Blogtable: Biggest challenges Monty McCutchen faces as NBA's head of referee development?
Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
From NBA.com Staff
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The NBA recently pulled referee Monty McCutchen from the active pool of officials and made him the head of referee development and training. What do you see as the biggest challenges or issues facing McCutchen right now?
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David Aldridge: That there aren’t more Monty McCutchens in the pipeline to take his place as the NBA’s best referee. This isn’t the usual insipid conspiracy theory talk you hear from fans of every team around playoff time. I think the officiating in the NBA, on average, is pretty solid. And I certainly don’t see the grudges and/or feuds that players had with refs back in the day, when it was clear a certain ref wasn’t going to give a certain player a fair shake. But just about all of the top veteran guys have left in the last few years: Joey Crawford, Danny Crawford, Bob Delaney, Steve Javie and Bennett Salvatore. You weren’t worried about a playoff or Finals game when they were out there (and, again, I know that there are fans who have beefs with each one of them for one reason or another).
There are several good refs who’ve worked Finals in the last few years: Zach Zarba, Tony Brothers, Mike Callahan (and, yes, I know he and his fellow refs didn’t have a great night in Game 4 of The Finals) and Derrick Stafford. But as the referee pool has gotten younger over the past few years — a necessity, to be sure — there are complaints from players and coaches that there’s less flexibility among some of the younger refs, who won’t let people question calls and/or let off steam, another necessity that veteran refs understood. It’s not “showing up” a ref to think they got a call wrong, or at least ask them what they saw. The communication gap between some — some — refs and players and coaches needs to be closed.
Steve Aschburner: Monty McCutchen’s biggest challenge, in my opinion, is that he’s got a work force with a morale problem. Few workers in our society are as poked, prodded and second-guessed as NBA referees, who face heavy scrutiny long before and after the opening tap and the final horn. There are the in-game replays, the L2M reports the day after and all their individual performance reviews. A lack of trust with league HQ has been rattling around for years as management’s policing tactics and executive ranks have changed. The recent move by the players union, asking for a sit-down to complain about some refs’ alleged harshness and dismissiveness, felt like piling on an already beleaguered group, all because some players’ feelings were bruised. Yes, the refs are paid well. But they’ve been catching hell from all sides, and McCutchen might want to start there.
Shaun Powell: The biggest issue is one that follows every head of officiating: How can you train referees to make accurate judgments on a fast-paced game that involves a degree of contact? There’s no harder game to ref than the NBA and maybe McCutchen might want to press the league office on hiring a fourth ref. (My biggest pet peeve is referees refusing to call palming violations and also allowing players to take a step-and-a-half and then a hop before shooting or passing off. But that genie is out of the bottle.)
John Schuhmann: As McCutchen improves the quality of NBA officiating as a whole, consistency should be a priority. Consistency from ref to ref, as well as consistency from player to player, from game to game, and from the first minute of the first quarter to the last minute of the fourth. And let’s crack down on discontinued dribbles, too.
Sekou Smith: The biggest issue these days isn’t rules-related but relationship-related. Finding a way to cool off players and officials going at each other during the course of games has been the biggest officiating problem for years now. We’ve seen it again already this season with the rash of ejections, Shaun Livingston and Courtney Kirkland going head-to-head and plenty of other instances where the player-official relationship got out of hand. It’s a bad look all around and sets the tone for the way players and officials react to each other all the way down to the grassroots level. Anyone charged with developing and training officials need to make repairing that relationship is a top priority.