Former Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush, who resigned Thursday after his controversial remarks to league refs targeting Sean Miller, told the Portland Tribune that bench decorum was the reason behind his alleged joke involving the Arizona coach.
On each day before Arizona played Colorado and UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, Rush reportedly offered league referees $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they gave Miller a technical foul or ejected him from the game. While Rush insists that offer was a joke, anonymous league refs told ESPN that they did not believe Rush was kidding.
Rush told the Portland Tribune that before the season the NCAA sent out three points of emphasis to its referees.
“The first was on bench decorum,” Rush told the Portland Tribune. “Three times during the season, reminders were sent out from the national office about it. (In the Pac-12), I was the messenger, trying to give (referees) techniques on how to manage the emotions of the game.”
The Portland Tribune also reported that Rush believed Miller and Colorado coach Tad Boyle crossed the line in terms of bench decorum in Arizona’s 79-69 win over the Buffaloes at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
In his postgame meeting with the referees, Rush, a longtime ref and former coordinator of officials in the NBA, said, “I told them they’d done a good job calling the game, but just understand one thing — the game cried out for bench warnings to both coaches.”
One referee in the meetings during the Pac-12 tournament told ESPN, “To say it was a joke is absolutely not true. If he meant it in jest, then he had time to correct it the second day and he didn’t. And the only coach he mentioned was Sean Miller.”
If decorum was such a significant issue in regards to Miller and his coaches, why were no technical fouls called on them during the regular season? The misnomer is that Miller was assessed the technical foul by referee Michael Irving during Arizona’s game with UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament. The technical was officially ruled against the Arizona bench, according to NCAA statistics.
That is the only technical foul called against Arizona’s coaches in regards to their bench decorum all season.
Not one technical foul was called specifically on a head coach in the Pac-12 all season, including UCLA’s Ben Howland in the Pac-12 title game. Howland’s action of throwing his sports jacket was officially ruled a team technical, according to the NCAA. No technical fouls were called on the Oregon, Colorado or USC benches all season. Arizona, ASU, UCLA and Washington were whistled only once.
If Rush was so concerned about the bench decorum in the league, why did he not send a message through his officials during the regular season?
San Jose Mercury News writer Jon Wilner, a veteran journalist who has covered the conference since serving as the UA basketball beat reporter in the early 1990s for The Arizona Daily Star, wrote earlier this week that Rush was within reason to alert referees about coaches staying within the coaching box.
“Just to clear up any confusion,” Wilner wrote, “There is nothing wrong with Rush telling his refs to be strict with Miller if, for example, he were to make a mockery of the coaches’ box.”
My contention is if Miller has made a mockery of the coaches’ box, why wasn’t he or his staff assessed a technical foul at least once this season for that offense? The Wildcats played 18 Pac-12 games, a total of 3,625 minutes, and not once was a technical foul called because of bench decorum.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, forever stained for supporting Rush, discussed decorum of coaches earlier this week when defending Rush, 70, to the media.
“What we found was that Ed Rush was being very hard on the officials because he didn’t think they were doing the job of containing the coaches; the coaches’ decorum was getting out of control,” Scott told ESPN. He was “not solely focused on Coach Miller but on several coaches. That started a banter and discussion about ‘What do I have to do to get you guys to enforce the rules? … Do I gotta give you a trip or do I gotta give you money?’”
The revelation of coaches’ decorum started in Las Vegas?
Miller was more demonstrative to his players, urging them, than he was leaving the coaches’ box and harassing refs during the regular season.
Rush’s bounty on Miller was nothing more than a power play to remind the league’s referees he was in charge. Before the hiring of Andy Enfield, 43, at USC this week, Miller, 44, was the youngest coach in the league, an easier target for a crusty veteran like Rush. Would Rush have been as strong-handed with Lute Olson, an elder statesman with an influential presence because of his years of sustained success?
The bottom line: Rush used an inappropriate joke targeting one coach to get his point across instead of stressing the decorum objective in a professional manner. Scott and Rush’s advocates still supported him. Shame on them.
Former NBA ref Steve Javie went so far as to tell ESPN’s Colin Cowherd earlier in the week that Rush deserved a raise for “trying to tear down the good ‘ol boy network in college.”
Javie said that college coaches are accustomed to getting their way, complaining about a ref to league officials to have that ref removed.
“Ed is bringing his professionalism to the game, something the college game needs,” Javie told Cowherd.
This kind of officious behavior by Rush and his NBA cronies might work with billionaire owners and millionaire coaches and players. The college game, which should belong to the student-athletes, can not afford to have people in high places forsaking integrity to exert their power and show people who’s who.
How ironic that Rush made a big deal about decorum of league coaches when he showed none with this fiasco.
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner