Tag Archives: He Touched the Ball

Q & A with Go Joe Bruin. He Touched the Ball

Since 1985, either UCLA or Arizona has won 21 of the 28 conference titles. That’s 75% of the championships. That’s domination. That’s a rivalry. The bastions of Pac Hoops and there have been some ball games, some players, and some heat. We could play word association but I don’t’ want to watch Wildcat reactions to Gadzuric, Kapono, or Mata-Real.

I do, however, want to know more about these new look Bruins. Do we even call them that? Whatever they are, they’re Steve Alford’s baby blues now and he has two sons on the team and that’s kinda cool. And their point guard leads their team in rebounding by a per game margin of 3…so yeah, I want to learn. Enter: Go Joe Bruin, the internet’s most reasonable, insightful, and complete UCLA site. It’s different than the other kids. And their witty twitter handle. I asked, he answered. The game is at 6pm Thursday on ESPN. The rivalry rages on.

Let’s start with what Steve Alford’s preferred film room temperature is…?
It depends on a lot of things. Actually, it doesn’t. I bet he watches film cold. Freezingn. Cold.

I grew to appreciate LD2 a ton last year and his leadership and skill was a huge part of their success. In turn, that led many to wonder how the Kyle Anderson point guard experiment would go. Fourteen games deep, it looks to be going quite well. Tell us about how he makes UCLA better?
People were pining for Anderson to take over ball-handling duties last year and so it took a lot of time for fans to warm up to Larry Drew. They did warm up to him, but the expectation was that Anderson would be running the offense, coach be damned.

Well it happened, and I gotta say, overall, it works for me. He’s got pretty remarkable vision, is really damn smooth, and is really unselfish. He’s got his issues and sometimes I think he tries to do too much. The 2.27 AST/TO ratio isn’t bad, though, so maybe I’m just being picky.

Most importantly (and perhaps most surprising) has been his improved scoring skills. He’s got quite a few moves down low and we both know he’s pretty deadly I’m the mid-range game. I think what’s really scary is he can knock down threes when he’s got the open look, and that’s a part of his game that I haven’t really seen. He doesn’t do it often (confirmed by his only taking 24 three-pointers over the past 14 games) but I think it adds a dimension to his game that already makes him one of the best do-it-all point forwards I’ve ever seen.

Of course, there’s his rebounding abilities, but I have a million more questions to get to.

KyleandSteve

You’d never guess by this photo, but Steve also has his own two sons on this team

All of that said about Slow-Mo…how awesome is Jordan Adams?
Adams is awesome. He’s been awesome. He’s struggled at times – and he had an uncharacteristic shooting slump not too long ago that he shook off rather quickly – but he’s a stud.

I don’t know if UCLA has a better shooter than Adams. He’s a deadeye from there. He can stroke it with a hand in his face, off balance, in transition, on a boat, in a train, all that jazz. He’s gotten better in nearly every statistical category because he’s gotten *that* much better.

A little input from the fan base at large – a lot of fans felt he should’ve been UCLA’s first option on offense somewhere close to halfway through the season, and I think that makes sense. His production outmatched Shabazz Muhammad’s on a per-minute basis, and I’m sure he’d be getting so much more recognition now if that had been the case.

Another reason I love this matchup is that stylistically, the UCLA offense is built to beat the Arizona defense. The Bruins are terrific from mid-range and used that to torch AZ last season (3-0). This year, the Bruins are more effectively getting to the rim (LOVE YA J.ADAMS!!!!) but are still shooting the 5th best FG% from 2pt range. Meanwhile, Arizona’s third rated KenPom defense is built to force 2pt jumpers: 54.5% of shots against leads the nation and teams shooting just 32.5%. Immovable object, unstoppable force. What makes the UCLA mid-range game so effective, if not lethal?
As much as I talk trash about the Mildcats, you’re right – UCLA has all the match-ups necessary to beat Arizona, and not just once, but, oh I don’t know, three times in a season.

That’s not because Arizona sucks, but really, it’s because they’re willing to give up the most inefficient shot in the game, and that just happens to be an annoying strong-suit of UCLA’s. (Although I guess you could argue the most efficient shot in the game is an open one.)

Adams is a lock to drain those open jumpers, and we know Kyle can drill ’em, too. The Wears — when they’re picking-and-popping, a weapon that has disappeared since LDII left the team — can drain them. And now you’ve got Zach LaVine, another shooter, albeit one who is partial to threes and dunks, and Bryce Alford, who’s quickly coming to his own as a shooter and floor general.

