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.