NBA Fines Referee for Rivers’ Ejection

by March 20, 2009

by Ryne Nelson

The NBA announced yesterday that it fined referee Bill Kennedy an undisclosed amount for issuing what Doc Rivers claimed was “the most unprofessional tech I’ve ever had.”

Rivers was furious after he got whistled for his second technical foul with 29.8 seconds left against the Bulls March 17.

“Look at the film. I actually walked away. He asked me, ‘Where do you want the ball?’ And I said, ‘Ask them,’ talking about my players. That’s my right to say that, and he walked away.

“He stood there and stared me down and stared me down and goaded me until I turned around and said, ‘What?’ That’s when I got thrown out of the game. In a [5-point] game? Think about that.”

For that postgame “rant,” Doc is out 25 large. But here’s the crux: If the League admitted Kennedy was wrong by enticing Doc to say something, why should the coach be fined?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the League has never undercut one of its referees for a poor decision made in a game. That’s admitting Kennedy made a mistake.

The Referees Union, however, claims Kennedy did nothing wrong. Said spokesman Lamell McMorris:

“Some things you cannot take out of the arsenal of the officials. It’s not a stare to start some kind of disagreement or goad him into getting ejected, it’s just like, ‘Hey, enough is enough. And basically he didn’t even stare him down. He walked away, he turned his back per what he is trained to do and he removed himself from the situation.

“As far as we’re concerned, Billy Kennedy followed every rule according to the referee’s manual as it relates to handling situations like this. The only person in this scenario who has had a pattern of behavior that is unprofessional is Doc Rivers, not Billy Kennedy.”

As McMorris said, referees are told to just walk away when confronted by a coach. Kennedy did not. Since the League now claims transparency in its officiating, it should disclose how much Kennedy was fined and offer an official explaination for what happened. Either that, or it should start taking Mark Cuban’s idea of Referee Efficiency Ratings seriously.