Ed Rush vs Sean Miller: College Basketball Coaches, the Pac-12 and the Human Element of Officiating

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Mar 23, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller yells out to his team in the first half of the game against the Harvard Crimson during the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

You know when you’re watching your team go down in flames on a horrible call at the worst possible moment and you think to yourself, “that ref has money on this game!?” It’s basically never true, not totally never, but basically never. As in the percentage of games that come down to an official blowing a call on purpose is likely well under .01%. But there are times when you hear things that really make you wonder if that number is actually significantly higher and Ed Rush (a highly decorated veteran official who does Pac-12 basketball now and used to do NBA ball) made the mistake of calling it to the forefront of people’s minds with a poorly placed and timed comment.

This news happened at the worst possible time for college basketball, which is to say during the NCAA Tournament when everybody is paying attention to the sport. After all, there are teams that have always been known to get the official’s whistle more often then not in “close plays”, just because of their name or their coach. There are also the past scams of officials that makes this a black and blue eye for the sport itself. And then of course, there’s the Pac-12 Conference, who is largely seen across both college football and basketball as a horribly officiated league.

As you may have seen via our links earlier this morning, CougCenter’s Jeff Nusser wrote this excellent fan article on the Ed Rush “jokingly” placing a bounty of cash or a nice tropical trip for any official who rang-up Arizona’s head coach Sean Miller during the Pac-12 Tournament just a couple weeks ago.  Of course, the technical foul was assessed in a critical moment of the Cats’ loss to the Bruins and immediately the focus of the officials that had been invited to do the tournament games shifted to the comment. Here it is in case you haven’t read Jeff’s article yet:

Rush, according to a source within the Pac-12 officiating group, told a group of referees on the Thursday of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas that he would give them $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they either “rang him up” or “ran him,” meaning hit Miller with a technical or toss him out of the game. Rush then reiterated during a Friday morning meeting, according to one referee in attendance, that officials should take similar action against Miller if he did anything on Friday in the Pac-12 semifinals against UCLA.

“He was emphatic about not dealing with him (Miller),” the ref told CBSSports.com. “He made that perfectly clear.”

Based on some other comments that have been put out the officials really don’t like their peer.

He’s a bully,” a referee said of Rush. “He just bullies everyone. That was his whole tenor of the meeting on Friday. We’re all afraid of him. He’s the most respected basketball officiating person on the west coast and he’s been given all the juice.”

Rush, for as decorated as he is, has always been known as a brash guy with a quick trigger with coaches and/or players. In the NBA, he wasn’t the guy you wanted to even slightly embarrass on the court, because he wasn’t going to take it and move on. When he was hired, however, as Pac-12 Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials, I endorsed the move by Larry Scott and the conference. There’s more to this than meets the eye in my book.

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  • http://twitter.com/mccook2002 mccook guy

    Really? Ed Rush is offering bounties for technicals on coaches and your reaction is “what he was saying wasn’t completely as it seems”? It’s pretty clear what Rush said, you don’t have to read anything into it. There cannot be an assumption of balance in officiating as long as Rush is in charge of officiating. There is such an evidence of impropriety that he MUST go.

    • http://Allcougdup.com/ All Coug’d Up

      That’s a fair assessment. I’m not saying he should stay after a comment like that. I’m simply offering up an assessment of what he was “actually” saying. Even in high school there are things said amongst officials and their coordinators that are somewhat similar in content. This was a bad stage to say what he said like that though, I agree. As a fan I’m with you completely and as Larry Scott I would be deeply troubled by fan and coach reaction more than actual content or meaning, which would probably cause me to fire the guy who said it. But as an official I also understand something else was said, or meant by the comment.

      Take into account that these officials DO NOT LIKE Rush. If a couple of them can get him ousted for a comment that was misplaced, they will. With a comment like “we’re all scared of him”, there’s a lack of self-confidence going on within the group.

      Part of the problem with fans is that they do NOT read into things that sometimes they should, if only they had an alternate view from someone with experience with the situation. IF that calling official had received the money or ended up in Cancun, at that point there’s nothing to read into.

