Stern warns coaches to quit griping about refs
Associated Press Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – NBA commissioner David Stern is tired of coaches and players griping about the officiating, and challenged them Thursday to “make my day” by continuing to complain during the rest of the playoffs.
The league handed out fines of $35,000 apiece on Thursday to Boston Celtics forward Rasheed Wallace, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and Orlando forward Matt Barnes for publicly criticizing officials. A week earlier, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson was fined $35,000 for suggesting that Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant received preferential treatment from NBA referees.
Speaking before the Thunder hosted the Lakers, Stern said such comments were “corrosive” to the product that the league is putting on the floor. He said he understands why coaches try to work the officials through the media, but that the result is such comments undermine consumer confidence in the league’s product.
“So, our coaches should be quiet because this is a good business that makes them good livings and supports a lot of families,” Stern said. “And if they don’t like it, they should go get a job someplace else. I don’t mean to be too subtle.”
Stern said he’s often let such comments go “because of the pressure-cooker that is the NBA playoffs over the years.”
“But when you hear a Chicago coach say that this game was lost because NBC wants an extra game and you hear a New York coach say, ‘What are you going to do? Jordan gets all the calls,’ it sounds like a lot of fun,” Stern said.
“Or you hear a Stan Van Gundy do what he wants to say and then the players join in, we know inside the community what it’s meant to do and sort of, ‘OK, it’s playoff time. Everyone’s crazy,’ so back off.”
Stern said he regrets not coming down harder earlier on those who griped about officiating.
“I wish I had it to do all over again,” he said. “Starting 20 years ago I’d be suspending Phil and (former Lakers and Miami Heat coach) Pat Riley for all the games they play in the media. You guys know that our referees go out there and knock themselves out and do the best job that they can, but we’ve got coaches who will do whatever it takes to try to work them publicly.
“If I had it to do again … I would stop it and the price wouldn’t be a modest $35,000 fine. It would be whatever a day’s pay is and then two days’ pay and then a week’s pay.
“And if someone wants to try me in the rest of this playoffs, you know, make my day. Because the game is too important and I don’t think that the people who trash it are respecting it, and we’ll do what we have to do – the players and coaches alike – because they give the impression to our fans that the referees somehow have an agenda.”
Stern said he crossed paths with Jackson on Thursday night at the Ford Center and said there were no hard feelings, at least from the commissioner.
“I think that Phil’s a great coach,” Stern said. “He’s a friend of many years. I just came by and said, ‘Hi,’ and he said, ‘I don’t like you today.’ And I said, ‘I like you.’