I sat courtside Sunday for the Thunder-Clippers game, and the view is not the best thing about that seat. In fact, Scotty Brooks spends a bunch of time standing right in my way. But it’s still a great seat. Not for what you can see, but for what you can hear.
Late first quarter, Clipper coach Doc Rivers was hit with a technical foul, after arguing over a foul on Reggie Bullock, who was whistled for hitting Kevin Durant a 3-point shot.
Rivers wasn’t screaming, but he was talking loud, for two reasons: 1) The arena was rather loud; and 2) Rivers was on the far end of the court from referee Scott Foster. Doc wasn’t trying to be charming.
He made his case for, I don’t know, five seconds. And Foster said, “Enough.” Then Foster said it again, “Enough.” And again, “Enough,” with a hand up. And not one second later, here came the whistle for the technical.
Later in the game, Russell Westbrook was called for a foul right in front of us, and the ball caromed to Westbrook. He slammed it on the ground and caught it immediately on the bounce. Rivers was up immediately, demanding a technical foul, saying the Clippers had been T’d-up for the same thing. Referee Derrick Collins quickly shooed Rivers away, saying, “He (Westbrook) was mad at himself.”
I thought of those sequences after what we saw Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Syracuse coach Jim Bodenheim completely lost his cool, charging onto the court while trying to disrobe (or least get his jacket off). The Orange had been whistled for a charging foul with 10 seconds left in a game Duke led by two points.
The resulting technical fouls effectively ended the game, when the Blue Devils made three of four foul shots. And oh, by the way. That charging call in the Syracuse-Duke game? Looked like a good call to me.
The next morning, Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News, working for ESPN radio, made the point that we vilify college players like Marcus Smart, who shoved a fan at Texas Tech, while excusing consistently ridiculous behavior from college coaches. And others have joined Lupica’s chorus.
You know something? They are right.
And that Clipper game was a great example. If that had been a college game, Rivers would have kept yapping and kept yapping and probably made more of a public demonstration of his displeasure. And every college ref in America would have sat there and taken it.
And if Buddy Hield or Markel Brown had slammed down the ball in frustration, the whistle would have come quickly for a technical foul.
College basketball coddles its coaches. Defers to its coaches. Places those leafy wreaths atop their heads and feeds them grapes. Then counts the pasta noodles a player eats at a banquet when he gets out of school to see if he owes $3.83 to some charity.
It’s beyond madness. It’s beyond comical. It’s absurd.
The NBA does not allow coaches to rule its game. The NCAA allows coaches to rule its game. And we get what we have, which is a crippled sport in need of a dozen major repairs, from strategy to rules to court decorum.
The young people playing the game with so much emotion are required to keep their actions in check. The old veterans who are supposed to be analytical about the game have no such requirements and generally behave in a way not all that much up the food chain from the Jeff Orrs of the world.
Jim Boeheim embarrassed himself Saturday night. Embarrassed his school and his profession and his sport. Then he laughed it off. And Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski came to Boeheim’s defense.
Marcus Smart embarrassed himself that night in Lubbock. Embarrassed his school and his vocation and his sport. Then he apologized without a prepared statement and was given a three-game suspension.
Monday night on ESPN, Syracuse played at Maryland. The Orange was coached in that game by Jim Boeheim.
Boeheim was fiddling while his sport burns.