Posted by MATT JONES
NASHVILLE --- I could never be a coach. Even if I were somehow able to gain the necessary knowledge of basketball X and Os, learn how to convince 17 year old snotheads that they should come to my school and deal with egotistical boosters whose proverbial tails I would have to kiss, I still don't have what it takes to be a coach. Because if I were a coach, I simply couldn’t deal with a situation like Anthony Grant encountered on Thursday night without raising a ruckus that would probably get me fired, or potentially even deported.
The Alabama coach had his team up one on the road at Vanderbilt in a game that if it won, could have made the Tide a player on the national scene in college basketball. A victory would have allowed Alabama to hold onto its one game lead in the SEC and with its upcoming schedule, dreams of a shocking conference championship would have been distinctly in reach. With 35 seconds to go, the Crimson Tide basketball team had a chance to have people caring about basketball in Tuscaloosa for the first time since Wimp Sanderson was covering the state in plaid.
Then, because of referee malfeasance, all of Grant’s hopes were taken away. First came a questionable foul call on Alabama point guard Trevor Releford that allowed Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley to turn his clutch 15 foot jumper into a three point play, putting the Commodores up two. If I were a coach, that call would annoy me, as Tinsley clearly threw himself into Releford and the foul call took the dynamic Freshman point guard out of the game with five fouls. But the philosopher in me would hopefully have said, “bad foul calls come and go, I will accept this and move on with a chance still to win the game.” I am theoretically level headed like that.
But moments later my gasket would have officially been blown. After Alabama’s star JaMychal Green got a quick first step on the baseline with under 10 seconds to play, he was shoved by a Vanderbilt player and slightly lost his balance. A good referee would have seen the bump and called a foul. Referee Tim Higgins, working his fifth game in five states in seven nights, did blow his whistle, but not to call a foul. Instead, he waddled two steps forward into plain view of the television cameras (all big calls must be seen by the masses), pointed at the ground and called Green out of bounds. Vanderbilt ball...game essentially over.
However there were only two little problems with the decision. One of course was the no-call on the foul which initially sent Green towards the baseline. But the other was even more egregious. For even though Higgins was standing on the baseline and staring directly at the play, he failed to notice that Green DID NOT ACTUALLY STEP OUT OF BOUNDS. Anthony Grant, who was standing directly next to the play due to Vanderbilt’s unique court set up that puts the benches on the baseline, became livid, screaming at Higgins, but to no avail. Call made and game over.
Immediately however, Higgins error became clear to everyone but him. The picture you see above began being passed around Twitter, showing that not only did Green not step out of bounds, but Higgins was looking directly at the spot on the floor where Green did not step out of bounds. Higgins became the worst thing a referee can be, known. His name began trending on Twitter, comparisons were made to Jim Joyce and mocking hashtags were created with terms such as #TimHigginsCalls (some of the best included “New Coke”, “Investing in Bernard Madoff Securities” and “Who needs those lifeboats anyway? The Titanic is unsinkable!”). Higgins ineptitude became the running joke of the night.
Except to Anthony Grant, it can’t really be all that funny. When the call was made, the normally docile coach became obviously outraged and got as worked up and out of control as I have ever seen him during his coaching career. But by the time the postgame press conference came along, Grant was stoic. He responded to a question about the call by saying, “it doesn’t matter. What happened happened and we just have to move on and get ready for the next game.”
See I couldn’t do that. If I had just been as royally screwed as Anthony Grant, I would have gone off the deep end. I would have made comments about Tim Higgins’s awful call, his ability as a referee and if he wasn’t careful, maybe the paunch he carries around on the court. I would have made clear to everyone that was listening that what happened in Nashville was a travesty and I would have made certain to maintain no perspective and to alienate everyone possible with my comments. I hate losing. But to lose due to the ineptitude of another...well that would be too much to handle.
Of course that is why I am not a coach. Anthony Grant was clearly not happy with what happened, but he chose to maintain his calm and talk about the goals his team can still accomplish. Grant has a tremendous future as a college basketball coach and watching the unbelievable improvement shown by his Alabama team on Thursday night, I became more convinced he will be a star. But I also became certain that his entire profession is something I simply could not do. When something is taken away from me that I deserve, I become righteously indignant. Anthony Grant seemed to be accepting of his fate. He is far better than me.