FanPost

Howland and Decision-Making Bias

Bumped. glass brings up an interesting point. GO BRUINS. -N

I have been thinking a lot about the discussions and controversy about Howland and his inexplicable decision-making regarding playing time this year.  I don't understand it, it is very frustrating, and to be honest I have switched from watching the games to reading about them because it is too painful to watch Ragovic not play defense and freshmen throw tantrums and have everyone talk about how the team that was reputed to have the #1 class coming in two years ago DOES NOT HAVE THE ATHLETIC ABILITY TO COMPETE AS A MID-TIER TEAM in the PAC-10 and can't even beat state schools.  It is sickening.

I ran across this the other day and thought it might be helpful and provide some insight.  It is academic research on the NBA draft, and basically talks about how once the NBA basketball organizations make decisions on draft players, and those decisions stop playing out well (ie, the player that was drafted ends up being a flop), they continue to play the person and just keep "sinking costs" into the draft. Posted the summary and some observations based on it after the flip.

Here is the summary:

Sunk costs in the NBA: why draft order affects playing time and survival in professional basketball

- Staw & Hoang, 1995

This study represents one of the first quantitative field tests of the sunk-cost effect. We tested whether the amount teams spent for players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) influenced how much playing time players got and how long they stayed with NBA franchises. Sunk costs were operationalized by the order in which players were selected in the college draft. Draft order was then used to predict playing time, being traded, and survival in the NBA. Although one might logically expect that teams play and keep their most productive players, we found significant sunk-cost effects on each of these important personnel decisions. Results showed that teams granted more playing time to their most highly drafted players and retained them longer, even after controlling for players' on-court performance, injuries, trade status, and position played. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for both sunk-cost research and the broader literature on managerial decision making.

So my take is that Howland is falling prey to a decision-making bias that is not really abnormal and it is probably not just Howland but the whole UCLA staff. I am not justifying this decision-making in any way shape or form.  It is his responsibility to be teachable and not fall into this trap.  But think about it:  He drafted guys like Anderson and Ragovic, and I believe has a natural psychological bias to not see what is very clear for the rest of us.  And past success only exacerbates these decision-making biases.

What is the solution to this type of personal and organizational bias?  There are a lot of different ideas out there, but I would propose one simple strategy:  make sure that a coach is a devil's advocate, someone who can be contrary and challenge the coach on what he thinks.  Do we have that?  It doesn't look like it on a multitude of fronts.

Go Bruins.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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