Monday, February 9, 2009

Officials don't win and lose games for you

After the Lakers beat the Cavs in Cleveland yesterday, Cavs coach Mike Brown, reacting to something LA coach Phil Jackson (strategically) said before the game about LeBron getting too many calls at home, said:

"Officials don't win and lose games for you."

It's a point too many players, coaches, and fans refuse to acknowledge, especially in a time when many people -- players and coaches included -- don't want to take responsibility for their part in a loss.

After close games, you'll often read/hear a lot about "bad calls" by the officials. In fact, there may have been some bad calls. But how many mistakes did you, as a coach or a player, make that contributed much more to the loss than an official's call?

Using the Lakers-Cavs game as an example, CLE shot just 63 percent from the FT line. The officials had nothing to do with missed free throws.

Officials don't make bad passes or execute plays poorly. Passing and execution is the responsibility of the players, not the officials.

In games where there are perceived missed or bad calls, what ends up happening is that the focus on the officiating becomes a distraction. It also becomes a convenient excuse. The attitude often becomes, "Well, we can't win because the refs are obviously against us..." and the team stops competing. Players start thinking they're victims. The "poor me" attitude comes into play.

As Mike Jacobs, the head men's soccer coach at Evansville, wrote recently, "as a player or a coach, there are only so many variables you can control during the course of a soccer game — a call that a referee makes (or doesn't make) is not one of them."

According to Coach Jacobs:

"As much as athletes and coaches probably feel that 'working' the refs is glorified by watching ESPN, the idea of shouting at the referee during the game becomes more of a hindrance and distraction to the officials and your own players. As a player, arguing with the referee or even getting yellow-carded for dissent are signs of a lack of mental toughness or focus."

Coach Jacobs rightly contends that "the coach who complains about every call gets tuned out pretty quickly by an official, and now the coach has lost a forum to even discuss a call with the referee."

Of course, as posted previously on this blog, there are times when it's important to challenge a call -- particularly a blatantly bad call. The key is being smart and strategic about it.

As for CLE coach Brown, he may not agree with every call, but he's not going to whine about them:

''I've said all along we're not the only team that gets techs. . . . We do believe we're a no-excuse team. We never want to say after the game that it's the referee's fault.''