Players Still Struggling With Foot-in-Mouth DiseasePosted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2011
It’s nothing new that athletes love to talk. Mostly about themselves, but sometimes about completely unrelated things too. Such as… girlfriends, coaches, other players, fans, referees, or anything that tangentially relates back to themselves. This is part of the reason that social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have had to become so regulated by coaches and universities — players don’t always have the ability to filter their thoughts from their mouths (but honestly, who does?). Two incidents in college hoops this week help to crystallize this point.
First, UCLA center and freshman behemoth Josh Smith lashed out after Sunday night’s loss to USC where he was clearly frustrated by his 22-minute, five-foul performance. In the postgame comments, he blamed much of his 8-point, 3-rebound night on the zebras:
The refs, honestly, were terrible. They were giving me B.S. answers [about fouls]. They were telling me this, this, this. Hopefully, they can watch tape and correct themselves.
He also left the Galen Center on Sunday night hoisting a one-finger salute to a USC fan who had obviously irritated him. All in all, not the greatest debut for the rookie in his first rivalry game of the series. Predictably by Tuesday, Smith had been reeled in by UCLA staff and forced to apologize (after all, he’ll see those Pac-10 referees again), with head coach Ben Howland acting the role of disappointed parent:
His comments about officiating were totally poor judgment. It was really, really bad. You can’t do that. Only one foul wasn’t a foul that was called on Josh. The other fouls, all fouls were good calls. To say something like that and it gets printed is really poor judgment. He’s got to grow up and that that’s uncalled for.
The Pac-10 today publicly reprimanded Smith for his comments about the officials, stating that it was in violation of league policy to criticize referees in that manner. All this basically means is that he’s being watched (and good luck on those reach-ins the rest of the season).
Next, another frustrated player you may have heard of named Jacob Pullen caused a stir on Wednesday night when he told the media that he has no interest in postseason basketball not involving the NCAA Tournament. This came after Kansas State lost a home game to Colorado to fall to 0-2 in the Big 12, causing all kinds of purple/white Chicken Littles to come out of the woodwork given the toughness of the league and the season-long poor play of Frank Martin’s Wildcats.
This is my last go-around. I’m not going to the NIT. I won’t play basketball in the NIT. I’m saying that now. If we lose, and we have to go to the NIT, I will not play.
He went on to say that he thinks his team can turn things around, but to have a player — especially one of Pullen’s status and caliber — openly saying he will not play for his team if they are invited to a secondary postseason tournament is really poor form. Not only is it disrespectful of a team captain to imply that he’d bail on his squad if he doesn’t get his way, it’s borderline insubordinate and definitely awkward for him to threaten his coaching staff and university in such a way. It presents a perception that the inmates are in fact running the asylum at Kansas State, and we dare say that Martin and his administration bosses do not want that out there.
Of course, such quotes are nothing new in the broader sporting realm — SportsCenter can go weeks on any controversial utterance coming from the mouths of Brett Favre, Michael Vick or Ron Artest. You generally don’t hear it as much out of the mouths of college kids, though. Dean Smith famously kept his freshmen under wraps and away from the media, but such an all-out ban seems antiquated in today’s user-generated media construct. The only thing that coaches can realistically hope to do is to educate their charges about appropriate ways in which to express their thoughts in today’s 12-hour media cycle, but then again, what would we do without such choice quotes to entertain us?