Having participated in high school basketball tournaments from five different positions as a player, coach, official, radio/TV color commentator and now as a writer, I have seen officiating differently depending on my role.
Many coaches see officials as being more involved in results of one-and-done tournament games but as officials we don’t care who wins or loses tournament games.
As a player in the 1950s, I never thought much about officiating being different in the tourney than in regular season but as a coach nine years later I saw a difference as games started to be called tighter for fouls. Our scorebooks showed this.
When officiating tournament games, many felt we had to call the game tighter if we wanted to move on. A call was a positive, a no call was a negative.
As an official, I tried to call a tourney game the same as I did in December.
As a coach, broadcaster and writer, I saw officials make last second end-of- game calls that were deciding factors in some tourney games and vividly remember three cases when this occurred.
— A traveling call was made with three seconds left when the ball was in the basket for the apparent winning points.
— A tourney game had an odd ending when no whistle was blown when the ball heading out-of-bounds hit an official.
In this instance, one team knew they played until hearing a whistle and its opponents didn’t so a player who didn’t hear a whistle picked up the ball, dribbled in unguarded, and scored with a few seconds left in the game.
The other team stopped playing when they saw the ball hit the official so they thought the official was out-of-bounds as they didn’t defend the player scoring the potential winning basket.
The official must have been in bounds when the ball hit him as there was no whistle. The official then disallowed the basket but gave the ball back to the team that thought it had scored the winning basket. They inbounded the ball, missed a hurried shot and lost the game.
— With one second left in a tied game, an official blew his whistle as the ball went out-of-bounds so the ball was dead and the clock stopped.
An offensive player then unintentionally knocked over an opponent trying to get the ball and the official called a foul but it couldn’t be a personal foul with the ball dead and the clock stopped. It had to be a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct for excessive contact on a dead ball which was some 70 feet away from the opponents’ hoop.
The player made the first foul shot of a 1-and-1 but missed the second. The correct ruling would have been a no call and the game should have gone into overtime.
Looking back, when I was officiating I tried to do a good job so I could move on like the winning teams but as a broadcaster and writer, if I didn’t agree with a call, then I explained why.
With the basketball tourney opening this week, fans, coaches and players should remember that officials don’t miss shots, commit violations or turnovers. In almost 100 percent of the games, players really determine the outcomes.
Officials usually are only half right in fans minds when blowing their whistles but people shouldn’t criticize them if haven’t worn their sneakers.
Calls that aren’t made by officials have more impact on games than calls that are made. When a call is made, points can only result if it’s a foul in the act a shooting, the bonus is in effect or it’s a technical foul. When a call is not made, the action continues and can lead to more scoring and fouls called.
Of all the things I have done in basketball, I enjoyed officiating the most. It was great exercise, I was well paid, and was still part of the game. More importantly, I didn’t care who won and slept well after games.