Archive for April, 2009

Can we move the officials to another court?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Unfortunately, almost everything in this country almost always comes down to money. Our businesses donate money to charity, which is great. But many of them wouldn’t do it without a tax write-off. Usually there is a financial implication to most decisions we make.

So, how is this relevant to youth basketball. Let me explain. Youth basketball associations generate large amounts of revenue from basketball tournaments. A decent-sized tournament will easily generate $20,000 from entrance fees and concessions. The only major dollars these associations have to pay is for the officials and perhaps to rent the gyms from a school district. Association leaders want tournaments to go well so the teams will come back each and every year to help them produce income to fund their programs.

Let’s say the tournament organizer receives complaints about the officials (like that ever happens, wink wink) from the coach or parents of one of the teams. What are they going to do about it? That depends. But I can guarantee the first thing they will do is relay the displeasure to the assignor who is responsible for the officials. Now you have to remember that assignor makes a decent amount of income on these tournaments as well. He or she doesn’t want to “lose” the tournament due to problems with officials either not showing up or being perceived as bad, etc.

So, how does this situation play out at a tournament? I saw it firsthand recently. The coach of one of the teams that ran the tournament didn’t want to have a particular referee officiate the championship game. Why? Because that official gave the coach a technical foul earlier in the tournament. Who knows, I wasn’t privy to the situation, but the coach probably deserved it. Does he honestly think that this official has a grudge against his team? I suppose he does, but that’s a weak and shallow opinion. Should you move an official because he called a simple foul on his team? It’s ridiculous.

So what does the assignor do most times in this situation? Move the official to the other court. Why? Because he probably doesn’t want to lose the tournament for the following year. Unfortunately, this happens way more often than it should. People want to avoid conflict (and keep business) so they switch officials. This also happens at the high school level when associations won’t send a referee back to a school after a coach complains. They do this because the association is afraid that they will lose the contract with the school or conference.

What message does this send? To me, it sends a terrible message. Instead of an assignor standing behind his or her officials, they way-too-often cave to this pressure. In essence, they are agreeing that the officials are to blame. If they had any nads, they would stand up to the coach or parents (unless they found evidence of some incompetence) and, more importantly, stand behind their officials.

I know of only one time that I was moved by an assignor. It was during my early years of officiating. There was a terrible junior high girls basketball team that was poorly coached and fouled all the time. It got to the point where you pass on so many fouls because they fouled so much. I think they only had seven players and three fouled out so they ended the game with four players. I had that team the next day and the assignor told me they felt that I was unfair and asked to move me. Fine. Didn’t hurt my feelings. Why didn’t the coach address the real issue, that her players were fouling all the time? Coach them not to. It’s placing blame instead of ignoring the real issue.

But that’s what happens in youth basketball. One of several problems when parents or coaches place blame on others because their team lost. Or when the almighty dollar creeps into the decision-making process.

How far back can you move Parents Row?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

My friend and officiating colleague Jim Leibel sent me a link to an interesting story today in the Washington Post about a youth soccer team in Maryland. Because of poor parental behavior, all of the parents and fans from one of the teams had to watch a game with binoculars. Their own soccer association punished all the parents and fans by making them watch two games from at least 100 yards behind the sideline. This punishment was due to prior behavior against the referee. There are times I wouldn’t mind moving Parents Row back and just let the kids play. It’s all about them anyway. Take three minutes and read the story from the link below:

“Someone’s going to get hurt out there”

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

People who have read BasketCases are well aware that the headline to this post is also one of the “Ten Senseless Sayings from Parents Row” listed in Chapter 4. I hear the statement all the time. Sometimes its uttered legitimately because mom or dad doesn’t want junior to get hurt. I get that. Sometimes its uttered when a player fell or when there was no illegal contact at all.

During a recent youth basketball game, I called an intentional foul that most youth basketball officials would have only called a personal foul. The reason I did it: to prevent a retaliation foul, or, in other words, try and prevent “someone” from getting hurt out there.

This incident happened in a girls’ elementary game that was well played and close until the last couple of minutes when one team pulled away. With two minutes left and the game essentially over, a player from the winning team went up for a shot. The opposing player went for the ball, but she also hammered her. I mean hammered her.

Sixth grade girls do not foul this hard. My partner who was close to the play called a foul. Before he reported the foul, we had a discussion and I convinced him we had to call an international foul. The penalty: two free throws and the ball. While my partner was administering the free throws, I was explaining why we called an intentional foul to the coach.

His argument was expected, saying his player went for the ball. Which is true. But I determined she committed “excessive contact” even though she went for the ball with one hand because she absolutley clobbered her with the rest of her body. This was a point of emphasis in the NFHS rule book a couple of years ago.

Bottom line is one team gets an extra possession, that’s it, which isn’t a big deal at all. But calling an intentional foul in that situationhopefully teaches a lesson that lasts much longer is that good sportsmanship is expected throughout the game. Because no one with any common sense wants to see a basketball player get hurt on the court.

What a duel in Boston

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Wow. If you didn’t see the second half of the Celtics-Bulls game last night, you missed an all-time classic. It was only game 2 in a first-round playoff series, but it was unbelievable. Basically Ray Allen of Boston and Ben Gordon of Chicago traded buckets for the last three minutes of the game, making EVERY shot. Reminded me of the Larry Bird- Dominique Wilkins duel in the late 80s.

What made the game even more unique is there was no set play for a last-second shot. When Ray Allen made a tie-breaking 3 with two seconds left to put the Celtics up 118-115, Chicago could only inbound the ball and make a desperation three-quarters court heave (not taken by Gordon, who probably would have made it) because the Bulls didn’t have a time-out. I’m sure Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro took heat in the Chicago papers today (and on sports talk radio) for not leaving a time-out for the end of the game. Because of the nature of the NBA, and its desire to have close finishes and more revenue from TV time-outs, teams can move the ball to their opponent’s 3-point line. A ridiculous rule. The rule probably cost the Spurs the championship a few years ago when the lost to the Lakers in Game 5 of their series. In that game, Tim Duncan made an unbelievable shot. Only problem was the ball went through the bottom of the net with .4 tenths of a second left. LA calls a time-out, moves the ball to the other end and Derek Fisher hits a miracle turnaround heave. Usually, it just extends the game.

Hopefully, we will see more great finishes like that as the NBA Playoffs continue. And congrats to my friend and Twins Cities colleague Pat Fraher, who officiated his first playoff game. What a game. He will never forget that one.  

A nice e-mail to receive from a new basketball official

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

This e-mail came from a basketball official named Jim who is getting involved with basketball at approximately age 50. I say good for him. I was able to help get him started with joining a high school basketball association in the Twin Cities and also told him that BasketCases would be a great resource for him. He recently sent this e-mail, which was great to read. Jim, thanks for your feedback.

I was on vacation over the last week and it allowed me to read your book
BasketCases. It was outstanding! It was done with humor as well as a great
deal of class. I’ve recommended it several times to both parents and passed

it on to another new referee. I especially enjoyed the portion of the book

regarding age appropriate officiating. It reinforced my approach





I like the $50 complaint rule from Osseo/Maple Grove

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of basketball officials who work with the in-house program for Maple Grove and Osseo. I had a great time. Many of the officials only work in-house games, but some work traveling basketball and a few work high school games as well. But the theme from all the officials is they enjoy the game and want to improve. Many of those officials picked up a copy of BasketCases that evening, and I know that will be helpful to the officials going forward.

During dinner I sat with the couple that runs the in-house program. They told me about a new rule they instituted this year called the $50 complaint rule. The rule states that if someone wants to complain about an official or an incident they have to pay a $50 fee up front. That fee covers the cost of the investigation, the time it takes to get everyone’s side of the story — coaches, officials, scorekeepers, etc. If, following the investigation, the leaders of the association find that the complaint is legitimate, the complainer gets his or her 50 bones back. I like this rule a lot. They told me that it took so long to get everyone’s version of the story in the past it wasn’t worth their time. After implementing the $50 complaint rule, not surprisingly, no parent or coach wanted to put their money where their mouth is, eliminating the formal complaints for the year. That, my friends, is a rule many associations should consider adopting.