Bob Huggins wouldn’t go into somebody else’s workplace and scream at an employee. He doesn’t expect that to happen in the arena.
“It’s kind of amazing,” said Huggins, the West Virginia basketball coach. “People pay whatever they pay for a ticket and they think that entitles them to say things. You wouldn’t walk down a street and say those things. You wouldn’t walk into somebody’s work place and say those things.”
Huggins was referring to Jeff Orr, the Texas Tech fan who provoked Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart toward the end of the Red Raiders’ victory over the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Orr can be heard on a tape provided by Texas Tech calling Smart “a piece a crap.” Smart, who had fallen through the baseline while attempting to block a shot, turned, stepped toward Orr and shoved him.
The moment cost Smart a three-game suspension from the Big 12, and Orr has agreed not to attend any more Red Raiders games home or away this season. They have apologized to each other.
The incident made the rounds Monday with Big 12 coaches, many of whom said they reviewed the notion of the invisible fence between the floor and the stands.
“I can assure you that almost every coach in the country talked about this with their team the next day,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.
And the message?
“The whole thing is, you cannot communicate with fans,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It’s water off your back.”
Huggins tells his team that even the most hostile environments don’t show up on a stat sheet.
“I tell our guys all the time, ‘I’ve never seen a crowd get a rebound, make a basket or commit a foul,’ ” Huggins said.
Besides, Huggins said, “the great thing about playing for me is they’re yelling at me. They leave the players alone.”
Fans can be obnoxious toward an opponent in any sporting venue. What makes basketball different is the proximity of fans to the floor. In some arenas, it’s merely a matter of feet, and in most buildings the buffer that used to be press row has been replaced by seating for fans.
“I think basketball has it the toughest,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Players deal with more ridicule, and people are in their face more than any sport because people are so close. There’s no track or barrier.”
But incidents like the one involving Smart and the fan happen infrequently. Coaches are more concerned about potential problems from a postgame court rushing, usually by students.
“You have bumping that could escalate into something else,” Self said.
RANKING THE BIG 12
2. Iowa State
3. Kansas State
6. West Virginia
7. Oklahoma State
9. Texas Tech
—Player of the week: Melvin Ejim of Iowa State may have been the easiest choice in the history of the award. He went for a league-record 48 points in an 84-69 victory over TCU, making 20 of 24 from the field.
—Newcomer of the week: This was easy, too. Kansas State’s Marcus Foster capped his week with a 34-point performance in a 74-57 victory over Texas. He joined Michael Beasley and Mike Evans as K-State freshmen to score at least 30 in a game.
RANKING THE SEC
11. Texas A&M
12. Mississippi State
14. South Carolina
—Player of the week: Vanderbilt forward Rod Odom averaged 24 points in games against Tennessee and Arkansas. He went seven for 14 on threes and 16 of 26 on all shots.
—Freshman of the week: Arkansas forward Bobby Portis averaged 21.5 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in victories over Alabama and Vanderbilt. Against the Crimson Tide, Portis scored 29 of the team’s first 35 points, including 17 straight at one point.