Of course, as much as UCLA was cool with taking those mid-range jumpers, it kinda feels like this team’s tempo dictates more of its offense than it did last year. I don’t believe they’re much faster than Howland’s squad last year, but they definitely attack the basket in transition more frequently than their 2012-13 counterparts.

So yeah, to answer your question, the personnel makes the mid-range game lethal. It’s not as emphasized as it was last year and again, i think that’s largely because LDII was so quick to penetrate on pick-and-pops, but I do think Alford should specifically vitalizes that aspect of UCLA’s game against lengthy, athletic Arizona.

He did touch the ball.
He didn’t. I think we should ask Sean Miller what he thinks though, so long as we tape it.

Sean Miller He Touched the Ball

“By the way, full credit to UCLA”

The two-point jumper is one weapon, but UCLA also thrives in transition (11th highest % of their offense there). Meanwhile – and I’m about to expose this immovable/unstoppable theme – Arizona allows just the 9th highest percentage of offense in transition. How are the Bruins getting out into transition so much? How cool are Zach LaVine dunks?
I didn’t know about Arizona’s transition defense but I could’ve guessed that. They’ve done a good job against teams who want to get out on the break.

I think the one thing that people haven’t noticed about UCLA’s success in transition is the gambles they take to get out on the break, primarily on defense. UCLA is a bit ridiculous at forcing turnovers (note that they’ve got 150 steals through 14 games; that’s third in the country), and we know what happens when the perimeter guys can force turnovers.

And it’s not like UCLA is a rebounding team – this has to be the worst team in terms of rebounding I have ever seen in my life, and statistically, I’m pretty close to being right!

If Arizona really wants to stop UCLA’s uptempo offense? Take care of the ball.

All-time favorite Bruin?
All-time favorite Bruin: Darren Collison, and honorable mention to unconventional one-and-done Larry Drew II.

All-time favorite Wildcat? I know you have one. Ed O’Bannon and Darren Collison are tied for my favorite Bruins.
I like Steve Kerr. As a player, a commentator, and as a friend. (I’m not his friend yet but it’s definitely happening.)

Wear family?
Wear family. I don’t know what else you want me to say — they’re a frustrating duo that plays their asses off. I’d probably love them if they could rebound.

weartwins-600x437

<3 <3

And talk to me about the Bruins’ frontcourt. I’ve been underwhelmed and we’ve tweeted about as much. Talk about it because it’s Arizona’s strength:
You’ve been underwhelmed? Your expectations for UCLA’s front court may have been a tad unreasonable.

They’re pretty bad. Really bad, even, as long as we don’t include Kyle Anderson. In fact, he leads the team in rebounding and rebounding percentage — he’s a perimeter player.

Parker comes in as a close second in rebounding rate, but the Wear twins are well below every starter and nearly every rotation player.

I mean, they just don’t have the fundamentals down. Positioning, hands, etc. They’re rather ‘soft’ and don’t necessarily do well when grinding down low with other bigs.

Is that a key to this game though? I don’t think so. UCLA is annoyingly content with huge rebounding disparities and they even win convincingly in spite of them. They’ll beat good teams without rebounding (see: Arizona, 0-3), and I find that shocking.

When the rebounding is even, it’s almost a surefire UCLA win because they just don’t do it on a regular basis. When they’re getting boards, they create opportunities in transition and they also stop the opposing team from earning second chance shots.

But it doesn’t happen often. I don’t need stats to tell you that, and no, I’m not too lazy to look them up!

The Bruins have settled into a zone for much of their defensive season and this question is two-fold: 1) How does that make you feel? 2) Which zone has it been, primarily, and do you think it’s effective?
One of the narratives surrounding Ben Howland’s downfall was his stubbornness on defense. He kept saying his teams weren’t athletic enough to compete but he refused to play zone. We know zone defenses can mask a lot of deficiencies, and UCLA’s lack of athleticism is a deficiency that the zone can ease.

That said, too much zone, and teams adjust. The well-coached teams dismantle it within a couple of possessions, sending a ball-handler to shoot those gaps on the perimeter and make the defense collapse with penetration.

Alford doesn’t always allow that to happen – he’s been good about switching up his defenses to throw different looks at opponents. Aside from a basic man defense and and a 2-3 zone, he’s totally willing to roll with a 3-2 zone, and he’s just as willing to play ultra-aggressive man defense in both the half-court and full-court. It depends on the situation.

So why does UCLA suck so bad defensively on paper? Well part of it is that UCLA just isn’t athletic, especially down low. That’s where Arizona can and should abuse UCLA, and they should do it with reckless abandon. They should crash the offensive boards because those kill the Bruins, and they should just plop in the paint and penetrate and do all that.

