They are required to talk to reporters after games and sometimes these things are emotional, occasionally they are entertaining, and often they are mundane. But rarely are they this, whatever this was, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber still visibly angry, telling the world his junior guard Barry Brown messed up the final play and then going further off script from there.
“I’m really disappointed in some of the calls,” he said. “But we were all here last year, and same thing.”
Let’s be clear about four specific things. First: Kansas beat K-State 73-72 here on Saturday for a hundred reasons that have nothing to with calls by the referees.
Second: a few calls did seem strange, most notably a technical foul on K-State’s Cartier Diarra, who said he did not know what he did beyond congratulate a teammate for a blocked shot, and did not curse.
Third: K-State could have won with a stop on its last defensive possession, or a better shot on its last offensive possession, in which Weber ran the same play that didn’t work a year earlier, and which Kansas coach Bill Self told his players was coming.
Fourth: Complaining about officials is the ballad of the loser.
But Weber went on.
“I’m disappointed in some of the calls,” he said. “I hope you guys are, too.”
Then, with Weber’s time in front of microphones closing down, he was asked — OK, yes, I was the one asking — if there were any specific calls aside from the technical he disagreed with.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m sure there were, yes. I want to keep my job. I don’t want to get fined. I’ve worked too hard.”
OK, fair enough. But he wasn’t done.
“Ask Fran Fraschilla about it!” he yelled as he walked out of the room. “He can speak for us!”
So, I did.
Fraschilla is the former coach and now ESPN broadcaster who works most high-profile Big 12 games, including on Saturday. He was approaching the toll booth in his rental car on I-70 when he answered the phone.
“I thought the game was called fairly,” he said. “I really do.”
Fraschilla believes — and said on the air — that official Mike Stuart is quick to give technical fouls.
He also remembered one other call — Svi Mykhailuk’s missed dunk, blocked by Makol Mawien and given to KU out of bounds — that could’ve gone either way.
That call went KU’s way, which every visiting coach and player will tell you happens a lot here, which really isn’t much different than what visiting coaches and players say about a lot of places — particularly places with loud crowds and strong traditions.
“So here’s the deal,” Fraschilla said. “You’re not only playing against a Hall of Fame coach, and usually a great basketball team, but you’re playing against human nature. There are times the crowd gets so into it, it can — and, I might add, it can — affect a call here or there because of human nature. Sometimes people don’t want to get booed. That’s just the way it is.
“Having said that, I honestly felt today’s game was officiated at a very high level.”
This is a bad look, then, a coach bringing up the officials in a postgame press conference but declining to go into detail, referring questions to a broadcaster “who can speak for us” — who compliments the officials.
Weber didn’t name drop Fraschilla out of thin air. Eleven days earlier, Fraschilla called Texas Tech’s win at Allen Fieldhouse. Tech was the better team that night, essentially leading from tip to final buzzer.
“There was one call toward the end of the game, kind of ticky tack I thought,” Fraschilla said. “So I said on air, and I’m paraphrasing here, something to the effect of, ‘All you want down the stretch if you’re the visiting team is a fair whistle.’”
Fraschilla said that comment “evoked a unique reaction around the coaching community,” which he described generally as, “that’s the most honest thing they heard on the air this year.”
He knows a lot of coaches. They confide in him. He’s part of the media now, technically, but in fundamental ways he’ll always be one of them. Fraschilla’s comment must’ve been in Weber’s mind when he saw Fraschilla after the game.
“He came over to me and basically told me what he thought,” Fraschilla said. “And I just nodded my head, you know? I didn’t know what to say. But I gave you the history of why he came over.”
There’s more context here, of course. Stuart officiated last year’s game here, too, and was the official in best position to call an obvious travel on Mykhailuk at the end of the game. If the correct call was made then, the game would’ve gone to overtime, and maybe K-State still loses but at least it gets a fair chance.
That was an atrocious miss by Stuart’s crew. Everyone saw it. Fraschilla did that game, too, and said, “even in Europe that’s a travel.” Before K-State’s practice the next day, the managers reenacted the play a dozen times, each more exaggerated than the last, until one of them tucked the ball like a fullback and ran the length of the court for a layup.
Self knows it was a travel. He’s talked about it. He also gave a reasonable response when told — OK, yes, I was the one telling — Weber complained about the officials.
“I shouldn’t comment because I haven’t seen the tape,” Self said. “But I would bet over the course of a game and more importantly a season that they pretty much balance out. So I’m not going to comment on what another coach says. (But) if that’s an excuse for losing, or losing a great game, and that was a great college basketball game with two teams that played their butts off, I don’t buy into that at all. At all.”
Weber’s frustration is understandable, and natural. He is not the first to believe his team took the worse end of subjective calls, and he certainly won’t be the last to believe it at Allen Fieldhouse.
But this is getting tired. This is the most flawed Kansas team in recent years, and this is a K-State team years in the making, built around a core of strong juniors. Diarra scored 18 points on 11 shots, and Wade scored 22 on 14.
K-State could have won this game, no matter the officials. Tech won less than two weeks ago. Arizona State did it last month. The odds are better than 50-50 that some other team will do it again this season, maybe more than once, and when that happens the smiling coach won’t be complaining about officials.
This is the part that’s so frustrating about Weber. He’s a good coach. He focuses far too much on the wrong things. That has to filter to his players, on some level. There are reasons KU seems to always win games like this, and reasons K-State always seems to lose them, and those reasons go much deeper than a weak technical foul call.