Remember when you first started hearing a lot about Mark Cuban?
Cuban went after the referees again in wake of Dallas' 105-103 loss to San Antonio on Jan. 5, and in particular, the NBA's director of officials, Ed Rush, himself a former referee. Cuban, a repeat offender, was fined an NBA record $500,000 for his comments.
The kicker was this: "Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn't hire him to manage a Dairy Queen."
In short, Ed Rush is responsible for the image above. This is clearly the greatest basketball official of all time, trailing Earl Strom and this dude.
I have about as much to say about Rush as I do about Bulgarian monetary policy. The man was before my time. The best thing you can find on Rush is this interview he did about a decade ago with Charlie Rosen, where he goes in-depth into how he managed the game.
We take a look at some of the salient points from the interview.
But if referees must focus on mistakes and misplays, then what's a perfect game? One where there's no mistakes? No fouls? No turnovers? One where every call, and every no-call, is totally accurate?
Rush: Mistakes can't ever be eliminated. We see ourselves as choreographing an athletic event and providing the proper setting where the world's greatest athletes can show their skills. If we can succeed, then that's a perfect game.
Translation: Stop calling fouls. You're ruining the movie!
When a ref has a bad game -- maybe he blew a call that cost a game -- what kind of support system is there?
Rush: The entire staff is divided up into four groups of 15 each. And every group has its own crew chief, former officials who act kind of like an officiating coach -- Lee Jones, Hugh Evans, Mike Lauerman and Billy Oates. In addition, there's a lot of leadership from within the ranks. Ronnie Nunn, for example, takes it upon himself to call any official who's had a problem with a call, a game, a player or a coach. So nobody is out there on his own.
Translation: They're going to be racking up the phone bills this year.
When I was coaching, it was taken as gospel that every judicious technical that a coach received would buy his team a few calls in his favor. What's the official view of this?
Rush: I'm sure that what you say is written in capital letters in The Coaches' Manual. I think it's even on page one. But once again, if such a thing happens, it's not done in a conscious way. During the officials' preseason and offseason training camps, the officials are exposed to all kinds of crazy situations, so there's nothing that a coach can do or say during the season that will surprise a referee. One of the things we monitor when we watch the game videos is how does an official react after he's called for a technical.
Translation: Oh man, some of you are getting in trouble!
What about matching certain refs to certain teams? Like maybe assigning a crew who tends to allow more physical play to work a Pistons game.
Rush: No, we never do anything like that. What we will do, though, is pay close attention to crew dynamics. Let's say that one official is an outstanding game manager. He can set the tone of a game and is good at conflict resolution. But he doesn't have a great percentage in making the right calls. Overall, the videos prove that NBA officials are correct ninety-three percent of the time. So if somebody is around ninety percent, then he's not up to par.
Translation: 93%? Rush better be satisfied with the Pac-12 being graded on a curve.
Beyond the technical considerations, are there officials who just aren't compatible?
Rush: Certainly. Guys occasionally have fights in the locker room. But the beauty of something like this is that all of them are accustomed to resolving conflicts. They'll get into whatever disagreement they might have. Maybe somebody felt that somebody else incorrectly overruled his call. Then it's like, "OK, are you done? Good, then let's get out of here and go get something to eat." I never get involved in stuff like this only because the hassles never get that big or last that long.
Translation: Oh man, I'd so watch Pac-12 Officiating Hard Knocks! People probably got their teeth knocked in.
You should know that Rush was the coordinator of NBA officials during the period between 1998-2003, which was renowned for having some really lame officiating (although you could blame the impossible-to-officiate Shaquille O'Neal for causing the refs so much trouble during that time). But hey, it's not like they have anything on Pac-12 officiating, which routinely called touch falls to decide basketball games.
Really, how much can you change in one offseason? Unless they fire all the officials, don't expect too much of a change next year. It'll take time (just like with Pac-12 football) to get the new systems locked into place and see improvement from basketball refs.