Which Wildcat are you most concerned with?
I’m most concerned with the bigs. They’re really talented, really long, and really good. The points in the paint margin is going to be brutal.

Enough funny business: Tell me what happens Thursday?
Arizona wins. I question whether UCLA can exploit the mid-range game, and that’s because the pick-and-pops aren’t there like they were. If they can’t, Arizona is going to murder them inside.

Plus UCLA hasnt beaten a good team. Conference games are different, but still.

If UCLA wins? You’ll never hear the end of it. Ever.

The Pac-12 Year in HOLY S***!!! (Copying Grantland)

If you’re not familiar with Grantland’s Year in Holy S***!!!, familiarize now. In a swift Bart ride back to my house I was taken out of the stat holes of KenPom and hoop-math and reminded that SPORTS! Watch that Steph Curry highlight reel and tell me you don’t get goosebumps as he drops trey on the Nuggets, turning to their bench before net.

Alas, this is a Pac-12 blog and holy shit happens here, too. We’re about to dive into it. But to further preface this reactionary and sudden expulsion of disbelief; before unveiling the moments that had as out of our chairs, jaws gaping, eyes wide, SMHing all over; prior to that, I’d just like to say that these are the things that have us coming back. Fandom, for better or worse or otherwise, allows us to get lost. Why we stand and shout. Holy shit. Bravo.

Here are a handful of those times from Brad, Ben, Matt, Jason, and me in no particular order.

The McKale Monitor Mishap

Jason of AllBuffs.com– The Monitors at McKale moment game started late for me.  I was in the car in a part of Colorado that severely tested KOA’s claim of “3 countries/38 states” motto.  When I arrived at my destination, not exactly civilization, but a place that does have DirecTV, (luckily the game was on ESPN) I turned on the TV and my first “Holy Shit” moment occurred.  CU was up, by double digits, in McKale, “Holy Shit indeed”.  Over the remaining 15 minutes of the game, the rest of my party arrived, the beers and wine were flowing and then the FT’s started clanking, oh those FT’s. When Mark Lyons made his second free throw with 10 seconds left, I stood up and I didn’t sit down for several minutes.  Sabatino Chen ended up with the ball in his hands with 3.5 seconds left, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t designed, it was….. BANKED, but it did go in.  There were high fives and then a “wait a minute, they’re reviewing it”.  It was good, it was definitely good was being echoed throughout the room.  Then it began, the slow walk toward the TV, the room was hushed, the volume was cranked and everybody was gathered around a 52 inch high-definition TV.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 10.02.27 PM

Win probability.

Over and over we watched, angle after angle, hands now ON the TV, “no-it’s out right there, it’s good, the red light isn’t on yet”.  Then it happened……”HOLY SHIT” they called it no good.  F-bombs were dropped; BS’s thrown around and the air had been let out of the room.  I don’t remember the last 5 minutes of the game, all I know was that CU lost, but I will never forget that “HOLY SHIT” moment and that I was in the middle of nowhere, with high-definition TV while the refs  standing courtside were stuck with the standard-definition variety

Adam – I’d watched as my Wildcats made a furious comeback from the most three pointers the Buffaloes would hit in a single game all season. Well, it was going to be the most until Chen happened. Head down dribbling out the clock he heaved it up and you know the rest. I was here with friends and had conceded Arizona’s loss. We watched all of the angles and I even broke things down for my houseguests exactly how, if I were one of the officials, I’d bury my head in the monitor, confirm the call with field goal arms and bolt off the McKale floor. I bolted out of my living room to demonstrate. But when I returned, the officials were waving the whole damn thing off and…HOLY SHIT. Hey, Cats win and Mark Lyons doesn’t give a rats ass about how nice Sabatino’s hair is.

He Touched the Ball x5 and Cancun

Adam – From my Vegas vantage point following the UCLA-Arizona game I had this to tweet which, as you’ll notice, when unreplied, retweeted, or favorited. For shame.

Well then what happened?

AND THAT’S SOME STRAIGHT NOSTRADAMUS ACTION PEOPLE. Anyhow, in our hotel room, we watched that presser another 3-to-fifteen-hundred times because oh my holy shit goodness Sean Miller wasn’t happy. There’s more spice in that presser than an Indian dish. There’s more heat in Miller’s words than a dutch oven under plastic covers. There’s more flame in those eyes than under Ken Bone’s seat. Ask the Pac-12 representative Miller “didn’t” berate but rather who was the closest in proximity as he screamed innocuously down a hallway. And then Goodman’s news broke and maybe this is the true holy shit of it all? We wound up with an officiating scandal that I had to digest in phases. $5k and a trip to Cancun is some watered down Illumanati action. And now replay the presser.

