It’s hard to imagine something like this happening these days. Then again, there was only one Billy Tubbs.
It was 30 years ago Saturday that former Oklahoma basketball coach Billy Tubbs grabbed the microphone at the Lloyd Noble Center with the intention of quelling outraged Sooners fans whose team was trailing Big Eight rival Missouri.
Fans, upset about a traveling call on star Mookie Blaylock, had thrown debris on the court. The public-address announcer told the crowd the Sooners could be assessed a technical foul if any more items were tossed from the stands.
Tubbs then took the microphone and uttered one of the most famous lines in Big Eight history: “The referees request that regardless of how terrible the officiating is, do not throw stuff on the floor.”
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That drew a huge cheer from the Sooner faithful — and a technical foul from official Ed Hightower.
Although it happened well before the birth of YouTube, a clip of Tubbs’ pronouncement has been viewed more than 80,000 times among various uploads:
The television announcer’s “That’s unbelievable” sums up the moment perfectly.
Tubbs told SoonerSports.com in 2014 that Hightower had asked him to take the microphone. He also got a dig in at Kansas State when talking about the incident.
“As best I can remember, Hightower was like, ‘They’re throwing stuff on the floor and you need to go tell them not to.’ And I’m like, ‘No. That’s not my job.’ And he motioned like he was about to give me a technical,” Tubbs said.
“I never saw anything thrown on the floor. And you’ve got to remember that we had played at Kansas State a few games before, and I’m telling you, they were raining stuff on the floor. I went to the officials probably three different times and said, ‘Hey, that’s a technical foul. You’ve got to call a technical foul.’ Lonnie (Kruger) was their head coach and they went and had Lonnie take the mic and tell the fans not to throw stuff on the floor. But I was mad because it took a bunch of times before they did that. I even talked to the refs at halftime about it.
“When they sent me to the mic against Missouri, I just said what the fans were thinking. I said, ‘Regardless of how terrible the officiating, don’t throw stuff on the floor.’ Actually, that was a true statement. I just went up there and told the truth, right? That’s why they were throwing stuff on the floor.”
Hightower remembered things differently when talking with NewsOK.com in 2007. This is from their story: “Hightower claims Tubbs pleaded to address the crowd so his team wouldn’t get assessed a technical foul for throwing debris onto the court.
“Hightower said he reluctantly relented and allowed Tubbs to speak.”
Missouri led 23-8 when Tubbs made the announcement, but the Sooners rallied for a 112-105 victory in the meeting between teams ranked in the top five at the time. The Sooners were ranked fifth nationally, while Mizzou was No. 3.
Another note about that game: Mizzou coach Norm Stewart had blacked out on the team flight to Oklahoma. The plane made an emergency landing in Oklahoma City and Stewart was taken to a hospital because of a bleeding ulcer, according to a UPI story from 1989.
Assistant Rich Daly took over the head coaching duties for the Tigers that night.
While Tubbs and Stewart often traded barbs, SoonerSports recounted what Tubbs said after the game: “I didn’t know I was going to get a technical. If I had to do it all over again, I would say some things differently.
“With all that went on today, it kind of makes this game immaterial considering what Norm’s going through.”