After Kentucky finished defeating South Carolina on Saturday, Carolyn Brown went to the phone and called the Herald-Leader. She left a phone message. Though a UK fan and graduate, she was unhappy despite the victory.
Referee Doug Sirmons’ ejection of UK Coach John Calipari with 17:34 left in the first half put Brown in a bad mood. She felt the need to scold … Calipari.
Brown recoiled at seeing several players forced to restrain a UK coach seemingly wanting to go after Sirmons. With shirttail out and let-me-at-him fury, Calipari looked almost cartoonish. Think Yosemite Sam, minus the six-shooters.
“Even though they won, it’s not right,” Brown said in her message. As if to emphasize the point, she stated her name and number three times in a 48-second voice mail.
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When contacted Monday morning, Brown, 89, had not cooled off nor rationalized Calipari’s actions.
“To me, it’s humiliating to act like that,” she said. Calipari’s behavior reflected poorly on UK and residents of Kentucky, she said.
I think it was purely orchestrated on his part. There’s just no way, unless something carried over or something happened in another game. There’s no way a basketball coach gets that mad in three minutes.
Eric Ward, Mid-South Conference commissioner and longtime advocate of sportsmanship
Brown said that Calipari should say why he acted the way he did. And UK President Eli Capilouto should “do something.”
UK spokesman Jay Blanton said Capilouto would have no comment. Jake Bell, the supervisor of officials for the Southeastern Conference, deferred questions to the league’s director of communications, Craig Pinkerton.
When asked on a Southeastern Conference teleconference to explain why he reacted with seeming rage, the usually loquacious Calipari said, “I can’t talk about it.”
The moderator, Pinkerton, interjected that the league limits what coaches can say about officiating.
It was Calipari’s behavior, not just Sirmons’ officiating, that begged for an explanation.
Rather than the usual lead up to a technical foul — a slow burn of frustration followed by an eruption of anger — Calipari’s tirade came out of nowhere. Kentucky had gotten off to a good start, leading 5-2.
Several observers wondered if Calipari wanted to be ejected as a way of telling UK players they should not take any guff off an opponent known to play a physical style.
“I don’t know if Cal was looking to get thrown out,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “I doubt it, three minutes in (to the game). But you never know.”
Eric Ward, the commissioner of the Mid-South Conference and a longtime advocate of sportsmanship, suspected that the ejection was Cal-culated.
“I think it was purely orchestrated on his part,” Ward said. “There’s just no way, unless something carried over or something happened in another game.
“There’s no way a basketball coach gets that mad in three minutes.”
According to a posting on Jon Scott’s Big Blue History site, Sirmons was working his 54th Kentucky game. It was the 18th game in which one of the referees in the crew called a technical foul on one of the teams.
Sirmons has called games in the past three Final Fours. His experience in officiating at college basketball’s highest level includes Kentucky’s loss to Wisconsin in the 2015 Final Four. That was the game in which the referees missed the Badgers’ Nigel Hayes scoring an important basket after the shot clock expired.
Whether that history played a part in Calipari’s ejection could not be determined.
But does smoldering resentment excuse the threat of violence?
Bilas wondered what would happen if a player had to be restrained from attacking a referee.
“If players acted like coaches, they’d be having meetings like crazy about how to stop it,” he said. “You’d have (NCAA president) Mark Emmert out front (saying) ‘This is unacceptable.’
“But there’s not a word about coaches.”
Coaches and referees “need to show poise,” Bilas said.
His Mid-South Conference would take action if one of its coaches acted the way Calipari did, Ward said. “Because there’s just no place for it,” he said.
The commissioner would meet with the athletic director and the coach, Ward said.
If players acted like coaches, they’d be having meetings like crazy about how to stop it. You’d have (NCAA president) Mark Emmert out front (saying) ‘This is unacceptable.’ But there’s not a word about coaches.
Jay Bilas, ESPN analyst
Asked what he would want to convey to the A.D. and coach, Ward said, “That’s not what we’re about. How can you get that upset in the first three minutes of a basketball game, and allow yourself to be ejected, and set that kind of example for your players?
“You’re a role model. You’re a mentor for these young men.”
The SEC does not have any set procedure to follow when a coach is ejected, Pinkerton said. No suspension. No letter of reprimand. No inquiry.
The Atlantic Coast Conference also has no set procedure, said John Clougherty, the ACC’s supervisor of officials. Ejections are judged on a case-by-case basis.
The Colonial Athletic Association punishes coaches who get ejected with an automatic one-game suspension.
Meanwhile, Brown felt the ejection of Calipari detracted from Kentucky’s victory.
“I like winning,” she said. “But I don’t like it in that manner.”
Tennessee at Kentucky
7 p.m. (ESPN)