Jahii Drops 40 on The Strip

Adam – Sure it was a career high and sure the Devils needed every one of his double-score scoring output from Carson. That’s undoubtedly some MVP stuff. Carson connected on 16 of his 25 shots inside the Thomas and Mack and that’s a pretty damn efficient 40 points. But wait, there’s holy shit coming. Because the 5’10” Carson made 14 of those 16 shots as layups which basically just says to me that Carson stared down the Rebels and their 7 blocked shots per game to announce to everyone that, “I AM JAHIISUS. I AM SO GREAT THAT I HAVE FORCED HERB SENDEK OF SLOTH PACED OFFENSES TO COMPLETELY BURY THE FOUNDATION OF HIS OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY AND THE STYLE IN WHICH HE BUILT HIS CAREER IN ORDER TO KEEP HIS JOB AND LOCAL TALENT. AT LEAST HE CAN NO LONGER LAMENT JAMES HARDEN’S DEPARTURE. I AM JAHIISUS.” And then he beat Marquette in Tempe to secure the first Sun Devil win over a ranked opponent since before Todd Graham was associated with other coaching jobs. Harden, who?

Askia Booker Doesn’t Give a Jayhawk

Ben of Rumblinbuff.com – 

If safeties-free, all-balls performances like 17 points as a freshman in the NCAA Tournament, or a sizzling domination of a non-conference run in Charleston as a sophomore didn’t let you in on the secret, let me clue you in: Askia Booker was born to get buckets.  Important buckets.  Season-defining buckets.

So, when Kansas, dominator of all things Colorado Basketball for generations, makes the mistake of getting into a see-saw affair in the snake-pit-that-Tad-built, who else could CU turn to with the game on the line?  Not Josh Scott.  He’s too smooth, too nice.  Not Spencer Dinwiddie.  He’s too conventional, too ‘efficient.’

2013-12-0714_38_55

No, you need insanity.  You need a player with no conscience, no understanding of the stage upon which he steps.  You need, to be brash, a player who does not give a f***.

Askia Booker does not give a f***.  Askia Booker gets buckets.

And so, 80-feet from the basket, with three seconds left on the clock against that team, the under-recruited dynamo from South LA – off-center goatee, and all – was the player in silver getting the ball.

One dribble, two.  Still too far from the hoop.  Better euro-step to cover some ground.  Square up, leap, let fly.

Watch the gif.  Count the fucks given by Booker.  There are none to be found.  After release, he just stands there, as if waiting for the oncoming train of noise.  Waiting for us, the fans, to realize what he has just pulled off.  He was born to hit that shot.  He was born to euro-step into that shot.

Almost four years ago, Colorado was in a similar situation against the hated Jayhawk.  Clock ticking down, tie game, ball in hand, CU had a shot to stun the #1 team in the land in the time-before-Tad.  In that moment, it was Cory Higgins who was called upon.  Higgins, the program’s co-leader in scoring, wasn’t up to the moment, and air-balled his dance with history.  Looking back, it all makes sense.

Booker is everything that Higgins is not.  Higgins was calm, cool, collected.  Indeed, sophisticated.  James Bond in shorts.  Booker is the junkyard dog, barking at everything in sight.    John McClane in Black and Gold.  Higgins may have been more talented, but Booker has the want, the need to hoop.  The balls to steal headlines from future NBA bonus babies.  The grit to walk across broken glass when needed.

I could twist myself in knots talking about how the game, the win, the shot meant something for Colorado, for Booker.  In the end, there’s nothing but the inbounds, the euro-step, and the pure, un-adulterated brashness of Ski and his moment.

Bucket gotten.

Mike Moser Leaves Las Vegas, Does Not Suffer Nic Cage-like Departure

Matt of AddictedtoQuack.com – Given Oregon’s lack of depth in the front court this season, the addition of a quality player like Mike Moser was definitely a wanted surprise to Duck fans.  Keeping him away from Washington was just an added bonus. Moser brings leadership, talent, and immediate play-ability to a position that was vacated by fan favorite, Arsalan Kazemi. Moser also fits perfectly into Dana Altman’s high-post wheel offense.  His ability to stretch the floor, handle the ball, and pull bigger defenders away from the hoop compliments Oregon’s guard focused offense. To say that Moser joining the Ducks this off season was a Holy Shit moment is putting it lightly.

Just this Dunk

Brad of Portland –  If you were watching that dunk you were like, HOLY-SHIT-KNOCK-KNOCK-WHO’S THERE-BOOOM-SHAKALAKA-F***-YOU-DARREN-SHARPER-HOLD MY DICK! Then you put a hand over your mouth, made a noise like you were watching Kevin Ware shoot a jumper in a regional final, and wept like you saw a double rainbow.

