Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller was livid after he was assessed a technical foul late in the Wildcats’ loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals. Turns out, he may have had a reason to be.
As Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports reports, Ed Rush, the Pac-12′s coordinator of basketball officials and himself a former NBA referee, has been investigated by the conference for questionable comments made at an officials meeting prior to the Arizona-UCLA game in Las Vegas.
Rush reportedly offered the refs $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they “rang up” or “ran” Miller during his team’s semifinal matchup. The coach was indeed “rung up,” as referee Michael Irving assessed a technical foul to Miller for arguing a double-dribbling infraction called on Arizona guard Mark Lyons. The Bruins converted both of the ensuing free throws and went on to win 66-64.
It’s not uncommon to see coaches T’d up for debating fouls, but Miller vehemently insists that all he told Irving was that “he (the defender) touched the ball,” and claims he did not use profanity or threatening language. In addition to the technical foul, Miller was also hit with a $25,000 fine.
“They don’t talk to me,” Miller said of the officials after the game. “If I cuss and I’m out of control and I’ve been warned, shame on me. When I say, ‘He touched the ball, he touched the ball’ because I thought the two of them could have maybe gotten together and explained that, in fact, he did touch the ball.”
A fellow referee that chose to remain anonymous told Goodman that it is not like Irving to hand out frivolous technicals, and that his colleague may have been influenced by Rush’s proposed rewards and personal disdain for Miller.
Rush, however, contends that his comments were not intended to be taken seriously — a position that the Pac-12 commissioner’s office agrees with.
“Based on the review, we have concluded that while Rush made inappropriate comments that he now regrets during internal meetings that referenced rewards, he made the comments in jest and the officials in the room realized they were not serious offers,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Following our review, we have discussed the matter with Rush, taken steps to ensure it does not happen again, and communicated our findings to all of our officials.”
Rush, whom Goodman’s source referred to as “a bully,” declined further comment.
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