Signals, not just by the officials

Recently I have been attending basketball tournament games nearly every evening and weekends and a few items have come up during the games or remarks have been made by the people seated near me.

Timeouts are called to slow down a run by the opposing team, to rest your own players, to discuss strategy and to sometimes make sure your team can retain possession of the ball. The latter is the one that is questioned more than the other ones. A player grabs a loose ball while on the floor and quickly signals time out to avoid a jump ball or a quick time out to stop a five or ten second count almost always is questioned as to whether or not it was called in time. This problem was compounded when the rules were changed allowing the coach to call the timeout.

When a coach verbally signals for a timeout, the official must first determine if the correct team has the ball or it is an appropriate time for that team to get a time out. Then the official must make sure it was the head coach that requested the time out and not an assistant, a player on the bench or a “coaching” fan sitting in the first few rows behind the bench.

Most times the official must turn away from the play to check who is making the request and when confirmation is made and the official sounds the whistle, the ball may now be tied up between two players, loose on the floor or in the air on an attempted pass, but the time out should still be granted because they had possession when the request was made.

This is the play that happened at a recent game. The team in black got a defensive rebound and was somewhat trapped in the corner in the backcourt.

While this player had possession, beyond midcourt and behind the officials, the coach of the black team shouted for a timeout and the trail official turned to check that it was the head coach making the request and then blew the whistle for timeout. No problem. Right? When the whistle blew, the white team was about to intercept a pass by the black team in the lane for an easy layup.

The official had followed correct procedure and was still being screamed at by the fans of the white team. Many people question why it is necessary to check to see if it is the head coach calling time out but if it isn’t the head coach, and the team was out of time outs, I imagine there would be some complaints when that team received a technical foul for excessive time outs.

Back to the game. I didn’t mention that the play happened in a sectional final with four seconds left in the game and the score tied. The white team later won in double overtime.

Three times in the last week I have seen the ball get stuck between the rim and the backboard and each time it happens there is someone who questions how play should resume.

The second time it happened there was a lady near me that wanted to know why the team that shot the ball was going to get it back and a gentleman next to her told her that anytime the ball gets stuck like that, the ball is awarded like a jump ball using the possession arrow. That is correct if the ball was stuck as a result of a shot, pass, tap or any method when the ball is alive. It is different if the ball would get stuck on a throw-in before the ball touched a player inbounds. When this happens it is a throw-in violation and the ball would be given to the other team for a throw-in.

Years ago during my second year of basketball officiating I was assigned what at that time was a very big game for me. It was a JV game between Triadelphia and Wheeling played at Wheeling College. There weren’t many people seated behind the scorer’s table but after halftime there were two nice looking elderly couples sitting directly behind the official scorer.

They were dressed very sharply and made such a striking appearance that I couldn’t help but think how much it reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting. Each time I reported to the table one or two of them would either lightly clap or nod as if they agreed with the call. It was getting to the point that I thought I had a connection with them and they were approving of my officiating which is very gratifying to a young official.

During a time out late in the game I asked the scorer if he knew the “sweet” couples behind him and he said he did and described them as “The nicest people in the world”. The next time I went to the table was to report a player control foul and after reporting the foul I looked to my new-found friends for their opinion and one of the ladies lifted her hand from her lap, raised a finger and very discreetly indicated to me that she thought I was number one.

Howell can be reached at