When Pete Harames returned to the high school coaching ranks this season, he was immediately struck by how physical boys basketball had become.

"There's a lot more physical contact than there used to be," Harames said.

Harames is coaching Burlingame this season after a 13-year hiatus. He coached Capuchino in the 1980s and '90s, retiring in 2000.

"I think it takes away from the basketball part of it," Harames said. "But that's OK, as long as (the officiating) is consistent."

With many teams adopting a more physical style, officiating takes on a greater importance. Quick whistles favor finesse teams. A let-them-play approach favors physical teams.

I checked with some coaches who have been around a while and found broad agreement with Harames.

"The high school level has gotten a lot more physical," said Leland coach Steve Seandel, who coached at Pioneer in the 1980s, spent a couple of decades with Dick Davey at Santa Clara before coming back to high school coaching. "There's more of a willingness to allow guys to get an advantage playing physical, especially on the ball. I don't know if it's a good or bad thing. The physical game is easier to teach. You're not going to worry about fundamentals."

When Seandel coached at Pioneer, he ran a flex offense -- an offense with loads of movement and screening away from the ball.

"It's something we ran at Santa Clara but finally had to stop," Seandel said. "Every cut was contested. Guys were getting knocked off their path all the time. You can't run that in high school any more."

The West Catholic Athletic League has long been known for a physical style of defense.

Public schools who have adopted that approach have tended to have success. Rich Forslund, who won Central Coast Section championships at Riordan, is trying to do the same at Half Moon Bay, where his team is off to a 15-3 start this season.

"We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get better on defense," Forslund said.

As far as the game and its evolution is concerned, Forslund had this to say: "More contact is allowed. Kids are more physical. A lot of schools have strength and conditioning programs."

A more physical style can also be seen in college and the NBA.

"The high school game mirrors the college and pro game," Serra coach Chuck Rapp said. "The WCAL is a physical league. Our refs are used to the WCAL style of play. It's like officiating in the Big East. You can't call all the fouls or you'd run out of players."

Contact Glenn Reeves at 650-348-4345 or greeves@bayareanewsgroup.com.