Some basketball rules deal with time - when is the ball live, and when is it dead? What actions stop the clock from running, and when does the clock keep going? How do you make changes or perform various activities while the clock is running? Every league will have their own specific take on these rules, but the variations will be minor - there are many more similarities than differences in rules used by the NBA and your local high school league.
So here are the most basic basketball rules concerning game time - i.e., things that happen in the game that depend on or cause a stopped clock. I've tried to be as general as possible, to give an idea of what you should know, and I think this gives a good, relatively thorough overview of these rules and what you need to know to coach successfully.
But be sure to also read up on the rule book that applies to your particular league to double-check specifics.
How long are the quarters, overtime periods, half time, time outs, etc.?
- exact times depend on the league's adopted rules, but I think many leagues have moved toward the international standards as outlined by FIBA - 40 minute games with a running clock (i.e., the clock does not stop unless the referee blows the whistle.) You'll find the FIBA rulebook here.
Some leagues will play two 20-minute halves;
others will play four 10-minute quarters. And some leagues likely still
use the old-time version of four 8-minute quarters with a stopped clock.
If additional time is needed - i.e., overtime periods - each additional period is usually 5 minutes long.
The clock starts when the ball is touched by one of the players on the
court. This could mean when the ball has been tossed in a jump ball and
one of the jumpers has tipped it, or when the ball has been passed into
play after a dead ball or at the beginning of a quarter (note: the clock
begins when the ball is touched by a player on the court, not when it is
handed to the inbounder)
The clock stops when time runs out in the quarter, or when the referee blows his whistle (to call a foul, or in some leagues, the clock will also stop when the ball goes out of bounds.)
Also note that, although the game clock may not be started if the ball is being inbounded (e.g., at the beginning of a quarter, or after a foul is called), the player inbounding the ball must do so within a certain length of time (generally five seconds after being handed the ball by the referee) or else lose possession.
If a player is fouled in the act of shooting and makes the shot, the shot
counts as long as the shooter completes the shot using a continuous
motion begun before the foul.
A held ball is called when players from opposing teams both have a firm grip on the ball and are trying to wrestle the ball away from each other. If neither player can free the ball within a few seconds, the referee will call a "held ball" so as to stop the two players from becoming unnecessarily rough.
Some leagues may still use a jump ball after every held ball, but as this slows down the game considerably, most leagues will have switched to the held ball rule as is common in international rules.
The game begins with a tip-off jump ball - if Team A gains possession of
the ball at the jump, Team B then receives the next possession
The team that is entitled to the next possession at the end of each quarter will inbound the ball at the beginning of the next quarter.
The scorers' table should have a possession arrow clearly displayed, pointing to the basket that is to receive the next possession.
Players inbounding the ball cannot move from the spot the referee puts them in.
This list of basketball rules is not in any way exhaustive, and nor is it very detailed. As I've stated, every league will have their own twist to the rules - the length of each quarter, for example, or who is allowed to call timeouts. So before you start explaining to a referee that he doesn't know what he's doing, be sure you read up on whatever rulebook your league uses.
And, on that note, remember that your referees are human and will make mistakes, and as well realize that sometimes the coach doesn't see something as clearly as the referee may (yes, it sounds strange, but sometimes we get it wrong as well).
At the end of the day, if we want our players to respect the referees, coaches need to do the same. Frustration happens, mistakes happen, tempers flare. Try your best to express your displeasure in as respectful a manner as possible.