      Again, I don’t agree with the comments as they were made. And your “assumption of balance” theory is absolute at this stage of college athletics. It’s not a good situation to have.

  • http://Allcougdup.com/ All Coug’d Up

    Also, another bad decision was to say that the comments were made in “jest”. People will get caught up on that. I’m surprised they didn’t come out with the comments that it was meant in different context than how it was taken.

  • Kathryn Stevenson

    Wow. A high school ref and you have all this wisdom? Well, now we know why you never made it to the big leagues! Coach Miller is noted in Tucson for being almost TOO easy-going! He doesn’t swear at the officials; he totally keeps his cool; he doesn’t throw things; he doesn’t push players; heck – he doesn’t even question some of the calls that I think Lute Olson would have challenged. The bottom line is that Rush would NEVER have tried this crap with Olson or Montgomery or Krzysewski. There is NO justification for how Coach Miller or the UA were targeted.

    • http://Allcougdup.com/ All Coug’d Up

      Yes, the comments and target were inappropriate and totally uncalled for. I was making some inferences based on what I watch (I watched several Arizona games this season throughout the season) and based on what I know as an official. I didn’t mean Miller is a jerk in general, I don’t know. Just like nobody knew that Rice was a complete A-hole before today. I had no idea and I always assume the best out of coaches I don’t know about. You should see how nice and “easy going” the high school coaches are before and after the game compared to during it. Based purely on what I see yearly at the high school level and based on what I watch almost daily in college, I know for a fact that there’s no such thing as a coach that’s “too easy going” and winning at a major program like Arizona. Over the past few weeks all I’ve heard about Sean Miller is how much he tries to take after Rick Pitino, whom he coached under for several years. That’s a give-away, he’s at the very least, an intense coach. Every game I watch he is constantly harping on officials, constantly. The coaches that I officiate are NOTHING compared to the Sean Miller’s of college basketball, but they are absolutely brutal at times. You should become an official and see what I’m talking about. Bet you’d be absolutely shell-shocked.

    • CatsUA

      Wow Kathryn… First off “now we know why you never made it to the big leagues” right away from that comment I know your opinion is just trash… too bad you don’t know anything about officiating because most start in high school and work their way up as in anything, no one said he “never made it” you simple simple girl… this just means he understands how it is to be the guy with the stripes and feel targeted by every fan and coach every night… pay attention and watch how high school refs are treated and look into what they get paid, if anything he has a better point of view because he knows the role of an official without all the glamour and pay that can go to Pac12 refs heads. Anyways I don’t think the comments were justified nor do I think Rush should stay, I however do feel like coaches think that pushing officials buttons and “working” them over is actually part of the game. I hate the average fans/coaches point of view because they believe being a jerk to the refs and treating them poorly is just part of basketball… it’s ruining the sport for me… grow up, we should not treat other humans the way we treat refs, look up videos of players that punch refs, OVER A FREAKING CALL! Don’t be surprised when they push back, a lot of these “scandals” that happen with officiating are shaped by the way we’ve treated them. Whatever the cause of these actions however I think Coach Miller and crew should never have been targeted, refs are held to a higher standard and no matter who it is or what they’ve done it’s your job to call the game fairly and if you can’t be professional about it you don’t deserve to be in this business.

      • http://Allcougdup.com/ All Coug’d Up

        For all that has gone on in the way of physicality towards the ref, I’ve at least NEVER seen that in college basketball (Thank God). I think it has gotten to a point of no return as far as fans go on a nightly basis and officiating is a thing now that you have to develop yourself as a person who doesn’t hear the fans as enemies. That’s fine, officials just learn to embrace it. For me personally, the “boos” make me smile sometimes, when I know I got the call right, but they also help me identify a play as one that I may want a second opinion on so that I can get it right in the future. Fans forget that officials aren’t robots and we are fans of the game as much, if not more so than anybody. We hate to watch a game poorly officiated and we hate, hate, hate making the wrong call, especially on a big stage but it happens. We also hate T-ing up coaches, some to a fault, and unless somebody who matters steps in and says “you need to do it for the sake of the game”, some guys won’t.

        I appreciate that this came from a U of A fan.

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