Atlanta Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer was furious about a no-call on the other end — Justin Holiday got hit in the face driving to the rim — and walked a little too far out onto the court and bumped into the referee Ben Taylor last Friday night. For that, he was instantly ejected from the game and on Monday the league dropped a $25,000 fine on him for what it determined is “incidental” contact.
That wasn’t enough for the National Basketball Referees Association, who released a statement, here is the critical section.
In a sharp departure from past practice, the NBA fined Budenholzer instead of imposing a suspension.
“Referees operate in an environment in which an influential NBA team owner has repeatedly mocked the efficacy of fines as means to change bad behavior,” commented NBRA General Counsel Lee Seham. “Recent League precedent dictated that a coach who aggressively charged onto the floor during live action and physically interfered with a Referee would be suspended. We are now operating at a lower level with less transparency, degraded safety, and diminished respect for the Game. Coaches should compete by creating better teams, not by physically intimidating officials.”
The idea that contacting an official is usually grounds for a suspension is correct, that said I find the statement a little over the top. There’s no referee in the league soft enough to be intimidated by what happened in this case.
Watch the video above and I would say “incidental” is a good way to describe the contact — Budenholzer wasn’t looking to intimidate the referee, he’s not some 6’9″ player running right at the official, he simply wanted to felt heard. He took it a step too far, and for that got ejected and a took hit to his pocketbook. This is not some blatant attack on referees and their integrity, and frankly only someone who doesn’t know Budenholzer would suggest that was his goal.
By the way, Budenholzer has created a much better team in Atlanta. That is how he’s winning games.