard to impress me. The idea of playing an internet game this in-depth would have been unthinkable 10-20 years ago. I like reading the play-by-play before looking at the box score in both HD and HBD. I enjoy reading the forums, developer chats and the interviews. Why did you stop interviewing real life coaches? The site has much more than just the game.

WIS

Based on user feedback, Hoops Dynasty has been ever-changing since it began in March of 2004, including a major update last year. What are your thoughts on the update? What changes have you seen that you liked the most?

Rails

If you go back to the beginning, there have been lots of updates. I think that's one of the nice things about WIS — their desire to improve their games. They also listen to their users and seriously consider their suggestions. I think dropdowns were a nice add as well as the enhancements to the pbp and prestige. Are there things that could be better? Sure. But for the most part they do a good job trying to make their games better.

WIS

What is your least favorite aspect of Hoops Dynasty? If you could change one thing about HD, what would it be?

Rails

Recruiting - specifically recruit generation and the way Sims recruit. Currently it's easier to recruit at Siena with its C- prestige than it is at some BCS schools with A- prestige. Perhaps Sims should stay in their local regions where their existence adds players to the local recruiting pool and they should pay local costs to give local schools a hint of competition. Because there tends to be more Sims in dense areas with lower prestige teams and the fact that Sims don't recruit locally, a huge advantage goes to human schools in dense areas, especially if they have higher prestige. For instance, although Louisiana usually produces 1/3 the number of total HD recruits than Minnesota, there are usually dozens more DI recruits generated in LA than in MN even though both states have only one school that competes in a BCS conference. It's just hard for the BCS school in Minnesota to compete with the BCS school in LA given the number of and competition for local and regional recruits. Minnesota competes with Wisconsin, Iowa and Iowa State. LSU competes with midmajors run by Sims for its local talent. Logic would say that if a state has 120 recruits, there should be roughly an equal balance between DI, DII and DII. One hundred percent of a state's recruits shouldn't be in any one division. I just don't think that a state that generates 130 recruits should produce fewer DI recruits than a state that generates a total of 13 recruits. The law of averages tell us that there should be 10 times more recruits in every division in the state that kicks out 130. I think with FSS (paying for all recruits in the state), it's even more critical that this is addressed.

On a more advanced scale, I would also like to see different schools see different ratings on players. I think it would add some flavor if schools saw different ratings on players based on how they've scouted them in-house. In addition to FSS, a school that goes to dozens of AAU and HS tournaments (versus one that doesn't go to any) will have a larger and more accurate database. In real life, teams may rate the same player differently. Maybe the number of recruits a school sees can also be affected by the purchase of FSS. For instance maybe you wouldn’t see any recruit rated lower than 100 at his position unless you purchase FSS in a state. Without some third party service or connection, I rather doubt that at a DII or DIII school in Washington knows the players (let alone what their ratings are) from Maine who might be able to compete at their level.

From a game-play standpoint, I think the press and other double teams are too effective. I think an offense should have a huge advantage (e.g. a double-teamed Stephen Curry stood in the corner while his teammates went 4 on 3 and annihilated Loyola, Maryland). If there are players left totally unguarded I think most coaches are going to insist on those players taking shots and shooting layups, especially if the defense is not vastly superior. There are way too many "launched shots over the trap or double team" in my opinion. Curry had 3 FGAs after averaging 21 FGAs per game coming into the Loyola, Md. game.

WIS

What is your ultimate goal in Hoops Dynasty? Have you reached it?

Rails

I'd like admin to hire me on an interim basis as an assistant to the junior assistant. Short of that, I'd like to have a DI A+ dynasty.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, which sport would you play? At which position? What would you be rated?

Rails

I think I'd still be fairly decent in PE, BH, and PA, with a high IQ and A- FT grade. I'd be a 5 in SPD and ATH, and a 1 in stamina. It wouldn't be pretty.

Rails

Thanks again for thinking of me.

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