In the wake of the Cincinnati and Xavier brawl, it probably behooves all of us to redouble our efforts to make sure a similar situation does not occur in one of our games. Vigilance during dead ball periods is an important habit to for us to ingrain in our officiating bag of tricks.
When a team requests and is granted a time out, the officiating crew should initially be less worried about reporting who called the time out and confirming with our partners resumption of play information, and more interested in watching the players as they move to their bench areas. Depending on where the players are located, when a time out is granted, there is often a brief period when the two teams pass through each other on their way to their respective benches. This is a perfect time for an agitated player to whack an opponent in the nose with a quick elbow flick and keep on walking toward the bench. This has happened in the past and the officials were looking at each other and the table and had no clue about what had happened to the player on the floor with a bloody and broken nose.
A very similar situation occurs after a made field goal. “Biggs” who have been battling for rebound position are now turning and beginning to run down the floor while a couple of smaller guards are coming to the baseline to get the ball for the throw-in. There is a brief period where the two factions meet and it is again a perfect time for a “big” elbow that is about at the level of a guard’s nose to be pressed into service. In the three-person officiating system Center officials must wait and focus on this meeting of the “waves” before moving down court.
Dribble drive plays to the basket that culminate with contact that send one or both of the players involved to the floor are situations that have the possibility of “flaring up.” The calling official probably wants to stay at the scene longer to make sure everything is ok, rather than taking off quickly for the table, and a partner will want to “close down” on the players on the floor while using their voice to announce their presence. These techniques can keep an agitated player from doing something stupid.
Making sure that all players are “covered” is a high priority when a foul is being reported and the officials are “switching” to new positions on the floor. In the three-person system, the non-calling and switching partner wants to keep visual contact with the players while moving to his/her new position. Back court fouls where officials and players are often moving greater distances and switching positions offer even greater challenges in maintaining visual coverage of all the players. In the two-person officiating system, I encourage a “no long switch” philosophy not because we are lazy but because it is very difficult to cover all players when both officials are moving to new positions.
In the coming weeks, let’s all make it a priority to be better dead ball officials and pay special attention to the above situations and the many other dead ball situations that occur in our games.