Animal activists be forewarned: Get ready for the assault on the zebras. It’s open season on basketball officials.
Don’t get me wrong — some of these whistle-blowers have got it coming. But be nice. They’ve got mommas and daddies and wives and children, too.
Good officials should be seen but not noticed. But there they were again, front and center at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday night, looking very much like the accidental game-changers who were unwitting instigators of the meltdown and subsequent ejection of a college basketball icon. First the first time ever in nearly 1,300 regular season games, a Hall of Fame-To-Be-Coach got thumbed out of the gym.
Tony Greene booted Jim Boeheim on a double-technical for doing his Mike Jagger impersonation; Boeheim sashaying across the hardwood to protest a block-charge call. If coaches can get flagrant technicals, he got one. Or two. So yes, he deserved it, even if the blocking call was perhaps debatable.
There has been sort of an undercurrent of discontent brewing all season, especially among the coaches who are having a difficult time understanding the changes in some of the rules and the different way the calls are being interpreted and implemented, depending on which crew is working the game. You knew this was coming sooner or later.
Beating Duke is never easy and there is this perception that if they are handing out breaks at the Good Luck Store, Mike Krzyzewski will get a bucketful.
Syracuse had a chance of defeating the Blue Devils for the second time this season when the wheels came off. C. J. Fair was called for blocking, Boeheim had his mid-court meltdown and Duke’s Quinn Cook made three of four shots to ice the game.
I thought the ESPN crew did a fairly good job of exlaining the new rule and why Greene had to make the call, but it was convulted by Dick Vitale’s diatribes which he later softened.
I like Dick Vitale personally and appreciate what he has done to help popularize the sport, but when it comes to his basketball “analysis,” his intrusion on the game is often annoying and his perception inaccurate. Vitale is too busy with the coronation of coaches rather than explaining why Duke’s interior play was so much more effective with Jabari Parker.
Block/charge is the most difficult of calls — many of them are 50/50 — and is naturally given to debate.
They have tried to tweak the rule but, as Boeheim says, “It’s been explained a hundred times. C.J. (Fair) got in his motion. I saw the replay. The guy was moving. That’s it. Simple as that.”
Boeheim also joked that he wanted to see “if I had it in me to get out there — and I did. I was pretty quick. And I stayed down.”
I come down on the side of Boehein in favoring more of a block than a charge (or at least a no-call) on that controversial play, but running madly on the court was egregious behavior that is symptomatic of a larger problem: The growing animosity between coaches and officials. So he deserved to be tossed.
I was not aware that this was Boeheim’s first ejection ever (he says he was tossed in an exhibition game). Ironically, Boeheim said later in his post-game interview, that the game “was extremely well-officiated.” Swore he was serious.
However, officials have got to stop freewheeling on their judgment and establish more uniformity and game-to-game consistency. Coaches must stop going on the court and re-learn how to do their jobs from the bench. That worked pretty well for John Wooden.
Boeheim made his feelings known on what he called “The Worst Call of the Year.” He might have also won the award for “Worst Behavior of the Year,” although he isn’t likely to stay in that gold medal position as we approach the Ides of March.
However, Boeheim has no business setting picks on officials at mid-court.
In fact, I’m sick and tired of coaches thinking that they belong on the court in street shoes, roaming the hardwood sideline like they were on a football field. I wish more of them would be teed up for violating the boundaries of the coaching box. But officials have not enforced that rule.
Get ready for the post-season explosions, because they are coming, like an Independence Day Fireworks display four months early. Who are the most likely contenders to be on that podium with Boeheim? Stay tuned.