Archive for July, 2008

Summer Camp

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Most kids have the opportunity to attend some kind of summer camp. Whether it’s a church camp, scout camp or a sports camp, it’s usually a memorable experience.

A couple of weekends ago, I went back to camp for the summer. After four years of attending a different officials camp for college officials, this was my first experience at a camp for basketball officials in conjunction with the Great Falcon Shootout at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Yes, there are basketball officials who actually pay money to get better. This camp was led by Tom Fiedler, the Men’s Basketball Supervisor for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Although the campers vary in their experience and ability as officials, most officials who go to camp do so to get better, network and have the opportunity to be seen by local college basketball assignors, including George Drouches, supervisor of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The camp focused on three-person mechanics and offered classroom teaching. Some of the tips the clinicians said included:

* Have a patient whistle. It’s OK to be a little late on a call because many plays can clean up themselves.

* You should always know when you are calling a third foul in the first half or fifth foul in the second half

* Train yourself to look at the game clock and shot clock on every dead ball to make sure there were no timing errors

* Be approachable/smile occasionally: Coaches like officials who are approachable.

* Be careful what you say to coaches. Coaches do not like it if an officials says the didn’t make a call because it wasn’t their “primary area.” A better phrase is “my eyes weren’t there, coach.”

* Take advantage of technology. Most college game are now recorded (some of the camps at the camp were also recorded). Watch the DVD. You learn a lot by watching yourself on “film.”

* Basketball officials share a special bond. Don’t speak poorly of other officials in an attempt to make yourself look better.

* Stay grounded. Officiating is something we do, it is not who we are. If officiating becomes more of who you are then you need to reorganize your priorities 

These are all good reminders.  

Celtic Pride

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Prior to the 2008 NBA Finals, I was in the minority of prognosticators who thought Boston could win their first championship in 22 years. The Lakers had everything going for them, the best player in the league who could always carry a team in the fourth quarter, the best coach in NBA history, a precision offense and a solid bench.

The Lakers easily defeated a tough San Antonio team. Meanwhile, the Celtics struggled with the Hawks and Cavs, before starting to find their mojo against the not-as-good-as-advertised Pistons. Even though the Celtics had home court advantage, most people picked the Lakers.

This was a dream match-up for the NBA, rekindling all the memories from the great Boston-LA series in the 80s. I was a huge Celtics fan during the Larry Bird era, and jumped on the bandwagon again, particularly because Sam Cassell has been my favorite player in the NBA for years, so I dutifully follow him from team to team (A few years ago, when the Clippers beat the Nuggets in the first round and should have beat Phoenix in the second round, I had to be the only Minnesotan to stay up for all 12 of those late-night games).

What amazes me about sports is how quickly public perception can change. Ray Allen went from a player that was “washed up” to a potential Finals MVP candidate in 10 days and Kobe Bryant raised himself to ”On the same level as Michael Jordan” status in the first two rounds of the playoffs to “Jordan would have never let his team blow a 24-point lead in game 4 and get blown out by almost 40 in game 6″ in only a couple of weeks.

Paul Pierce outplayed Kobe, Doc Rivers outcoached Phil Jackson, the Celtics bench (especially James Posey) outlayed LA and Kevin Garnett finally won a ring after many long years in Minnesota.  Cassell played terribly, although he obviously doesn’t have much left in the tank (although he did make three straight shots in one of the first two games in Boston, forcing Jackson to switch Kobe on him). Still, it was nice to see Sam I Am win another ring.

You can’t have an NBA Finals without  some controversy about the officiating. Ken Mauer, who wrote the foreword for my book, officiated games 2 and 5 of the Finals. He said the atmosphere in Boston was electric. The Celtics had a huge free throw advantage in Game 2, but they were also the more aggressive team. When LA took it to the Celtics in game 3, they were the most aggressive team. The best part about the Paul Pierce-led 24-point come-from-behind win in Game 4 was that all the fans and media were only talking about the amazing comeback, not bellyaching about the free throw disparity. In game 6, no one questioned that the officials decided the outcome in Boston’s 40 point win.

It was fun to see the return of Celtic Pride. A great end to a wonderful 2008 NBA playoffs.