Percentage Fouling by Murray Arnold

If you are reading this and do not know or have never heard of Murray Arnold, I suggest when you are done you do some research and look at all of his accomplishments. In his lifelong career of coaching Murray has been at every level of the game. He might be one of the most out of the box basketball minds I have ever been around. Murray is constantly thinking of ways to improve the game and will never hold anything to himself; he is the epitome of sharing. I first met Murray when I was at the University of Florida as he would come up to practices from his home in Deland, FL all of the time!

When I moved to Orlando after graduation, I was fortunate enough to get a Media Pass from the Orlando Magic to sit in the lower bowl media section. Little did I know Murray and his wife would be sitting next to me every single game that entire year! What a treat it was, it was the 2009 season when the Orlando Magic lost to the Lakers in The Finals. Every game we would pick each others’ minds about life, basketball, and everything in between. During one of our conversations he started talking about this new philosophy he was working on about fouling. He described a method of fouling poor free-throw shooters to gain more possessions on the offensive end and cut down on the number of possible points your opponent can score.

This past Summer I spent some time with him at the Embry-Riddle University Team Camp and he was kind enough to write up this philosophy and bring me a copy. Below is the his article; all of the words below have come from the pen of Murray Arnold…

“Percentage Fouling”

More and more basketball players and teams continue to shoot free throws at ever decreasing rates. Advantages of strategic fouling should be considered. The one plus one B rule on fouls 7, 8, and 9 each half present 180 (based on 30 games) chances to “play the percentages” B with intentional fouling.

Anytime an opponent has an under 50% free throw shooter playing twenty minutes per game, consider making him shoot all three one plus ones both halves. There are numerous rewards for such a strategy:

  1. Three “turnovers if he misses all three front ends.
  2. By using a designated fouler off the bench none of these fouls will be charged to other players.
  3. No wasted one plus one possibilities on offensive fouls or two shot shooting fouls.
  4. No points for other opposing players on the designated trips.
  5. Maximum pressure on their worst free throw shooter.
  6. Substitution advantage by sending in designated fouler while preventing their reward of key player unless he makes second free throw.
  7. Possible removed of a key opponent for valuable minutes to counter fouling strategy.

Unless the targeted victim makes four free throws, out of the possible six available, the fouling team is at an advantage.

The one negative aspect of this strategy is the accelerated arrival of the double bonus. However, this may help emphasize not fouling better free throw shooters after the 9th team foul.

The designated fouler (could be a specifically trained walk-on) should be taught to foul a dribbler by attempting a wrong handed steal (using the right hand to steal a right hand dribble). Foul a non-dribbling post player by showing a pass denial hand while holding the opponents’ waist with the other hand. These fouls will appear unintentional while assuring an immediate whistle.

Intentionally fouling a poor free throw shooter should extend to assuring field goal prevention before allowing a good shot. Also, fouling a poor free throw shooter after the 9th team foul at certain late game strategic times (aka NBA hack a Shaq or hack a Howard) should be considered.

Further, how many times is an opposing player impacting the game with rebounding and defense while being a free throw liability? Make them pay for their minutes!

Each coach can objectively evaluate these concepts by carefully analyzing the play by play statistics of fouls 7, 8, and 9 along with late game free throw shooting by opponents.

Many games are decided by missed free throws. This very important statistical impact should be a part of every game plan. As the season progresses opponent statistics provide an ever increasing valuable resource for making decisions.


Thank you for reading. The basketball community has lost a legend as Murray has recently passed away. Please keep his wife in your prayers as she grieves the loss.

One thought on “Percentage Fouling by Murray Arnold

  1. Very interesting thoughts. My college coach used a similar strategy. We were down one game at half by 18… Started fouling their bigs early in the second half, and were able to come back to win. Mr. Arnold obviously has put more detailed thought into the concept. OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH HIM AND HIS FAMILY.

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