Basketball officiating 101…

Officiating is an avocation rather than a vocation for most basketball officials.

Yes, if you make it to the NCAA Division I level, the money is significant, but at the small college, high school and nonvarsity level, you officiate mostly for the love of the game.

During my 40-year officiating career at the grade school, high school and college varsity level, I can honestly say I didn’t officiate for the money. Having said that, I wouldn’t have done it for free either.

As a public service, let me offer you a free column called “Basketball Officiat­ing 101.”

To begin, an official should dress appropriately and look the part. There’s an old saying that you only have one chance to make a good first impression. If you are vision-impaired, no pun intended, you are advised to wear contacts instead of glasses. I really don’t know if wearing glasses hindered my officiating career, but it’s true that very few, if any, officials wear glasses in NCAA Divi­sion I basketball or the NBA.

For the record, I don’t recall getting much flak about wearing glasses. If anything, an official who doesn’t have eyewear is likely to hear some loudmouth yell, “You need glasses!”

One of the main things that separates an average official from a good one isn’t necessarily the number of calls you get right, but how well you communicate with coaches and players. Most officials get most calls right, but the best officials have the ability to communicate effectively when coaches and players are disagreeable.

It probably would be wise for aspiring officials to take psychology in college. But I’m not sure how many student aspire to be officials.

The best officials know what to say when, and when to simply stay silent and walk away from an irate coach.

There’s a time to speak and a time to be quiet and nod your head. The tendency is to want to lash out with a smart-aleck comment when provoked, but that usually doesn’t help in the long run. As one official told me, “Silence can’t be quoted.”

I’d also advise rookie officials to learn the tricks of the trade from veteran officials. That certainly benefited me.

Late in my officiating career I was working a boys’ game in the Class 6A State Basketball Tournament. It was a close and competitive game, and a coach had said little all night.

In the fourth quarter, two of my partners made a call across the floor from where the coach and I were standing. The coach called timeout and angrily walked out on to the floor to voice his displeasure.

Having a coach out on the floor complaining is not a good look. In fact, if this had happened with the clock running, it would have warranted a technical foul. However, having learned a few things over the years, I went over and walked the coach back to his bench area.

If he was going to complain, I didn’t want the conversation to be in the middle of the floor. After letting him state his case, I said, “Coach, the other officials obviously had another angle and saw it differently. You’re going to have let it go and move on.”

The coach stopped and turned his attention back to his team.

I could devote an entire column on the art of giving a technical foul. Toward the end of my officiating career when I had warned a coach and he or she kept arguing, I’d ask, “Do you want a technical?” That usually ended the conversation. It let the coach know that he or she had better drop the subject. How­ever, on one occasion after I asked the question, the coach kept right on complaining. After I gave him a technical, he said, “What’s the technical for?” Well, duh.

Last but not least, when the game ends, don’t stick around and wait for people to ask for your autograph or invite you to dinner. Run off the court quickly and be thankful you survived to officiate another day.

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