827051630RHJ doesn’t dunk his nigiri in the soy sauce, he slams that shit down so hard he cooks the fish. He is not a role model. Just because he can dunk a basketball does not mean he should raise your kid. Anyone raisin’ that kid is laughing their way to the bank faster than Earl Woods. The rest of us are just wiping our own kid off the Christmas card and sending a photo RHJ posterizing the entire Aggies basketball team instead.

RONDAE!
Larry Drew Two’s Icy Veins Meet Icy Shabazz
Adam – LD2’s season in and of itself was a giant surprise. He was the rock his coach couldn’t quite be and the his prima dona wing wouldn’t be. For all the heat he’d taken in leaving Carolina across 12-13 Drew was a leader and it was fun to watch. And then to see those who we cheer for and appreciate succeed is great! So as Drew took that pass and slashed through the lane and hit a fading, elbow jumper to sink the Dawgs and maintaining their spot atop the conference – the conference they’d go on to win – I was impressed and jaw dropped. Holy shit as it were.
uclabuzzer
But in that gif you’ll notice the sulking shoulders of a neon shoed gentlemen. He’s left handed and was no where near a position to necessarily get a basketball with a waning clock and whining attitude. And yes I just said “whining attititude” which is the same crap my dad would drop on the Blue Rhinos – my 11-and-under baseball team.  Whiny attitude is a phrase reserved for juveniles but that’s about what not getting the ball when you want the ball equates to. It was the moment that perhaps personified everything that we didn’t know but felt UCLA’s season would become. Holy shit did he really just big league his own team off an icy cold buzzer beater? He did, and now it’s Steve Alford’s team (which was a holy shit in and of itself).
Two Teams AND Two Numbers
Adam – With two, citations of the number two, this. But when Oregon visited Pauley on Saturday January 19, 2013 it was the first Pac-12 Conference game featuring two ranked opponents since March 2009. What two words come to mind here? Holy and shit. Four years it took to get to this place and it was 21 vs. 24? And the road team won? Man oh man had this conference hit rock bottom. There would be just one more contest between ranked opponents that season (see: Ball, He Touched the)
What did we miss (lots no doubt)?

Pac-12 Basketball Media Day: What I Did

I appreciate the opportunity to attend Pac-12 Basketball Media Day (#pac12hoops) provided to me by Rush the Court. It was a great experience and a fun day. To be honest, absolutely nothing was said the day long but – and you get the feeling everyone senses it – there’s a hovering excitement that this whole thing’s about to start. Like JENGA, no one is  going to come close to that linchpin block, sliding out a bunch of middle pieces and passing to the next. The boat shall not be rocked before the journey.

Except, I suppose, for Spencer Dinwiddie who dropped the saltiest line of the day when he said, “But we don’t view Arizona as the top, the cream, and everybody else in the rest.  We view ourselves as the cream and everybody else can fight for the rest of the spots.” SHOTS FIRED! Eh, not really. I actually appreciated it from the standpoint of leadership and culture and I’m going to elaborate on that later (next week amongst a lot of my previews).

HERE ARE MY TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES FROM MEDIA DAY WITH RUSH THE COURT

And speaking of next week and all of my previews (and in the coming weeks leading up to 11/8),  I’m going to drop my team-by-teams, top backcourts and frontcourts, my predicted finishes, a new podcast with @spencerbsmith, and I don’t even know what else.

But for now, quick thoughts on each team after spending a little time with them yesterday:

Washington State: Ken Bone went in on just how deep the conference is and how the conference perhaps deserved the lashing it took for being so awful in year’s past but that those days are over. Well now his team is projected to finish last, so…

Oregon State:

Hey Dana….

ItWasme
Utah: Larry Krsytkowiak said that playing hard is a talent and while I really appreciate what he’s doing at Utah, saying that playing hard is a talent means you’re still not good. They’ll be better. But still not good.

USC: I didn’t realize there’s a little bit of twang to Andy Enfield. He played everything correctly in deflecting his UCLA comment but he’s sparked interest in USC basketball and, if nothing else, JT Terrell tells us that there’s “lot’s of people getting dunked on in practice.” Well practice does make perfect, JT, so carry on.

Washington: Lorenzo Romar was asked about impact newcomers to the conference and he talked about Aaron Gordon and Mike Moser. #AWKWARD. Aside from that he seemed very encouraged by Perris Blackwell – the transfer out of USF – who LoRo says is going to give them a low post presence they “haven’t had in years.”

