College basketball reference changes strength coaches, fan adjustment

Duke head coach John Scheer speaks with official Roger Ayers during the second half of Kansas' 69-64 win over Duke at the State Farm Chemons Classic in Indianapolis, Indiana on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

Duke head coach John Scheer speaks with official Roger Ayers during the second half of Kansas’ 69-64 win over Duke at the State Farm Chemons Classic in Indianapolis, Indiana on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

ehyman@newsobserver.com

Amid everything else that happened Saturday night, North Carolina’s victory over North Carolina State was the kind of game that had fans on both sides walk away complaining about the referee. Wolfpack fans pointed to the Tar Heels’ 39 free throw attempts, while the other side felt Leaky Black was unfairly sent off for his heavy foul that sent Terquavion Smith to the ground.

So say some longtime ACC fans. Replacing the former UNC quarterback and athletic director with an Illinois graduate as the ACC commissioner didn’t quell any conspiracy theories, and more than one visiting coach grumbled that he didn’t take any more Cameron calls even without Mike Krzyzewski on the opposite bench, at least in the half. The second.

Officials have operated under tremendous frame-by-frame scrutiny in the DVR, social media era, and that’s been true for years now — as has the fact that these same tools, applied by evaluators rather than fans, mean college basketball officials are more Technically accurate than it was before, statistically speaking.

Consider the fact that three ACC officials are perennially among the 11 chosen to officiate the Final Four – Roger Ayers, Ron Grover, and Bert Smith – and it’s hard to argue that the ACC could have a much higher quality at the top of the umpiring pool. own, even if there are valid questions about depth.

But it is nonetheless a conversation that will never go away, in part because the nature of college basketball—and the cross-currency nature of many calls, especially conference calls—puts officials in a position to decide many games, and in a sport where winning or losing one can determine NCAA Team Bubble Destiny. (The ACC has had a lot of those lately.)

“In college basketball, officials have more impact on win or loss and on the lives and fortunes of people, whether they’re players, teams, or coaches, than in any other sport in the world,” said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. “This includes the NBA, football — in men’s college basketball, they have more of an impact on wins and losses. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, but because of the situation that a call could mean here or a call could mean there, especially in Those calls that range from 50 to 50.

“There’s a lot at stake in these games, and officials have a lot of influence on that. Again, they’re human. Mistakes will be made, that’s just part of the deal. That’s just life. No one’s going to be perfect at that. We have a great group of officials, high level “.

There is also no doubt that the lineup of officials has changed over the past seven years, since longtime official Brian Kersey retired and took over as superintendent of league officials. Kersey and ACC basketball czar Paul Brazeau sought new alliances and expanded old ones, with the Big East (on par) and lower-level leagues like the Atlantic 10, Colonial, and Big South, among others.

While the officials are independent contractors, they have a primary affiliation with one league, and are committed to serving in that conference’s postseason tournament and giving the first league invitation on their schedule. Expanded alliances expanded the pool of veteran officials available to the league and streamlined some of their journeys while giving the ACC more control over younger officials and creating new development paths for them.

At the same time, a long line of ACC members left the courts or exited at the top echelon of the career, including Final Four regulars like Kersey; Notorious Carl Hess. Jimmy Lucky Les Jones and Mike Eads, who became Cherry’s counterpart on the Securities and Exchange Commission. Brian Dorsey, Lucky, and Jones still work, but rarely work in the AFC now. (Ted Valentine, banished from the ACC, returned for several years.)

Their replacements, who grew up through the Colonial and A10, still find a foothold at this level on occasion. Tommy Morrissey, who played his first NCAA game last spring and was in Chapel Hill on Saturday, made what may have been the worst charging call in basketball history in December, when UNC’s Black ran past a Pittsburgh defender. But some will eventually grow and climb, just as Grover and Smith did just a few years ago.

“I love what we did out of the league office with a little bit of youthful action,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Some guys come in and they’re young and they can really move and run. I think it had to happen. Just as there were coaches moving, there were officials who were ready to move on.”

“I kind of like what we’ve done. Anytime you have a group of youngsters, there’s going to be a break, there’s going to be some fouls sometimes, but I think as coaches, you kind of understand there’s going to be a quick changing of the guard with some of our officials who were moving around, and we were Young people are needed.”

Other coaches have noted how the tenor of their relationships with officials has changed over the years. Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton said Kersey has brought in men who “understand it’s an emotional game,” while Boston College’s Earl Grant may know some of the younger ACC officials more than some of his peers, having spent seven seasons in the Colonial with Charleston when they were moving up the ranks. .

“They have good nights and bad nights, just like our players. What you really want is consistency,” said Grant. “We have some high-ranking officials in all of college basketball. I don’t know if we can complain too much. I don’t know if we can find better officials elsewhere.”

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock joined The News & Observer in 2000 and has covered six Summer Olympics Finals, a Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He is the current president of the Basketball Writers Association of the United States, was the 2020 National Headliner Award winner as the nation’s top sports columnist and was twice named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.

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