New NBA coach’s challenge not going very well so far

The first Coach’s Challenges in NBA history were issued in the 2019-20 season opener between the Raptors and Pelicans. Unfortunately, both were lost.

The 2019-20 NBA season marked the first time in league history that head coaches would be able to challenge an official’s decision in the middle of a game. Much like football, the Coach’s Challenge was implemented to allow coaches to request another replay on dubious calls at any point in the game, with the possibility of having an incorrect call overturned.

NBA challenges can only be used in three scenarios: To challenge a foul call, an out-of-bounds decision or a goaltending call. Coaches are only allowed to use one challenge per game, which requires a timeout. If the coach wins the challenge, the timeout is restored. If the challenge is lost, so is the timeout.

It didn’t take long for the first challenge in NBA history, as Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse used one late in the first quarter. On a drive to the basket by Norman Powell, the Raptors wing used his elbow to clear out space in mid-flight against defender Josh Hart, who remained vertical. The result was an offensive foul.

It was pretty clear live, so it was a questionable decision to challenge even without the fact that he was blowing his one challenge for the game in the first quarter, but Nurse requested another look anyway.

His attempt to overturn the call was unsuccessful, as the offensive foul was confirmed for Powell. In the process, the Raptors lost their timeout.

In the third quarter, New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry used his challenge, contesting a foul call on Kenrich Williams as he was boxing out Marc Gasol. It was an excellent box-out, with plenty of contact, but it appeared the physicality near the end that drew the whistle came from Gasol’s end. However, the foul was called on Williams.

Unfortunately, a second look didn’t yield the result Gentry wanted, as he lost a timeout as well when the call wasn’t overturned. So far in NBA history, coaches are 0-for-2 on Coach’s Challenges.

Experimenting with temporary rules and provisions like this is good for the league, but if this is just going to be like NFL coaches trying (and largely failing) to challenge pass interference calls, the NBA might as well just scrap it quickly. The Kenrich Williams call was pretty clearly not a foul on the Pelicans, but the officials confirmed their call on the floor anyway.

Next: The Step Back’s complete 2019-20 NBA season preview

If challenges continue to have such a low overturn rate, it’s likely coaches, players and fans alike will grow frustrated with the time wasted, the timeouts lost and the lack of real purpose they would ultimately serve. Here’s hoping 0-for-2 is just a bump in the road as coaches learn how to utilize this new tool.

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