Boning Up: UCLA Coach Mick Cronin Inspiring His Team With Dog Bone

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No animal is at the center of more inspirational phrases than dogs, and UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin is acutely aware of this.

“Legs feed the wolf,” “hungry dogs run the fastest,” and many other idiomatic expressions about dogs and eating are plastered across locker rooms at every level.

Cronin went a step further and rounded up a giant dog bone.

With that, the “Deflection Bone” was born.

“When they throw the food out at night from a restaurant, the law of the alley says that the hungry dog’s going to get the bone,’’ Cronin told USA Today. “A hungry dog’s going to go fight and get the bone and take all of this clawing and scratching because he’s starving. That’s how you have to be as a team.’’

Now, the Deflection Bone doesn’t work like the Turnover Chain. A player who gets a deflection of any kind — deflected passes, blocked shots, blocked shot recoveries, taking charges. etc. — doesn’t get to hold up the two-foot-long bone and wave it at TV cameras.

Instead, they sign it.

Mick Cronin has his team playing like hungry dogs, and all it took was a giant dog bone. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

Cronin’s Methods Seem To Be working For the UCLA Bruins

Cronin measure’s his Bruins’ effort by deflections. After the game, the player who logged the most deflections gets to sign the bone. Whoever has the most signatures at the end of the year gets to keep the bone. After that, they can do with it whatever one does with a giant, autographed dog bone.

Some say this has elevated UCLA’s game without the ball. They’re ranked second in the nation in defensive efficiency.

The deflection point does have one drawback: players say it has led to heated discussions over who had the most deflections. TJ Wolff, the team’s director of player personnel, tracks this and sometimes gets an earful after games.

“After every single game, everyone’s arguing over who got more deflections or how T.J. missed deflections that people had.’’ senior Jaime Jaquez Jr. said.

Now that’s how you coach. Do you want your players to up their compete level? Want them to dig a little deeper and grind a little harder?

Sometimes you just need to throw them a bone.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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