Stanford: I asked Johnny Dawkins “You mentioned returning a lot of players and talent to this team, yet last year you finished 9‑9.  What might you see different this year, if anything?” I’ll mention that he’s returning 84% of his 2012-13 minutes played. He basically told me that they’re thinking about things differently. Dwight Powell told me the same thing, later. They went through SEAL training (like the Navy) and used the word synergy (so startup Stanford). My point here is…we’ll see, I might be selling.

That is me.

That is me.

ASU: Jahii Carson was much more thoughtful and articulate than I expected. Struck me as much more together than I expected and had some very high compliments to drop on his new running mate, Jermaine Marshall. I was also blown away by Herb Sendek’s hyperbole and quickness to jump into the national conversation. Dropped a lot of “best ofs” in the country/nation/game lines. Company man award for sure.

Colorado: Like I said, Dinwiddie dropped the bomb on Media Day by calling his own team the cream rising to the top. Why the hell not? It’s a shifting culture in Boulder and as my high school baseball coach taught us, once you start hoping, you’ve already lost. Sounds like Spencer’s a believer.

Cal: Someone asked Mike Montgomery how he would apprehend a thief if he were faced with a similar situation as Larry Krystkowiak when he tackled a bike snatcher. Montgomery said nothing about a two handed shove to the chest. And he talked a lot about how he likes having veterans (Solomon, Cobbs, Kravish) and tried to taper the expectations of Jabari Bird.

Oregon: Dana talked about a lot and even said he and his team should be practicing right then and not at Media Day. But he was there and someone asked a seventy-five word question about whether or not Oregon has a competitive advantage with Uncle Phil. Dana slowly, like only a mid-westerner can, said, “Well, we updated our arena.  I think we had the second oldest arena in the country.  We built an arena that’s very nice.” Really fair point there, Dana. He continued, “I think every university has benefactors that benefit their programs, athletically, academically.  Ours just happens to be someone that runs Nike.” That’s right! Everyone has boosters, how is this any different? He came full circle, “You know, we had an update because Mac Court was just really old.” Dana Altman, you are a smooth cat.

Arizona: One of these days Sean Miller is going to jump out of that humility suit of his and just throw down some heat…wait, he already did that:

UCLA: I think I got a good idea of what the Steve Alford era at UCLA is going to be like. He’s going to be a touch understated, predictable and solid. He looked the part in the sleekest suit of the day and he didn’t rock the boat. He dropped a Wooden reference and the word excellence. Like going down a checklist of how to be UCLA’s coach and not screw it up. He did just fine up there and he’s going to be a fine UCLA head coach. Is that enough?

Larry Scott, two Ed Rush’s, Cancun, and 191-Words

A simple google search of Ed Rush’s name will result in nothing helpful with regards to basketball officiating. As it were, Ed Rush is also the name of a “jungle/techstep/neurofunk” DJ. His top song on Spotify is “Chubhub.”

This is likely not the man to have offered $5k cash or a trip to Cancun for actions against Sean Miller as reported by Jeff Goodman of CBS.

No, the man recently investigated by the Pac-12, Ed T. Rush, is the Head of Officiating for the conference. Per Goodman’s source, he offered these rewards to any official who “rang him up” or “ran him” during the Pac-12 tournament. Him referring to Sean Miller.

Now as this news hit the interwebs, I experience four stages of reaction in coming to my conclusions and feelings on the matter. I’ll walk you through my Monday afternoon:

Stage 1: Knee-jerk

Oh my. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. Wow. Whoa. Highlight-Control-C-Control-V-Gchat. Control-V-Tweet. Control-V-Personal-Book. Control-V-PacHoops-Book. Text. Text. Text. Text. Zero logical thought. OMGOMGOMGOMG. HEDIDTOUCHTHEBALL.

I assume my actions generated less than 1% of the post’s total view.

Stage 2: What’s this thing say exactly?

So then I read the whole thing. I learned that the Pac-12 “investigated” Head of Officiating, Ed T. Rush, and that an official anonymously made public comments made during this referees’ meeting. What was said was damning of an already poorly regarded officiating base, irresponsible for a man charged with upholding the integrity of sport, and threatened the sanctity of holding competitive athletics in Las Vegas (damn you!). “This,” I thought, “Is remarkably inappropriate and an obviously fireable offense. Ed T. Rush – because I have no beef with the neurofunk DJ – has no business in his current function. He clearly has a vendetta or grudge and an official’s office is no such place for those emotions to fester. What’s worse, what if there was a conspiracy to keep UCLA in the tournament? Emotion is one thing and excusable as human…but a SCANDAL! ARE WE LOOKING AT A SCANDAL?” Those were some of my thoughts.

