Here We Go Again…the Degradation of Officiating and Coaching in AAU (travel hoop) is Alarming

 clueless referee bad coach

I hesitated to compose this blog post because of the fact some may take it the wrong way who I certainly don’t want to.  Then I realized that is the with most everything I post so it is what it is.  This may piggyback from my post regarding an AAU parent two years back calling me “boy” and the events that ensued.  It again involves a tournament my team was participating in but this time a bit different.  I do want to say that for the most part, The Strom Classic tournament is organized and well run.  The staff has done a great job in the past…this year was a bit different, and hopefully just an aberration.

Last year at this time, my Mid Michigan Lakers U17 team was busy beating the likes of I-90 Elite, Northern Exposure, etc. en route to a second place finish in the platinum bracket in after a battle with the West Michigan Lakers.  We lost our second best player for the summer in the tournament, Markell Lucas, to an Achilles tear as well.  From that perspective, you would think that this year we would at least have a game in the main facility which would have the access to the most college coaches; nope, not one.  Seems a little disrespectful to the achievements of last year, right?  Or maybe that’s just me thinking too much.  Anyway, that is not even why I wrote this so let me work my way to the point…

After playing our third game of the tournament, we were 2-1 and in the final eight of the silver bracket (don’t get me started how we got to silver with only one loss by 6 points to a well-respected team).  We hurried over to Davenport University for our next game, but found it to be an hour behind schedule (unusual for big tournaments, especially with NO communication from a director).  Oh well, you adjust and move on.  At the start of the game, I recognized one of the officials from last year.  I knew then it would be a long night and it started right away.  When I questioned him on a series of weird calls, he told me to “move on”.  It was clear to me that he had not though.  Then inexplicably, the other official was replaced mid way through the first half by a guy who must have thought folks were there to see him.  We have played through awful officiating before (I mean just the week prior in Mt. Pleasant a ref told me that it was perfectly legal to block a shot AFTER it hit the backboard), so we play on.  Oh yeah, right here I should mention that we were playing the MPBA Elite team led by a guy (“Coach” Lee I believe) that used to be with Common Bond.  They jumped out to an early lead, then we fought back within two points at the half.  About there is where things got interesting…

After the half, the game was back and forth.  My best player, Amariontez Ivory-Thomas (Tez), did what any coach would want his best to do.  That is, lead by example and took a charge (or so we thought).  Despite a player crashing through him, there was no call.  No charge, no block.  Now there had been several already in the game so we thought a baseline was established.  Nothing but a blow to the head for Tez who was attempting to shake it off after picking himself up off of the floor.  While down, do you think the officials checked to see if he was ok? No.  But the site director decided to get the “trainer” (I really don’t know who she was) to come out and look at him which was the right call in my book.  We play on and she walks over, talks to him for a couple of minutes, then walks away.  I have to ask him what she said and he tells me she said to sit a few minutes and then he was good.  So, I put him back into the contest.  About a minute later, the director comes onto the court and stops the game saying that I have to take him out and he can’t play. 

Me: What?  Why not?

Him:  She said he can’t play

Me:  Why didn’t she tell me?  The coach?  You know, the one responsible for him?

Him:  Well I’m telling you.  He said he had a headache so she said that could be a sign of a concussion.

Me:  So could a lot of other things, but what kind of concussion tests take two minutes?

Him:  I don’t know…he can’t play.

Me:  This is ridiculous!

So, I am left without my best player for saying his head hurt after getting elbowed in it.  Whose head wouldn’t hurt?  I am one the most concerned people about concussions so if there was a need for precaution, why not tell me so that he could be evaluated at a medical facility?  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my second best player (and other “big” man) was given a rash of fouls simultaneously.  Unfair?  Maybe, but that is the life of a coach so we play on.  I tell my team to just take the game from the opponents and the officials and they begin to do just that. But that’s when the real issue behind this post happened;

A controversial foul call in our favor prompted the opposing team to react to the refs.  I said aloud that “we finally got one and I know they aint complaining.”  That’s when this clown of a coach turns and yells at me to shut up.  Um, excuse me?  You said what?  I proceeded to walk over to that coach so he could properly say that in my face, which of course he didn’t.  He first tried to act like he didn’t say anything or that it wasn’t directed at me, but after being confronted by someone else who heard it, he decided to say it was because I said something to him.

Me: I didn’t say anything to you!  I made a general statement aloud which is well within my right to do.

Him:  You said something to me!

Me:  I didn’t say nothing to you, but I am now (as I put the hat in my hand directly in his face).  Don’t you ever tell me to shut up.  My father doesn’t tell me to shut up.  I am a grown man.  I am not one of these little boys. Say it one more time.

Him: Silence

It was about then that the officials and site director made their way over to us and I reiterated to all three that nobody in that gym was qualified to tell me to shut up, period.  Especially a hot-headed, so-called coach that couldn’t stay with his former program because his attitude was messed up.  He can yell and scream at his players and tell them to shut up all he wants if his parents allow that, but not a chance in the world he or anyone else is telling me to do so.  The site director kept threatening to stop the game as if anybody cared about that at the time.  He also kept remarking how tired he was (again, who cares). The refs decided that a technical on both coaches was the answer (pointless) and that we must sit down for the duration.  It is safe to say I was fuming.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, it is my stance that telling me to shut up or calling me boy is not acceptable, ever.  We got right back into the game, then they fouled out my big fella.  You could tell the game got chippy and started getting worse because the refs were not controlling it.

With about 1:00 left, the smallest player on the court, Jacob Littles, was hit in the nose at half court by a blatant elbow from the opposing team…right in front of their bench and an official.  The official proceeded to do nothing.  No call. No stoppage.  No nothing.  Jacob staggered down to the court.  Meanwhile, the coach tells his player that he did nothing wrong.

That, as they say, was the end of my rope.  I draw the line at putting my kids in the line of fire for injury.  Especially when a “coach” is instructing his players that what they are doing is ok.  I got up, picked Jacob up off the floor, and pulled the rest of the players off as well.  There was no way I would let them continue playing under those circumstances.  I have to answer to their parents for their safety and will not take unnecessary chances where I can help it.  And you know what?  Yes I made the kids shake their opponents’ hand despite their reservation.  I know those other kids were influenced by their leader so it is not entirely their fault.  We were losing at the time and likely were going to lose the game, but that had no bearing on my decision.  I did the same thing last year at a tournament in Macomb County that we were winning.  Wins and losses are ultimately not the point of travel basketball and my goal is not to win at all cost.  One goal is to win, but do so the right way. 

I know this, unless tournament directors start holding officials responsible at travel basketball tournaments, things will only get worse.  There is absolutely no accountability and the main directors rarely travel to their tournament sites away from the hub more and more it seems.  I honestly have to take this into consideration when deciding where to take my teams to play.  The situation sped out of control because no one established order.  Should I have gotten in the coach’s face?  Probably not, but I also don’t regret it.  I do not pretend to be perfect.  I am a Christian man, but was a man first, so don’t tempt me with foolishness.  There are lines that are not meant to be crossed, that’s one of them.  I did not curse at him throughout.  I did not touch him.  But I did let him know in no uncertain terms that I am not his child.  Too often, perhaps because I am younger, these officials and such think that I must be based on how they talk.  I am not, and they will understand that in time.