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Celebrating a basketball brawl isn't helping, coach

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In recent days we’ve had player, students and crowd high school basketball brawls in Utah and South Carolina, the latter threatening the existence of a multi-team tournament because the threat of fights makes it too expensive to insure. You might ask yourself — aren’t there adults around ready to stop this stuff before it starts?

No, usually. I can understand why two players might go at it in the heat of battle, but I don’t understand why that necessitates coaches sending their other players to join in, and “fans” streaming down from the bleachers to get their pops. Specifically, I don’t understand why Chipley (Fla.) assistant basketball coach Phillip Adams raised his fists in victory and chest-bumped one of his players as he left the floor during a brawl between Chipley and archrival Vernon.

The video of the fight is here, and the still of Adams’ chest-bump is here. Both were taken by Florida Freedom Newspapers’ Jay Felsberg.

We don’t know exactly why Adams did what he did, and he wouldn’t answer questions when reporters called his home following the game. But for a nominal grownup, there are only two acceptable responses when a brawl starts. One is to keep your kids on the bench and not add to the problem. The other is, failing that, or having secured your bench, help get authorities in to help break things up if they’ve gotten out of hand. If the kid had hit a game-winning shot, then raising your fists in victory and chest-bumping would have been acceptable for what would be an actual happy occasion.

This is not to say that Adams is the only coach who has ever looked like he was celebrating a brawl, or that he was the only coach in that gym that night who was. Coaches aren’t responsible for security, but at least they can set an example and let a team know that brawling isn’t tolerated. If nothing else, you never know when a Jay Felsberg, or a fan in the stands, is going to record your stupidity.

At least, what coaches can do is follow the example of Salt Lake City West coach Bob Lyman, if you feel duty-bound to defend your player.

His player, Gatete Djuma, elbowed a Highland High player on a rebound, and when the Highland player retaliated a brawl, involving players and fans, broke out. In the video here, you can see Lyman and other coaches not chest-bumping players, but trying to keep them from coming on the floor.

Under Utah’s no-fight rule, Djuma was automatically suspended for two games. Lyman said the recent arrival from Rwanda was acting on instinct and hadn’t learned yet about not retaliating. Feeling like he would be leaving Djuma in the lurch — Lyman suspended himself for a game to sit with him.

Whatever you think of what Lyman said, he is acting like an adult, an actual role model. That deserves fists raised in victory, and a chest-bump.

Written by rkcookjr

January 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm

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