And I have to imagine many of you shared these feelings and still do. Emotions ran high on the night of that technical – it’s even more well documented than the two points – and officiating has long been a point of contention in the Pac-12. Firing Ed T. Rush was a very rationale first thought. But…

Stage 3: What was this thing really saying?

So hold on, I think I needed to pause. Firing someone is a big deal and while I support just punishment, I’ve also come to learn that reactionary decisions are bad. Without this perspective I might have: No job, a child, debt, a graduate degree, things I can’t talk about because my mom might figure out how to use a computer this week, a piercing, more furniture off the street, JNCOs, an adult goatee, or an ASU fan.

Stepping back I noticed that this was a bullied subordinate attacking a man who “we’re all afraid of” under the conditions of anonymity. Suddenly this screamed of tattle tale and finger pointing. What’s more, who hasn’t suggested something astronomically preposterous in a work meeting? I once listed – from my first kill to the last – who I’d take out should the office ever enter a Hunger Games situation. That, in retrospect, was not my best work. This, in retrospect, is not Ed T. Rush’s best work.

If we’re to take the conference at it’s word, Rush’s comments were “in jest” and that everyone involved understood that these were “not serious offers.” No one wound up $5k richer. Michael Irving – the official who controversially T’d up Miller following this meeting – did not go to Cancun. An off the cuff remark that likely received chuckles was turned into a likely lucrative whistle blowing affair for one disgruntled man in stripes and jumped on by the media (understandably so).

During this stage of reaction I wasn’t excusing Rush’s comments but rather settling into the notion that these were words surrounding an official and an easy story to blow up. This angle also does not point fingers at Jeff Goodman for running with this story. It’s good stuff. But my grain of salt was growing…

Stage 4: My Take

In what was either a small windowless room in the bowels of the MGM Grand Garden Event center or a glorious conference room in the same venue, Ed T. Rush made a remark about one of the coaches that had rode his officials season long. An under-appreciated and intimidated official went to the media with it under the protection of anonymity following what would no doubt appear action stemming from that off-handed remark. The conference called it a joke and had addressed its inappropriate nature with Rush.

That’s the story we know.

The fall out, of course, is where the intrigue lies. Who’s getting fired? What’s the conspiracy? How much money was really exchanged? Did he touch the ball? Can I party with Irving at Señor Frogs?

Again, what we know is that Rush said something he undoubtedly should not have. We also have anecdotal evidence that Rush is a powerful man with capability of bullying people. Mark Cuban once said,

“Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen. His interest is not in the integrity of the game or improving the officiating, he #1 priority of Ed Rush is maintaining power.”

Officiating is both thankless and a grind. These officials are pining for games, overworked, and maybe not always assigned games based on skill but rather preference. The sarcastic commentary of a tyrannical boss, regardless his or her intent, can be interpreted in many ways. As a manager, Rush should have known better than to make such a comment. Stepping out of our basketball bubble – or even our sports bubble – a manager’s role, particularly on the eve of performance, is to coach, empower, and educate. Doubt should not be instilled in the minds of the team, no matter whether it’s sales, dance, bartending, or computer programming. You’re a leader, be better than the surface pettiness.

Back into our hoops bubble, these comments were made in the face of officials tasked with championing the law of sport. Now we do plenty of bitching at these men but we ultimately entrust them with the rules of the game. For the most part, they do a good job and are best appreciated when they are not seen.

Well, Ed T. Rush and Larry Scott, you’ve got the spotlight on them. All eyes.

And you dropped the ball. To dismiss this as a joke and that a couple conversations were had is unfathomably weak. I may be stepping into hyperbole but this is the very sanctity of sport. Rules – as we learned in kindergarten – are to be followed. If doubt creeps into the most basic and truest tenants of the game – that the rules must be followed – how do we trust any results?

It’s now undeniable that the playing field was not level for Arizona (NOTE: THAT GAME WAS NOT LOST ON THAT CALL) regardless of Rush’s intent.

For such, the spirit of competition deserves better than 191 inconsequential words of fluff. No. You nip this thing in the bud and you do not let it grow into the weed it could potentially become. It doesn’t matter what the investigation uncovered, this is bigger than whether Miller deserved a technical or not. This is the accountability of the stripes, the integrity of rules. Whether Irving’s actions were justified or not, Rush had planted this idea in his head. Inception, goes the dynamite. And regardless of Miller’s previous actions, leadership must be above such commentary in professional settings. Miller himself needs to be better than berating a Pac-12 employee in the halls.

