COMMENTARY: Sixth man is vital role

COMMENTARY: Sixth man is vital role

By John Bucci,

The starting five get the pregame introductions.

But every coach knows the importance of the sixth man.

The sixth man serves a role on each team differently depending on his particular skills and that team’s needs.

In my time in coaching high school basketball, I had a sixth man who was my third-leading scorer and I had a sixth man who was my defensive stopper.

Your sixth man is generally diverse with the ability to fill multiple positions.

I had a sixth man who played every position, 1 through 5. When he’d first come in the game, he’d come in at center, then when I made my next substitution, he went to point guard.

The sixth man is what the coach needs to make of it, but every team needs a good sixth man if it’s going to be successful.

Sometimes, the sixth man will play more minutes than a starter.

I tell kids all the time, ‘it’s not who starts, it’s who finishes’.

Our guys at Bishop Hannan played to be the sixth man. It became a time-honored tradition to be the sixth man.

If I had a lot of guys who could score, then usually by sixth man was a scorer, who I brought in so that I could start a couple more proficient defensive players.

If my scorers were not great defenders, then I would usually start a guy more suited to defense and have an offensive player come off the bench.

To me, the sixth man is one of the most important players that you have and sometimes is more important than a starter.

Fans watching Monday’s Wallenpaupack at Valley View boys game, televised by and My TV on WQMY Channel 53, will have a chance to watch one of District 2’s most dynamic sixth men.

Valley View as a state tournament team last season and is ranked in the Astra Wealth Advisors Super Six of top District 2 Big School Boys teams this season with the help of its depth.

Connor Kelley has blossomed into the role of sixth man as a junior. Kelley is Valley View’s third-leading scorer and the Cougars’ most accurate shooter in terms of season percentage, whether it be from 3-point range, the field as a whole or the foul line.

There are nights when Kelley leads Valley View in scoring.

One of the keys to being productive as a sixth man is frame of mind and acceptance of the role and its importance to the team.

Not everybody has the temperament for the position.

But, without it, the choice can become, ‘if you’re not happy being the sixth man, how would you like being the seventh or eighth man?’

I tried to make sure the player and team understood the value of the role.

The sixth man should be the first off the bench 100 percent of the time in my view. Between using the versatility he possesses or the way the team fits around him, it becomes understood by everyone who is next in line when the team needs a boost or it is time to start routine rotations of players in the flow of the game.

He may not hear his name echoing over the public address system, but the sixth man know it is his name that will be the first called out when the coach looks down the bench seeking help on the floor.


LOOKING BACK: John Bucci’s column debuted in December. It appears each week on If you missed the earlier columns, you can find them here:

See what coach Bucci had to say about … :

What to watch for this season at

The importance of non-league scheduling:

The emergence of freshmen:

Developing more than one skillset:

Looking forward to the first WVC tournament:

Players earning the shots they want.

The mysteries to be solved in the second half of season.

Basketball’s fundraising initiatives like Coaches vs. Cancer and the Pink Game.