With 0.2 seconds remaining in the game, Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan shoved referee Michael Smith. Sloan was quickly ejected from the game and Sunday, word came down from the league, that Sloan would not face any disciplinary action for his bumping of the official.
Here’s how the incident transpired.
While in a video review, Smith and Sloan argued a call along the sidelines, Smith apparently got too close to the Jazz coach, which prompted Sloan to push the official away with his forearm, the end result was an automatic ejection for the Jazz coach.
“I guess everybody’s a judge and jury in this situation,” Sloan told reporters prior to Saturday’s home game with New Orleans. The league could have suspended or fined the long-time coach for the minor altercation but left it alone.
General manager Kevin O’ Connor had no comment regarding Sloan’s conduct Friday night, but did add this about the confrontation with the official: “My question is what was the referee trying to get six inches from him for? I don’t know.”
Sloan said he and Smith have a history of heated run-ins and that played a factor in the volatile situation. Sloan thought he was going to get hit. “I’ve had trouble with him before [Smith] so that’s why I did that.”
Sloan’s no stranger to discipline from the league. But this time the Jazz coach dodged a bullet.
He served a seven-game suspension in 2003 for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland and in April of 1993 Sloan sat out a game after shoving referee Bob Delaney.
Okay Jazz fans, you may not like what I have to say about this, but it’s about as close to the truth as you’re going to get.
Jerry Sloan was way out of line in this situation and he would be the first one to admit it. The former Chicago Bulls tough-guy crossed the line by touching an official, end of story.
Furthermore, if Sloan had been suspended for a game or two, his absence might have cost the Jazz a win.
Of course that’s a moot point since nothing happened.
To Sloan’s credit, he’s had one of his best season’s ever on the bench and deserves mention as a Coach of the Year candidate.
But right or wrong, the referees’ are “sacred cows” in the NBA and Sloan knows better than to touch an official—regardless of past-history or heat-of-the-moment exchanges.
If it’s true that a team is merely a reflection of their coach then this Jazz team is learning all the wrong moves.
Whining about calls and complaining to the refs about perceived injustices will only undermined the Jazz and their quest for a deep playoff run. What this team needs, is toughness between the ears.
This Jazz team is turning into somewhat of an enigma, at the most critical stage of the season.
One night they blow their opponents off the court, like they did against the Hornets, last Saturday. But the next, they’ll shoot 38 percent and get drubbed by a mediocre Suns team.
I understand that injuries play a big factor in the up-and-down nature of this team, but if the Jazz are going to be significant players in the post-season, they’ll have to find a way to get past this inconsistency.
Make no mistake. This Utah team is very good when they play their game, but when they allow the officiating to creep into their heads, they fall apart.
And that seems to be a trend as of late. It happened in Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and now in Phoenix.
The playoffs are all about how tough you are mentally, not how good you look getting there.
And in fairness to Sloan, the fiery coach has never been one to hide from confrontation. He would just as well call out his own players, as he would the referees. So I’m not sure why this team isn’t as tough as their coach.
Sloan certainly has work to do in keeping his team focused. Whether it’s Boozer yelling for a foul call or D-Will giving the referees the stink-eye, Utah has to start adjusting to playoff basketball now.