So what we have here is a crummy situation. A comment that did not cost Arizona a basketball game (stop Jordan Adams already) but did put an entire conference’s officiating integrity in the limelight. The last thing they possibly needed addressed in the least convincing of manners.

What we needed was to believe that this was not sifting into the outcomes of the games which teams play to win, coaches coach to win, and fans cheer to win. To believe that these efforts are not for naught and that all participants can trust that the outcome was based off of the adherence and upholding of an established set of rules. To believe that when the final horn sounds, one team has prevailed over the other as the better of two competitors. Nothing else.

Following Monday’s Pac-12 statement and inaction, I don’t know if I believe.

Reviewing My Event: Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament

Somewhere amidst the blur that is any Vegas trip I received an email from Ticketmaster. The subject line of this email read, “Review Your Event: Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

OK. I will.

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Wow, Ticketmaster drawing the big guns early. Five stars. A year in the making, the move to Vegas came with great anticipation and lived up to the hype.

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Yes. Resoundingly so.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 10.42.57 PMI’d like review as hetouchedtheball.

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Doesn’t matter. Look at the example. Can’t top that title.

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You know how awesome it is when you anticipate something will be terrific and then it is? This wasn’t The Hangover 2, this was The Dark Knight. For a year we’d discussed the excitement of this event and then boom it delivered. The conference has rediscovered itself and just in time (well, at least not in the eyes of the committee with regards to seeding) to make an inaugural splash.

The MGM was accessible and the arena was big enough to house a crowd and quaint enough to get rowdy. Vegas itself is accessible and allowed me to attend this event with a whole lot of friends and enemies.

Particularly I liked the blackout curtains (so Vegas) on the side of the gym sans upper seating. It provided an ominous and dramatic backdrop to the play unfolding below.

Of course not as if this thing needed any additional drama. Day 1 saw games decided by 11 total points. Day 2 saw two overtimes. Day three provided this. And whatever the outcome, a championship is always a blast. Vegas crushed it. The competition crushed it. Frankly, Oregon crushed it. And again, kudos to Johnathan Loyd (MVP).

I bought beers that were more expensive than my ticket (12/12/12); I watched Huskies go nuts over a buzzer beating cover despite a team loss; I waltzed into session 5 with Pat Riley; I interestingly placed no wagers on Pac-12 games; I ran into college friends and blogosphere friends and watched a man pay $20 to kick another man in the groin (prior to midnight); I listened/participated as “U of A” chants drowned out the support of others (then watched/participated as sorrows were drowned); I saw a lot of red that didn’t always have a block A on it (Utah travelled); I made my flight home.

Loved it.

My lone complaint would be that putting the conference title game on at 8pm goes a long way in ensuring your conference gets minimal exposure. That’s 11pm EST and does it come as any surprise that Oregon – the winner of this tournament – was the most hosed on Selection Sunday? The tournament was brought to Vegas to get more people to see it. Let’s make sure that continues to happen.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 11.20.35 PMGreat question Ticketmaster. This one’s hard to pick and I loved the Sean Miller press conference. I won’t pick it as my favorite, however, because I’m not entirely sure I want to celebrate it. I will say that I’ve watched it many times and appreciate the way he goes to bat for Solomon Hill and wears the game.

But my favorite – and I’m going to get a little Field of Dreams-y on you here – was watching the Oregon-Washington game. This back-and-forth battle stands alone on its own merits as a terrific basketball contest. But it stands out to me because it wasn’t nearly a capacity audience as we managed to sit comfortably spread out in really whichever seats we wanted. And I got to do that next to my Dad. The rest of our party had chose dinner over the first half and in my blind loyalty to this conference I knew I wanted to see these heated rivals square off in a Pac-12 quarterfinal. So my dad joined me and we sat, like I said, comfortably and wherever we liked. Just father and son. Me and pops.

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I did not sit there.

5 stars particularly if we’re considering the value of the seats. I had tickets to eleven basketball games (4 tickets to the championship) and spent roughly the same amount that I paid to get into Pauley on 3/2.

I would recommend these seats. They’re ambulatory.

They were turquoise and did this really weird adjusty thing where they’d slide back – a light recline, if you will – as you dropped the actual sitting fold into its sit-able position. This reminded me of one of those advancements you find in dated cars that seemed really tight at the moment but over time and with gained perspective you’re like does this actually serve any serviceable function? I have the feeling that kick-under-your-car-to-open-the-trunk thing is the next of these auto-creations. But yeah, the seats were turquoise.

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You’re asking me to upload video from a 3-day trip to Las Vegas, Nevada? Screw you.

Review submitted.