A quick word on Marcus Smart…

By now, you’ve seen the video.

Let’s ignore the principals here–there’s plenty to read about that elsewhere.  Let’s focus on the referee and his decision to give Smart a technical foul.

Seth Davis tweeted that the official made a big mistake on not tossing Smart and instead giving him one technical and allowing him to stay.

“If Smart made a mistake, refs were worse. He should have been ejected and sent to locker room.”

Here’s the thing:  there’s nothing in the rulebook about players contacting fans.  Of course, this is reprehensible, and should not be ignored by the official.  The trail official comes running in from the three point line and gives a technical.  I tend to agree with Davis that going after a fan should get you tossed:  letting a kid stay sends the message that it’s okay to smack a fan.

But when I put myself in the officials’ position, I bet they were just as shocked as everyone else was.  The brain wants to be decisive, but has neither rulebook nor past experience to back him up.  I bet that he regrets not ejecting Smart in the cold light of day.  But I can’t say I’d have been any better/different if a similar shove transpired at one of my high school games.

I do think that, rather than signalling/deciding the T right away, the officials might have done well to send the players to their bench areas and talk it over.  If the official had said “I saw him shove a fan,” well, maybe they would have come to an ejection decision together.

In short, this is a situation where I would like to learn from someone else’s trial by fire.

***UPDATE:  Okay.  The Big 12 coordinator of officials says that officials can’t eject a player who gets into it with a fan, according to the ESPN report on the game:

Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw told ESPN that the officials don’t have jurisdiction to eject a player who is involved with a fan.

“There is no precedent for that,” Shaw said. “Our rules are for flagrant 1 or 2. We don’t have grounds for dealing with a fan. We don’t have a rule to get involved when the player is involved with a fan. We don’t know what was said. The official, Doug Sirmons, didn’t know what was said.”

Huh.  I did T up a player once (a 7th-grade girl in a rec game) for cussing at a fan once.  I wonder if this will cause a rule to be added?  And I wonder if that will make fans feel even more entitled to act horrifically toward fans?

In any event, I may have been to quick to agree with Davis–should have gone with my own inclination to look for the rulebook (and come up empty).  But it still seems to me that shoving a fan is “an unsporting act,” and the physicality legitimately calls for an ejection.

I’m torn.

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About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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