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October 14, 2009

Brown's crime doesn't fit punishment

I have to say I was flabbergasted by the extent the NBA fined coach Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday.

The league is charging Brown and the franchise $60,000 each for Brown’s behavior in Atlanta Monday and for what the league perceives as Brown having criticized the referees following the game.

I was there in Atlanta Monday night and again Tuesday after practice when Brown first talked publicly about his ejection. I was within feet of Brown on both occasions and certainly within earshot of what the principles said.

It’s true that Brown "verbally abused’’ (the league’s term) the refs to get himself ejected in the third quarter of the preseason loss to the Hawks. It’s also true that Brown refused to leave the court in a timely manner. That accounted for the first $35,000 of Brown’s fine.

But to say Brown criticized the officials after the fact is at best an over-reaction to what happened. And at worst, an injustice.

Brown had assistant coach Dave Hanners speak with media following that game. I figured that was Brown’s way of giving himself time to calm down.

The next afternoon, back in Charlotte, I asked Brown if he thought he deserved to be ejected. Brown replied, "I’m sure I did.’’ At that point Brown was asked about all the fouls being called in the preseason and he said it felt like summer-league games, where so many fouls are called "you never get to see the kids play.’’

Now some important context: Brown made every effort to change the subject. He said the lack of flow in basketball pre-dates the referees filling in during the current labor impasse.

He got off on a tangent

an interesting one about how to fix the game he loves. And that was the substance of the story I wrote in Wednesday’s Observer.

Brown was being a grand thinker, not a complainer. He was demonstrating the intellect and personality the NBA needs more of, not less.

I get it that the league specifically reminded team officials recently not to criticize the replacement referees. I get it that the labor impasse with the referees association is a tense subject around the NBA office these days.

But I also get it that the size of that fine just doesn’t fit what Brown actually did.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 14, 2009 at 07:23 PM | Permalink


The NBA, where gag order happens.

Posted by: David | Oct 14, 2009 8:13:18 PM

I agree with all the valid points you're making here, Rick. I'm shocked, too, at this overly harsh punishment the league meted out on Larry Brown.
I think the NBA office is trying to use this very high fine - on both coach and team, to make it even more stinging! - as an example to the other coaches (and players). They are very sensitive to any reactions to the replacements' work, and they don't want to be pressured into a hasty resolution to the dispute with the regulars, so, they're making an example out of a Hall of Fame coach, no less.
So, while this is unfortunate for Larry Brown, in my opinion this excessive penalty is not so much about him as it is a signal the NBA sends to everyone else in the league: put up with the replacement referees for as long as needed, or else.

Posted by: Sandy | Oct 14, 2009 8:14:18 PM

I had the exact same thought: This and the fine in Memphis were warning shots to the other 28 franchises.

Posted by: Rick Bonnell | Oct 14, 2009 8:19:28 PM

They are just trying to raise money to pay the refs who they are trying to cut their pay 20%!

Posted by: STH | Oct 14, 2009 9:07:11 PM

It's unbelievable to me there were 61 fouls called in 48 minutes. That's a foul called every 47 seconds. I agree with Coach Brown- the replacement refs are a joke.

Posted by: mtnbuddy | Oct 14, 2009 9:31:55 PM

Wait until the refs start getting 'feedback' from the paying fans, more than is typical for our zebra outfited friends. Maybe we should come up with some creative 'chants'. At some point the customer's opinion should be 'heard'.

Posted by: BlockParty | Oct 14, 2009 10:16:26 PM

The NBA is not going to listen to the fans about the refs - they never have and never will.

Why expect them to listen to the fan when the US Congress will not listen to the 'people' about not wanting government run healthcare? When you have control of the money - you have control.

Posted by: Anonymous | Oct 14, 2009 10:33:54 PM

Rick - so, who are the Bobcats going to fire to pay that fine? At a time of economic worry for the league, with folks still getting laid off left and right, maybe the NBA just took away a job or job and a half from Bobcats employees...

Posted by: Fred | Oct 14, 2009 11:01:50 PM

Are we allowed to criticize Tim Donaghy?
Isn't this overreaction by the League just a tad bit hypocritical?
NBA Officiating is the least transparent in professional sports and the ONLY one that has had one of their guys openly betting on games yet they feel the need to protect them with fines and other disciplinary actions.
For the League to grow, they need to fix this mess ASAP.

Posted by: ASChin | Oct 14, 2009 11:33:58 PM


It is possible for the Bobcats to appeal these fines? I'm not sure how useful that might be, but just a thought.

Posted by: RobC | Oct 15, 2009 9:16:35 AM

I'll admit I was wrong. My initial take on the replacement refs was, "How bad can they be? Let's give them a chance."

But the replacement refs just aren't up to the job. No one wants to see a steady parade to the foul line - that's not an entertaining product. But that's exactly what we've seen in the preseason and Larry Brown was right when he pointed that out.

I think Coach Brown got such a steep fine because his comments hit the NBA a little too close to home.

Posted by: Gboro cats fan | Oct 15, 2009 9:42:35 AM

Instead of the replacements calling fouls, why dont they call all the walks, palm balls and carrying that I think had ruin the NBA.

Posted by: Jake | Oct 15, 2009 9:56:37 AM

The NBA knows that if there is one person to say something Critical of the NBA, that would carry weight is a Hall Of Fame Coach like L. Brown.
This has been going on before the FLUNKIE Refs. took over this season. Just not this exstensive. Mostly with the Bobcats getting little respect from the Refs./League. Coach stated this last season several times in post game interviews. In a non threating way. Coach saying something about us "not having a star player".
Coach Brown is a big fish in a small pond now and is going to seeing that The League wants to keep Small Market Charlotte in there place.
We are going to have to play the opponent and the refs every game.

Posted by: fox has to go!! | Oct 15, 2009 10:30:13 AM

its just bad business. the league is fining every coach or player that says or does anything against the replacement refs because otherwise.....the real refs have major leverage in negotiations. at the end of the day, I say the nba plays hard ball and keeps the replacement refs permanently, and allows the coaches to act normally to the crazy shit the refs are doing. if anything, it will help the replacement refs get used to how it SHOULD be played quicker.

brown's right though, i'm glad he's our coach cause the guy knows good basketball and stern should listen to him rather than empty his pockets.

Posted by: charlottean | Oct 15, 2009 4:09:51 PM

Scott, I absolutely agree with you. There's more to this story. I'm just curious which NBA official was offended by the comments of a "NBA Hall of Fame" coach about “Replacement Referees”. Are the Bobcats costing the NBA bargaining money? Does this hurt their negotiations? It’s silliness that warrants a little backbone by the Bobcats. I think the league should be more concerned with their product.

Posted by: JohnnyD | Oct 16, 2009 12:28:59 AM

I mean Rick, sorry, I'm bad with names.

Posted by: JohnnyD | Oct 16, 2009 12:31:59 AM

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