Basketball coaches at any level should decide if they are going to coach or referee during their team’s games!

With college basketball games already started and middle school and high school starting up soon I thought that this would be a good time to talk about sportsmanship and how important it is for coaches at any level not to constantly complain to the officials during their games.

Coaching basketball for over 37 years and being a Eastern Maine Board 111 Basketball Official and a college D-1, D-2, D-3, prep school and Substitute CBOA (old NBA D league now the G league) official, I learned it was best to spend my time coaching not refereeing during the games my teams were playing.

When I was coaching at Orono from 1968-69 and coaching at Bangor from 1969-1977 I did officiate college basketball games.

I took a 10 year hiatus from coaching from 1977-87 to become the first basketball official assigner in Maine for Eastern Maine Board 111 for a year and reffed college games that year.

The next year 1978-79 I was reffing full time until I became the AD at Bangor from 1979-84. After stopping ADing at Bangor went back to officiating again from 1985-87.

Then back to coaching again at John Bapst from 1987-2000 and then after retiring in 2000 I went into full time officiating again from 2000-2014.

The one thing I learned by officiating when I was coaching that I had to decide if I was going to coach or a referee when I was coaching, I learned quickly that I could not do a good job coaching if I was refereeing by constantly complaining to the refs.

So I decided to coach full time and leave the officiating to the officials and I knew all the rules because I was an official at both the high school and college level.

One of the biggest problems for many high school and college coaches is that many do not know all of the rules so that means if they don’t know then their players probably don’t know them either.

Actually, coaches should know ALL of the rules as it will make them better coaches and their players better players.

When I was coaching at John Bapst and not officiating I always brought in a Board 111 Basketball Eastern Maine official to go over the rule changes for the coming season and to go over the rules that all the players and my coaching staff of freshmen, JV coaches, assistant Varsity coach and myself who could use a review and points of emphasis for the coming year.

My players never, ever questioned an officials call. This was because I had a rule that if a player got a technical foul for unsportsmanlike behavior then he was benched for the remainder of the game.

Then before the player could practice again the player had to run 100 laps around the basketball court while the other players were practicing so that everybody knew I meant business about getting a technical foul for unsportsmanlike behavior.

I think if I remember correctly it only took one such instant, if that, at each school I coached at to not have anymore such instances for the rest of my time at that school.

In fact, when an official handed any of my players the ball on a throw in or bounced the ball to any of my players taking a foul shot, they all said, “THANK YOU REF”!. My players always went and got a loose ball and ran over and handed the ball to the official, never ever did they pass or throw it to them.

Whenever I was officiating I always thanked a player when they got the ball for me by saying “thank you and their number”, like “thank you 32.

However, today I see many coaches constantly complaining to officials about calls the refs make. This does not set a good example for their players or their fans. Not a good “Life Lesson that cannot be learned or taught in the academic classrooms”.

I believe the reason many coaches are sayng more to officials in today’s game is because the bench rule was changed from having to sit on the bench until a dead ball or to call a time out to being able to stand in the 28 foot college coaching box and the high school coaching box of 14 feet THEY ARE 3 OR 4 FEET CLOSER TO THE OFFICIALS.

This makes it easier for officials to hear the coaches comments to them when they go by the coach or as the coach moves along with the official in the coaching box.

In fact, coincidentally starting this basketball season the high school coaching box has been changed to the college distance of 28 feet from the end line towards the mid court line. This probably means more complaining from some high school coaches because they have more distance to roam the sidelines and be nearer the official twice the distance that they have in the past.

I always thought I was a better coach when I had to sit because it forced me to concentrate more then when I stood up. So I sat most of the time even though I could have stood in the 14 foot coaching box.

Besides coaches who are standing are always in the way blocking some fan(s) view of the game sitting behind them when they were standing or moving along the coaching box.

Notice I refer to the box as the coaching box not the coaches box as in the rule book it is referred to and is officially called THE COACHING BOX.

When I was officiating I knew and appreciated how frustrating it was to coach and have the calls go against my team. But I never complained because once the call has been made the officials are not going to change any judgement call which is what most of the calls that are made are anyway.

If a coach feels that there has been a misinterpretation of a rule they may go to the score table an ask the timer to blow the horn on the next dead ball because they thought they had a correctable error. If they did and they were right then the official would reverse the call. If they were wrong and it was not a correctable error then their team is charged with a time out.

When officiating, I always reffed as a coach first and as an official second because I knew what each coach was going thru during a game. I never looked to hit a coach with a technical foul. I did not have “rabbit ears”.

I always tried to use a little humor to get my point across to coaches who complained to me about a call I made or my partner(s) made. I can only remember of calling a half-dozen technicals as an official and only had 3 technicals called on myself as a coach.

If a coach complained to me about a call I might say:
“Coach do you want me to ref better and of course they would say yes, then I would respond then if you get your team to play better then watch how much my officiating will improve”.

Or, “coach do you want some cheese with all the whine you have here on the bench?”

Or “coach if we swapped jobs and I coached your team and you took my place officiating I know I could do your better than you are doing because I know by the calls you are trying to make here in the coaching box, I know I can do your job better then you can do mine”.

This usually reduced the tension between the coach and me as the coach would calm down and stop officiating and go back to do his job which is to coach not to referee.

I always told my teams that “if you want the officiating to get better, then just start playing better as the officiating is always at least an inch better then the playing”. If the refs are having a tough game then it is our fault because the better a team(s) play the easier job it is to officiate the game.

When a coach is trying to tell refs how to do their jobs, it certainly interferes with the coaches ability to do their job to coach their team to the best of their ability.

Officials don’t try to tell the coaches how to coach their teams and coaches should not try to tell the officials how to do their job of officiating.